Holidays and Festivals
There is a mass exodus from Hong Kong to China as hundreds of thousands of people pass through the border crossings between Hong Kong with Shenzhen, China, to celebrate the Ching Ming Festival.
Crossing the border between Hong Kong and China over holiday periods is not for the faint of heart, although things are much better now than they once were thanks to Hong Kong’s wonderful smart cards, which have considerably streamlined the process.
Because Ching Ming coincides with Easter this year, many people are taking additional days off to get long weekends.
Grave Sweeping Ceremony
Ching Ming, sometimes referred to as the Grave Sweeping Festival or All Souls Day in English, is one of the four most important holidays in Chinese culture.
Unlike other Chinese holidays, whose dates are calculated according to the Lunar Calendar, Ching Ming falls on the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, which means either 4, 5, or 6 April.
In 2019,, Ching Ming falls on Friday 5 April.
In Taiwan, it is always celebrated on 5 April because Chiang Kai-shek – who headed the Chinese Nationalist Party and served as President of the Republic of China – died on that date in 1975.
On this day, Chinese people visit the grave sites of their ancestors, tidying them up, making offerings, having a picnic, and setting off firecrackers. The tradition dates back more than 2,500 years.
Ching Ming has been a statutory public holiday in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan all along.
After being discouraged in China following the Communist Revolution in 1949, it was revived as a public holiday in 2008. It is celebrated by Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia. Japan, Korea, and Vietnam also have similar customs.
Of all the Chinese holidays, Ching Ming is my least favourite. While I think it is a lovely concept, I find the careless disregard of many celebrants in Hong Kong a bit disturbing.
Every year in Hong Kong, hundreds of fires break out during the Ching Ming Festival.
On several times since moving to my village in the Northeastern New Territories more than 20 years ago, I have seen the hillsides facing my apartment engulfed in flames, leaving behind a scarred landscape, which takes several years to recover.
It is also a ridiculous waste of resources.
The Hong Kong Immigration Department recommends crossing the border during the late morning or early afternoon.
Having crossed the border a couple of times during holiday periods, I would advise against all non essential travel!
By the way, Ching Ming is spelled Qing Ming in pinyin. I prefer the Cantonese spelling because it’s easier on the eye for English speaking readers. It also more accurately reflects the way the term should be pronounced for those that have not studied Mandarin.
Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: Lowu Border Crossing (Chinese side) in Shenzhen, China Photo Credit: Thisivor (via Wikipedia Commons)