Monday, April 6, 2009

Qing Ming

Last weekend was the annual Qing Ming festival here in China. If you pay much attention to Chinese culture, you may have seen images or heard descriptions of this particular festival. Its best-known element is to have family members gather in order to sweep the graves of their ancestors. It's kind of like spring cleaning for your ancestors: a time of rebirth, renewal, and remembering what's past.

I've read that there are references to this ceremony dating to 600 BC. But nowadays, it seems to have taken on a different cast. There is still the sweeping of the graves, but there is also walking along the coast, taking the kids to ride carnival rides, and eating cotton candy. I don't think any of that dates back very far.

Saturday was still a bit chilly, though much milder than it's been so far this spring. As I was sitting at my breakfast, reading the New York Times on the computer, and clearing my head, I heard loud, muffled BOOM-BOOM-BOOM sounds from the waterfront. Fireworks are a big thing here, but I've yet to see the flashy American-style fireworks up in the sky at night. So far, all I've experienced are loud and impressive booms.

I get moving only slowly on a Saturday, so it was 12:30 or so before I started down the hill toward the waterfront. Here is the street down the hill from DUFE to the water:

If it looks like chaos, it is. There is a street vendor in the center of the picture, selling Chinese books of all descriptions, including some that seem to be textbooks. On the left under the red awning is a restaurant, and there are various restaurants and stores all the way down the hill.

A little farther down, you can see the contrast between Old China and New. The somewhat run-down building in front (which is by no means the worst I've seen) frames the brand new high-rise in the background. Remember "It is luxury apartment and..." from an early post? That's the "luxury apartment" complex going up.

On the ground level of the old building, you can see some small restaurants. The one with the blue awning and the white lettering is quite good. They make a rough-hewn chicken soup over noodles that is definitely worth a try.

I don't exactly know what "Let's Fall in Love" is supposed to be advertising... but I'm pretty sure it's not what it would be in the States.

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