How will people spend China's 1st Qingming Festival holiday? 2008-04-03 16:49:48   Print

    BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Qingming Festival on Friday will be the first time that a Chinese solar term festival has become a national holiday.

    The festival is known as tomb-sweeping day. But apart from tomb sweeping, modern Chinese are left a little bewildered as to how tomark their first holiday for the 2,500-year-old Qingming Festival. Many hope the first Qingming Festival holiday would help restore along-lost joyous sentiment to the solemn tomb-sweeping day.

    "Qingming, literally meaning Pure Bright, is celebrated by bothHan and minority ethnic groups. It is the time when sun shines brightly, trees and grass become green and the nature is again lively, " said Professor Xi Zhiqun from the Capital Normal University in Beijing.

    He is among Chinese folk customs experts committed to helping young people retrieve long-lost ways of celebrating the traditional festival day by chanting ancient funeral orations, re-enacting ancient rituals of worship of the earth and flying kites.

    The first-ever "Qingming Poem Party", sponsored by the Beijing municipal government, was unveiled Tuesday at the Beijing International Sculpture Park, gathering an audience of more than 2,000.

    Over 30 professional poem-speakers, along with 400 pupils recited nearly 30 Chinese traditional and modern poems and prose with themes ranging from spring to revolution. They received wavesof applauses from tourists in the park, many of whom chanted voluntarily along the way.

    Another scene at the Temple of Agricultural Ancestors in Beijing: a crowd of hundreds of students formed every day chanting prayers and performing ancient rituals of worshipping nature under the guidance of folk-customs experts a week before the festival.

    Professor Xi believed that by designating the Qingming Festival as a national holiday, the government would help revive traditional springtime exercises such as playing on swings, and some long-lost cultural values of the festival, such as paying tribute to mother nature.

    A woman who took with her three-year-old granddaughter to the poem party felt fortunate to find such a civilized way to celebrate Qingming.

    "No parents want to take their children to a foul atmosphere at a graveyard where the smoke of incense and paper money permeates in the air," said the 65-year-old woman, named Wang Guizhen

    For decades, the Qingming Festival has only been only used by filial Chinese to tend the graves of the dead. When sweeping tombs,people offer food, flowers and favorite items to the dead, then burn incense and paper money and bow before memorial tablet.

    "It normally took us 20 days to clear away all the garbage left by tomb sweepers after every Qingming Festival. Presenting sacrifice and burning paper money and other paper sacrifices is a practice that is hard to get rid of," said a worker with the Banshan Public Cemetery in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

    The cemetery receives 80,000 tomb-sweepers at Qingming Festival every year.

    Despite years of efforts calling for more civilized behavior when tomb-sweeping, such as a virtual fete on the Internet, the number of tomb sweepers is not in decline. This year there will be more as the festival has now become a holiday.

    Earlier this week, Jiao Meiyan, spokeswoman with the National Meteorological Bureau warned of a strong possibility of fire disasters around Qingming, because of dry weather and a travel peak on the newly designated national holiday.

    The National Headquarters of Forest-Fire Prevention, the State Forestry Administration, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs have also decided to make a joint effort to be on guard against forest fires around Qingming.

Editor: Du Guodong
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