“In the lunar year, Qing Ming Day markes a seasonal division point, with the sun’s position at 15 degrees on the eliptic. Since it falls on and around April the fifth on the solar calendar, it is usually a warm spring day, clear and bright if the sun is out. However, as the legend has it, Jin Wen Gong (697-628 BC) made this day a special holiday in memory of one of his most loyal subjects. Over the course of 2,000 years, this holiday became a time for families to pay homage to their ancestors, mourn the death of their blood and kin at their burial grounds, and also to celebrate the full swing of spring.”
This is a major holiday across Asia, with religious resonances in Confucian and Taoist observance. In the US, observers of Decoration Day or Memorial Day as a time to maintain ancestral graves and markers would share some of the practices associated with Qing Ming.
Qing Ming is, of course, no abstractly gender-neutral phenomenon. Since it is a time to honor ancestors, women and men are among the objects of reverence on this day. In Taoist observance, “Many Taoist clergy and devotees who participate in this festival are women. Some are musicians, some are chanters, and some are leaders of the ceremonies. Often, entire ceremonies are conducted by female clergy.” (Eva Wong, “Taoism,” in Her Voice, Her Faith: Women Speak on World Religions, Arvind Sharma and Katherine Young eds, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2003), 120) At the same time, family patterns and expectations in cultures in which Qing Ming is celebrated tend to impel married women to observe Qing Ming on behalf of their husbands’ ancestors.
[Edited for grammar 12/10/08.]