Traditions Field Note: Honoring Your Ancestors

The Qing Ming Festival is a very important holiday in China! On this holiday Chinese people travel back to their hometowns to visit the burial grounds of their ancestors. Basically, everyone is off work for the week and home with family! For this break, I traveled around China with my mom since we do not have ancestors here.

There are many traditional holidays in China. Some holidays I have experienced while in China are the Chinese New Year, the Qing Ming festival, and workers holidays. China is a place that really values tradition and history.

What tradition did I learn about?

The Qing Ming festival is one of the major holidays in China. Some of the most common English translations of this holiday are Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Bright Festival holiday. Trying to book a flight to travel around China during this time is madness! The subways, trains, busses, and airports are packed with people commuting to their hometowns. Young and old people go to their ancestors’ grave sites to pray and honor them. Many families burn incense, paper, or firecrackers to honor their deceased family members.  They also offer their family members’ tombs food, tea, and wine.

Why does the community have this tradition?

This holiday is over 2500 years old, and it is said that the traditions started under Tang Emperor Xuanzong. Apparently, wealthy families were holding very extravagant ceremonies for their ancestors, and so the emperor declared that people could only honor their ancestors at gravesites on this specific holiday.

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?
I think this tradition is very connected to the environment and the Chinese culture. Chinese are very respectful of their elders and they really value history and tradition. Chinese take great pride in their culture and their hometowns. Traveling home to visit family and honor history is very much a part of Chinese culture and environment.

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