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Qing Ming Holiday in the Time of Coronavirus: Wanghong Qingtuan, Online Memorials and Expensive Tea

Mar 30, 2020 | 12:27 Mon
The three-day Qingming holiday is coming up this weekend (Monday off), the traditional mark of spring when people eat qingtuan and go out to cemeteries to clean their ancestors’ graves. But this is no regular year and the outbreak and social distancing measures are changing the 2,000-year-old holiday.

For a start, Shanghai has banned the burning of joss money at funeral services and encouraged people to take the ancestor worship and tomb sweeping online. WeChat mini-programs have popped up to help. This one, for example, from the Shanghai Huaxia Public Cemetery, allows you to setup a virtual memorial table for those who have passed.

You can’t move qingtuan online though. The sticky, green dessert was originally used in ancestor worship a couple of millenia ago. Now it’s just a snack. The last few years have seen the old legacy brands try to reinvent qingtuan, with Xing Hua Lou now reportedly selling almost 100,000 salted egg yolk and pork floss qingtuan every day. This year, they’ve also introduced a beef and cheese flavor. At Wang Jia Sha and Shen Da Cheng, they are filling the qingtuan with smoked pressed tofu and chopped malantou, a seasonal herb that only grows in this part of China. It’s usually a cold appetizer at Shanghainese restaurants.

The other thing real big around this time is tea, and right now is the most expensive time of year for green tea. Ming qian tea (明前茶) — tea from before Qingming — is the most prized and already on the market. If you’ve got several hundred kuai and want to see what the fuss is about, here’s a few places to do that.

And then there’s always travel. According to Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau’s 962299 hotline, no quarantine is required after returning to Shanghai from Zhejiang and Jiangsu province as long as you inform your neighborhood committee. Or at least, that was the case as of 30 March; remember things can always change.

Happy holiday!


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