Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Qing Ming Jie

Things have been completely non-stop, mostly with work this week to stop and think about blogging. In fact I've barely read any articles but there are a few things which are worth pointing to, which have come to my attention.

Yesterday was a festival day in China - Qing Ming Jie - clean and bright day. This is the day on which one is supposed to go and clean the tombs of your relatives, pay your respects at the temple and eat only uncooked food. In fact today a lot of the department is out at Fragrant Hills where the ashes of one of the great Chinese Academicians, who passed away earlier this year, are scattered. From Xiang shan you get this view of Beijing, if you're lucky:

Xiang shan panorama
Click for a larger image.

The e-mail invitation was in Chinese so I am not there. However, it makes for a peaceful office.

The reason one goes about these rituals on this day are supposed to go back to a Tang dynasty story. While in exile, Chong Er, the disgraced son of the King, was saved by one of his men, Jie Zitui, who offered a chunk of thigh when the royal was about to starve to death. Though temporarily overwhelmed with gratitude, having been saved by a bit of broiled man leg, the prince promptly forgot about his savior and when he came to power gave many high positions to important persons but not to the man who had sacrificed his flesh for him. He later realized his omission and set about trying to find the man who by this time had taken to a hill with his mother, retreating from the world.

The emperor eventually found where he was but couldn't persuade the man to come down. Thinking he would be able to force him down he set alight to the mountain. However the man and his mother stayed steadfast and died in the flames. Leaving only a poem, wrapped in some cloth in the trunk of a tree. With regret the emperor proclaimed that everyone must remember Jie Zitui on that day and hence on Qing Ming Jie the Chinese remember the good man and his sacrifices, go to the graves of their relatives to give them a spring clean and don't cook the day before, in order not to start any fires.

Any Chinese experts know whether it's appropriate to wish Qing Ming Jie kuai le?

1 comment:

Kevin S. said...

I know it's a little late for this now, but my mother-in-law says you can't say Qing Ming Jie kuai le.