Qing Ming

Qing Ming (Toomb Sweeping) Festival

Discover more of Cairns’ rich Chinese-Australian history

Cairns Historical Society + Cairns Museum Members are invited to two special events to mark the Chinese Festival of Qing Ming.

Qing Ming is an important, age old Chinese festival where families make their annual pilgrimage to their ancestral graves to “sweep the tombs” and pay respects to their forebears and loved ones. In China it is a public holiday and occurs 104 days after the winter solstice. This year (2022),  it falls on 3  – 5 April.

To celebrate Qing Ming, Cairns and District Chinese Association Inc (CADCAI) are planning two  community events to increase awareness of the festival and to recognise and pay respect to the thousands of invisible Chinese migrants who came to north Queensland to “seek their fortune” but sadly died here without any family around them.

The festival complements our current exhibition ‘Rediscovering Buk Ti: Chinese settlers in the lower Herbert district’.

Friday 8 April

History Talk –  Reviving Qing Ming

Join CADCAI for a short historical presentation by NQ Chinese historian Dr Sandi Robb and CADCAI’s own Heritage Manager Mary Low, to learn about Qing Ming and how it was celebrated in Cairns. Also known as the Pure Brightness Festival, this calendar event honours the ancestors of Chinese families and pays respects to those buried in Cairns Cemeteries. 

06:00 – 7:00 pm 

Entry is free but bookings are essential. Click here to book 

Location: CADCAI premises, behind Asian Foods in Grafton St (walk down the lane beside Asian Foods)



Sun 10 April

Qing Ming Cemetery Outing (and optional Lunch)

09:00 am – 11:00 am

Visit the heritage-listed Cairns Pioneer Cemetery to honour over 200 Chinese who were buried in mostly ummarked graves. In the Chinese tradition we will bring offerings of food and wine and burn incense. Then we’ll move onto the Martyn St Cemetery Visit several known sites to honour the early Cairns community starting at Andrew Leon and Mary Leon Piggot’s grave and memorial headstone. Other sites will include key Chinese early settlers and families.

Click here for more information and bookings





Cairns Historical Society is taking to the streets and wants help with biographies of some of the city’s best-known byways.

This year the Society will produce books on some of Cairns’ oldest streets – The Esplanade, Lake Street, Spence Street, Abbott Street and Shields Street.

It needs help to research and write the books and is calling for anyone who can assist with the project.

Fleur Anderson, executive officer of the Cairns Historical Society, said the organisation was looking for anyone with memories or memorabilia of the streets, old photographs and documents, along with people who can help with research or authors who may like to help write the publications.

“The books can be visual, descriptive or text – whatever brings the history and atmosphere of these streets to life,” she said.

“The idea is to trace the history of each street through streetscape photos, one per decade, with descriptive text explaining the changes, along with any additional interesting detail on particular buildings or places.

“Volunteers would be given a street to themselves to research so they can receive author recognition on the front cover.”

Ms Anderson said the streets were chosen due to their prominence in the CBD and are likely to have the most photos and information.

The thoroughfares have witnessed the growth of Cairns from a bustling, boisterous frontier settlement to the tourist and economic hub it is today.

The Esplanade was the first street surveyed in Cairns in 1876 and was once a sandy beach. Lake Street was named after the skipper of the SS Victoria – one of the first vessels to visit Cairns – and Spence Street borrowed the name of the first collector of customs.

As well, the Society is seeking volunteers who may not have a connection or knowledge of the area but are interested in research, imaging and archives generally.

Anyone who would like to be part of the project should contact secretary@cairnsmuseum.org.au.


For media enquiries, images or interviews contact:

Tanya Snelling

Strategic PR

P 0417 202 663