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Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Burning Down The House: Scenes from the Hungry Ghost Festival in Ganzhou, China

Near Jianchun Gate (建春门) in Ganzhou


Last Thursday next to the ancient city wall alongside the Gong River (贡水) in Ganzhou, Jiangxi, I noticed a number of people burning ghost money — imitation paper currency.

people burning ghost money in Ganzhou

people burning ghost money near the Donghe Bridge in Ganzhou
Near Donghe Bridge (东河大桥)


Thursday was the first of three days in Ganzhou when people conducted rituals for Saturday's Hungry Ghost Festival (中元节), also known in English as the Ghost Festival, the Yulan Festival, and Zhongyuan Jie. The holiday is similar to the Qingming Festival in terms of burning paper replicas to send items to people in the afterlife. The National Library of Singapore has a useful overview of the holiday in general while also pointing out some details specific to Singapore and other countries while also covering some differences between Taoist and Buddhist beliefs regarding the holiday. Baidu Baike has an article (Chinese) detailing some of the specific practices in various parts of China.

On Saturday, while walking down Xijiao Road (西郊路) I noticed a lot of smoke in the distance. And that is how I stumbled upon one of the multiple sites the local government had established for the burning rituals.


city government approved site for burning offerings during the Hungry Ghost Festival in Ganzhou


people making offerings for the Hungry Ghost Festival in Ganzhou


The video below captures more of the living reaching out to spirits there.



At a location next to the old city wall bordering the Zhang River (章水), I came across another sanctioned site — this one more scenic.

people making offerings for the Hungry Ghost Festival near Xijin gate in Ganzhou
Near Xijin Gate (西津门)


While there, I saw some people preparing to send a house, car, and other items to the spirit world.

paper house and car replicas for burning


Soon flames began engulfing the house.

paper house burning for the Hungry Ghost Festival


The video below captures later stages of the house's journey and also some of the other offerings occurring in the near vicinity.



One advantage Saturday provided was a rare break from the recent hot weather. One disadvantage Saturday provided was occasional strong winds. The video below was taken later at the same area and captures how ghost money was flying about, sometimes while burning, at times. I didn't see anybody get hurt, but it was definitely worth staying alert.



During the earlier evening I came across another approved site, this one at an area where buildings had been demolished between Xijin Road (西津路) and Xingan South Road (新赣南路).

vacant lot where buildings had been demolished being used for religious offerings


I also saw offerings being made or signs of recent offerings on a smaller scale at a number of locations which didn't appear to have been designated by the city. All of the government approved sites I came across had government employees, easily identifiable with their red hats, keeping an eye on things. The site near Xijin Gate also had a few chengguan, urban management officers, around. There were frequent sounds of firecrackers around the city, but I only heard a single one go off at the approved sites. Apparently since it was isolated explosion — unusual —a chengguan who clearly wasn't happy about it didn't intervene beyond sharing a stern word.

In my personal experience, I have never before seen so many people observing the holiday elsewhere in China. I'm not sure whether that speaks more to luck or regional variations in the holiday's observance, though I suspect the latter has a significant role. In any case, there was a lot of fire in Ganzhou during the holiday and possibly many pleased ghosts as well.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Riverside Can in Ganzhou

I'm not yet finished with what I had originally hoped to post today. Uploading three large video files through a VPN across the Great Firewall added to the challenge, but I'm happy to say at least that part has been successfully completed. For now, below is a related photo taken next to the Gong River which serves as a bit of a teaser.

two traditional Chinese red candles burning in a can next to the river


Much more burning is on the way — most of it somewhat controlled.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Flower Ice Cream and Giant Hummingbird Mural in Hong Kong

Happy Fourth of July to the U.S. folk. Remember, fireworks don't work without fire. And rose-shaped ice cream attracts giant hummingbirds. Goodness can result from both of these things. But nothing is totally safe, so please take care and have a joyous day. Those giant hummingbirds are enchanting yet ravenous.

mural of a girl eating flower-shaped ice cream next to a large hummingbird
Alongside Shelley Street in Central, Hong Kong

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Nine Children Day Photos from Guangzhou

As in a number of other countries, June 1 is Children's Day in China. Children younger than 14 get the day off from class, which lead some parents to question why they aren't legally entitled to a day off too so they can spend it with their children. On that note, many schools arrange activities for the day.

Yesterday I saw signs of the holiday in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. Despite it being a Friday, the activity level at some places felt more like a weekend. One movie theater lobby I passed was packed with excited children — likely due to discounts or a school outing.

Below are a handful of photos I took yesterday. I can't say each and every scene is directly connected to the holiday, but they all definitely include children.

dance performance by boys
Dance performance at Sunny Mall


kiddie play area at mall
Busy children's amusement center at Sunny Mall


air hockey game
Air hockey at an arcade in the JN Sunday underground pedestrian shopping street


children making pizzas at The Pizza Factory in Guangzhou
Pizza-making party at The Pizza Factory in the Icon City shopping mall


woman and girl walking down Gaodi Street in Guangzhou
On Gaodi Street


girl posing in front of a sculpture for a photo
Photographic opportunity at Shangxiajiu Square


one girl lifting up another onto her back
Lifting up a twin sister at Shangxiajiu Square


girl giving another girl a piggyback ride
A piggyback ride underway


two children debating who should get a stroller
A (potential) learning moment for a boy who had tried to hijack a baby stroller

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Working, Not Working, Traffic, and Sales: A Few Labor Day Scenes in Zhaoqing, China

Today was Labor Day (May Day) in China. And today I was in Zhaoqing, a prefecture-level city which borders my previous locations — Yunfu and Jiangmen.

As I have seen during past Labor Days elsewhere in China, today . . .

Some people worked.

Paifang Plaza


Some people enjoyed their day off work or school.

yellow bridge at Paifang Park in Zhaoqing
Paifang Park


Some people sat in traffic.

heavy traffic on Duanzhou 4th Road in Zhaoqing
Duanzhou 4th Road


And some stores had holiday promotions.

Jessy Line's International Worker's Day sale sign


Zhaoqing is a popular tourist destination in the region, and the increased crowds (and hotel rates) were easy to spot during the three day holiday period. More about Zhaoqing later after I first return to posting about Yunfu. For more Labor Day photos, see past years' posts featuring scenes in Shenzhen and in Yinchuan

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Knockoffs, Cars, and an Electric Chair: Paper Replicas to Burn for the Qingming Festival

store selling paper replicas of items to burn for the Qingming Festival
Shop in Jiangmen, Guangdong, selling paper replicas to burn for the spirit world


Last year in Guangzhou during the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, I saw many people spend at least part of the day doing something not part of the spiritual side of the day, such as spending time at pedestrian shopping street. But it still wasn't hard to find people observing the holiday, such as a family burning paper replicas of iPhones, clothing, money, and other objects to send to their ancestors in the afterlife — part of a common Qingming tradition, as is visiting grave sites.

Like in Guangzhou, today on the holiday's return I saw many people in Jiangmen simply enjoying the day off or working as usual. I didn't happen to stumble upon any burnings. And I didn't visit any graveyards. But this afternoon I did pass one shop selling paper replicas to burn. They may have already sold out of some items, but they still had a varied selection.

As I saw in Guangzhou, there was clothing for sale. And of course there was plenty of the traditional ghost money.

ghost money and paper replicas of suits


Shoes were available as well.

paper shoes


You were in luck if you wanted to send shoes with a matching knockoff "Louiis Vuitton" bag.

paper "Louiis Vuitton" bags


There were also combo packs which included all-important smartphones.

boxes contain a variety of paper replicas including smartphones and jewelry


And a collection of cars was available.

paper replicas of cars


paper replicas of cars for the Qingming Festival


The cars depict people inside, which raises the question of whether burning them sends both the car and the people to the spirit world. I would honestly be curious to hear experts' views on this.

While there are other ways people remember and honor their ancestors during the Qingming Festival, the practice of burning paper replicas presents an intriguing intersection of spiritualism, materialism, and pragmatism. Whatever the ultimate result of the offerings, at the very least they express that one hasn't forgotten the departed and can help keep some memories alive.

Finally, there was one item for sale that left me briefly puzzled, because at first I wasn't sure what it was. And then I realized . . .

paper replicas of a massage armchair


Who in the spirit world wouldn't want to relax in a deluxe massage chair?

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Return to the New Year

The day after International Women's Day many of the related promotions at stores and restaurants were over, though some continued. For Topsports, that meant a return to the "Happy New Year" spirit, even though 2018 began two and half months ago and the current Year of the Dog began almost a month ago.

2018 Happy New Year sign at Topsports in Jiangmen


 May Day is just so far away . . .

Friday, March 9, 2018

Food, Shoes, and Jewelry: International Women's Day Sales Promotions in Jiangmen, China

In past year's I have shared some of the International Women's Day sales promotions I have come across in Zhongshan, in Jieyang, and in Guangzhou. At the moment I happen to be in Jiangmen —another city in Guangdong province. So yesterday I spent some time walking through several shopping malls and nearby shopping areas in the city. There was no shortage of promotions for the holiday, though many stores had no sales or had unrelated sales, including lingering Lunar New Year promotions.

As in past years, one noticeable aspect of the promotions were the various names used to identify the day. Yet I didn't see a single example where the standard Chinese translation for International Women's Day, 妇女节, was used. Instead, Chinese names which would translate as "Goddess Day" (女神) and "Queen's Day" (女王) were common. Some places went with "女人节" which could also translate to "Women's Day" in English. And a number of stores included the day's name in English, often going with "Queen's Day" or "Women's Day".

Chen Yan in Sixth Tone mentions a possible explanation for why the formal name in Chinese was avoided:
More and more young Chinese women are shunning International Women’s Day, a problem that is partially due to nomenclature. Women’s Day is translated as funüjie, a word that contains a term that youngsters increasingly use to refer to older, married women and that connotes a certain frumpiness and a lack of sophistication.
That still might not fully explain the choice of Watson's — a health & beauty care chain store. They went with "我们节" which could be translated as "Our Day", seemingly quite a big difference in meaning. But there's a catch. Written in pinyin, the first two characters are "Wo men".

Watsons Women's Day promotion


Just to be sure, I asked an employee and she confirmed that indeed "Wo Men's Day" referred to International Women's Day and was a cross-language pun. At the very least, it strikes me as a curious choice.

Whatever name stores settled on, the promotions went on.

So if you were seeking a Women's Day special for Californian-style food in Jiangmen yesterday, you were in luck.

Hey Farm restaurant Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Other Western-style food options were available as well.

Seasons restaurant Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Seeking something Asian? Well, there was Thai.

Thai restaurant Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


And if you wanted Yunnan-style, there were options as well.

Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Baked goods? No problem.

Madeli bakery Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen



Some tea? Loving Tea beckoned the goddesses.

Loving Tea Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Shiny Tea did as well.

Shiny Tea Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Seeking something simple and healthy? There was a fruit store that didn't miss out on the day.

Fruit store Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


There were many options for clothing.

YMR clothing store Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

G2000 Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

OU Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Shoes and hand bags were on sale too.

Losiny Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

Losiny Queen's Day promotion in Jiangmen

Dusto Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

ZuSOON Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

Topsports Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Glasses? No problem.

Loho Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Along with a number of other jewelry stores, both China Gold and Hong Kong Gold had promotions.

China Gold Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen

Hong Kong Gold Women's Day promotion in Jiangmen


Seeking health & beauty care products without a "Wo Men" theme? Mannings, a chain similar to Watsons, went with the more typical "Queen's Day".

Manning's Queen Day promotion in Jiangmen


And, yes, you could go to the supermarket for some Goddess Day savings.

Vanguard Empress Day promotion in Jiangmen


Finally, while several nail salons I passed didn't have a promotion for the day, IMP Nails was ready for Queen's Day.

IMP Nails Queen Day promotion in Jiangmen


So finding an International Women's Day deal in Jiangmen, and elsewhere in China, wasn't at all hard yesterday. But not everybody in China thought that was a good thing. And so on International Women's Day, some feminists who criticized how the day was observed were censored.

The promotions went on though.