On the 104th day after the winter solstice, which corresponds with the 5th of April, is the Qingming Festival in China.  This festival is a day to pay respect to a persons ancestors, known in English as Clear Brightness festival or Tomb Sweeping Day.  People will go to the grave site of their ancestors to clean and offer sacrifices.  The actual process of doing this has changed over time but the general idea remains the same, taking care of those who have passed.

The history of the festival seems to be intertwined with another festival that was a day or two before Qingmin Festival, the Cold Food Festival.  I was unable to find much about the history of Qingmin, but Cold Food Festival does have an interesting history and as it is tied to Qingmin thought it would be appropriate to talk about it’s history.

In the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.) a lord accidentally killed a very loyal servant while trying to reward him for his services.  The servant had left to live in solitude in the mountains (depending on which story, either because he had been forgotten by the lord or because he refused the post that he had been given).  To try and flush out the man it was suggested to the lord that the mountain be set a fire and then the servant would leave and could be rewarded.  Surprisingly this did not work as planned and the servant died.  To commemorate the servant he declared that on that day from hence forth no fire could be used to cook food, Cold Food Festival was born.  Eventually these day festivals combined to one.

Links:
Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingming_Festival

General
http://chineseculture.about.com/library/weekly/aa031201a.htm
http://www.nychinatown.com/qing_ming_festival.htm
http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/01780/festivals/qingming-festival.htm
http://www.city.china.com.cn/english/features/Festivals/78319.htm

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