The Qingming festival, also known as the Festival of Pure Brightness or the Day of the Ancestors, is still a very popular holiday in China. The day is dedicated to the deceased people and it consists on cleaning tombs and offering sacrifices to loved ones who disappeared. Furthermore, it coincides exactly with the fifteenth day after the spring equinox so the occasion is also used to celebrate spring. But what is at the origin of this custom?
There are various versions but the most common is the story of Zuo Zhuan, a Chinese literary work. This is about Chong Er and Jie Zitui. The first one was a prince exiled in poverty for almost twenty years, while he was almost dying of hunger, he met the second one. Jie Zitui was the only person to help him and saved his life by cutting a piece of his thigh in order to feed him. Chong Er was very impressed by the gesture and promised him a reward as soon as his exile was over and he became King. But, as soon as Chong Er ascended the throne, he firstly forgot about Jie. When he remembered it, he looked for him, but every search was in vain. His savior had left the city, moving into the forests of Mount Jin. Chong Er, in order to find him, set fire on the three sides of the mountain thinking, in this way, to force him to get out but, unfortunately, Jie was found lifeless leaning against a big willow on which there was a bloog inscription: “I only want a pure and bright King”. Chong Er, touched, promised that he would undertake to be such a good King and he buried Jie under the willow. The following year the King went to visit the tomb and found himself in front of a luxuriant tree, despite the fire that hit it the previous year. Conforted by this, and remembering the word Qingming, pure and bright, he renamed that day, establishing that it would be celebrated. Historical records report that Chong Er was in fact a pure and fair king and that under his reign people lived in peace and harmony.
Since then the anniversary became an occasion for Chinese people to commemorate their ancerstors. During the Day of the Ancestors, Chinese families remember their loved ones in the place they are buried, dedicating themselves to the careful cleaning of their graves and the tribute of fresh flowers. Many things are burned in honor of the deceased and it is also very common to fly colorful kites in the sky. The customs for the celebration are not limited only to the melancholy memory of loved ones, but also include joyful activities, with which Chinese population celebrates life at the same time. Qingming represents the encounter between crying and laughter, sadness and happiness, death and rebirth.