Just recently, I took a cab down from Boon Lay MRT to my camp because I was about to be late. Like most taxi drivers, this one liked to talk too. The topic was on Chinese traditional festivals and their origins. It was lucky that I went to a school that emphasised on Chinese education in a English dominated society. It was in the school I learnt most of this knowledge.
As we passed the Chinese tombs, he asked, “You know what is 清明节 (Qing Ming Jie)?”
“Yeah. For people to pray to their ancestors loh.”
“But you know the origins of this day?”
This struck me. I learnt before why there is meat dumplings and moon-cakes. But then 清明? I was stumped. The taxi driver offered no explanation. I think he did not know the answer to the question too. Driving taxi is a boring job. If they do not have customers, they either call their friends or listen to the radio. Due to the latter, they sometimes gather trivia.
Anyway, I came home and search Wikipedia for the answer. The reason is kind of lame and has nothing to do with ancient heroics or patriotism. It was more of an economic and social reason. I quote Wikipedia for this,
Qingming itself was created by the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732. It is said that because the wealthy held too many expensive, elaborate ancestor-worshipping ceremonies, in a needed effort to lower this expense, Emperor Xuanzong declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestor’s graves only on Qingming
The entire article can be found here.
There is an often quoted poem about 清明. Here are the text and 2 Youtube videos.
|Simplified Chinese||pinyin||English translation|
|清明时节雨纷纷||qīng míng shí jié yǔ fēn fēn||A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day;|
|路上行人欲断魂||lù shàng xíng rén yù duàn hún||The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way.|
|借问酒家何处有||jiè wèn jiǔ jiā hé chù yǒu||Where can a wine house be found to drown his sadness?|
|牧童遥指杏花村||mù tóng yáo zhǐ xìng huā cūn||A cowherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance.|
(Click on the image to go to the video)