Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Traditional Chinese Wedding For Enliven

It was finally time for our FAO (Foreign Affairs Office) representative to have her wedding. She had spent the last week working on getting our visas taken care of. Seems Sichuan Province has a very strict age limit on foreign teachers. We had already been turned down but the University was pushing for my contract very hard. Ms. Enliven, our FAO rep, was spearheading the effort to get a new visa for us. She now appears to have been successful, even though she was scheduled to have her wedding today. An amazing bit of effort on her part.

Actually, she and her husband had been officially married for about three months. This was the official ceremony for family and friends. Enliven had decided to have a traditional ceremony and even claimed she had decided this to give us foreigners a bit of Chinese culture. Knowing her, I would not doubt that she had set this thing up for our benefit as well as her family's. It was greatly appreciated by all of us foreigners!

We were told to meet the husband's people at the China Bank building at 1000 so Sunee and I were getting ready when I heard Chinese music coming our way. I immediately ran outside on the balcony and saw a troop of musicians, flag bearers and the husband being carried down the hill. The time was 0917. Sunee and I hurried and finished getting ready. As we were just about to leave, the marriage procession was coming back up the hill. We ran out and followed them back up the hill. The parade made a right turn across from the China Bank building and stopped in front of an apartment building. It seems the groom had been carried down the hill to pick up his bride and was now they were being deposited into their new home. She was carried into the apartment complex by the groom. I talked with Tom and found out the whole thing had started an hour early but we had not really missed anything.

The wedding starts almost without us. The troopers are headed down the hill to pick up the bride.

Half an hour and the bride and groom come back out, mount up (bride in sedan chair and husband in an open chair carried by four to six red dressed bearers) and we head off toward the Emei Hotsprings Hotel. Fortunately, Sunee and I caught a ride over to the hotel. It would be another forty minutes or so before the procession would arrive to the hotel, so we make ourselves comfortable with some Emei Mountain green tea.

Back up the hill to the couple's apartment.

Flag bearers.

Tom poses with two of his students who were among the troopers in the wedding procession.

A large group of musicians, carriers and flag bearers made up the procession.

The beautiful (and now empty) sedan chair for the bride.

One of the musicians with his sheng. This is supposed to be the father of the modern harmonica. I plan to get one before we leave China.

Time to head out to the hotel. Here the bride leaves the apartment.

Of course, the groom also gets to be carried to the hotel along with his bride.

Outside the Emei Hotsprings Hotel

As we sat in the lounge, we met the new couples family. Ms. Enliven's father was especially interesting as he was a noted "qi gong" practitioner. We asked him a few questions and then for the next half hour or so, listened to him as he explained what "qi gong" was all about. One could not help but really like this gentleman from Beijing.

Ms. Enliven's mother and father visit with us as we wait for the wedding procession to arrive.

A famous "qi gong" expert, Ms. Enliven's gladly shared his knowledge with us as we waited in comfort

At around 1130, the wedding procession arrived and we ran out to get some pictures. We were now very familiar with Chinese weddings as we were given candies and offered cigarettes. The groom and bride officially enter the hotel then disappear into the back, preparing for the upcoming events of ceremony and banquet. We returned to our lounge and Ms. Enliven's father continued to tell us about "qi gong." He impressed both Sunee and I greatly.

At around noon, we were all called into the banquet room so the ceremony could begin. The afternoon was spent watching a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony and eating some really great dishes. It was a very rewarding afternoon and very beautiful.

The troopers arrive with the bride and groom on their backs. It took about 45 minutes for them to make the trip from the China Bank building to the hotel.

The groom is first delivered to the door of the hotel

Then the bride is united with her groom and they both enter the hotel

After the bride and groom arrive we still had a few minutes before the ceremony so I had this picture taken with the hard-working troopers.

The ceremony started at around noon or a little after. One of the first things I noticed was this apple on the floor leading up to the platform.

Also we saw this wood burning box aflame a few meters behind the apple. Seems this has a symbolic meaning which I must remember to look up. Dean Jiang tried to explain it but I really did not understand.

The bride awaits his her sedan chair. She waited quite awhile for the ceremony to start.

As we waited for things to start, our tables were full of great looking appetizers for our enjoyment. Here we have some spicy green beans.

The appetizers on the lazy susan ready for tasting.

Nice sliced pieces of beef.

This turned out to be some spicy fish slivers. I did not care for them as they had too many small bones.

Pickled radishes made into a beautiful flower. They were as good as they looked.

Plainly sliced cucumbers (I think) in a really hot but subtle sauce. These were great.

The ceremony starts and the bride is helped out of here sedan chair and guided up to join her waiting groom. Notice her face is completely covered. Very traditional.

The bride and groom as the ceremony starts.

Eventually the groom lifts the veil to reveal the lovely bride and they take a seat before the audience.

A lot of stuff goes on during this very long ceremony. Here the couple kneels in respect of their in-laws and eventually offer them tea.

A group shot of the foreigners with Ms. Enliven's parents and, of course, her husband.

The beautiful bride near the end of the ceremony. Hundreds of pictures were taken of various friends and relations.

Never mess with a Chinese bride!

All things must come to an end. Here two little Chinese girls bid us farewell.

Actually we went upstairs to play some mahjong. Since neither Sunee nor I really understand the game, it did not take us long to give up on it. Soon, very soon we will get serious and learn to play.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Teachers' Class Graduation

Thursday at 1600 (4 PM), I went to the official graduation ceremony for the teachers who had attended the first English training class at SW Jiaotong University. We met in a large conference room in Number Four Building, Second Floor. Several University administrators were present as was our own Dean Jiang.

Basically we discussed the successes and critiqued the course. The teachers all gave glowing reports and it now appears that this course will be offered again next semester.

When we were approached about this class at the War Luncheon (see earlier post), I was apprehensive about the class. First, to be in front of a bunch of teachers is a teacher's worst nightmare. Imagine the possibility of being evaluated every second.

Secondly, I did not know the English levels of the teachers. To what level does one teach? To the advanced students, the middle students or the lower students. There is no simple answer and thus I was a bit worried.

As it turned out, the teachers and I got along really great and ended up working together to reach our goals. I had a great time and look forward to more of the same next semester.
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These are some of the pictures taken during the certificate ceremony

This is the teachers group posing for a shot in front of one of the famous professors at Jiaoda. A very impressive group of teachers.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Academic Trip To Crouching Tiger Temple

We scheduled a visit to Fuhu Temple for a couple of my students who were to write a travel journal article about the temple. Ms. Winter and Ms. Lorry were supposed to show up at around 1430 Sunday afternoon but were able to make it a little after 1500 due to class commitments. We had called Yanmao to coordinate the trip so eveything was set.

We took a bus to Emei Mountain, getting off at the little village nearest Fuhu Temple. The temple is another fifteen minute walk up the mountain.

Ms. Lorry, Ms. Winter and Sunee all walk casually up the mountain to the temple. It was a great day to be out and about on the mountain.

Yanmao greets us and invites us in to the meeting room for tea and interviews. Here she introduces the concepts behind being a nun on Emei Mountain ant Fuhu Temple.

Sunee relaxes and listens intently to the lecture on being a nun.

Lorry also listens with interest.

Ms Winter as well.

Both Ms. Winter and Ms. Lorry asked questions and took detailed notes about what Yanmao was telling them.

Here Yanmao shows a book written about the nunneries on Emei Mountain. It is written in both Chinese and English. She was kind enough to loan us the book for a few weeks.

After more than an hour of interviews and getting to know Buddhism from a nun's prospective, Yanmao invited us to share a meal with her. She took us outside to observe the ceremony that occurred prior to sharing food.

After prayers the nuns walked and chanted around the base of their living quarters.

Chanting and walking is part of the Pure Land Buddhist sects rituals.

A closer view of the rituals.

Nuns' living quarters.

Ms. Lorry and Ms. Winter with Yanmao in respectful pose.

Ms. Winter asked a question about prayers and Yanmao immediately took us to the small prayer room to give instructions on the proper way to show respect and pray. This was an interesting demonstration and practical experience for us all.

After a vegetarian lunch and on the way out, Ms. Winter meets and greets a cat that is cared for by the nuns. As I was taking additional pictures of the cat, one of the nuns invited me back to see the cat's family.

Ms. Lorry holds one of the temple cat's kittens, a fluff of white cotton.

Mother cat is not happy.

Yanmao bids us a fond farewell as we go explore the Fuhu Temple.

In the book Yanmao had loaned us, I read about some rare trees in the courtyard of the temple. Here the students pose by what we thought was a rare tree only to find out later it was not so rare.

In this building is the 13th century pagoda which celebrates the meeting of thousands of Buddhist across China during that period.

Can't help taking this beautiful stand in front of the bronze pagoda.

Ms. Lorry and Ms. Winter pose in front of one of the oldest relics in the temple, the 13th Century bronze pagoda.

Sunee visits with some of the nuns in front of the Hall of 500 Arhats. They were very delightful.

One of the huge Buddha images inside the Hall of 500 Arhats.

Ms. Lorry poses with her "lucky" Arhat. She found one that she liked then added her age to its number and found the corresponding sum. This was supposed to represent her lucky arhat.

I pose in the doorway of the Hall of 500 Arhats. Not too often I get my picture taken for this blog so figured I better take advantage.

This is one of the real rare trees the book mentioned. Its pedigree goes back to the time of the dinosaurs and is often called dinosaur food.

A spider makes his web on dinosaur food. Can this be considered an art photo? You judge.

My final photo of Fuhu Temple from above the main courtyard. Absolutely beautiful!

Our visit to the temple was a resounding success. The two students had a great time and learned a lot. Now let's see how well they write their article for the class.