It is hard to sort out the various impressions of Andrew's weddings, but I am going to try, even though I realize that doing so simplifies and understates the whole event. But in this post I want to try to set the scene a bit better than I was able to do earlier. Then I hope to follow up with another post better describing how the entire community and Xian Na's relatives joined together to make the wedding happen.
First, as I may already have indicated. Xian Na's family lives in the countryside, more than an hour outside Chongqing, the huge metropolis where Andrew taught for the first four years he lived in China. Although the cash economy is omnipresent in China, life in the countryside depends upon more than money. Everyone farms, and most food comes from nearby--from one's own plots or from the contributions of neighbors. So, despite the very hilly, almost mountainous terrain typical of the region, residents in Xian Na's village have over the generations carved out an impressive network of plots, some in low-lying regions (typically devoted to rice), and others fashioned by centuries of terracing almost all arable from the numerous hillsides surrounding the village. The result can be visually surprising, as various tended crops snake back and forth across and down the hillsides. But in addition to crops, the hills are also home to the tombs of ancestors, and one can see many tombs dotting the hillside. These were especially prominent now because, during the Spring Festival, relatives set off numerous firecrackers at the sites of the tombs, an effort which once perhaps was intended to frighten away ghosts or other undesirables, but which nowadays perhaps just as forcefully serves to remind people of those who went before them, and honor them during the celebrations. The fireworks leave behind a thick layer of red paper, a testament to how noisily the village included the deceased in the holiday.
I am posting here a few pictures to help illustrate what I have written above about the place. In my next post I hope to talk about--and show--how the community helped prepare and celebrate the wedding.