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The Qingming-Festival in Taiwan

Have you heard about the Qingming-Festival in Taiwan? It is also called the „Tomb-Sweeping Day“ and it is one of the four most important festivals of Chinese culture: Lunar New Year, Qingming, Dragonboat and Moon Festival. The date is fixed around the 4th or 5th of April, (rarely 6th): 15 days after the Spring Equinox. It plays a major role also in modern life of the Chinese people, but how did it emerge?

The Qingming-Festival dates back to the Qin-Dynasty (221 v. Chr. - 207 v. Chr.), when during the last years of this reign, wartime gave rise to great chaos. There was a famous man called Liú Bāng, who would later become the emperor Gao of the following Han-Dynasty. After the war he returned to his home county to visit his parents‘ graves, but he couldn’t find them among the destroyed graveyard. He felt sad and started to pray, when suddenly a miracle occurred: a pieve of paper fell on a grave which he then identified as his parents‘ one. Now he swore that he would come back every year to pray and take care of the place.

At that time, the imperial family used to pray at the tombs of their ancestors. People then followed this custom until today. So the „Tomb-Sweeping Day“ has become a national Chinese tradition.

At Qingming, People do not only clean the grave but also bring sacrificial offerings, ideally five different kinds of each fruit and meat, and also flowers and things that the decendents had loved during their lifetime. This is called: tomb sweeping. In Taiwan, there are two different ways of sacrifice:

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1. Pressing paper

Firstly, weeds around the tomb are pulled. Then, square sheets of white or yellow paper are pressed onto the grave, this is called: „repairing the ancestral home“. The paper should be used as stacks of three sheets each. Small stomes are used for the method, which is also called: embellish the ancestral home“. Afterwards, the offerings are presented. Finally, paper money will be burned.

2. Pei Mu (培墓):

This is a solemn ceremony: chicken, duck and fish, which are boiled but not cut, are prepared. Additionally, the following things are needed:

  • Red tortoise cake made of sticky rice, meaning: longevity.
  • Rice cake, meaning: great achievement.
  • Fa gao (發糕), made of rice, meaning: high earnings.
  • Garlic-chives, meaning: longevity.
  • Boiled egg
  • Incense used for prayer.

Afterwards, paper money is prepared and the offerings are taken away. Prayers are done for the God of the Earth (土地公 Tu Di Gong), and at the same time, golden paper money is burned. The prayers to the grave follow and incense and silver paper money are burned for the ancestors. Finally, egg peel is scattered onto the grave. It means: Things of the past have gone, and the upcoming matters are welcomed.

Except paper money, things made of paper like cars, houses and even servants can be burned. This is made in order to provide the decendents with everything they might need for a good life after death. In chinesische culture, this means a respectful attitude towards the ancestors. This tradition has been revived and continued in many places, so that the Qingming-festival also plays an important role for all expat-Chinese.