Cold Food Festival

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Cold Food Festival
Official name Hanshi Festival (寒食節)
Also called Cold Food Festival
Observed by Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese
Type Cultural
Begins 105th day after dongzhi (April 5)
Ends 107th day after dongzhi (April 7)
Frequency annual
Related to Tết Hàn Thực, Hanshik (한식)
Cold Food Festival
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Tết Hàn Thực
Korean name
Hangul 한식

The Cold Food Festival or Hanshi Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated for three consecutive days starting the day before the Qingming Festival in the Chinese Calendar, which falls on April 5 by the Gregorian calendar, except in leap years (the 105th day after dongzhi). It is celebrated in China as well as the nearby nations of Korea and Vietnam. At this time of year, the sky becomes clearer and buds sprout in the field. Farmers sow various seeds and supply water to their rice paddies.


Despite the legend surrounding the festival, there are no evidences that established the relationship between the festival and Jie Zitui, nor any evidence of Jie Zitui cutting off his flesh for the Prince to eat.[1] Historical researches indicated that it was more likely related to an ancient tradition of changing the fire during spring.[2]。 In ancient China, Ancient Chinese will use different types of wood for ceremonial fire that was changed according to the seasons.[3] Thus, during the period between the change of wood and thus the arrival of the new fire, it was prohibited to light any fire, even for cooking.


During the Spring and Autumn period, Prince Chong'er of the state of Jin endured many hardships while he was exiled from his home state because of the Li Ji Unrest. While heading towards the Beidi, only 15 men accompanied him, one being his friend and subject Jie Zitui (介子推; or Jie Zhitui 介之推). Jie Zitui was the only one who followed the prince through his 19 years of hardships, seeing his final ascension to the throne as Duke Wen of Jin.

Once, when Chong'er and Jie Zitui passed through the State of Wey, all their provisions were stolen. In order to help the prince who was tormented by hunger, Jie Zitui cut off the flesh from his thigh and offered it to the prince for sustenance.

Later, when Chong'er became Duke Wen of Jin, he ordered a search for Jie Zitui who had gone into hiding in the remote mountains with his mother. Jie Zhitui had no political ambitions and felt ashamed to work with his hypocritical fellows, hence refused invitation of the Duke. Duke Wen ordered the mountains to be burned down in order to force Jie out of hiding. However, the fire ended up killing Jie and his mother.

Filled with remorse, Duke Wen ordered that each year during these three days the setting of fire is forbidden – all food was to be consumed cold. Therefore, the Festival is thus named.[4]

Thus, there exist a Chinese Proverb that goes "While one can burn off an entire mountain, others are refrained even to light up to eat their rice" - depicting what transpired in the burning of the mountain and the subsequent annual banning of using fire on that day to commemorate.



The traditionally practiced activities during the Cold Food Festival includes the visitation of ancestral tombs, cock-fighting, playing on swings, beating out blankets (to freshen them), tug-of-war, etc. However, the practice of visiting ancestral tombs was later moved to coincide with the Qingming Festival. In Korea, where the festival is called Hansik (hangul: 한식), the tradition of ancestral worship during the Cold Food Festival still remains.

In the city of Jiexiu in Shanxi Province, where Jie died, locals still commemorate the festival, but the tradition of eating cold food is no longer practiced.


In Korea, it is called Hanshik. It is a traditional Korean holiday. In the modern version of Hansik, people welcome the warm weather thawing the frozen lands. On this day, rites to worship ancestors are observed early in the morning, and the family visits their ancestors' tombs to tidy up.

Falling on the 105th day after the winter solstice (April 5 by the Gregorian calendar, except in leap years). At this time of year, the sky becomes clearer and buds sprout in the field. Farmers sow various seeds and supply water to their rice paddies. The custom of eating cold food on this day is believed to originate from the Chinese legend, but recently this custom has disappeared.

Since this day coincides with Arbor Day, public cemeteries are crowded with visitors planting trees around the tombs of their ancestors.


In Vietnam, where it is called Tết Hàn Thực, the Cold Food Festival is celebrated by Vietnamese people in the northern part of the country on the third day of the third lunar month, but only marginally. People cook glutinous rice balls called bánh trôi on that day but the holiday's origins are largely forgotten, and the fire taboo is also largely ignored.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 介子推割股的故事不见于《左传》和《史记》,寒食节起源於纪念介子推的说法最早见于桓谭《新论》,洪迈在《容斋随笔》有考證。
  2. ^ 杜公瞻注《荆楚岁时记》:“《周礼·秋官·司烜氏》:‘仲春以木铎修火禁于国中。’注曰:‘为季春将出火也。’今寒食准节气是仲春之末,清明是三月之初,然则禁火盖周之旧制也。”
  3. ^ 李涪刊误》的“火”条:“《论语》曰:‘钻燧改火。’春榆夏枣秋柞冬槐,则是四时皆改其火。自秦以降,渐至简易,唯以春是一岁之首,止一钻燧。而适当改火之时,是为寒食节之后。既曰就新,即去其旧。今人持新火曰‘勿与旧火相见’,即其事也。”
  4. ^

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