October 25, 2009
Subject #1: Weddings
We have just learned that our daughter, Kathy, is now engaged to Micheal Preble! They are planning for a mid-summer wedding, and this stimulates motherly and grandmotherly enthusiasm for helping with planning and all that goes on! Last week, Micheal sent me an email asking for a Skype date – which is a little out of the ordinary. I learned immediately when we connected that he wanted to ask for Kathy’s hand in marriage – a very nice touch. Deb and I are very happy about this; we have known since last summer that these two are meant for each other, so we think Kathy and Micheal are both getting outstanding life partners! Congratulations Kathy and Micheal!
Kathy and Micheal Wth Gram (Velna)
Jumping ahead and out of sequence of events, Kathy and Micheal’s news led to a shopping date with Pian! When we saw her last Monday, we told her and a group of other people about the engagement, so naturally, we had to go shopping, for one thing, to see about the possibility of having a wedding dress made here. (This must be the wedding center of the universe. Remember how I have mentioned the 6:00 AM fireworks a couple of times? Well, it wasn’t just National Day or Mid-autumn festival, it is everyday, I think.) Wedding clothes and photography are big business here. Consequently, in spite of assumptions to the contrary, it may be more expensive here than in the United States (although, I ASSUME that if you order something in the US, it will be made in China and shipped back there!) Anyway, we visited a wedding dress shop. In China, brides generally rent a gown for the wedding, rather than purchase, so we were able to see a big variety (we kept to just the white ones, though) because here colors are very important, and so a brides dress can be a wide variety of colors, plus, there are many other nationalities here, so there are Korean and Japanese styles, as well as traditional Chinese and western styles. We saw a Korean couple dressed for wedding photos. She was wearing a white dress trimmed in black and red; he was wearing a formal tuxedo-type outfit with a black cap with huge wings on it. He looked a little embarrassed, to be honest. Anyway, we found only one dress we thought Kathy might like and as soon as we mentioned that dress, the saleslady said, “You really can’t appreciate this dress unless it is worn by a real person, so she ran off and came back with a younger saleswomen who put on the dress and modeled it for us and everyone else for what seemed like hours to me, but may have only been 30 or 40 minutes in real time. She clearly did not want to take it off! Presently, another woman came in with a big camera and took a bunch of photos of her modeling the gown (and they were still at it when we finally left!)
Our news of Kathy’s wedding led in turn to may discussions about the wedding ceremony here in China. Deb has written an account of these discussions, and I’ll insert it below:
Deb: Given the fact that Kathy and Micheal have announced their engagement, wedding chimes are ringing in the back of our minds. Finnie gets amused with me for spending so much time “webbing” about all things related to weddings: attire, customs, ideas, and protocol. We have excitedly told our Chinese friends the good news and our Chinese friends have been very willing and interested in talking about all the details and comparing them to western customs.
We learned several things about Chinese weddings, and I will try to enumerate them succinctly. Engagement: there is no engagement announcement other than sending the wedding photos to friends and family to announce the upcoming wedding. There is no engagement ring. The wedding dress and the groom’s clothes will be rented for the occasion. The bride will wear several different dresses of different colors on the wedding day. In fact, she will change her clothes three times during the wedding day – I later learned in my research that this signifies a passage of time. In the past weddings took place over several days – but now it is shortened to a few hours, so the changing of the clothes indicates each day of the traditional wedding of days past. During this engagement time the bride and groom apply for a wedding certificate from the government. As soon as they receive the certificate, they are legally married. The ceremony on the wedding day is to celebrate their marriage with friends and family.
The wedding: The day starts very early with the bridesmaid’s and friends arriving at her parent’s house to help her get dressed, fix her hair, and prepare for the rest of the day. The Maid of Honor has significant responsibilities, and she has to make several speeches. The bride has a tea ceremony with her parents to thank them for raising her, for giving her a good education, and for being good parents. Soon the groom arrives with his friends and they bang on the door to come in. They have to bribe their way in by paying money wrapped in paper to the bridesmaids. The bridesmaids’ job is to prolong this as long as possible and to create general chaos in allowing the groom into the bride’s house. The more he tries it is felt, the more he wants to marry this woman. There is another tea ceremony in the bride’s home with the groom, his friends, and parents. Again everyone is thanked. The groom then escorts the bride in a huge car entourage to his house, where all the family and friends will be present. They will have things to eat and drink and another ceremony in which they thank the heaven, earth and parents for their good fortune. It is at this ceremony that the bride formally introduces the groom to her family and he calls her mother, “mother”, her father, “father”, her siblings, “brother” and “sister”, and then the groom does the same, introducing the bride to his family and she calls them mother, father, brother, sister. From now on that is how they will refer to the parents and other family members in each family. I thought this was an interesting way of eliminating the problem of “what do I call your mother after we are married?” question.
Then everyone gets back into the hired cars and goes to a hotel for the wedding lunch. During this lunch, a master of ceremony will declare the bride and groom married, lots of toasts, and lots of eating. I gather this lunch is the end of the day’s events. At some point in the day there is a gift exchange between bride and groom and I suspect other gifts will be given to parents, family members, and members of the bridal party.
The following is copied from a web page about Chinese wedding customs and I thought it would be helpful to read. http://www.foreigners-in-china.com/chinese-wedding-customs.html
The Chinese wedding ceremony includes five steps:
- Worshipping shrine: Groom and bride worship the shrine together. This is also called "worshiping the heaven and earth". This is to pay respect to gods and ancestors. Nowadays, three kowtowings are to be done by the couple. The first one is to kowtow to heaven and earth; the second one is to kowtow to parents; the third one is to kowtow to each other.
- Sitting towards each other
- Washing hand: Before the start in Chinese wedding banquet, the groom and bride are served with water for washing hand. In the ancient Chinese book "The Ritual Book", it says,"A young person holds a plate while an elderly person takes a water container to pour water. The groom and bride are asked to wash their hands. After washing, a towel is provided."
- Eating food from the same plate, drinking wine using each other’s cup; The drinking of wine is for the couple to drink wine using two cups connected with five-colour threads. Nowadays, the ritual is implemented by letting the couple drink a little wine in each one’s cup first, then exchange the cups and finish drinking the rest at once.
- Getting into the bedroom.: In traditional Chinese wedding customs, the bride’s head is covered by a piece of red cloth from the moment of leaving her parent’ home until the cloth is removed by the groom in the bedroom of the new couple. It is often the case that the groom and the bride has never seen each other before this moment. So modern people may be difficult to imagine the kind of feeling of ancient couples when they firstly see each other.
Chinese wedding ceremonies in different areas may have a little variations, but all Han tribe Chinese wedding customs are more or less the same.
The essential elements of traditional Chinese wedding customs
The essential meaning of these rituals is to make the marriage be witnessed and recognized by heaven and earth, parents, relatives and friends. All these rituals are to make the marriage a formal process so that it will strengthen the loyalty between the husband and wife and keep the marriage relationship stable and permanent. This essential point is the same as in western wedding ceremonies, where the rituals are held in church
OK, I’m back. Thanks to Deb for that exposition on Chinese weddings!
I didn’t mention in the paragraph about Pian taking us shopping on Saturday that we had a huge amount of fun with her — starting when we left our neighborhood! As she drove out onto the small street that runs south of our community, through the guard gates, I noticed a taxi barreling down at us from the west – with horn blaring, meanwhile a bicycle and a couple of motorcycles are crisscrossing in front of us, and I didn’t think it possible to avoid wiping out at least a couple of them, but then I noticed another taxi barreling down on us from the east with horn blaring. Now, when I say barreling down, I mean they are a few feet away – not the km or 2 that Deb freaks out over when I drive. Anyway, none of this bothers Pian in the least, she casually drives where she wants to go and taxis and motorcycles and bicycles all go away from her, so two taxis passed us in opposite directions – one on each side between us and the motorcycles etc., and next thing I know, we are still alive and unhurt! So, we merrily went on our way, and eventually got to the shopping area, but Pian soon realized that there is no turn lane for her to use to turn into the department store parking area (and there is a fence separating the north- and south-bound traffic to prevent said maneuver), so we had to go a few blocks before the fence ends, and Pian made a U-turn. As she was starting to do so, a new black Chevy was just finishing the same maneuver farther down the street, but Pian does not make sharp turns so she had to stop and back up to finish the U-turn. By this time the Chevy and a bunch of other cars, gonggongqiche’s, and trucks had caught up with us, and were giving us strange looks. Pian just giggled and said, “I broke the rules!” I observed that the black Chevy had broken them first, said that I wouldn’t worry about it too much!
After what seemed like months of shopping to me (Deb and I bought coats to wear while riding our bikes in winter weather), in addition to going to wedding shops and tailor shops, etc., it was finally time to go back, and on the way have lunch. Pian had been telling us that she wanted to take us to her favorite tofu restaurant and so she insisted that we go there this time as her guests. She is very persistent and stubborn, so we did (we weren’t opposed to going to the restaurant, we were opposed to being her guest again. She won that argument by making the point (which I don’t remember, unless she was talking about last Monday night) that I had paid the last time. Anyway, we were her guests. Pian started ordering dishes, and there were so many that we had to clean up some so they could pile more on the table. Each dish was wonderful. We had deep fried pumpkin strips, sweet and sour pork, fried taro root rolls, kelp noodles, some other kind of noodles, onion scallion pancakes, a big crepe-like pancake, a bowl of fresh lettuce. As we were eating, Pian remembered that she had forgotten to order any tofu. So, we will have to go back another time so we can get the tofu… It turns out that the restaurant is right across the street from Pian’s daughter’s high school, and one of her friends was there eating lunch with another friend, so the friend called Pian’s daughter to report that her mother was eating at the restaurant, and the daughter called Pian to let her know that Pian was busted – she had found out that her mom was at their favorite place. It was funny. Pian had made arrangements for her daughter to have lunch at home since she didn’t know when she would be done with our shopping. As I have previously reported the high schoolers have classes all day Saturday (except for their lunch hour). When we finally got home, I was so stuffed and tired, I had to take a three hour nap (so did Deb), so we would be able to stay awake for our dessert party at a foreign teacher’s apartment last night. I’ll have to come back to the dessert party because I have gotten seriously out of sequence.
Back to last weekend. I mentioned that we were having a group over for a test flight of our kitchen and dining capabilities. So, as I indicated, Yvonne, Lulu, Bruce, Matthew, Sue, and Mandy came over for dinner last Sunday evening. Deb served a pork stir fry, rice, spicy stewed apples, sweet potatoes, shrimp chips, pan-roasted peanuts, and fruit – including those great grapes. We had a great time and enjoyed the visit and food. The dinner was great, but 8 people is 1 or 2 too many for our table and chair situation. So, we will probably try to keep to a maximum of 6 (four guests).
L.: Shrimp Chips on a tea set box R:. Mandy, Lulu,, Sue, Yvonne, and Matthew in our kitchen
The China National Games started last Saturday. This year, the games are in Jinan, the capitol of Shandong Province. The opening ceremony was incredible in a new stadium and on a scale that was reminiscent of the 2008 Olympic Games. So, for about 10 days, I think the games go on – it seems as though these are in part a competition to determine who will be in the next Olympic games, but I am not certain about that. Anyway, it is really impressive to see and feel the national spirit and pride rising almost daily, and between the economy of China and the obvious continuous improvements all around, the people have a right to be proud!
Susan Jensen, Associate Dean in the UNK College of Business arrived here on Sunday, but we caught up with her on Monday. She met with college people and the International Office, then we went over to our house for a cup of tea. She gave us a couple of pounds of Barista’s coffee from Kearney!!! We then went to lunch with her, Gertie. Pian, and their two high schoolers at a very nice hotel restaurant downtown (Garden Hotel). Gertie and Pian went over the top with food – as usual! It was a dinner banquet rather than a lunch. I can’t even begin to recount that menu! We enjoyed visiting until shortly before 2:00 – when rest period is over and Pian and I have classes to teach and Deb had her Chinese lesson to attend. We met again after the class and walked back to our house for another visit before going to the dinner that Deb and I were having for Susan at the Big Fish Restuarant. Yvonne and Lulu joined us for this meal. Pian and Gertie ordered again, so we had enough food – for the army.
Lunch at Garden Hotel Dinner at the big Fish
Tuesday was quiet, which is great because we were exhausted. Susan departed from Yantai to return to UNK. (We got a note from her yesterday that she came down with the flu after she got home.)
Deb almost killed a student on the way to class! She and I teach in the same building, so we were riding to class together, but near the building, Deb went on ahead a few yards and just as she was passing a student on a bike (who was waiting for his girlfriend (I ASSUME)– who was walking toward him), and without looking, he rode into Deb’s rear wheel, which flipped his front wheel around and him to the street! So, Deb rode back to see if she had seriously injured him, and he claimed that he was fine, but he had a rather deflated ego! So romance can be bad for your health in China – as in the rest of the world.
Friday evening Dean Xu and President Han came to our house for tea prior to going to dinner. (Plans changed and we were taken to dinner, rather than having dinner at our house – which I don’t think was a slap at ours culinary talents, but rather the desire to be as gracious as humanly possible!) President Han took us to an elegant new restaurant on the south beach. It is in a new hotel – part of a chain of which two are in Beijing. The hotel’s name translates into Clean and Elegant. It was that for sure! The restaurant has a menu from which to order and a set of buffets you can use. The buffets I saw were Chinese, sushi and shellfish, western, pizza, dessert (with Häagen Dazs ice cream), and beverages. The dining areas are spacious and elegant. Service was exceptional, which is saying something as Chinese service is always superb. While we were browsing the buffets, President Han ordered a variety of dishes for us, so when I came back to our dining room with my plate stacked high with sushi, oysters on the half shell, French oysters (covered with a melted cheese sauce – well I hadn’t eaten in almost 5 hours ) there was seafood soup, pâté and liver slices, huge steamed crabs, and tea. My crab must have weighed two pounds! It was all very delicious, so I ate and ate! Then we all checked out the dessert buffet. All I had was Häagen Dazs one flavor was vanilla-peanut (very rich, tasted like butter pecan) and green tea (very rich and refreshing). Deb had various kinds of chocolate, including Häagen Dazs chocolate ice cream. I think we were all pretty uncomfortable when we left. But, even so, I am losing kilos. I have very slowly, but surely lost weight – not a huge amount, but pretty steadily. Deb has, too.
A Russian delegation is arriving today or tomorrow, and Lulu told me that Russians are coming (so, between the Sweden group last week and the Russians this week, she is very busy), but I had to laugh out loud because it reminded me of the title of a 1966 comedy movie, “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming!” Congratulations to anyone who remembers this little classic! Anyway, there will be a joint Russian-Chinese performance on Wednesday afternoon, and we are specially invited to be in attendance. I will be there, and Deb will be after her class.
Last night, Deb and I were invited to visit another foreign teacher for dessert and conversation. So, it turned out to be her birthday. We did really enjoy the conversation – and cake, too. It also turned out that most of the foreigners were there, along with a half dozen young (precollege) students.
Pinkie (my music scout) sent me a message that there will be a visiting pianist giving a recital on Monday (now, today) evening and on Wednesday evening, there will be a Chinese folk music concert – so we will have lots of entertainment next week!
Although these aren’t the first gifts we’ve received, we have gotten several house gifts this week, starting with Sunday night when Yvonne and Lulu brought nice gifts. Yvonne brought a beautiful embroidery landscape to hang on the wall, and this precipitated a long search for a hanger (the walls are concrete), but that is another story… Lulu, who is into feng shui types of things brought us a beautiful bamboo planting for our window. Then on Friday evening, President Han brought us a very nice China tea set, and thanks to Yvonne’s photographic memory, is of the same pattern of the dinnerware set we had bought last week for the dinner party!