Photo Essay: Making Treats for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming Jie)

This weekend it’s a holiday in China — The Tomb-Sweeping Festival (or Qingming Jie). And since I’ve caught the flu, I could use a short holiday from writing! So I’m sharing with you some photos from the holiday — specifically, some pictures of the process of making treats for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival. It’s a tradition here with my family in China. (Note – these pics are from 2014, when I actually helped the family make these turnovers.)


Those are qingming turnovers, which my Chinese mother-in-law makes every year for the holiday. They come in two colors — white and green.


What gives the green ones their color? This common plant, called mugwort:


She boils and pulverizes it, and then mixes the plant together with glutinous rice flour:


It’s amazing how a humble little plant can be transformed into the delicious beginnings of a turnover!


Then we roll them out into dough and start the filling process!


Some of them get filled with black bean paste, and are shaped using this lovely mold:


Some get filled with a savory mix of tofu, bamboo and pickled greens:


Either way, they make for a delicious holiday.

Wishing you all a happy Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming Jie)!

How China’s Tomb Sweeping Tradition – And My Husband – Helped Me Cope With Grief

(photo by mofaha via

What would my mom think if she saw me here in Ohio, sweeping a tomb and praying to ancestors — just like my husband would in China?

I’ll bet she would have cocked her head or raised an eyebrow, just as my relatives did when my husband announced our next stop. “We’re going to celebrate the Tomb Sweeping Festival,” also known as Qingming Jie. So John repeated himself and even explained it was a Chinese holiday where everyone visited their ancestors’ graves. But that only lead to polite smiles and nodding that suggested they were just trying to be nice and listen to him, but didn’t really understand.

That’s okay. If my mother was still alive, I’m sure she wouldn’t have understood what we were doing at that grave — a grave that was her own. Continue reading “How China’s Tomb Sweeping Tradition – And My Husband – Helped Me Cope With Grief”