Qing Ming Jie -
the Hakka people celebrate "tomb sweeping day" in September, it is
commonly celebrated in April among the masses. It is the 104th
day after the winter solstice.
day, one tends to any underbrush that has grown near their
Ancestor's gravesite. Weeds are pulled, dirt swept
away and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit
money. Unlike the sumptuous sacrifices at a family's home
altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland
food. One theory is that since any number of ghosts roam
around a grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the
ancestors, and not be plundered by strange ghosts.
According to the legend, the day is in memory of Jie Zhitui who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), in Shanxi Province (On Som Dot's Trail - Mantis Survey eBook).
Jie was a
good official in the Jin State, working for Crown Prince
Chong'er. When the Jin State was in turmoil, Chong'er was
forced into exile with his henchmen, including Jie. They went
through all kinds of hardships and difficulties. To save the
starving Chong'er, Jie cut the flesh off his own leg and boiled it
for Chong'er. After ascending the throne, Chong'er began to
forget Jie by and by. Jie was so sad that he prepared to leave
and live in seclusion with his mother in mountains.
felt so guilty that he, in person, went to the mountains to look for
Jie. It was impossible to find him in the endless trees and
hills, therefore Chong'er ordered to set the mountain on fire, so as
to force Jie out. But Jie didn't show up; he and his
mother were found to be dead in arms, after the fire was put out,
together with a note written by him in blood: "I cut off my own
flesh to dedicate to you, only to wish my king will always be clear
and bright." (Qing Ming translates Clear and
to keep the memory of Jie Zitui, Chong'er issued an order to make
the day named "Cold Food Day". He ordered all fires in every
home to be put out on the anniversary of Jie's death. Thus began the
"cold food feast", a day when no food could be cooked since no fire
could be lit.
It was not
until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) about 300 years ago that the
practice of Hanshi (or eating cold food) was replaced by that of
observation of Qing Ming is to remember one's elders by making a
special effort to visit their graves, ashes or ancestral
tablets. To make the visit even more meaningful, some time
should be spent to remind the younger members of the family of the
lives and contributions of their ancestors.
practice of an annual visit to the family graves is quite universal
and not limited to the Chinese. Christians, Jews and Muslims
all do it. Americans often visit the graves on Memorial
of the Southern Mantis ancestors are Hakka, their gravesites should
be tended in September. It is considered improper to publish
photographs of gravesites and so therefore you must make your
pilgrimage in person! Or at least, in your heart!
*I'm still looking into this issue of a
separate date for Hakka. I have several Hakka who are
researching the old traditions. I'll let you know when the
answer is definitive. RDH