Day of remembrance & food tradition on Tomb-sweeping Day

Updated: 30 Mar 2010
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Qingming Festival usually falls on either April 4th or 5th of the solar calendar. It is also known as Tomb-sweeping Day, Cold Food Day / Hanshi Day (寒食节), Pure Brightness Festival, Clear Bright Festival, All Souls Day, Festival for Tending Graves or Grave Sweeping Day. In 2008, It was proclaimed as a public Chinese national holiday in mainland China.

The festival has a tradition stretching back over 2,500 years ago in Zhou Dynasty (周代). As one of the 24 Chinese Solar Terms, the festival indicates the best time to plow and sow, for temperatures rise and rainfall increases after the day.

The important day gives an opportunity to people to remember and honour ancestors at grave sites. As the name indicates, it is also a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime (treading on the greenery 踏青).

There are some traditional activities on Tomb-sweeping Day, like treading on the greenery (踏青), swing (荡秋千), Chinese football (蹴鞠), polo (打马球), willow planting (插柳), tug-of-war (拔河), and rooster fighting (斗鸡).

After those games and physical activities, food is prepared to feed the hungry. At various parts of China, different food is served on the occasion by different regional and ethnic groups.

In Fujian, people prepare various traditional foods, which are again subject to different parts and ethnic groups.

1.) Wuren Rice or Wuren Fan (乌稔饭)
On the Tomb-sweeping Day, She people cook Wuren Rice
and exchange the food with each other as a present.

It's common for She Nationality (畲族), who mainly live in East Fujian, including Fuzhou and Ningde. On the Tomb-sweeping Day, every family will cook Wuren Fan and exchange the food with each other as a present. Wuren Rice is made from glutinous rice and leaves of vaccinium bracteatum or Wuren tree. The leaves are usually squeezed into juice before cooked with glutinous rice.

2.) Qingming Guo (清明果)
Qingming Guo looks like dumplings in shape.

It looks like dumplings in shape, but tastes different from dumplings. The wrapper of Qingming Guo is made from squeezed wormwood, rice and glutinous rice. Finally, it is stuffed with bean filling and cooked by steaming. Aside from sweet fillings, people also use diced bacon, dried bamboo shoot, diced mushroom and dried beancurd as substitutes.

3.) Runcai Bing (润菜饼) or Spring Roll (春卷)
Spring rolls are filled with slices of various
vegetables, meats, seafood and ground seaweed.

It is a fried rolled pancake filled with slices of various vegetables, meats, seafood and ground seaweed. Spring Roll is a common food in Xiamen and Quanzhou, and it’s served all year round in Xiamen.

Where to eat Spring Roll in Xiamen:

- A'qing Spring Rolls (阿卿春卷)
Add: No.8 Ju Kou Street (局口街), Zhongshan Road, Xiamen
- Yuan Er A Mo Spring Rolls (元二阿麽古早味薄饼店)
Add: opposite to the Lianhua Er Cun Vegetable Market

4.) Qingtuan (青团)
Qingtuan is common in Shanghai during the Tomb-sweeping Day.

Like glutinous rice dumpling, Qingtuan is made from glutinous rice and stuffed with red bean paste. The difference is that squeezed wormwood or brome grass is used in the making of wrapper. Before placing it into the bamboo steamer, people would put some fresh leaves of common reed, making it a special flavor. It’s common in Shanghai during the Tomb-sweeping Day.

5.) Qingjing Fan (青精饭)

Before cooking Qingjing Fan, people would pick some fresh leaves of vaccinium bracteatum and pound the leaves into juice. After that, dip raw glutinous rice in the juice till it turns deep green. Then, people pour the juice to the cooking pot and add glutinous rice when the juice the boiled. The ready-made Qingjing Fan looks green and tastes delicious. The traditional food is commonly seen in Zhejiang Province.

6.) Zitui Mo or Zitui Bread (子推馍)
Zitui Mo is decorated with crispy noodles in various shapes.

It's a memorial food for Jie Zitui (介子推), who died in 636 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was one of many followers of Duke Wen of Jin (晋文公) before he became a Duke. During Wen's exile, they were starved and Jie cut a piece of his own flesh to make some soup for Wen. After knowing that, Wen promised to reward him one day. However, Jie refused and expressed that he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become Duke. After Wen became Duke, Jie resigned and moved into the forest with his mother. Duke Wen went to the forest to find Jie but failed. Heeding suggestions from his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set fire to the forest to force out Jie. However, Jie died in the fire.

Zitui Mo, weighing 250 grams to 500 grams, looks like a helmet of an ancient general. It's usually staffed with egg or red date. It is also decorated with crispy noodles, which are shaped like swallow, worm, snake, rabbit or writing brush, ink stick. This traditional food is common in northern Shaanxi.

7.) Egg

Eating eggs on Tomb-sweeping Day has a long history. In some places, people think that eating eggs is good for health. In ancient times, people eat eggs in the hope of giving birth to a baby boy. Nowadays, eating eggs on Tomb-sweeping Day implies satisfactoriness. In some rural areas, children even hit boiled eggs. No matter people eat or hit boiled eggs, it indicates people’s worship and respect to life and fertility.


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