Latest News:  

English>>Life & Culture

Romance, ghosts and sports

By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei (China Daily)

12:10, April 04, 2013

A woman carrying an umbrella shelters from the spring rain under a willow tree in Huai'an, Jiangsu province, on March 17. He Jinghua / For China Daily

The Qingming Festival is traditionally a time for courtship, making sure the spirits are content and enjoying picnics and other outdoor activities with the coming of the better weather, report Cang Wei and Song Wenwei in Nanjing.

Many people think that Tomb-Sweeping Day, or the Qingming Festival, is for Chinese people to offer remembrances to their ancestors, but in ancient times, it was also a time for people to enjoy the arrival of spring and pray for love.

During the Qingming Festival, young women often tied a red string around the middle finger of their right hand to show they were single and to express their hope for a husband, while the educated young men would write poems on kites and then cut the string.

"If a woman who picked up a kite was touched by the poems, they might find the man and start a romantic relationship," said Shen Ming, who has been researching folk customs in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, for more than 30 years.

Even today, cutting the strings attached to flying kites means to get rid of diseases and bad luck.

"Many ancient people wrote on the kites the names of all the diseases they knew, and then they cut the strings and let the kites fly away with all their worries," said Shen, who has collected more than 1,000 items associated with the folk customs of the Qingming Festival, including postcards, matchboxes and telephone cards showing scenes of young women chasing kites and other traditions associated with the festival.

Just like today, people also liked to fly kites with lights at night. They would fasten strings of tiny, different colored lanterns on the kites that would twinkle like little stars.

Another tradition for the Qingming Festival, one which stretches back more than 1,000 years, is wearing a garland made of willow twigs. People also hung twigs of willow under their roofs and windows to prevent ghosts and evil spirits from entering the house, as it is one of the country's three ghost festivals, a time of year when it was believed ghosts walked the earth. The other two are July 15 and Oct 1 of the lunar Chinese calendar.

Buddhism also contributes to the prevalence of the tradition, as the Goddess of Mercy, or Guanyin, is usually depicted holding a willow twig. Willow trees were also called guibumu, which literally means "the tree which makes ghosts afraid", in ancient China.

The willow twigs were also used to predict the weather. If the twigs remained green, it meant there would be rain, but there would be no rain if they dried out and shriveled up.

"When I was young, many people broke off willow twigs and tied them to the baskets in front of their bicycles after sweeping their ancestors' tombs," said Shen, who is 72 years old. "That scene is still vivid in my memory, though most people nowadays no longer do that."

【1】 【2】

We Recommend:

Dream of fly into the blue sky in photos

Winter overstays its welcome in Beijing

China’s weekly story (2013.3.16-3.22)

Old photos: Getting married in 1950s

A five-year-old boy to save his sister

The toughest roads to school

A Russian's affectionate bond with Harbin

A Day of Song Juan, forgotten angel in photos

Five-year jail for serial killer's girlfriend

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:MaXi、Wang Jinxue)

Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. Chinese patrol ships to secure Boao Forum

  2. Marines in military skill training

  3. Floods kill 46 in Argentina

  4. Shine on stage

  5. Guarding the legacy of emperors

  6. Understand pollution, beyond dead pigs

  7. Preview of Hong Kong 2013 Spring Auctions

  8. Zhang Yuqi covers Femina China

  9. Shanghai: Nokia closes its flagship store

  10. $52 million super luxury yacht

Most Popular


  1. Reflecting on rules that allow bad apples
  2. Cold food honors loyal man with a warm heart
  3. Safety concerns over state-owned coal mines
  4. New age of gender blending in China
  5. 'Tomb Sweeping Day' distorts meaning of Qingming
  6. Xi's visit starts new era of China-Africa relations
  7. Opinion: It's high time to stop hijacking Tibetans
  8. Significant risks remain for global economy:BRICS
  9. BRICS summit offers bright sunrise
  10. Western leaders learned nothing from Iraq disaster

What’s happening in China

1,000-meter-long Spider Walk of Canton Tower opens

  1. China market fire kills two, injures one
  2. China releases names of Tibet landslide victims
  3. China regulates martyrs' burials
  4. Laid-off disabled workers expect more care
  5. 25 mln yuan donated to free lunch project: report