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April 3, 2010

The Ching Ming Festival

Ching Ming, or Tomb Sweeping Day, is a Chinese festival, celebrated on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5 of the western calendar.

Ching Ming has been regularly observed in Taiwan and in the Chinese jurisdictions of  Hong Kong and Macau and its observance was reinstated as a public holiday in China in 2008, after having been previously suppressed by the communists.

In Taiwan, the holiday is observed on April 5 in commemoration of the death of President Chiang Kai Shek, on April 5th. The holiday is still observed in the traditional manner.

It is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honor their ancestors at their grave sites. Grave sites are cleaned, tombs swept, and offerings of food, tea, wine, paper money to the ancestors buried there.

The day before Ching Ming is called Han Shi., or the Cold Food Day.

Originally a memorial day for Jie Zitui (or Jie Zhitui). Jie Zitui died in 636 BC. He was one of many followers of Duke Wen, before he became a Duke. One time, during Wen's 19 years of exile, they didn't have any food and Jie prepared some meat soup for Wen. Wen enjoyed it a lot and wondered where Jie got the soup. It turned out Jie had cut a piece of meat from his own thigh to make the soup. Wen was so moved he promised to reward him one day. However, Jie was not the type of person who sought rewards. Instead, he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become Duke. Once Wen became Duke, Jie resigned and stayed away from the Duke. Duke Wen rewarded the people who helped him in the decades, but for some reason he forgot to reward Jie, who by then had moved into the forest with his mother. Duke Wen went to the forest, but couldn't find Jie. Heeding suggestions from his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set the forest on fire to force out Jie, however, Jie died in the fire. Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without fire to honour Jie's memory. The county where Jie died is still called JieXiu (Where Jie rests forever).

Modern day has seen the dropping of Han Shi and just celebrating Ching Ming.

My mother's parents are deceased. My Ah-Ma (grandmother) passed away about 20 years ago. My grandfather died in the mid 80's, I believe.

In 1986, my family went to Taiwan to visit family and we were taken to my grandfather's gravesite.

I don't think I have any pictures of it but I do have a picture of my grandmother's gravesite. My mother went back to Taiwan a couple of years ago and they went to her gravesite to honor her.

My grandfather's grave was very much like this.


Piedmont Writer said...

You have such a fantastic heritage. I hope you are incorporating some of this into your book. I love that story about Jie, albeit sad he died.

Should I say Happy Ching Ming instead of Happy Easter.

Isobael Liu said...

I'm incorporating some of my Chinese heritage into the new story. I remember only a little bit of the customs and traditions, and I tap my mom's brain when I need some help, or the internet. She finds it amusing that I have a "sudden interest" in my Chinese heritage. =)

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