Friday, May 14, 2010

Attending a western style Han wedding in Tibetan clothes

Hello from Chengdu!

Josh and I are getting ready to head back to Jiuzhaigou tomorrow and are steeling ourselves for the long drive in two ways. I am using the computer and Josh is buying DVDs.

We spent the week here in Chengdu buying things we've been dreaming of for 6 weeks in Jiuzhaigou - iphones, a potato masher, cheese... the essentials really. The potato masher is because emulsifier sticks (aka hand held blenders) are too expensive and I want to make zblended soup.

Last weekend we attended a wedding in Chongqing with our good friends, Ke Zhu and Zhuo Ma. They had originally suggested that we drive to Chengdu together then decided that it was better to buy a car in chongqing and wanted Josh to help. Finally they told us that they were going to attend a wedding and we should go with them. We mentioned that we didn't really have appropriate wedding-attending clothes (turns out that some people were in jeans so we would have been ok). They decided that we were their family now, so we'd wear Tibetan clothes too.

We left Jiuzhaigou early Friday morning with Josh driving, me riding shot gun, and Ke Zhu and the lama in the backseat. we don't know the Lama's name. He's very nice though. It took about 12 hrs to get to Chongqing. Uck. Josh drove about 75% of the way. I drove the other 25%. Ke Zhu and the Lama slept. They both have licenses but were impressed with our driving skills (we've been driving a lot longer).

The first night in Chongqing was a Chinese style dinner with lots of drinking and toasting. The next day we had the morning off after a night in a nasty hotel (where we stayed all 3 nights) and spent the afternoon looking at used cars. then dinner was hotpot at a beautiful outdoor restaurant. The setting made up for the food, a little.

Sunday was the wedding. Zhuo Ma came over early to dress us. See picture above.

We then got to the hotel where the wedding was to be held around 9:30 (Le Meridian). There were 8 of us total (for 2 invitations to the wedding) - Zhuo Ma, Ke Zhu, Lama, Zhuo Ma's cousin, and cousin's daughter (Little Zhuo Ma), and our Chongqing host. And the two of us, of course. Ke Zhu, Lama, Zhuo Ma, Josh, and I were in Tibetan clothes. No one was there so we sat around downstairs for a long time, then upstairs. Zhuo Ma was asked by the groom's parents to help out at the welcoming table, but the bride's parents had someone else do it. We got to stand by the front door of the hotel and welcome the bridal party though. They came in a Lincoln Towncar Limo. Wow. Bride was a in a white wedding dress. Groom was dressed appropriately for someone who had studied in Italy - tight suit pants and long toed shoes. The groomsmen were all western friends of the bride. The bridesmaids had on rented white bridesmaid dresses. We think they were one-size-fits-all because the dress was way too short on one especially tall young woman and they all had fabric pinned in the back.

The wedding started around noon while we all sat at tables with the cold dishes already on them. Maybe 240 people were there. According to the western guys, the soundtrack was typical western style wedding soundtrack - pirates of the caribean and celine dion. The bride stood in a fake cabin and faked playing a violin. The groom faked looking for flowers to make her bouquet. The groom took the flowers to the bride. They stood and welcomed everyone at the front of the stage. they played pre-recorded vows. A friend performed something which looked like a western marriage ceremony with a priest. They did a Chinese-style thanking parents in red chairs thing. Then they walked off the stage, a scantily clad pop star sang, and we got to eat.

The whole thing was interesting for us on so many levels. The interpretations of what mattered and why for western ceremonies was my favorite, I think. It was a little like trying to follow a formula without really understanding what it was.

When we finally left it was cab shift switching time and the foreigners and Tibetans in Tibetan clothes combined with cab shift change made it nearly impossible to get a cab. We don't really know what the problem was, but we know that we were certainly unusual. There aren't a lot of Tibetans in Chongqing and one man (on a bus) even looked at me with total disgust and asked the Lama why on earth we would be dressed like this. Lots of people tried to take pictures of us, often without asking. We'd previously been dressed in Tibetan clothes, but that was to attend a monastary festival in Jiuzhaigou and so mostly it was Tibetans there. They thought we were interesting, but they approved,g enerally. A few Han tourists were there as well, but they didn't seem to think it was so weird. Maybe because Jiuzhaigou is a Tibetan area.

Upcoming post: Things you see on drives in China

Pictures for this post will be added later or a link to picasa added. Right now the internet is failing me and I can't get enough bandwidth to upload them.


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