Posts Tagged ‘Chinese customs’

Until death do us part

February 23, 2009

I read with interest an article in The Age newspaper discussing the ancient Chinese tradition of marriage for the afterlife.  Marriage is such an important social ritual for the Chinese, securing the future of the family.  Even today, the hope is still to produce a son to carry on the family name.  And in a society where the elderly are a respected and nurtured part of the family, marriage means you will be taken care of into your old age, even if it means raising your grandchildren.

Throughout China, anxious parents spend their weekends at park fairs where they can submit their child’s details and search for prospective son or daughter in laws.  More and more young Chinese are putting off marriage in lieu of study, careers and world travel.  Marriage, whilst still a necessary part of life, is slowly being seen as something that can wait and more importantly, should now have an emphasis on finding your true love.

Parents matchmaking in a Beijing park

Parents matchmaking in a Beijing park

So it really came as no surprise to me to read about marriage for the afterlife.  It’s a practice that has been around for centuries, known as minghun, marrying those who died young as a way of securing a happy afterlife.  This played a particularly important role for women, for whom “an afterlife marriage is the only way to access a male bloodline, esuring descendants to care for her spirit beyond the grave.”

Sadly I see no reference to families going about this macabre practice for their deceased daughters.  It would appear only the sons are worthy of such a marriage.  Historically, women who were already engaged to a man who died prematurely were encouraged to join their husband-to-be in the grave, with many poisoning or hanging themselves.  The alternative was to live with the man’s family as their domestic slave.

This practice has recently resurfaced into modern day times, with the reporting of abductions throughout China of young women to satisfy the families of men who have died single.  These women become the corpse bride of the deceased, with families paying up to four times their annual income to secure a body.  Whilst I’m sure the actuality of this happening is very rare, it certainly highlights the complexities of Chinese society and the length that some families will go to, to not only ensure the happiness of their “little emperor” but to guarantee the future prosperity of their family and ancestors even beyond the grave.

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Ost Trifft West

February 8, 2009

A little while ago we stumbled upon a series of prints by Chinese artist Yang Liu.  Yang Liu was born in China but spent a lot of her youth in Germany.  Her series Oft Trifft West focuses on the cultural and social differences between China and Germany, and to a greater extent the West.  Her experiences whilst growing up has given her a unique perspective on both of these cultures, resulting in this quirky collection of images.  It’s easy to say there are broad generalisations within her work, but I think anyone who has spent time between China and the West can appreciate the sometimes comical differences.  Germany is represented by the blue and China the red…

Social networks

Social networks

How leaders/bosses are seen.

How leaders/bosses are seen.

How we see each other.

How we see each other.

Time and punctuality

Time and punctuality

Queuing

Queuing

How we deal with problems

How we deal with problems

The elderlys life is less alienating in Chinese society.

The elderlys' life is less alienating in Chinese society.

How we eat

How we eat

A to B

A to B

How we show emotion

How we show emotion

There’s many more, these are just a few.  I think it’s an interesting commentary on how different China is in comparision to large parts of the world.

Where for art thou tourists?

January 11, 2009

I love this:

Visitor numbers dropped to 130 million in 2008 – down by two million – as a result of the economic crisis, China’s National Tourism Administration said.

Analysts say increased security measures put in place for the Beijing Olympics may also have had an impact.

The number of foreign tourists to Beijing in August fell far short of the government’s estimated 500,000.

Beijing received 389,000 foreign tourists in August, including visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, according to the city’s tourism bureau.

While we were in China, there was buzz and excitement for the Beijing Olympics. Constantly on the news they would talk about how there would be an extreme hotel shortage, and how they were paying families to take on tourists in their homes, creating sort of official mini-hotels – offering authentic experiences. These ‘home hotels’ would need to be run to certain standards, and from memory there was a limit to the number of people able to live in the house at the same time. They basically didn’t want you shelling out for a hotel room, staying with a family and getting too much of an authentic experience – ie 16 family members sleeping in the same room as you.

When the Olympics started, suddenly there was concern that all these hotels(mainly the actual hotels) were nowhere near capacity. Why? Well just prior to the games starting, they introduced extremely tough visa requirements. End result? Barely anyone could get in, and those that did had to do a song and a dance beforehand. Anyone whose had any experience obtaining Chinese visa’s knows just how much fun it is. The Chinese embassy in Melbourne really is like a little slice of China. If you want to experience China on the cheap, go down there and try and get a visa. Make sure you print out the Visa application form on their website first(because of course, it aint the right one!).

It’s funny how much you have to go through to get a visa. Forms for forms as they say. The Chinese excel at stamping forms. When you finally get to China, the level of security is then effectively a joke. When we landed in Shanghai, we basically walked unchecked(including no bag xrays) all the way out. We only had to stop to fill out an immigration form, hand it to the girl, then decide what level of customer service we wanted to rate her – and push the appropriate button.

On the other hand it cracks me up when I watch shows like Australian Border Security. These guys are all over everyone and everything – you could say they’re anal. In China? No problem! A Chinese friend went to Germany on business, then brought me back a whole big bag full of German sour dough bread – fresh! So he’s bought food in Germany, then just walked it through customs to give to me.

China is so inconsistent when it comes to things like this. You can be guaranteed there’ll be a ton of paperwork required before anything remotely official, but almost every time, you’ll submit them then think, was that even worth it? Does someone even look at this stuff? The answer is likely no in every case. Having someone stamps forms provides someone with a job – that is the important thing.


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