Qing Ming Festival清明節 is the Chinese equivalent of the All Soul Day. Literally in Chinese, Qing Ming is Pure Brightness Festival, it is the traditional Chinese festival where the family visit the ancestor's grave site and to remember and honor the ancestors. It is one of the eight most important Chinese festivals, which included 上元(元宵节 or lantern festival)、清明(Qing Ming)、立夏(summer begin)、端午(Dragon Boat festival)、中元(Ghost festival)、中秋(Mid-Autumn or Mooncake festival)、冬至(winter coming) 和 除夕(New Year Eve). It is also the time young and old of the family will pray before the ancestor, sweep the tombs, and offer food, fruits, tea, wine, joss paper, hell notes, accessories, to the ancestors. The festival is also called Tomb Sweeping Day.
But actually, Qing Ming Festival is more than sweeping the tomb. It is the annual family picnic, it is the social gathering of the family members, it is courting time for young people, it is time for kite flying, sport, trees planting and other cultural activities. They also called the festival Taqing (踏青 or literally treading on the greeny), which is the time for people to go outside and enjoy the greeny of spring time.
It is also called cold food festival(寒食节)，or ready cooked food festival(熟食节) or Tobacco ban day(禁烟节)，or cold day(冷节). The time where use of fire to cook is prohibited, it need to take cold ready cooked foods. It is also called The 3rd Month festival(三月节).
The festival normally fall on April the 4th, but if it is the leap year, it is April 5th.The Chinese can start the festival 10 days before or after this date.
The Qing Ming festival has 2,500 years of history.
If you want to know how ancient people celebrate Qing Ming, it is clearly reflected in an ancient Chinese painting by Zhang Zeduan( 張擇端) 1085-1145 AD , the Qingming Scroll with the title "Along the River during Qing Ming Festival(清明上河图)", of Song Dynasty. From the painting, it revealed that Qing Ming Festival was a fun filled celebration.
The picture above is the Song Dynasty painting "Along the river during Qingming(清明上河图)"
清明時節雨紛紛 A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day;
路上行人欲斷魂 The mourner's heart is breaking on his way.
借問酒家何處有 Where can a winehouse be found to drown his sadness?
牧童遙指杏花村 A cowherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance.
The cemetery in Penang are located at Mount Erskine, Batu Gantong, Batu Lanchang, Paya Terubong,Teluk Pahang, Balik Pulau. The more modern Qing Ming, the descendants visit columbarium, which are actually a purpose build building with small rooms to store funeral urns. The words columbarium means pigeon house in Latin. Now there are limited land for burial ground, some of the dead are now burnt instead of buried. The Qing Beng will be different, as taqing, stepping on the greenery will not be experienced by the younger generation. But there is another trends for the upper class people, the well planned garden like Memorial as burial ground, it is professionally managed, you can really go picnic with your family members once a year....go taqing.
How the Christian Chinese do during Qing Ming or Cheng Beng?. Christian teach to respect their parents. Some of them will also visit the tomb like the other family members, but they only use flowers to lay at the tomb for remembrance. Some of the family have remembrance service in the Church. Qing Ming is a normal agricultural community activities during the ancient time,especially after harvest, but it has developed into the major festival of the Chinese.Qing Ming is cultural activities of Chinese from ancient time, it is not wise to just look at it on purely religion view. Ancestor remembrance is spiritually acceptable in Christian teaching. It is not ancestor worshiping by using joss stick, it is praying(in Christian way) in the remembrance of the ancestor, and how they have blessed us through their teaching and love, we give thanks to God for their life, and as our ancestor.
Qing Ming is social activities, a family get together,in remembrance of the ancester and God for the goodness given. It is Taqing(踏青), going out to the greenery; it is cold food festival(寒食节), where you stop using fire to cook and eat ready cooked food or cold food(just like the Earth Hour), stop making fire or modern day electricity to save the earth, it is time to rest; it is Pure Bright day(清明节), a day to be pure and bright, in thanksgiving for the living family members still around you,and also praising God for the goodness and the earth, and his blessing to you.
Let us go out and taqing (踏青), eat cooked food(寒食),like picnic in the spring,isn't it good?