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Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Little Red App, Li Rui's Death, Lots of Debt, and Forced Pork: Four China-Themed Tweets With Links

Here are four tweet with links to pieces very much worth checking out if you haven't already:




Friday, December 28, 2018

Apples, Trees, and Santa Hats: More Christmas Scenes from Zhongshan, China

During this blog's life, I have shared Christmas scenes from a variety of cities in China such as, in chronological order, Wuhan, Putian, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Hong Kong, and Wenzhou. The Wuhan post includes general information about the holiday in China that still largely holds. To complement the scenes of a Christmas Midnight Mass in Zhongshan I recently witnessed this year, below I will share a set of photos capturing some other aspects of how the holiday was celebrated in Zhongshan, even if just for fun with little or no religious connotation. The post isn't as extensive as many of the earlier posts and none of the displays I saw were as elaborate as the somewhat surreal Star Wars Christmas display at a mall in Shanghai several years ago. But they offer a peak at the holiday in yet another city in China.

Not at all surprising, one of the first signs of the holiday I noticed on Christmas Eve night were two young women setting up a display of traditional-in-China Christmas apples in decorative boxes for sale.

young woman setting up a display of Christmas apples in Zhongshan


I wondered about their choice of location in the midst of a small informal night market in front of Fuye Square. All I can say is that just as I was about to walk away they already had potential customers.

young men looking at Christmas apples for sale in Zhongshan


Not very far away on the Qijiang Bridge, I saw more people selling Christmas apples.

Christmas apples for sale on Qijiang Bridge in Zhongshan


At the time they were keeping an eye out for relevant authorities some other vendors thought soon might be on the way to stop such activities.

On the other side of the bridge, the Central Power Plaza shopping mall had a large Christmas tree outside.

Christmas tree at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan, China


Unsurprisingly, it was a popular location to take photos, including for a group of women wearing Santa hats.

people taking photographs next to a Christmas tree


On the nearby Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian Street, more Santa hats could be found.

two young women wearing Santa hats while walking on the Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian Street in Zhongshan


On Christmas Day, I stopped by Lihe Plaza. In addition to the Christmas tree outside, there were also giant reindeers and a Santa Claus above the main entrance to the shopping mall.

Christmas tree and giant reindeers and Santa Claus at Lihe Plaza in Zhongshan


In one open air pedestrian area there was a market set up with a theme mixing Christmas and Pihotrain — a young Shenzhen-based company with Disney-like ambitions.

Pihotrain Christmas market at Lihe Plaza in Zhongshan, China


Most of the vendors in the market were similar to those I have seen in the same location when the market has had other themes. But at least one vendor added a Christmas touch with decorations.

vendor stall with Santa-themed decorations


And one vendor even added Christmas apples to their selection.

vendor selling jewelry and Christmas apples


We're back to the apples, so this seems like a good time to say, yet again, "that is all", at least for Zhongshan. Some day / year I hope to share past Christmas scenes that never made it here from at least two cities not mentioned above. Until then, enjoy the apples.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Scenes During Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at a Catholic Church in Zhongshan, China

Several days ago on Christmas Eve I stopped by the Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China, while it was holding Midnight Mass. Below are a few photos I took along with some very brief commentary. When I looked inside, the church was packed, and people were singing.

people observing Midnight Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China


Outside the church, people could be found praying as well.

people praying


Some took advantage of the holiday photographic opportunities.

Christmas tree at the Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China


There were at least two children handing out packets of peanuts and candies.

boy handing out candies


One girl outside was wearing red horns, which I have seen on Christmas Eve before.

girl wearing glowing red horns


Similar to when I visited a church in Quanzhou, Fujian, on Christmas Eve six years ago, there were a number of people wearing clothing identifying they were there to help.

staff wearing "Jesus Loves You" vests


Also similar to Quanzhou, there was a clear presence of relevant authorities in uniform, though far fewer — not especially surprising since this church in Zhongshan is smaller.

And there was one thing I didn't see in Quanzhou which stood out. The recent growth in the use of QR codes to make payments or transfer money was on display.

QR Code for "Parish Donation Wechat Transfer Account"


Long story short, my sense was that that some people were interested in observing the religious aspects of the holiday while others, especially those outside, were more interested in less religious aspects or simply curious. Midnight Mass ended at 11 p.m. but some people were still there more than 15 minutes later when I left after a helpful discussion with one of the assistants.

Immaculate Conception Church (圣母无原罪堂), also known as the Shiqi Catholic Church (石岐天主教堂), in Zhongshan, China


That's all. Later I will share some other scenes of Christmas spirit in Zhongshan, some of course including the traditional Christmas apples.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Hanukkah in Shanghai Far From the Holocaust

Shanghai, China, 1939, a Hanukkah party for refugee children in the Twig family's home
"Shanghai, China, 1939, a Hanukkah party for refugee children in the Twig family's home"
From Hanukkah - The Festival of Lights: Before, During and After the Holocaust
Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Some Serenity in Zhongshan

Whether or not you could use a break from the news, here is a non-newsworthy, but rather peaceful, moment at a small place of worship in Zhongshan:


Shengdi Dian (圣帝殿) in Longtouhuan Village (龙头环村), Shaxi Town, Zhongshan
Shengdi Dian (圣帝殿) in Longtouhuan Village (龙头环村)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Fufeng Pagoda, Mountain Climbing, and the Chongyang Festival in Zhongshan

One of the photos in the previous post which shared my excitement two days ago about seeing yet another rainbow in China included Zhongshan's Fufeng Pagoda (阜峰文塔) in the distance. Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Zhongshan Park and climbed Yandun Hill (烟墩山) for a closer view.

Fufeng Pagoda (阜峰文塔) in Zhongshan


Had I been at this same spot when the earlier rainbow appeared, I believe I could have easily captured them together from there.

As with visits to the park in previous years, the tower was closed, so unfortunately I couldn't climb higher for a hopefully clearer view of the park's surroundings.

closed entryway to Fufeng Pagoda (阜峰文塔)


I took another path down the mountain and was surprised to see apparently new netting which not only blocked access to the adjacent green areas but also several other paths.

Stairs lined with a rope net at Zhongshan Park in Zhongshan


Stairs lined with a rope net at Zhongshan Park in Zhongshan


People walking up stairs lined with rope netting at Zhongshan Park in Zhongshan


I didn't recall seeing anything like that at the park before. The large numbers of police and China Militia around the park were also unusual.

But for anybody who was confused about the changes, there was at least one sign that explained the conditions.



They were due to the upcoming Chongyang Festival (重阳节 — Chóngyángjié), also called Double Ninth Festival in English. One of the traditional activities for the holiday is mountain climbing. The sign indicated people could begin their holiday ascent as late as half hour after midnight that night but would need to leave the park by 1:30 a.m. The park would later open at 6 a.m. on the day of the holiday and close at 6 p.m. Then the park would reopen at 5 a.m. the day following the holiday for normal operations. The sign also asked people not to light fires, smoke, or bring anything that could explode.

A little after 9 p.m. yesterday night I returned to the park and found one of the more popular entrances filled with people and lined with police.

Entry to Zhongshan Park at night for the Chongyang Festival in Zhongshan


From there, the path from there to the top of the hill was a lot more crowded than it had been during the day.

people on stairs at night in Zhongshan Park in Zhongshan


Other than the many people, security, and rope nets, there wasn't much else that was unusual at the park. I did meet some people under a tent doing some community service by highlighting the dangers of illegal drugs though.

informational display of illegal drugs


At first I feigned surprise that they were selling so many types of illegal drugs, but they quickly set things straight — perhaps an especially good idea with all of the police around.

This wasn't my first time to participate in some Chongyang Festival climbing. My most memorable experience was the time friends in neighboring Zhuhai invited me to take a night hike up Banzhang Mountain, which is a much more challenging climb and affords more open far-reaching views.

Zhongshan had other sites open this year for the holiday, such as Dajian Mountain (news article in Chinese), with higher climbs as well. But this year's holiday climb still had its charms. And now I have finally seen the Fufeng Pagoda up close at night — definitely no rainbows in the sky.

Fufeng Pagoda (阜峰文塔) with lights on at night in Zhongshan

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.

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?