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It’s a holiday week here in China, and now that April Fool’s is out of the way it seems appropriate to mention it. Qingming is widely celebrated around the region not just in China (and of course Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong too) but also in Vietnam. You’ll find Chinese communities around the globe getting involved too – particularly in Malaysia and Singapore.

On the festival of Qingming the Chinese burn paper money (not real money - it's called "spirit money") as part of the tomb sweeping ritural. Photo Source: Wikipedia

It’s only recently been added back into the Chinese calendar after being removed during the early period of Communist rule. That hasn’t stopped people from following the practice in the interim though.

My favorite comment about this holiday is on Wikipedia; “Traditionally, people brought a whole rooster with them to the graves visited but the occasion has become less formal over time.” I like the idea of a formal rooster – I have a vision of one dressed like James Bond in a tuxedo.

Essentially the idea behind Qingming is to visit the graves of your ancestors and give them a quick spruce. Interestingly despite the lack of religion in China, it’s common to pray for your ancestors during this period of spring cleaning too. It’s also the norm to carry a willow branch to ward off evil spirits.

Ever practical Qingming doubles up as a Chinese Valentine’s day of sorts (there’s another one still to come too) and it’s when couples traditionally start “courting” in China. It’s also a good time to buy tea as tea harvested prior to Qingming is considered to be of a much higher quality and commands are higher price tag too.

I’ll be honest Qingming doesn’t have the same festival feel that comes with Chinese New Year or the mooncake festival later on this year, and for us expats it’s a minor inconvenience in that everyone stops working during this period and business slows to a trickle.

Any way you take it – here at Shards of China we wish you a jolly happy Qingming festival.