An American in Chengdu

Paying respects

May 28, 2010

When someone dies in China, their family sets up a white tent outside their home with folding chairs and tables and, on the back wall of the tent, a picture of the deceased. Friends send big paper wreaths, which the family displays, and come by the tent to pay their respects. To me paying respects doesn’t look much different from what the Sichuanese do when they’re not grieving: they drink tea, eat peanuts and sunflower seeds and toss the shells on the ground, chat, and play cards. The tent stays up for a few days, with people inside at all hours, and then abruptly disappears. There must be a company that rents them out.

There was a tent in my building’s courtyard last week, and I snapped this picture discreetly from a window. But the whole set-up disappeared before I could get a picture of the wreaths.



May 24, 2010
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About a month ago my mom and grandma (who happen to be two of my blog’s most frequent visitors–hi!) came to see me. The first thing we did was fly north to Jiuzhaigou.

Now, I don’t think Coloradans are snobby about very many things. Our state is not a financial or political center, and South Park doesn’t exactly make us a cultural hub, either (a point nicely illustrated by the “sex and coke party” scene from this episode, where the kids get introduced to Colorado’s celebrities). I have, however, occasionally caught myself making a comment to the effect that “that’s not a mountain.” Because Coloradans think we know from mountains.

So it is with some sadness that I report that Jiuzhaigou is much, much prettier than anyplace I’ve seen in Colorado. It’s an area in northern Sichuan that’s populated mainly by Tibetans (there were more Tibetans there before Jiuzhaigou became a national park, but that’s another tangent). Like any tourist site in China, it’s swarming with tourists. And it’s incredible. A small sample:

My grandmother was a big celebrity in Jiuzhaigou. People were impressed that she was healthy enough to go trekking around in the mountains. They took pictures of her and with her, and asked how old she was (answer: 80).

    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.


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