Qingming – Tomb Sweeping Festival

Text (I is the informant, M is the collector)

I: There’s this festival called “Qingming” or, like, tomb sweeping festival. And, basically, it’s where we go to a cemetery, or.. Um… what do you call those other thing?

M: A graveyard? I’m not sure

I: Just cause cemetery and graveyard sounds like too dark and gloomy, but like, it’s on a grassy hill with flowers, it’s chill. Anyways, we kind of just cleaned up the graves… and the tombstones — hence tomb sweeping day. And, I — I think it’s supposed to be like a family reunion type of thing, because that’s how it was, where all my aunts and uncles and stuff would come and clean up the graves and eat some pork and stuff. But, now it’s just been like two — yeah, two families at a time or something.  I missed it, ‘cause I was at school this year, but yeah…. Um, oh yeah. And during the festival week, we kind of sweep the other tombs around — like the neighbors of my ancestors grave. Out of respect, I think. And, I think my mom told me, so we don’t piss off the neighbors. Also, during that time, we kind of burn these…. Patterned paper? It’s cut into shapes of like shoes and clothes and stuff for, um, my great-grandpa. And there’s also, like, fake money called hell money and then… these two other similar hell currency


The informant seemed to focus mainly on the social/familial aspect of this tradition. This makes sense as the informant’s parents are from China, but she is herself American and has never visited China. She says that she views Chinese traditions as similar to family reunions, as they are times where her family gets together to celebrate. It seems that the meaning of this festival for her has less to do with the traditions themselves, and more to do with the people she performs them with.