Qingming Festival: Honoring Ancestors and Embracing Renewal

Qingming Festival

The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese festival that takes place in early April. It is a time when people pay respects to their ancestors, visit their family graves, and honor their memory.

Date and Duration

The Qingming Festival is typically observed on April 4th or 5th of the Gregorian calendar each year. The exact date is determined by the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar.

The duration of the Qingming Festival is usually one day. On this day, families typically gather at ancestral gravesites to perform tomb-sweeping rituals and pay respects to their ancestors. The activities may include cleaning the tomb, offering food and drinks, burning incense, and placing fresh flowers. It is a solemn and significant occasion that promotes reverence for one’s ancestors and the continuation of family traditions.

In recent years, some people have also taken advantage of the holiday to enjoy outdoor activities, such as going for walks, flying kites, or having picnics, as a way to celebrate the arrival of spring and enjoy time with family and friends.

Historical Background

The Qingming Festival has a long historical background deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Its origins can be traced back to over 2,500 years ago during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE).

The festival’s historical significance is closely associated with the teachings of Confucius, the renowned Chinese philosopher. Confucianism emphasized the importance of filial piety and respect for ancestors. The Qingming Festival served as a time to honor and remember one’s forefathers, paying respects to their spirits and maintaining familial bonds.


During ancient times, the Qingming Festival was observed as a day to perform ancestral rites and tomb sweeping. Families would visit the graves of their ancestors, clean the burial grounds, make offerings, and hold ceremonies to express gratitude and reverence.

Over the centuries, the Qingming Festival evolved, incorporating various regional customs and practices. The festival not only served as a time for ancestral veneration but also became an occasion for people to enjoy the arrival of spring, appreciate nature’s beauty and partake in outdoor activities like flying kites and having picnics.

Qingming Festival Tradition

The Qingming Festival is steeped in rich traditions that have been passed down through generations. These traditions hold deep cultural and symbolic significance, emphasizing the importance of familial connections and ancestral reverence. Here are some key Qingming Festival traditions:

Tomb Sweeping

The central tradition of the Qingming Festival is tomb sweeping. Families visit the gravesites of their ancestors to clean the tombstones, remove weeds, and tidy the surrounding areas. It is a solemn and respectful act of paying homage to ancestors, expressing filial piety, and maintaining ancestral connections.

Ancestral Worship

Ancestral Worship

During the Qingming Festival, families offer sacrifices and make offerings at the gravesites. This includes burning incense, placing flowers, food, and other symbolic items, and bowing in prayer to honor and show respect to deceased ancestors. It is believed that these offerings bring blessings and ensure the well-being of both the living and the deceased.

Paper Offerings

Paper Offerings

Paper replicas of various items, known as joss paper, are often burned as part of the Qingming rituals. These paper offerings symbolize material goods and comforts that can be sent to the ancestors in the afterlife. It is believed that the smoke from burning the offerings carries these gifts to the spirits.

Spring Outings

In addition to tomb sweeping, the Qingming Festival is also an opportunity for people to embrace the arrival of spring. Many families take this time to go for outings in nature, enjoy the blossoming flowers, and appreciate the beauty of the season. Flying kites is a popular activity during this time, symbolizing good luck and the casting away of troubles.

Traditional Foods

Various traditional foods and delicacies are associated with the Qingming Festival. One such example is qingtuan, a type of green rice ball made from glutinous rice and a sweet filling. Consuming these special foods is a way to celebrate the festival and indulge in the flavors of the season.

Cultural Significance and Symbolism

The Qingming Festival holds deep cultural significance and is rich in symbolism. This traditional Chinese festival encompasses profound meanings that reflect the values, beliefs, and philosophical concepts of Chinese culture.

Ancestral Reverence

The Qingming Festival is a time to honor and pay respects to ancestors. It emphasizes the importance of filial piety and maintaining a strong connection with one’s family roots. By visiting ancestral graves, cleaning tombstones, and making offerings, individuals express gratitude and show reverence to their ancestors, acknowledging their contributions and seeking their blessings.

The Cycle of Life and Death

The Qingming Festival serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of life and death. It encourages contemplation on the transience of human existence and the eternal cycle of nature. It prompts individuals to reflect on their own mortality, appreciates the present moment, and cherish the memories and legacies passed down by previous generations.

Renewal and Rejuvenation

The Qingming Festival occurs during the arrival of spring, a season associated with new beginnings and fresh growth. Symbolically, it represents the renewal of life and the awakening of nature after the dormancy of winter. The festival provides an opportunity for people to embrace the rejuvenating energy of spring, appreciate the beauty of blooming flowers, and feel a sense of hope and optimism.

Balance and Harmony

Chinese culture places great importance on the concept of balance and harmony, and the Qingming Festival reflects this philosophy. It encourages individuals to strike a balance between remembering the past and embracing the present, between solemnity and joy. It highlights the interconnectedness of life, nature, and human existence, emphasizing the need for harmony in all aspects of life.

Cultural Heritage and Identity

The Qingming Festival is deeply rooted in Chinese tradition and serves as a cultural touchstone. It reinforces a sense of cultural identity, preserving ancient customs and rituals that have been passed down for centuries. By participating in the festival, individuals connect with their cultural heritage, strengthening family ties, and fostering a shared sense of belonging.


Things Not to Do When Tomb Sweeping

When participating in the tradition of tomb sweeping during the Qingming Festival, it is important to be mindful of certain customs and practices. Here are some things to avoid or refrain from doing when engaging in tomb sweeping:

Noise and Disturbances

It is essential to maintain a respectful and solemn atmosphere while visiting ancestral graves. Avoid making excessive noise, playing loud music, or engaging in disruptive activities that may disturb others who are also paying their respects.

Inappropriate Behavior

Show proper decorum and avoid engaging in any behavior that may be deemed disrespectful or offensive. This includes refraining from smoking, littering, or engaging in activities that may be considered disrespectful to the deceased or the surrounding environment.

Inappropriate Dress

Dress in appropriate attire that reflects the solemn nature of the occasion. Avoid wearing overly casual or revealing clothing that may be deemed inappropriate or disrespectful in a cemetery or gravesite setting.

Taking Items from Gravesites

It is important not to take or remove any items from gravesites unless explicitly allowed or instructed by family members. Respect the belongings and offerings placed by others and refrain from taking anything that is not rightfully yours.

Improper Use of Incense and Fire

When burning incense or offerings, follow the proper protocols and use designated areas or containers for the purpose. Avoid placing incense or burning items in prohibited areas or where they may pose a fire hazard.

Disrupting Other Visitors

Be mindful of others who are also visiting gravesites. Avoid blocking pathways, monopolizing space, or disrupting the rituals and activities of other families or individuals who are paying their respects.

Taking Unauthorized Photos

Respect the privacy and solemnity of the occasion by refraining from taking photographs or videos without proper permission. It is important to be considerate of others’ feelings and cultural sensitivities.

Is it Proper to Say “Happy Qingming Festival”?

Saying “Happy Qingming Festival” is not considered appropriate or customary.

Given the nature of the festival, using phrases like “Happy Qingming Festival” may be seen as inappropriate or insensitive. Instead, it is more respectful to offer greetings that acknowledge the significance of the occasion. For example, you can say “Wishing you a meaningful Qingming Festival” or “May you have a peaceful Qingming Festival.” These greetings convey well wishes while maintaining the solemnity and cultural respect associated with the festival.

What Are Traditional Foods for Qingming Festival?

The Qingming Festival is associated with a variety of traditional foods that hold cultural significance and are enjoyed during this time. These foods are often prepared and consumed as part of the festival’s customs and rituals.



Qingtuan, also known as green rice balls, is a popular Qingming Festival delicacy. Made from glutinous rice mixed with a special kind of herb called mugwort, these rice balls have a vibrant green color. They are often filled with sweet bean paste, creating a delightful combination of flavors.

Cold Steamed Rice

Known as “Lengmi” or “Cold Rice,” this dish is made by steaming glutinous rice and then letting it cool. It is usually eaten with sweet fermented rice, soy sauce, or sugar. Cold Steamed Rice symbolizes the transition from cold winter to the warmth of spring.

Spring Pancakes

Spring pancakes, also known as Chunbing, are thin pancakes made from wheat flour and filled with various ingredients such as scallions, scrambled eggs, and vegetables. They are rolled up and often enjoyed with savory sauces or dips. Spring pancakes symbolize the arrival of spring and the fresh harvest of vegetables.

Flower Wine

Flower Wine

Flower wine, or Hua Diao Jiu, is a traditional alcoholic beverage enjoyed during the Qingming Festival. It is made by fermenting rice with various flowers, such as osmanthus or chrysanthemum. Flower wine has a unique floral aroma and is often sipped and shared during family gatherings and ancestral worship.

Table of Contents


Travelling China

Hey, It’s Chinaler, here to be your expert guide with travelling China, Chinese learning, and China culture. Our brand has been in the travelling china for 12+ years. We know the ins and outs of all of your favorite products. We are here to help you fly high with our knowledge and expertise.

Latest Articles

Stay up to date with all the awesome things!