Guest Author - Inci Yilmazli
Pure Brightness Festival is also known as the Tomb-Sweeping Day and it falls on April 4th or 5th. This festival has a very special and important place in Chinese as it plays an important role in the alternation of seasons.
History of Pure Brightness Festival
Chinese people used to celebrate a festival, Hanshi Festival, in the past. This festival isn’t popular anymore, however it’s related to the beginning of Pure Brightness Festival. Hanshi Festival is one or two days before the Pure Brightness Festival and it’s also called the “Cold Festival”. This festival’s celebrated to commemorate of a loyal court official, Jie Zitui.
Jie Zitui was a minister in the Jin state which was run by the prince Chong Er. Chong Er and Jie Zitui had to escape when a civil war broke out and they were in exile for nineteen years. During the exile period, Jie Zitui was always by Chong Er’s side. They had to go through many difficulties, but Jie Zitui never left the Prince alone.
After the exile period is over and they’re back, Chong Er became the King and he rewarded the ones who were with him during the difficult times. He rewarded everyone who accompanied him but Jie Zitui. Some people advised Jie Zitui to ask to remind the prince and ask for his awards. However, Jie was not happy with this advise, because he didn’t really care about the reward. He despised all those people who put importance on the rewards and packed his bags and left to Mian Mountain with his mother.
The King heard the bad news, he felt so bad and decided to go search for Jie Zitui in the Mountain. The mountain roads made the King and his men’s journey difficult. At some point, they couldn’t go further and it was difficult to seearch for two people in the Mountain. So, one of the King’s men suggested to set fire to the forest so that Jie Zitui would be forced out. The King accepted the idea and they set a fire. The fire seared its way all over the mountain but Jie Zitui still didn’t show up. When the fire was out, they continued to search and found the Jie Zitui and his mother dead, under a willow.
The King decided that day to be the Hanshi Festival to commemorate Jie Zitui’s death and he ordered that no fire should be permitted in the whole country on that day. The next year, King wanted to hold the memorial ceremony with his ministers on the mountain. When they got to the mountain, they saw that willow was shooting again. So, they named the willow “Pure Birght Willow”and they named the day after Hanshi Festival “Pure Bright Festival”.
Pure Birghtness Festival Celebrations Today
On the Pure Brightness Day, people go to sweep tombs of their relatives, offer sacrifices to their ancestors and plant willows.
The Chinese people respect their elders and especially their forefathers who have passed away. That’s why, on this day, Chinese people visit the tombs of their forefathers, they clean around the tombs, they put some food and show their respect to the dead. This is called “sweeping the tombs” or “shangfen”.
This festival is also called the “Taqing Festival”. The reason for this name is that the ancient people would go for a walk in the countryside as the weather is always warm, bright and clean. So, the custom of walking is called “Taqing”. Another custom for Pure Brightness Day is that the women pick some fresh potherb and make dumplings of them. Also, you can see kids flying kites, playing tug-of-war on this day. Chinese people have a one-day holiday on Pure Brightness Festival.