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Tomb Sweeping Day

Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan).

The Chinese respect for filial piety and careful attention to funeral rites is visibly manifested in the custom of ancestor worship. Since ancient times, a day has been designated for sweeping the tomb and honoring one's ancestors. Though different in each family, these rites are usually performed on the first few days prior to or following Ching Ming, one of the traditional solar divisions falling in early April, when the frost retreats and spring returns bringing renewal to all living things. In 1935, the government of the ROC designated Ching Ming as Tomb Sweeping Day to further heighten the significance of this occasion.


After Taiwan transformed from an agrarian- to industrial-based economy, many of the older customs were gradually neglected. Tomb Sweeping Day, however, has retained its deep meaning in modern Chinese society, as the numerous families carrying out cleaning and worship rites at cemeteries during this time will testify. The Central Government Prayer Service is also held on this day, amply evidencing the deep respect with which the Chinese view their roots.

Since most cemeteries are located on hillsides in the countryside or outskirts of town, upon completing the Tomb Sweeping Day rites, many families will take advantage of the fine spring weather by going on a family outing. These trips have become an important part of Tomb Sweeping Day as a time for families to enjoy time together.


The foods offered on Tomb Sweeping Day vary by region. In Taiwan, the most common dishes are the distinctive "grave cakes" and jun ping.


Tomb Sweeping Day combines the people's reverence for their ancestors and for nature and is a reaffirmation of the Chinese ethic of filial piety. Today, Tomb Sweeping Day is a time not only for worship and maintaining the tombs of ancestors, but also a tangible expression of filial respect for the teachings and virtues of forebears.