Pure Brightness Festival
Date: The seasonal division point Pure Brigjhtness (Apr.5thor 6th)
Pure Brightness Festival is a very peculiar one among all the traditional Chinese festivals which are still popular today. It is a great festival as well as an important seasonal division point. 107 days later than the Beginning of Winter, 15 days than the Spring Solstice and around April 5th, it plays special role in the alternation of seasons. To learn the beginning of Pure Brightness Festival, We have to first know about a festival which was very famous in the past but has lost its popularity today- Hanshi Festival. Hanshi Festival is one or two days before the Pure Brightness Festival, and it is also called "Cold Festival" or "Smoking-Banning Festival." This Day was believed as a kind of commemoration of a loyal court official in the Spring and Autumn Period- Jie Zitui.
Jie Zitui was a capable minister in the state of Jin, The prince of which was Chong Er. A civil war broke out in Jin and Prince Chong Er had to escape abroad. During the exile of about nineteen years, Jie Zitui had always been by the prince's side in spite of all the difficulties. He had even made broth out of the flash on his leg to feed the prince when they were short of food. Later when Chong Er became the king, which is known as Jin Wengong (Wen Duke of Jin)in history, he handsomely rewarded those who accompanied him in hardship, leaving only Jie Zitui neglected. Many people felt very indignant to Prince Chong Er for Jie Zitui and advised Jie to ask for reward from the duke. But Jie despised those people who struggled for rewards so much that he packed his luggage and retired into Mian Moutain with his mother.
When Jin Wengong got the news, he felt so ashamed that he took some people and went to the mountain to find Jie Zitui. However, the bumpiness of the mountain road and the thickness of the forest added great difficulty to the searching of only two people. Someone suggested that they could set fire to the forest so that Jie would be forced out. Wengong took this advice and the fire thus seared its way all over the mountain. Nonetheless, Jie Zitui still didn't show up. When the fire was out, people found that Jie had already died under a willow with his mother on the back. What's more, a letter written in blood was found from the hole of the tree. It said:
Giving meat and heart to my lord,
Hoping my lord will always be upright.
An invisible ghost under a willow
Is better than a loyal minister beside my lord.
If my lord has a place in his heart for me,
Please make self-reflection when remembering me.
I have a clear conscience in the nether world,
Being pure and bright in my offices year after year.
To commemorate Jie Zitui's exhortation with death, Jin Wengong decided this day to be the Hanshi Festival and ordered that no fire should be permitted in the whole country on that day. The next year when Wengong went to hold a memorial ceremony on that mountain with other ministers, they found the willow shooting again. So they named the willow "pure Bright Willow" and christened the day after Hanshi Festival "Pure Brightness Festival."
It is usually bright and clean on the Pure Brightness Day, people often go to sweep the tombs of their relatives, offer sacrifices to their ancestors, and go for a walk in the countryside and plant willows on this day.
The Chinese people have traditional respect to the seniors, especially to their forefathers that have passed away. Therefore every time when it comes to the Pure Brightness Festival, the families will pay a solemn visit to the tombs of their forefathers. They remove the weed around the tombs, add some new earth to them, burn joss sticks and put some food and paper money there to show their sincere affection and respect to the dead. This is called "shangfen" or "sweeping the tombs." However, as cremation is gradually taking the place of ground burying, it is harder to see tombs in the fields nowadays. But still people can commemorate their fore fathers in other ways or they can go to the martyrs' park and mourn for them by offering flowers and wreaths onto their tombs.
At the time of Pure Brightness Festival, the weather is becoming warmer and warmer; trees and grass began to shoot up; the open country is flooded with vigorous greenness-it just the right time for people to go outside and relax themselves. They often go to the countryside with their friends to breathe the fresh air and indulge themselves with their friends to breath the fresh air and indulge themselves in the blue sky, green trees, iridescent grass and beautiful flowers. The ancient people called the custom of walking in the countryside "Taqing," so Pure Brightness Festival is also known as "Taqing Festival." People also wear a willow twig on head to expel ghosts and disasters and pray for peace and happiness. There was also a custom of "picking shepherd's pure while walking in the countryside," and it can still be seen today. Around the time of Pure Brightness Festival, girls and women will pick some fresh potherb and make dumplings of them. Some women also like to wear the flower of shepherd's purse in their hair.
There are also customs of flying kites, playing tug-of-war and playing swings on the Pure Brightness Festival. It is golden time to sow then, so a lot of agricultural proverbs are about Pure Brightness Festival and agricultural activities, for example," plant melons and beans around Pure Brightness Festival." In the ancient time people also planted willows on this festival, just as the ancient poem goes, "A Street of willows covered with a green veil, weaves the Pure Brightness Day."