(Minghui.org) The Qingming Festival is an important day for Chinese people. It is a day for sweeping graves and paying homage to their ancestors. The worshipping of gods has a long history in traditional Chinese culture. The custom of paying homage to one’s ancestors began in the Zhou Dynasty (1050–221 BCE) and became an official festival in the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The traditions of offering sacrifices to ancestors and tomb-sweeping have been preserved by the Chinese to honor and remember their ancestors.

The Qingming Festival falls around April 5 in the Gregorian calendar, when the sun reaches 15 degrees of longitude, that is, the fifteenth day after the Spring Equinox (Vernal Equinox).

In ancient astronomical records, it means that the Big Dipper points to Yi in the 28 constellations. In Chapter Three (Tianwenxun) of Huainanzi, a compilation of treatises on the cosmos, it says, “Fifteen days after the Spring Equinox, when the Dipper points to Yi, the Qingming wind will arrive.” According to One Hundred Questions of the Year, “Everything grows clean and bright at this time. Therefore, it is called Qingming (clear and bright).” Thus, Qingming has always been used to refer to good governance, social harmony, and virtues.

The Origin of the Qingming Festival

The Qingming Festival began as the Hanshi Jie (Cold Food Festival), which was established to commemorate Jie Zitui during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. Jie was one of many who followed Prince Chong’er of the Jin state in exile for 19 years. He excised a piece of his thigh and used it to make soup for the Prince. The Prince promised he would reward Jie for making such a sacrifice. Jie did not seek compensation for serving the Prince; he only hoped that the Prince would one day become a diligent and honest Duke of the Jin State.

The Duke forgot about his promise for a long time but eventually sought out Jie to reward him. However, Jie had gone to live in the forest with his mother, so the duke couldn’t find him. He then ordered his men to set the forest on fire, hoping to flush Jie out. However, Jie and his mother maintained their integrity and didn’t flee. They both died in the fire. Deeply remorseful, the Duke ordered that no fires would be used for three days to honor Jie. In memory of Jie, people followed the tradition of banning fire for three days and eating only cold food on those days, thus establishing the Cold Food Festival.

Until the Tang Dynasty, the Cold Food Festival was a day for worshiping ancestors. As there was only one day difference between the Cold Food Festival and the Qingming Festival, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty issued an edict in the 20th year of Kaiyuan (732): “Cold Food Festival is a day for worshiping ancestors, and even though there was no written scriptures about it, it has been passed down for generations and become a custom... hence, it has now been compiled into the five rites, and will be eternal.”

The edict combined the two festivals into one, making the custom of worshiping ancestors a mainstream tradition and the Qingming Festival a national festival.

During the Tang and Song Dynasties, ministers in the court would return to their hometowns to worship their ancestors during every Qingming Festival. Some of them were thousands of miles away, and the trip home might take a month or two. However, the court had no reason to refuse their leave and even praised them for what they were doing.

Everyone participated in the Qingming Festival, from kings and ministers to ordinary people. All paid homage to their ancestors on the day. In the Ming Dynasty, the worship ceremonies became even more solemn. Members of the imperial family and nobles should put on festive costumes and bring gift boxes, vehicles, and people to their ancestor’s tomb to hold a grand memorial ceremony. This ritual was followed until the Qing Dynasty.

Why the Ancients Considered Worshiping Ancestors So Important

In The Analects of Confucius, Zeng Zi says, “Let there be careful attention paid to performing the funeral rites for parents, and let them be followed when long gone with the ceremonies of sacrifice—then the virtue of the people will resume its proper excellence.”

Tomb-sweeping during the Qingming Festival embodies the importance of human ethics. Benevolence, justice, and filial piety are the traditional tenets of morality in China. Worshiping and remembering their ancestors by cleaning graves nurtures the gratitude of later generations.

Confucius’s disciple Zeng Sen once asked him: “May I ask whether, of the Sages’ virtues, there is any greater than filial piety?” Confucius replied, “There is nothing greater than filial piety in human behavior.” In filial piety, nothing is more important than respecting one’s ancestors.

Sima Qian mentioned in Historical Records: “Heaven and earth, which are the foundation of life; ancestors, which are the foundation of humankind.” The essence of worshiping heaven and ancestors in ancient times reminds people that respecting heaven is the foundation of human beings. We should worship and respect God and believe that God created the world and human beings; worshiping ancestors is to remember the source of humankind. We must not forget our ancestors, and as human beings, we must know our roots and origins in order to continue the circle of life.

“Destroy the Four Olds” and “Destroy Confucian Ancestral Tombs”

After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949, it sought to destroy China’s traditional order that had been maintained for more than two thousand years by carrying out a series of campaigns, such as the Three Antis and Five Antis, Land Reform, the Anti-Rightists Movement, and so on. It promoted atheistic fallacies of “fighting against heaven, earth, and man” and gradually did away with traditional Chinese culture and values.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the CCP began to promote cremation. Document No. 14 of the Ministry of Internal Affairs states: “Cities with more than 200,000 people, especially industrial cities that do not have crematoriums, should build them to promote cremation.”

After the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, the campaign to destroy the “Four Olds,” namely, old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits, led to destruction nationwide. Digging up graves and destroying corpses and burning bones was encouraged.

Confucius is one of the most famous representatives of traditional Chinese culture. He is revered by later generations as “the greatest sage and teacher,” “Great Completer, Ultimate Sage and Exalted King of Culture,” and “an exemplary teacher for all ages.”

On November 29, 1966, Red Guards armed with shovels and hoes, along with peasants from nearby, went to Confucius's hometown, determined to destroy Confucius’s tomb as well as those of his ancestors of three generations and those of his descendants of three generations. Their ultimate goal was to completely destroy Confucian culture and its long lasting legacy in Chinese traditional culture and thought.

To speed up the excavations, they also used detonators and explosives. Confucius’s tomb was eventually blown open, and the loess was scattered everywhere. The bodies of Kong Lingyi (the 77th generation descendant of Confucius) and his wife and two concubines, as well as the bodies of his father Kong Xiangke and his wife were also dug up and destroyed.

Following the destruction of Confucius’s tomb, almost all the tombs of cultural icons over the five thousand years of Chinese civilization were dug up and destroyed. The Yellow Emperor’s Mausoleum, which the Chinese people had paid tribute and respect to for thousands of years, was almost completely destroyed by the Red Guards except for the ancient trees. The current Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor was built after 1992.

The Mausoleum of the Yan Emperor in Hunan suffered similar destruction. Its main hall and ancillary buildings were destroyed, the tomb was blown open, the contents of the mausoleum were looted, and the entire site was razed to the ground. The Mausoleum of Emperor Shun in Shanxi Province was also destroyed and mocked with a loudspeaker hanging on the tomb.

After the campaign to “Destroy the Four Olds” was carried out during the Cultural Revolution, China’s 5000 years of civilization was like a kite with broken string, a tree without water.

In the 1990s, the “economy-centered” point-of-view blanketed the entire society in an atmosphere of money-grabbing, and land was viewed as the main resource for economic development. As a result, land was expropriated by force, making it difficult to preserve even the ancestral graves of the rural people.

In 2012, a massive “Grave Leveling Movement” was launched in Henan Province. Within half a year, 3.5 million graves were razed to the ground, affecting tens of millions of people living in that province.

In 2019, “Legal Daily” reported on March 27 that a forced grave-clearing campaign was underway in Jingjiang City, Jiangsu Province. Because the authorities knew that this would be unpopular with the people, almost all the villages in Jingjiang City were notified verbally or through WeChat groups instead of a stamped official notice to avoid media exposure.

Some people complained that certain villages had bulldozed all the graves deep in the countryside without their consent or knowledge, which led to conflicts. “We may see more and more incidents like this when Tomb-Sweeping Festival comes!”

Netizens criticized such conduct: “It’s unethical and totally inhumane! You have forgotten your ancestors!” “Digging up people’s ancestral graves makes you the last of your family line!” “In ancient times, digging up people’s graves got the death penalty.” “Why not take out the corps in the crystal coffin first!” (referring to former leader Mao Zedong)

According to netizens: “The same thing is happening in Nantong City, Jiangsu Province. It is said if that the work isn’t completed before April 1, those in charge will lose their jobs.”

A similar effort the people decried as “unscrupulous” was the “robbing coffins, digging up graves, and burning corpses” campaign launched in Jiangxi Province. In order to carry out the “funeral reform” on orders from their superiors, local authorities in many places in the province sent bandit-like law enforcement to seize and smash coffins in villages, and even to dig up dead bodies and burn corpses. In just over a month, at least 5,000 coffins were confiscated and burned in Shangrao City alone, and people were boiling with resentment and anger.

According to Chinese tradition, the existence of ancestral graves connects the deceased ancestors with their living descendants. So on the Qingming Festival and the Winter Solstice, people would bring sacrifices to their ancestors’ graves to show their respect. When future generations celebrated big, happy events in their lives, they would go to the graves of the ancestors to offer sacrifices to thank them for their blessings and inform them of their happiness and achievements.

Commemorating one’s ancestors is an opportunity for their merits to take root in the hearts of later generations and helps them regulate their lives based on good morals.

Rural Elderly Suicide: Considered Normal and Reasonable

After the destructive 10-year-long Cultural Revolution ended, the farmers in China had ten years to make their farms productive again. However, around 2000, large-scale land sales combined with the lack of rural medical insurance and social security, made life as a farmer very hard to sustain. A considerable proportion of the elderly in rural China lost their basic means of support, both mentally and materially.

According to the article titled “At least 100,000 elderly people over the age of 55 die by suicide in China every year” published in the second issue of Medicine and Health Care in 2010, “Currently, at least 100,000 elderly people over the age of 55 die by suicide in our country every year. That accounts for 36% of all suicides every year.”

The article “Survey on the Suicide Phenomenon of Rural Elderly People: Mostly Treated as Normal and Reasonable in the Locally” published by China News Network on July 30, 2014, says that scholars from the Department of Sociology of Wuhan University spent six years visiting 11 provinces and more than 40 villages in China and found that suicide among the elderly had reached a shocking level. They discovered that the main causes of suicide were difficulty surviving and the pain of illnesses. The two together accounted for 60% of the direct causes of death, followed by emotional problems caused by various factors, such as their children leaving home to do odd jobs in big cities; children leaving them with an empty house and the resultant loneliness; lack of financial resources; and the disappearance of traditional lifestyle.

On top of these, they were worried that they would no longer be able to “lay in their grave” in the face of the grave-leveling movement and funeral reforms (the cremation rate in China is now 53%). Since 1990, the suicide rate among elderly people in rural China has increased significantly and remains at a high level. Rural elderly people feel mentally strained, and suicide has become a response to that feeling of helplessness. Sadly, their suicides are regarded as normal and even reasonable in rural areas.

Respecting the elderly was a tradition for thousands of years. Such cultural traditions have been uprooted by the godless culture of the CCP, and the extent of its disregard for human life is shocking.

The CCP rules China by deception and ruthless dictatorship. It has singled out Falun Gong practitioners who follow the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance as enemies of the nation. According to a report on Minghui.org, in 2023, 1,188 Falun Gong practitioners are known to have been sentenced to prison, an increase of 545 from the previous year; at least 209 practitioners died as a result of persecution, an increase of 37 from the previous year; 383 practitioners over the age of 60 were illegally sentenced to prison, among them, 201 are in their 70s and the oldest is 89 years old. According to reports on Minghui.org, cases of elderly practitioners being illegally sentenced to prison are very common.

After Falun Gong was openly taught to the public in China in 1992, tens of millions of people took up the practice and enjoyed enormous benefits both mentally and physically. However, the CCP could not tolerate any practice that contradicted the fallacies of the Party culture, and it launched the nationwide persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999. Since then, more than 5,000 (confirmed) Falun Gong practitioners have died due to persecution. Under the rule of the CCP since 1949, countless innocent lives have been lost, and many more can be anticipated.

Disasters have hounded the rule of the CCP. It’s handling of the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic with extreme measures has taught everyone a lesson. Numerous companies have closed down, and a great number of people have lost their jobs. There have been fires and explosions. The number of people who lost their lives in due to the pandemic in China still remains a secret. The tragedies man-made by the CCP are countless and continue to happen.

To avoid disasters, we should first of all become clear-headed ourselves and see through the evil nature of the CCP. What is heartening is that, to date, as many as 400 million Chinese people who had once join a CCP organization—the Youth League, the Young Pioneers, and/or the Party itself—have withdrawn from them. Their clear and independent thinking will not only ensure that gods and Buddhas will protect them but will also help their families develop in a healthy way.

At the same time, many members of the international community have also become aware of the deceptive and aggressive nature of the CCP and begun to keep a distance from the regime.