You Are Cordially Invited

It took me a while to attend my first Chinese wedding.  I’ve seen the traditional processions on the streets, the photo displays in hotels, and the marketing power that is the 80 billion dollar wedding industry in China.  It wasn’t until September 2013 that I experienced it as a friend, and this month gave me my 2nd and 3rd opportunities.

Weddings in China are one of the ultimate cultural experiences.  Many times, marriages still rely on arrangements, contracts, dowries, and family pressure.  Families determine the lucky day and time for a couple to be married.  One friend signed her marriage license at the Civil Affairs Bureau in November, but didn’t have her reception until this month because the families were worried about a marriage in the Year of the Horse.  The license meant they were actually married 6 months before the bride donned the white dress.  From what I’ve read, this giant industry is one of the many ways capitalism has entered this communist country.  Thirty years ago, they say it was license, then a family dinner, move into the new apartment, done.  Now, families save so much money for the photos, apartment, decorating, dresses, meal, gifts, etc.

Rather than having photos taken after the ceremony, as is the tradition in other parts of the world, brides and grooms have wedding packages assembled to be shown at the reception.  Today, that slide show included video of the gorgeous couple around Shenyang, at their church, etc.  It looked like they’d jumped off the pages of a fashion magazine!

When you arrive at the wedding feast, there are usually a few things on the tables – small snacks, some type of seed or nut, cigarettes, bai jiu (Chinese liquor), and beer.  Welcome to our wedding – snack and smoke while you wait for us to make our entrance.  Guests prepare their little red envelopes (hong bao 红包) in order to present the bride and groom with a monetary gift.  Brides and grooms make the rounds to each table, pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes and talking.  Friends will make the couple “do tricks” in order to receive their hong bao.  In our group of school colleagues, these games are fun, albeit a little cruel.   Of the 3 weddings I’ve been to, the bride wears a white dress at the beginning and changes clothes once or twice.  There has always been a red dress among them, and my friends chose not to dress in a traditional qipao, but rather in fashionable and gorgeous full length gowns (complete with bling!).

At the weddings I have had the pleasure to attend, the brides were all work colleagues and friends.  All three couples are in love.  I’ve seen them together and have no doubt.  None seem to want to have children right away, though the family pressure is probably high.  All were ready to move in together by the time of the reception.  As is tradition in China, the husband provides an apartment, and depending on the family’s wealth, other gifts.

One of the parties was a dinner.  They had done the official reception in their hometown outside of Shenyang, so they hosted a local dinner for friends.  It was in a simple and very good local restaurant.

The second was a big event.  The restaurant provided a handsome master of ceremonies for introductions, speeches, jokes, etc. One friend was surprised he was so handsome because “he shouldn’t be more handsome than the groom”.   The bride is a Christian so they did a church blessing on the stage at the restaurant and had prayers with family as well.  At one point in the presentation, they went to light what I thought was a unity candle, but it was actually a unity firecracker…  with a bubble machine in the background.  She had three dresses, including a gorgeous modern take on a qipao.

The third event was very special.  They attend a local church and held the ceremony there.  Church members and friends sang to them.  The pastor performed what we saw as a traditional ceremony, though there were a whole lot of words we didn’t know.  After, guests walked or drove the few blocks to a friend’s restaurant for the reception.  She was an absolutely beautiful bride, never more so than when she wiped a tear from her husband’s cheek during the vows.  Being there today, we all shared in their love and happiness.

So, you are cordially invited to take a look at a few pictures from these three weddings.  I’m sure Songjia, Elim and Xiao Bing would have welcomed you too.

 

 

 

 

 

New Outlook

After 4 years in 10D, we have a new view.  The diamond is slightly obstructed now, but look what we get in return.  A different skyline.  The 72 story Maoye building.  The gorgeous Kepu Park.  The tai qi ladies in their blue and red silks making their moves at 6am.  Kites flying in the library field.  At night, we can see the K lit up on the Kempinski Hotel 3km up Qingnian.  And 2km past that, that circle building with cranes sticking out the top.  So despite a new upstairs neighbor who wears high heels at home, and the feline issues with shifts in sunlight, all is well.

Call it a cultural experience.  When a couple gets married in China, it is the husband’s family that is responsible for a place to live, maybe a car, the wedding, etc.  More than a year ago, our landlord’s son got married.  With their baby on the way, the landlord will give our old apartment to his son and daughter in law, and the soon-to-be grandchild.   They were apologetic and appreciated our care of the old place.  They wished us well, and were happy to know we would stay in the neighborhood.  In fact, we now live in the same building as the landlord’s mother.  Maybe she is one of those tai qi ladies?

A new view or a new outlook are sometimes forced upon us.  Sometimes, we have to find a new place to sleep in the sun.  We could look at it as a pain the ass, or we can just accept it, deal with it, do it.  And who knows what we might get in return.

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Luyuan

The auction lot.  The Red Barn.  The Jockey Lot.  Salins.  Gambetta.  The one on US1.  Panjiayuan.  That street leading from one temple to another in Bangkok.  And Luyuan.  These are some of the lovely flea markets I’ve had the pleasure of perusing over the years.  I don’t think I’m going to find the missing Renior or a priceless coin.  I like to look.

I can’t remember if I ever bought anything at the ones when I was a kid.  Any coins my sister and I had were always spent at the snack booth.

The Jockey Lot is like an immersion course in southern culture.

At Salins, we wandered, but the only thing I remember buying those Sundays were the roast chickens on the way home.  Mmmm, 20 roasting chickens with the juices dripping all over the potatoes along the bottom of the rack.  Nirvana.

At US1, I bought one of those blue glass insulators that used to connect power lines.  I put it on my window sill in Lexington and smiled when the sun shined through it.

I will visit Panjiayuan again at some point.  Where else am I going to buy my giant Happy Buddha?  Maybe along that street near Wat Pho.

And at Luyuan in Shenyang, I have purchased very few things, a lucky pig and a slingshot among them.  I go to wander, to look, to see, to wonder, to laugh.  We go and are stared at, talked about, asked questions of, wondered about, laughed at.  Come to think of it, I think they did that at the Jockey Lot too.

Enjoy the pictures from the ipod – a little grainy in the enlarged version, but enlightening just the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Thousand Elephants

There is a shopping mall in Shenyang called Wan Xiang Cheng.  The wan xiang means 10,000 Elephants … No wonder I like the place.  They are currently displaying gorgeous and decorative little hati.  It is a promotion for all the stores in the mall.  Mont Blanc on an elephant is a beautiful thing.  Big smiles and lots of photos.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Pink Bike has Mud Flaps

Is it mudflaps or mud flaps?  Either way, my new pink bike has them.  And I took them out for a spin along the Hun River when spring was showing its first beautiful signs a couple of weeks ago.  When we experience days like this, we must take advantage!

The Hun He (Hun River), previously known as the Shen River, gave the city its name.  Before urban sprawl, the city was on the north side of the river, the yang side, hence Shenyang.   (I wonder what they would have considered urban sprawl 7,200 years ago when the first residents came to this spot.)  Though there is much talk about the river’s pollution from industrial run-off, the government has done a great job making a green beltway as a hub for many recreational activities.  This includes my 12 km mudflap test ride.  Enjoy some pics and a moment of zen.  http://youtu.be/VSHov1z2Uyk

A Spot of Tea

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. 
― Henry JamesThe Portrait of a Lady

Well, it was morning tea, but quite agreeable, just the same.  It was a pleasure to go along with friends.  We tasted white and black tea at a little boutique in the Wulihe Tea Market in Shenyang.  It was lovely.  You can read details by clicking on the photos.  And a short video at http://youtu.be/LFflQRJJek4.

A Little More Winter

When a friend and I decided to visit the city of Harbin, China last month, T said it was because I wanted to experience a little more winter.  It has been a rather odd season in Shenyang.  January brought two to three days of 32F followed by two to three days of 15F followed by much of the same.  Weird.  I’d worn my lighter weight down coat for two months while so many were suffering a polar vortex in the US.  For Harbin, I pulled out the heavy duty Lands End coat and the trusty (original pair of) Merrell boots, a few layering items, some hand warmers and the camera, then S and I hopped on a train and headed out.

Located at 44 degrees North, Harbin, or Ha’erbin, China is famous for the annual Ice & Snow Festival, celebrating 30 years in 2014.  We began our tour with a stop at Sun Island Park for the Snow Sculpture Art Exposition.  Many artists create works of snow in this wooded park, the detail and size of which I find difficult to believe, and I’ve seen them twice in the last few years.  We spent the afternoon there, and were even treated to a special show.  You can check it out here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFgwynmz1yI.

We moved on to Ice and Snow World.  This year, there were many models of churches and church themes.  The largest monument was modeled after a church in Reykjavík.  There were Gothic archways and pagodas and more.  I am so glad we saw them in the afternoon sunlight and in the LED-filled evening hours.  The sculptures were gorgeous as well.  We went later in February and, with a “warm” winter, we could see some rounding edges on the various displays.  That didn’t take anything away from the view for me.

On Sunday, we hired a taxi to take us around the various sites, including the Siberian Tiger Park, the Temple of Bliss, the Pedestrian Street, then back to the train station.  We were lucky to have a beautiful weekend in Harbin, not too cold, but a nice, winter experience.  You can check out CNN’s coverage, http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/03/travel/harbin-ice-festival-2014/, and get my view too.  Enjoy.

Click on the photo for more details.

There, Then Here…

A month ago, we were just back from Thailand.  We started the trip with elephants, then worked in quite a few temples, meals, friends, sunshine, golf, taxis, boats and more.  We were very lucky to have this opportunity to see Thailand again, this time through different eyes.  We smiled while combing through photos again this weekend, and I hope you enjoy how the light tended to us on this adventure.

The title is from “Houses and People” by Angkarn Chanthathip 
Each spot   each spot kindles an image…
the seashore   the plain   the top of a mountain
the rice field   the roadside   the bleak grey twilight
there, then here, the light is tended…
 
Glistening splendour of life
each place   each direction   arrives in the city
the countryside   riversides   near far
never without houses and people
 
The forms of the houses are created by people
everywhere is old from the beginning
the dark ancient times are finished
go beyond the past until you reach the present
 
People build houses homes
their dreams are built from the light of their lives
the truth of all things is sustained
by that – foreverEach place is the dream of an image
reveals a truth stronger than
the heart of the darkest darkness
everywhere under the sky there is light

Glistening brilliance of life
the deep dark night   the traveller   the wide world
each place everywhere it breaks through
never without houses and people