Tag Archives: inner mongolia

Engagement Photos from Nanjing to Inner Mongolia *FINALLY*

Hello my dears,

very sorry for my prolonged absence, which I cannot excuse. All I have to say for myself is that I have busy with a couple of other projects, but more on that in the next post. In the meantime, Jocelyn’s recent post on WWAM BAM!, which collected some amazing wedding and engagement photos inspired me to set up this long, long overdue post – a best of of the engagement pictures we took in May and August 2015. We basically had two photo sessions, one in Nanjing which had been extensively researched and which I have also written about at length, and a second spontaneous one in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia just three days before our Chinese wedding. So without much ado, here are the pictures, and some tidbits about the shoots, hope you enjoy them!

Round 1: Western Glam and Old Shanghai in Nanjing

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After weeks of research, I decided to book the engagement picture shoot in Nanjing, rather than Beijing, since we would get double the value for half the price. We started at 8am and finished around 6pm, had 7 different sets of clothes and 14 locations – 2 per each costume – 300 pictures taken, half of those retouched, 3 print-out photo albums and more framed pictures and nicknacks than we knew what do with; and all of this for merely 3200 RMB from Bazaar Photography.

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It’s not so obvious in this pic, but my makeup artist/hairdresser was an absolute genius with a brush and comb, she is the only person who has ever managed this elegant hairdo, and I have tried to get it replicated twice – no one else can do it.

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We had two Chinese-style costumes and five Western ones, which was a bit of a shame, because the Hanfu set and the Old Shanghai ones are definitely the highlight of the Nanjing bunch. The picture used in Jocelyn’s group post is probably my favourite out of all of them.

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The indoor pictures were taken at the company’s photography villa – a massive two story mansion that has around 20 to 30 different indoor sets, all of which have varied themes. Street cafe, library, church – you name it, they’ve replicated it in small scale in this human-sized dollhouse.

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This is the masterpiece and the reason I chose to stick with Nanjing rather than the Northern capital. I love old Shanghai style and had seen some stunningly beautiful pictures online of brides-to-be in their Qipaos, with 1930s themed locations that just oozed elegance, history and a mix of Chinese and Western culture – so us, no? Looking at some of the wedding photography in Beijing, I did get the feeling that my Chinese friends’ repeated warning that Northerners can’t do a “Southern style” like Old Shanghai seemed to have at least an ounce of truth to it, as they struggled to make it look as glamorous. This hairdo was another one that no one has been able to replicate in that fashion.

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Our outdoor shots were taken in Lvbo Yuan, the botanical gardens in Nanjing right next to the Yangtze river. It’s definitely a fave for engagement shoots, as I spotted ten to twenty couples just in our immediate vicinity.

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This beauty is the only dress I brought that belonged to me – bring your own also an option in case you’re wondering – and it’s a German dirndl, a nod to my Germanic heritage. Part of this set of pictures was taken in front of the Dutch windmill in Lvbo Yuan, the one sponsored by Eindhoven, so it has a really fun feel to it. But this is probably one of the very few photos that we freestyled – a lot of the shoot was posing very gracefully and glamorously, which was fun but also not really us. So in this final shoot we decided to mess about a bit instead.

Round 2 – Inner Mongolian Grasslands…well, kinda…

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After we showed our engagement pictures to my MIL, she then said we should have done some Mongolian style ones. She didn’t have to tell me that twice! For this shoot, we rented the outfits from a genuine Mongolian dress shop and so they were much more high quality than the slightly tatty ones in Nanjing. Big thanks to my MIL, whose wedding treat this was.

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Absolutely adored the colour of this dress and the pearls used as head decoration, still one of my favourite outfits to this day.

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And then we got a horse…as you do. Feeling so Mongolian princess 😉

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In the background is the Mongolian yurt in which I got to change my outfits while repeatedly banging my head on the beams. It was a new sensation, I’m 1.55m tall, I don’t hit beams often.  This is finally the matching dress to fit Mr Li’s outfit, the poor man didn’t get to change his clothes once (for which he is probably grateful at heart). Oh and btw, we weren’t actually out in the grasslands but rather a patch of grass that belonged to the photo studio.

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And now for the final reveal – my parents joined the fun and so did my MIL. We had such a good time together, it was the best day! I think all of us make fabulous Mongolians, don’t you? Especially my dad. Watch out Genghis Khan, you have competition!

Where did you take your engagement pics? Did you dress up in local costumes?

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An Ode to Inner Mongolia

As the Chinese New Year approaches fast, so does my typically longest visit of the year to Mr Li’s hometown, Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. Since the beginning of time, there’s been a bit of animosity between the two of us caused by our differing perceptions and opinions of the place. I, as a person who enjoys tropical weather, humidity, multicultural society and distinct architecture, have had quite a hard time embracing this city that is characterized by a desert-induced dryness that will make the skin peel off your hands (true fact), -20 C° degree winters, and fairly homogenous, Han style construction with hardly more than 10 buildings to be found in a city of  that have any kind of architecturally distinct or fascinating character; and that in a city of over 2.8 million people. I realize it’s a tad snobbish to reject a city based on it’s architecture, but to me buildings have always been a major part in creating the feel of a city, and when you’ve lived in cities like Vienna, London or Nanjing, I guess your expectations as to architecture tend to be a little bit on the high side.

Anyway, because Mr Li has this base urge to spend every CNY back home in Hohhot (though partly I cannot blame him, seen as ticket and hotel prices are horrendous at this particular time of year), he has been trying very hard to show me that there are also some pretty fun things about his place of birth. And I have to admit that through his efforts, the city has been slowly growing on me. Not so much, I’d ever consider living there, I grant you, but we do manage to have a good time.

So, I thought it was time for me to admit to some of the cool aspects about Hohhot. Enjoy!

Number One: Food in Inner Mongolia is Da Bomb

Vegetarians, you’re going to want to run for cover. But for meat-eaters with a preference for lamb, ohhh, you’re in for a treat. My personal fave are Chinese dumplings filled with lamb and carrot, a CNY treat that I could gorge myself on until I keel over.

The other massive favourite is Huicai, which I reckon you’d best compare to a stew. Just a few minuted walk from Mr Li is his local Huicai joint, where they stew green beans, tofu, potato and fentiao (thick glass noodles made from potato starch) into carb-overloaded, mushy goodness, of course with a bit of pork for flavouring – sorry, vegetarians, you really will struggle to find anything edible on the local menu.

 

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Lamb Dumplings yumm, yumm, yumm
Super Fun Inner Mongolian-Western Fusion Restaurant

While I might have turned my nose up at Hohhot for its lack of international cultural in the past, it has started to cultivate a more global restaurant scene. One of my personal faves, introduced by Mr Li’s cousin, a young, vivacious girl who knows all the best haunts, is a Mongolian-Western fusion restaurant. I never imagined myself slurping some Spaghetti Carbonara and then turning to a huge pile of stewed Sauerkraut, beans and tofu to wash it down. It totally works and has become one of my must-visits whenever I’m up there!

Number Two: Watching the Fireworks from our Balcony

Beijing has banned fireworks due to such minor considerations as, you know, environment 😉 But out in Inner Mongolia, the Wild, Wild North of China, try as you might, people will turn Chinese New Year into a festival of fireworks. When the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve the racket starts and usually I will be standing on the balcony of my MIL’s flat on the 11th floor enjoying the view of fireworks everywhere. Most year’s Mr Li will have already passed out by this point, which has been a major irritation, let’s see if I can keep him awake this time around. Might have to give him some coding exercise – that’ll keep him awake till 3am.

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Spring Festival Fireworks as viewed from the balcony – love it!
Number Three: Inner Mongolia, A Great Place for Winter Sports

To me the major advantage of snot-freezing temperatures are the accompanying winter sports. As a former ice skater, going to the local park for a spin on the lake is a must. Ironically, I had never skated on a lake before coming to Inner Mongolia, only ever on man-made rinks. I love being outdoors without a roof above my head and some, albeit leafless, trees framing my view.

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As I mentioned in the year-end review, IM is also the place where I learnt to ski for the first time. While it doesn’t necessarily house Swiss Alp style slopes, for an absolute beginner the man-made slopes are a very good place to wet your feet, or rather your backside when you tumble.

Number Four: Inexpensive Entertainment

Once you dig deeper, Hohhot actually has quite a lot of fun things to do. Such as pleasantly affordable Laser Tag, such fun, and a “cinema” that has private rooms for groups of around five people and uses streaming services, the legality of which I have decided not to think too much about. It’s a comfy fun way to relax on an afternoon.

Number Five: The Air, the Air, the Air. Did I mention the AIR?

Oh, yes, Hohhot’s number one selling point still is the air. While in recent years, pollution has slowly been starting to take hold, overall Hohhot, whose name in Mongolian means Blue City, is much better off air-wise than the capital of recurring airpocalypse, Beijing. This means that every visit is a much needed opportunity for your lungs to get some rest.

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Would you look at that AIR – Blue City, indeed!
Number Six: THE Blind Massage Parlour to END ALL BMPs

As a victim of desk jobs and terrible, terrible posture, I am one of those people whose neck and shoulders tend to be as a hard as brick. Seriously, you could injure your head should you for some weird reason smash it into my upper back. As locals, of course, Mr Li and his mother know exactly where the best massage parlours are, and so I was introduced to my favourite – back-crushing central. Yes, I will have bruises and feel tender for days to come post-massage, but I love it. Sadly, they usually aren’t open for CNY, and even more devastatingly I’ve heard rumours they’ve entirely shut down. But they’ll always be in my heart…and knotted shoulders.

Number Seven: Some Seriously Cool Local Architecture

Once I got over myself, I found that there’s actually quite a few interesting buildings to be discovered in Hohhot, a pagoda here, a temple there, but most interestingly the Hui Muslim district, which has a beautiful mosque and some very interesting architecture reminiscent of Arabic countries. Last time around, we even discovered a Christian church! And all it took, was for me to just get off my high horse and open my eyes.

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Hohhot’s Stunning Mosque ❤
And there you have it, my Ode to Inner Mongolia in seven neatly packaged reasons. Wishing you all a very happy Chinese New Year of the Rooster! Where will you be spending yours?

 

 

Bookworm ’16: “Minority Matters: Focus on Ethnicity in Chinese Culture”

The ethnic minorities talk was probably the dark horse of the festival; at least for me. I was curious how it was going to be packaged, since there are 55 ethnic minorities in the country and one hour is hardly enough to touch on even a quarter of that.

As it were, the focus was on Tibetans, or rather Tibetan women, and Manchurians. This, I think, was a marvelous contrast, since the former is still very much an established culture within China, while the language and customs of the latter are in grave danger of dying out.

The speakers of the event were an array of highly fascinating people; to my surprise, Xinran reappeared and shared her experiences of working with minorities. Again very insightful and this time even more substantial compared to her talk the day earlier. The other speakers included Dolma, a young Tibetan woman, who studied gender issues among Tibetan society for her PhD, and Li Dan, a Manchurian, who is involved in NGO work to save the Manchurian language, culture and customs, for example by launching a typing system for smart phones. The moderator of the event, Jocelyn Ford, journalist and documentary filmmaker who produced “Nowhere to Call Home”, a look into the hardships of Tibetan women. I said it was a fascinating group of people, didn’t I?

The Plight of Tibetan Women

Dolma began her talk by explaining the Tibetan view of women and men, rooted in their religious beliefs, which said that women are often seen as evil spirits or demons. This is why they often wear such elaborate head wear; it is said to contain the women’s evil spirit.

The academic then went on to explain the three different types of Tibetan women she had identified during her studies. Traditonal Tibetan women, who live very repressed and difficult lives, often being excluded in some form or other from public life but accepting their fate. The second, and most tragic type are women who are unhappy at being discriminated against, but are stuck in their current position due to low education and resources. Sadly, especially this group of women is at risk; one of Dolma’s friends who belonged to this group of women committed suicide only weeks earlier, because she simply couldn’t see a way out of her misery. The final group is the one Dolma herself belongs to – women who have learned Mandarin and received higher education, who have consequently left their Tibetan surroundings and undergone further education somewhere else in China. I didn’t get a chance to ask, whether she would consider marrying a Tibetan, though I have a faint feeling the answer might be no.

The moderator of the event Jovelyn Ford, was also able to contribute her own experiences, as a documentary filmmaker showing the lives of Tibetan women. She chose this topic because, as she points out very rightly, minority women are often neglected in the media narrative, especially when it comes to Tibet, where Western headlines tend to focus more on the Dalai Lama and the Chinese as aggressors, and less on the more unpleasant aspects of the culture such as shocking gender inequality and mistreatment of women, many of whome are purposefully kept illiterate and experience domestic violence.

The Pride of Manchuria

Li Dan, the proud Manchurian, went on to outline the evolution of the Manchurian consciousness. The reason that the language and customs have almost entirely died out is that for the longest time being Manchurian in China could almost have been considered a kind of shame. Since the puppet state of Manchukuo was installed under the Japanese, the Manchurians were seen as traitors. As a result, to blend in better, in the past century many Manchurians would change their surnames to Han surnames. However, more recently there has been a shift in perception around Manchurian heritage; as it is associated with royalty, it is now carried with much more pride than in previous decades. As it is “in” to be Manchu, the minority culture is receiving a much needed push to survive and Li Dan’s efforts are part of that – definitely a worthy cause. He has launched an input system for the Manchurians language for smart phones (incidentally this made me discover that the Manchurian and Mongolian writing systems are very similar).


In terms of language preservation his talk revealed a curious difference between the areas with Manchurian residents and even Xinjiang with its Uighur minority, who retains a strong, separate identity from Han, and on the other hand Inner Mongolia. In Inner Mongolia, all signs in the public space, i.e. government buildings, road signs down to even the smallest restaurants, are all sign posted bilingually with both Mandarin simplified characters and Mongolian script. in fact, as I remember mentioning before, since the Mongolia, the country, discontinued use of traditional script in favour of the Russian cyrillic alphabet, China’s province of Inner Mongolia has become the only place in the world, where this form of writing can be found.

Neither in Xinjiang, nor in Northeastern China, the Manchu stronghold, are these languages being used on road signs or with vendors; only official government buildings continue, according to Li Dan, the bilingual approach. I cannot say for certain what the reasons for this discrepancy are; though Mr Li pointed out that bilingual signage in Inner Mongolia is required by law, so it is possible the law differs across the provines; a faily common occurrence.

Language and Culture Preservation

However, the presence of Mongolian characters does not actually mean the language is being preserved better than Manchu or Uyghur language; in fact probably the opposite is the case. Hardly any Mongolians Mr Li’s age can still speak fluent Mongolian, let alone read it, often leading us to bitterly joke that there is probably one person in Hohhot who can read the signs and they are the one making them for the entire city. Since there has been a fairly successful “assimilation” of a majority of Mongolians into Han culture, especially through inter-marriage, there are many mixed children in the area who weren’t taught about their heritage because it is not deemed “useful”. But even those “pure-blood” Mongolians whose parents belong to the minority and who speak the language in the home often do not develop the language enough to actively use it or pass it on; they might understand it but tend to reply in Mandarin. Often these young people are just as eager as the rest of us to leave their home towns and go and explore the world; mostly the Han-ethnicity, Mandarin-speaking, simplified-character using world, in which there is no space for their Mongolian heritage. It’s a sad reality and a real shame that, if nothing is done to stop this trend, probably this is the last century in which Inner Mongolia is home to “true descendants” of Ghengis Khan.

In terms of choice of language and lifestyle, what does in fact tend to happen is a fractioning of the minorities into two opposing camps; the conservative conservationists, who will only speak in their native tongue, i.e. Tibetan, Uyghur or Mongolian, and strictly follow their own culture and only socialise with members of their minority, and on the other side the liberal hybrids, who speak Mandarin and go to educational instituitons run by Han Chinese and socialise with people from different backgrounds. It is very common for members of the former group to accuse the latter of being traitors to their own culture and pandering to the Chinese imperialists. However, being able to speak the lingua franca tends to be the only way that members of these communities can persevere and be professionally succesful.

Naturally, when talking about preserving culture, one major factor is tourism. When asked whether minorities were in danger of truly dying out, XInran said she didn’t believe so at all, mainly because Chinese people love their food. But aside from the culinary aspect tourism has given the country’s minority cultures a double-edged push. For example, in Dolma’s hometown an entire block of fairly modern skyscrapers was torn down only a few years after construction to be replaced by lower architecture in the traditional Tibetan style. More interestingly, as soon as the tourists came the local authorities insisted that locals put Tibetan translations on the forefront of their stores, restaurants and hotels, no matter whether they wanted to or not. And more poignantly, in many cases there are grave typos and mistranslations in the language. But none of this matters to the tourists, both Han and international, who really just pop by to take a picture in traditional dress in front of exotic looking architecture with weird writing on the wall. (And, yes, I am also one of those silly tourists, I won’t pretend otherwise.)

Xinjiang; Ethnic Minority and Profiling

Moving on to the topic of Xinjiang, a hot topic if ever there was one, Li Dan shared an interesting “anecdote” for want of a better word, that was suprisingly and uncomfortably familiar. A French female friend of his got on a tour bus (possible destination Xinjiang, though I don’t remember) and initially felt that her fellow passengers, all Han Chinese, were treating her with distance and unease. It was not until one of them started engaging the young woman in conversation and she mentioned she was from France, that the entire bus gave a collective sigh of relief; they thought she was a Uyghur from Xinjiang. Probably a bit of background information is in order here. The Uyghur minority is descended from Turkic ancestors; hence they don’t acutally look Chinese at all but much closer to Europeans, especially from the Mediterranean. They are of muslim faith and are so ethnically different because the territory lies on the border of such countries as Kazakhstan, Kyrgizstan and Tajikistan.

Xinjiang literally means “New Frontier”, indicating that the territory has been a contested one for quite some time. The region was a vassal state in the distant past, but it was not until the 1830s that Han Chinese began to settle there. In the 1930’s a short lived Republic of East Turkestan was proclaimed but since the Chinese regained control, it has belonged to the PRC. Still the settling and intermingling that happened in Inner Mongolia did not occur in this region, and so the two ethnicities are still largely separate, there have been many violent clashes, and mostly there have been attacks by Uyghurs in other provinces of China, most notably a car driven into a crowd in Tian’anmen square a few years ago, that has given the ethnicity the classification of being terrorists. So, very similar to the experience of identifiably Muslims back in Europe being treated with fear and blanket suspicion, the same tends to happen in China.

Ironically, the minute the passengers on the bus discovered the young woman was French, their worries turned into excitement and passionate exclamations of welcome. This double standard, as Li Dan quite rightly pointed out, is very frustrating. Especially in the case of the Beijing attacks it has worrying ramifications, because when people thought the attacker was Han Chinese, reports Li Dan, there was an attempt to understand the reasons for their actions; had they been mistreated by institutions or faced personal tragedy? Yet, the minute media released information that the attackers were from Xinjiang province, so Li Dan, all these questions just stopped. The person became a one-dimensional terrorist, again revealing the different approach towards people of the mainstream Han versus especially the Uyghur minority.

The French girl’s episode resonated with me also, because I myself have often been mistaken for a Xinjianger, even by members of the ethnic minority themself. The most intense case so far was when I boarded a plane from Nanjing to Hohhot wearing a black scarf around my neck, a passenger went into a panic and kept asking the cabin crew if they had “checked my documents”. He was convinced I was going to blow up the plane. Sadly, he was behind me so I couldn’t see his face, or I might have shadily walked past him a couple of times. What it has taught me is that life is hard for Uyghurs, that’s for sure, in a country they don’t necessarily belong to, where they are treated as outsiders.

Bookworm Event Review

Puh, this turned into a rather long post; but there is just so much to say about minorities in China, although we have only touched upon four here. There are over 50 more out there, all with their own languages, traditions and struggles to create an identity that fits in both with tradition and modernity. It don’t think there is much to say about the talk in itself at all, it actually turned out to be one of my favourites of the entire festival.
I award this talk 5 out of 5 Aubergines.

Reads and Documentaries for this talk: Xinran’s “Sky Burial” and Jocelyn Ford’s “Nowhere to Call Home”

New Year, Old Superstitions

Happy Year of the Monkey! If you were in China these past few days it was impossible to miss the celebrations that shook the nation – according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the eve of the 7th February marked the end of the Year of the Sheep and the arrival of the Monkey. 

Comparable in its cultural importance with Christmas and New Year’s eve, for those of us with Chinese spouses this is the time of year we are dragged back to their respective hometowns (in some cases more willingly than others). While it is becoming more and more common for young Chinese to spend the one week they get off work traveling the country, for Mr. Li there is only one possible destination at this time of year; Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, or as my colleague has aptly named it “Jewel of the North”. For me it is the time of year to mentally kick myself in the ladyballs that I chose a husband from Inner Mongolia, where winter regularly reaches -20 degrees Celsius. In the weeks running up to CNY I often find myself daydreaming about what the holidays would be like had my prospective husband been a native of Shenzhen, Sanya or Xiamen. Love withstands all…except icicles dangling from your nose. As it were though, my Shenzhenian prince never showed up. In his place came Mr. Li, the broad-shouldered, big-nosed King of Hohhot, to whisk me away to the country of lamb and sauerkraut (just one of the strange things Inner Mongolia and Germany have in common).

 

Yesterday saw the coming to a close of two weeks of partying and fireworks and food, food, food with the Lantern Festival, the final event of the season. By now enough time has passed for me to recover not only from the festivities but the renewed culture shock I experience each time I visit my husband’s hometown. Chinese New Year is truly the biggest test for any Sino-Western relationship; CNY is in effect a fatal dose of cultural difference shaking one’s weird Western ideas of how the world works. If you do manage to get through a week of eating till your buttons burst, Chinese relatives and enough superstitions and rules to last you a lifetime, you can be fairly certain nothing will break you up! Unless your partner does not share your love of cheese, that might just be a deal breaker. 

 

In any event, CNY will always give us bloggers lots to talk about; and to start off my three-part series of post-CNY musings I would like to return to the topic of superstition. Though I have written about superstition at length during our wedding prep, to think you have seen or heard it all would be ludicrously naïve. You know it’s bad when not even Xi Dada, the purger of all things corrupt and extravagant cannot, despite his best efforts, eradicate the deep-rooted beliefs in the supernatural so engrained within many people in this country. 

 

Hohhot, being a third tier city, has a level of superstition probably corresponding very well with its status as a city; there are a lot more reasonable assumptions about how the world works than in a small village in some far off province where the iPhone is a mythical creature but to suggest the city is on par with Beijing or Shanghai in terms of modern mindedness is a bit of a stretch, to put it as mildly as the local climate.

 

Note that traditions and beliefs vary according to province and even among different cities, so this is mainly representative of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. 
There are countless superstitions that you need to follow in daily life and especially during the holidays, and in many cases no one really knows why; it’s just the way it is and the way it has been for as long as anyone cares to remember.

 

The most common tradition is burning paper money for the dead during CNY (and tomb-sweeping day) to make sure they live well in the afterlife and don’t come back to haunt you. Paper money in modern times can take any type of shape of form, I remember news reports in 2013 announcing the paper iPhone 5 was the latest must-have in the paper burning community. Walking the streets of the Ho (so naughty) the second day of the New Year, I found circles painted with chalk everywhere on the streets. These were areas reserved by family members of deceased, who had burned their paper here and marked their territory; meaning one is not allowed to stand inside the rings on purpose. Luckily I resisted the urge to jump from one ring to the next like we used to do as kids. That might have been awkward. 

 

Another rule that also seems to be more widespread, not just limited to Hohhot, is that if a family member dies, for the next three years you are not allowed to set off any fireworks. No one could really tell me exactly why; maybe as a sign of respect to the dead person, because being happy and forgetting about them would be bad. On the other hand, it might just be a practical way of limiting the use of fireworks and the unpleasant aftereffects of eye-watering, lung-singeing smog.

 

The superstition that upset me personally again relates to death; if a person is close to death many people might not go and visit said person for fear of “catching their ghost”, such is the case with Mr. Li’s paternal grandmother and her husband. The 80-year old man fell a few months ago and has since been taken care of by his daughter (from another marriage), while his wife of 30 or so years has not and probably won’t see him ever again. She also told us to stay away, since ghosts apparently love to attach themselves to young freshly married couples. The fear of ghosts is in fact so strong that commonly pregnant women are not allowed to attend funerals, not even if it was their own parent who had passed, since the fetus is deemed particularly vulnerable. 

 

If a close relative does die, you also need to express your grief for 100 days, during which among other things you are not allowed to cut your hair, put up couplets, that are usually stuck to doors for luck, or wear red. The dead person may also not wear red according to some beliefs, otherwise they will…you can probably guess by now…turn into a ghost and haunt you.

 

Well, these are all fairly depressing instances, so let’s finish off with a quirkier one, or we might end up jumping on the next plane back. During the month after CNY called 正月 you are not allowed to cut your hair because of the famous saying “正月剪头发会死舅舅 – if you cut your hair in the first month of the year, your uncle dies”. Naturally. So much for non-death related superstitions…