Qingming is the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either 4 or 5 April in a given year.
It is the 5th solar term of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, marking the mid Spring. People worship nature and ancestors to pray for good harvest. Remembering ancestors and having outings in Spring are major events.
Hanshi Festival or Cold Food Festival
If we are talking about Qingming, then we have to mention Hanshi (cold food) Festival which comes right before Qingming.
Hanshi Festival is a traditional Chinese Holiday to clean and sweep graves of ancestors and to offer food to deceased. The lighting of fire was avoided, even for the preparation of food.
Qingming and Hanshi Festival have been celebrated since Zhou dynasty (1046 BC-256 BC) and have been celebrated together since Han dynasty (201 BC-263 AD).
Then they have been merged since Tang dynasty (618-907). Since then, Hanshi became an alternative name for Qingming.
On the day of Qingming, people sweep the tombs of ancestors and burn paper gifts for the departed, including paper money. People play Cuju (ancient form of football), kick shuttlecock, play on the swing, tug of war, polo, fly kites, etc. It is said that outing is necessary because of the "cold food". The body needs to be heated up to keep healthy.
Qingming was made a holiday starting the end of the Han dynasty.
It is recorded in history that people in Tang dynasty had 5 days off and 7 days in Song dynasty (960-1279).
No days off during Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1636-1912) because the first emperor of Ming Zhu Yuanzhang was a workaholic who abolished the holiday. The following emperors continued Zhu's policy.
Nowdays, Qingming has become a statutory public holiday in China and people have three days off.
Chinese have special recipes for Qingming, which vary a lot.
In the southern part of China, people have qingtuan, green dumplings made of glutinous rice and barley grass for Qingming.
In some parts of China, people have painted eggs, just like the Easter.
Sazi, a fried desert made of flour and honey is popular in the northwest China.
In Beijing, the capital, people have a series of deserts for Qingming, for example, aiwowo, lvdagun, yundoujuan, tangerduo ("sugar ears"), etc.
(Article and text by Chi Jingyi, infographic designed by Xia Yurou)