How do we deal with Qingming during this pandemic?

Updated: May 28, 2020

Qingming festival 清明節, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English (sometimes also called Chinese Memorial Day or Ancestors' Day), is a traditional Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese of Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. It falls on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, 4 April in 2020. During Qingming, Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray to their ancestors, and make ritual offerings. Offerings would typically include traditional food dishes, and the burning of joss sticks and joss paper. The holiday recognizes the traditional reverence of one's ancestors in Chinese culture.

The festival originated from the Cold Food Festival 寒食節 which remembered Jie Zitui 介之推, a nobleman of the state of Jin 晉 (modern Shanxi) during the Spring and Autumn Period 春秋時代. The present importance of the holiday is credited to Emperor Xuanzong of Tang 武隆基. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honour of their ancestors. In ad 732, Xuanzong sought to curb this practice by declaring that such respects could be formally paid only once a year, on Qingming.

The Qingming Festival commemorates the life of the departed in an elaborate set of rituals often mistranslated in the West as ancestral worship. It is a Confucian form of posthumous respect and filial piety offered to a Chinese person's ancestors, departed relatives, or parents. Not all Chinese persons will pray directly to their ancestors in ancestral spirit, but almost all will observe the Qing Ming Rituals.

After revisiting the significance of Qingming, you may now evaluate if it is an excellent time to gather for this event even though it is meant mainly to us Chinese. It is still encouraging to practice social responsibility to keep our close ones safe. Otherwise, we can use a day to take out old photos and remember the times together. Prayers can also be offered if the house has ancestor tablet and offerings can be presented and burned within or near the house premise.

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