Also referred to as the Qingming Festival, Tomb Sweeping Day is a time to pay respect to relatives and ancestors who have passed away.
The day is observed as a public holiday in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
What Chinese people do on Tomb Sweeping Day
Like the name suggests, people spend time tidying up the graves and tombstones of their ancestors. Quite literally, they sweep away the dirt.
Families offer food, flowers or paper to the deceased. The food can be left at the grave site or taken back home with the family.
Originally from Guangzhou and now residing in Melbourne, Australia, 38-year-old woman Bi Hui Li says that leaving food at the grave site can pose a problem.
“During the Qingming Festival, we like to bring pork to our ancestors’ graves. However, if we leave it there, we are worried that homeless people will come and take it,” she says.
Other ways to celebrate Tomb Sweeping Day
Due to lack of time, or the location of ancestors’ graves (they may be far away), some people celebrate Tomb Sweeping Day in other ways.
Wang Jing Xi, a 37-year-old woman from Beijing, says that people often take short trips during the festival.
“It’s an opportunity for families and friends to get together and go travelling in the beautiful spring weather,” she says.
Kids can join in too!
Kids join their parents and visit their grandparents’ graves on Tomb Sweeping Day. This is often followed by a family dinner.
Younger people, however, generally don’t take the day as seriously as their parents do.
“The younger generations do not think Qingming is as important as the older generations,” Li says.
Celebrating Tomb Sweeping Day from afar
How do Chinese people living overseas pay respect to those who have passed away?
“You can ask your relatives, like your brother or sister, to pay tribute to your ancestors in your absence. You don’t have to visit your ancestors’ graves on Tomb Sweeping Day,” Li says.
Wang agrees that you don’t have to worry too much if you can’t make it to your ancestors’ graves on the exact day.
“Tomb Sweeping Day is just a way to remember your loved ones – you don’t have to celebrate on that particular day if you’re not around.”
“I won’t be back in China until April 9, so I’ll miss Tomb Sweeping Day. I’ll have to visit my grandparents’ tomb on my return,” she says.
Whether you’re Chinese or a foreign teacher living in China, how do you celebrate Tomb Sweeping Day?