The Death of Qing Ming Jie?

This past Tuesday, China celebrated Qing Ming Jie, or Tomb Sweeping Festival.

According to my students this is “a very important festival in China” because “we go to pay respects to our ancestry”. Can you tell what our vocabulary was for this week?

Children playing at a tomb on Qing Ming after it's been littered with paper money and other effigies.

Traditionally Tomb Sweeping Festival is a time when Chinese families come together to clean the graves of their ancestors and enjoy spring weather. This holiday is steeped in history and dates back at least 2,500 years to the Tang Dynasty. During the Communist Revolution this holiday was suppressed (none of that filial piety here, sir!) and was only reinstated on the mainland in 2008. And the students rejoiced, for there was one less day of school!

For those of you more familiar with Catholic holidays it is comparable to All Souls Day.

On the day of Qing Ming hundreds of vendors flock to street corners to sell their traditional graveside monuments, paper ‘spirit’ money, and firecrackers, while hundreds more people flock to them to purchase these adornments.

A vendor selling paper money and grave decorations

The rat-a-tat sounds of hundreds of firecrackers can be heard through the streets, the objective to frighten away evil spirits, and the smell of smoke permeates the air.

Paper money is burned so that those in the afterlife will have some money to spend on their heavenly digs and whatever else they may need to purchase.

Burning paper 'spirit' money

Each village has their own traditions when it comes to Qing Ming, and perhaps it can be said that every family does too. One student who was asked about her Qing Ming informed us that in her village it was bad luck for a single, young girl to visit the graves and thus she was forced to stay home while her parents took care of the worshipping, burning, and cleaning.

However, with all the land grabs going on in China at the moment and the sheer force of expansion it will be interesting to see how long the tradition of Qing Ming will last. The land needed for graves is quickly becoming the land needed for new high-rises. When there is only room for the living, what do you do with the dead?


Check out what USA Today had to say about this subject.


On the topic of sports…

After a rather large, but delicious, banquet dinner with the English department of my current school we decided to take a leisurely stroll back to campus and our housing.

The foreign teacher liaison of the school and I fell into conversation about the World Cup and China’s lack of participation. It’s no secret that football (not the American version) is popular here in the Zhongguo. However, China failed to qualify for the games.  I’ve heard my students profess their love for football on numerous occasions and it’s shown on the sports channel (CCTV 5, for interested parties) often. So why wasn’t China there? Hell, even the DPRK made it in.

It seems odd that a country of more than 1.3 billion people can’t find good enough footballers. Until you consider the following (which we discussed in detail and you therefore get the advantage of a Chinese POV also) there is no grass in Chinese cities. Okay, perhaps that’s not entirely true, there is grass. But it’s only in small patches. Certainly it is rare to see a field full of it, and more so, a field worthy of playing football on.

This is also why baseball has never taken off in China (according to our liason, M). And why ping pong, badminton, and basketball are such popular sports. They don’t require a lot of space and they don’t require grass.

M doesn’t think China will produce a good enough team for a couple more decades. He says he’s lost faith in the Chinese team for now. I try to be a bit more optimistic, but let’s be honest, until we start getting grass here in larger quantities than the size of my bathroom, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Who are you cheering for tonight?

The Real China

I hear the phrase “The Real China” used quite often, and to be honest I’m guilty of using it one or two times myself. Bakes grows rather irate when people use the phrase “The Real China” and perhaps with good reason.

“I want to experience The Real China.”
“I want to live in The Real China.”
“I don’t live in Beijing or Shanghai, I live in The Real China.”

Expats and travelers alike use “The Real China” phrase. But what is “The Real China”?

I guess everyone has their own answer to this, Chinese people would say it’s the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong (and probably throw in the Koreas and Japan for good measure.)

Some backpackers ((and elitists, you know who you are) who I’ve met plenty of here in the Zhongguo) would say that The Real China is anywhere outside of Taiwan, Beijing, and Shanghai. I don’t care for these people, especially when they pass themselves off as well-rounded Sinophiles. Puh-lease.

As someone who lives in what many would refer to as “The Real China”, I’m here to tell you that China is just China. Like every country, different areas yield different socio-economic statuses. Each province has it’s own culture and history that makes up one big country, much like America with it’s different states all having their own history.

So, intrepid travelers, when you come to see “The Real China”, as soon as you step off that airplane, you’ve arrived. There is no “Real China” waiting just beyond, there is only China. And like every country, it has its good points and its bad points.

“The Real China” that you are looking for is in the faces of the locals, the historic and modern buildings, and the food. Don’t forget the food.




Hello readers,

So, as many of you know, China blocked Blogger. Consequently, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but I’m going to have a whole lot of free time on my hands after August, and I figured it was about time I took up this whole writing thing again.

Word Press is available here in China, but the internet robot spies are pretty particular about it. First of all, in order to access the blogs I have to put a www. in front of the site address or it won’t load. I don’t know why this is, but it’s an issue every.single.time.
Secondly, every now and then they go ahead and block it even with the www. So if my postings are infrequent, go ahead and blame the Great Firewall of China and it’s evil robot spies.

So, what to talk about? I actually have a lot going on at the moment, folks. A wedding to plan, starting work at a new school, moving to a new city, traveling here and there. That equals out to a lot of interesting (hopefully) posts for you guys to enjoy. And you better enjoy them, I’m not writing this stuff for my health.

So, let’s talk about some of the stuff that’s been going on recently.

First of all, Bakes and I are getting married. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Well what makes it that much better is that we’re doing it in Kauai surrounded by most of our family and close friends.
During the course of the wedding planning I discovered Taobao. Taobao is equivalent (I seriously just spelled and re-spelled the word about four times before finally spell checking it) to China Ebay, except everything is new. F’realz. And most of it is stuff that goes out of the back of the factory when the boss isn’t looking. This has been pretty much a godsend when it comes to wedding planning as I got almost all of our decor for $200. Linens, paper lanterns, LED candles, the whole nine yards.
Another godsend? Our families. They’ve done a lot of work and put in a lot of money to make sure this wedding is awesome. Which it will be. And it won’t rain.

I’ve seen some really weird crap here in China lately. A few weeks ago Bakes, Nik, Ruud, and I were downtown picking up some booze for a dinner party (okay, okay, red wine, but booze is way more fun to say). We were headed to a local (overpriced) foreign foodstuffs important store that is located next to a fancy shmancy mall. As we were passing the mall we heard a lot of wailing and yelling and saw a big group approaching us carrying something large on a red tarp. One thing you do not want to get into the middle of is a protest in China, they often don’t end well for anyone involved. We stepped to the side to let the group pass and saw, rather unhappily, that the large thing on the tarp was a man. And he wasn’t moving, ya’ll. The group put him down on the steps of the mall and covered his face with a corner of the tarp. Then they started screaming and banging on the doors of the mall. There was a scuffle and a bit of a fist fight with the security guards and more yelling. At this point the laowai (foreigners) took cover in the foreign food store (located next to/in the basement of the mall). We did a bit of shopping, trying to forget about having just seen a very dead man laid out on some stairs, then decided to leave. Except the door was blocked due to the outdoor protest. We took another exit which dumped us into the mall where we could see that security had blockaded the doors to keep out the (very pissed) protesters. We quickly scrambled off, not wanting to stick around for the arrival of the police.
Nathan later found out that the group had been their because the deceased man they had brought with them had been killed by a falling billboard from the mall and they wanted compensation.
That’s how things work here in China, if you wrong someone you compensate them monetarily. Most of these disputes are settled out of court unless the wrong-er decides not to pay the wrong-ee. Then perhaps the police will become involved. It’s an interesting policy and I think it tends to keep insurance rates down if nothing else.

Of course I have more interesting tales to share with you, but 1.) I need to keep them as fodder for other entries and 2.) I have to go teach my evening class (seriously, class from 4:20-6pm on a Friday?! Who does that?).

For now, signing off. And keep an eye out for falling billboards, eh?