Noteworthy Dates in the Chinese Calendar – April 2023 Edition

April 5th marks Tomb Sweeping Day in China, a day to both honour ancestors and celebrate the arrival of spring. But this is only one of the festivals that happen in China in April. What other festivals are coming up this month?

Read on to find out!

Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节 Qīngmíng Jié): April 5th in Chinese communities worldwide

On the fifteenth day after the Spring Equinox, Chinese visit the graves of their ancestors to saomu, “sweep the tomb” – clean and tidy the site, pray and make offerings such as food and paper money. 

The festival is said to have originated in the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476BC), with Jie Zitui, who earned the respect of Duke Wen when he saved his life. Nineteen years later, the Duke had forgotten Jie, and when reminded, he felt ashamed. He went to find Jie and his elderly mother, but the two hid in the forest, as Jie was so humble that he didn’t want to be rewarded in any way for saving the Duke’s life. Jie set fire to the forest to force them to come out, but instead killed them. He gave them a respectful burial and ordered his subjects not to use fire and only to eat cold food on that day, traditions that are still observed today. 

The modern festival originated in the Tang Dynasty. Wealthy citizens in China were holding too many extravagant ceremonies in honor of their ancestors, so in 732, Emperor Xuanzong sought to stop the practice by declaring that such ceremonies could be held only once a year, on Qingming. 

As well as honouring ancestors, Qingming is a holiday used to enjoy the beauty of spring.

Water Splashing Festival (泼水节 Pōshuǐ jié): April 13th to 15th in Yunnan Province

The water splashing festival is the most important festival for the Dai people of Yunnan province in China’s southwest. Celebrated in several south Asian countries including Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, the festival is also known as Songkran. 

The water splashing festival marks the new year according to the solar calendar – when the sun moves into Aries. The new year happens over three days. April 13th is the last day of the old year, when the sun actually moves into Aries. April 14th is a transitional day, and the 15th is the first day of the new year. 

Water is an important part of the festival, being closely associated with blessings and purity in Dai culture. Traditionally on the first two days dragon boat races are held on the Lancang (Mekong) River, and at night lanterns are floated on the water and fireworks are set off. On the third day, people dress up in new clothes and go to a Buddhist temple to attend a ceremonial washing of a Buddha statue. Afterwards people sprinkle each other, and also the monks, with water to symbolise blessings. Over time this tradition has become more boisterous, with people now going into the streets with bowls and pans to douse each other, even strangers, with water. The wetter you get the more blessings you’ll have in the new year!

Peony Festival – Second week in April to the second week in May every year in Luoyang, Henan Province

Peonies, symbolising grace and nobility, are beloved in China, and are the de-facto national flower (there isn’t an official one). Peonies have long been used in Chinese cooking and medicine, and became especially popular for their flowers during the Tang dynasty, when they were grown in the imperial gardens. In the tenth century the cultivation of peonies spread throughout China, and the capital of the Song dynasty Luoyang became a centre for its cultivation, as it still is today, with many peony exhibitions and shows still held there every spring. 

Every year the peonies bloom for about a month, with the peak usually around the third week in April. The official festival dates are from the 15th to the 25th. The city has several gardens dedicated to peonies, including the Luoyang National Peony Garden, Shenzhou Peony Garden, Xiyuan Park and Luoyang International Peony Garden, as well as many other parks and gardens featuring spring-flowering plants. 

Have you experienced any of these festivals? What did you think? Would you like to attend any of them? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

Photo Credits – Cultural Keys

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