Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-sweeping Festival, Festival of Pure Brightness, comes around solar April 5 and is celebrated by twenty-five ethnic groups. The festival originated during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC - 221 BC), and has a history of over 2,500 years. Although the activities may differ, it invariably centres on sweeping tombs and spring outing.
In the ancient times, sweeping tombs is the activity of the Cold Food Festival. Story has it Cold Food Festival is connected with Jie Zitui, a loyal man during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC). Chong'er, prince of Jin State, ran away from the country with his supporters due to persecution. They move from place to place and things changed for the worse. Chong'er were starving to death. At that time, although Jie Zitui was also pinched with cold and hunger, this faithful official cut a piece of muscle from his own leg to save his prince. Chong'er took back the throne over ten years later. He was proved to be very diligent and cherish the people. Chong'er rewarded his followers who had stayed loyal to him. But Jie Zitui refused and sequestered himself in a mountain. In order to find him, Chong'er had the hills set on fire in a moment of aberration, only to find Mr Jie was dead in the fire. Grieved at the tragedy, Chong'er demanded that fires could not be lit on the day of Jie Zitui's death and mourned for Mr. Jie on that day.
The Cold Food Festival came several days before the Qingming Festival, and was once more important than Qingming. Since date for the two festivals are so close, their customs are gradually integrated. When it came to the Sui (581 - 618) and Tang (618 - 907) dynasties, the two are blended into a unity when people sweep the tombs and make sacrifices to the ancestors. According to the tradition, when sweeping the tombs, people should carry alcohol, food, fruit and paper money with them. During the ceremony, the food is laid in the front of the tomb, and paper money is burnt out, more earth should be placed on the grave, several willow branches are inserted on the graves, and kneel to the ground in expression of deep respect to the deceased.
During Qingming Festival, the nature wakes and spring gets revived. A period hailed with uncommon delight returns. Since people were not ordered to use fire, they had to eat cold food on that day. Consequently, they go for outing to appreciate the natural charm, fly a kite, have a swing, play football, hold tug of war, plant trees and conduct other outdoor activities. So this festival is very special, sentimental, but lively.