There are few festivals in China like Qingming, also called Tomb-sweeping Day, for which people have so many mixed feelings. It’s a festival full of sorrow and nostalgia – people mourn for the dead. But at the same time, it’s a lithesome time with spring brightness – everything is growing, full of the laughter of spring outing. The combination of sadness and happiness makes this traditional Chinese festival very unique. I feel a little bit regretful that I can’t go back to China to revisit the tombs of my ancestors in Qingming Festival. And I found that this kind of nostalgia grew more intense as I left my country.
Qingming is also one of the Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms. There are many paintings and classic Chinese poems about Qingming. The most famous one is the Qingming scroll created by Zhang Zeduan. This ancient Chinese painting portrays the prosperous scene of Kaifeng city, the capital of the Song Dynasty during a Qingming festival.
A drizzling rain falls on the Mourning Day;
The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way.
Inquiring, where can a wineshop be found?
A cowherd points to Apricot Flower Village in the distance.
Qingming indicates that it is the crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring, therefore, it has a close relationship with agriculture. However, it is not only a seasonal symbol; it is also a day of paying respect to the dead. People will offer sacrifices to their ancestors and sweep the tombs of the dead. Also, they will not cook on this day and only cold food is served due to the extension of the Hanshi (Cold Food) festival. Besides these customs, people also plant trees, fly kites, and play on the swings. It’s a festival that is mournful but not distressing. People place their longing for the dead in the vitality of life in spring.
It seems that there isn’t taboo on cemeteries in America as in China and cemeteries always lie beside the church. It’s just like that the dead lie together with their belief, quietly staying in the hustle and bustle of the city. I saw several cemeteries in Austin when I was on the bus. They are not as scary as I expected, instead, they seem to be peaceful and serene.
Death is a big topic, but the lives of individuals are extremely fragile in this conflicting world. I hope that we all reserve the fear for death and the awe for life, and hold a bit of pessimism as well as passion for the world. Life is the most precious. Let’s hope that all departures and deaths rest in peace.