Qing Ming Jie – 清明节
Qing Ming Jie literally translates into English as Pure Brightness Festival, actually known as Tomb Sweeping Day – a day to celebrate the dead. Families usually go to visit ancestors’ grave sites, perhaps with some offerings, and pay their respects, but the most common thing most of us foreign students here associate with it is the burning of fake paper money, just because this is what we see happening the most, on roadsides, after dark. Outside remembering ancestors, what it meant for most of us was though, essentially, a 4-day weekend, because we got Thursday and Friday off uni for the festival.
(The above picture isn’t mine, but it shows exactly what I’ve seen. I wouldn’t recommend trying to take a picture, unless you want to get beaten up (*ahem* speaking from experience *ahem*). And rightly so, because despite this being something they do in public, it’s kinda personal: burning the money as an offering to their ancestors)
Tianjin – 天津
We initially planned to use this time to go out of Beijing for a few days, going somewhere far enough from Beijing that we couldn’t go to in a weekend if we wanted to, but close enough that we could fit it comfortably into our 4-day break. Unfortunately, various issues came in the way of our travel plans, and so we ended up just going to visit Tianjin for a day on Friday – a city about half an hour outside Beijing, on the high-speed train. It was my first time on a high-speed train, we were travelling at a speed of approximately 300km/h. Tianjin is known for its European architecture, and indeed, walking through some parts of the city felt like being in Rome or France. (Not that I’ve ever been to Rome or France before, but I’d imagine it would be somewhat similar). As usual, we attracted a lot of attention, being some of the very very few foreigners around at this time of the year, with plenty of people asking to have pictures taken with us. (Yep, we’re just that popular!)
I’m going to go through our time in Tianjin with more pictures than text.
After entering the courtyard-area though, it seemed that the buildings were all locked, and no one was around anyway, so we turned around and headed back onto the main road..
We wandered through “Ancient Cultural Street” – the shops and walkway both brimming with people, and, as is standard wherever you go in China, saw some unusual things on sale, for example:
Inside Tianjin Folk-Custom Museum, which was actually more a temple than a museum:
Also inside the ‘museum’, there was a stall at the back selling these strange scenes with some furry bug…things:
As a result of the Concessions in Tianjin, a lot of the architecture is definitely visibly different to that of other cities like Beijing. There’s a specific ‘Italian Style Town’, which unfortunately I don’t have pictures of, but- minus the foreigners, here’s a bit of what Europe looks like in China:
We found and went inside a church, not missing this very comprehensive list of rules by the door:
Our clothing apparently wasn’t ‘proper’ enough… a woman at the door stopped us and I think she was asking us to remove our headscarves. We couldn’t make out exactly what she was telling us, but she kept putting her hands together in prayer fashion, and saying something like “this is how we do it here”. When we said we couldn’t/wouldn’t take our headscarves off, she seemed a bit hesitant, and not wanting to offend, we were about to turn around and leave, when she stopped us, and ushered us in with a smile. We made sure to smile and thank her when we left, so we at least left her with a good impression…
I found it amusing when Nafeesah told me that it was her first time ever in a church…and this, in China.
I don’t think it had any special significance, but we saw this cool clock, in the middle of a ROUNDABOUT, no less!! (There are no roundabouts in China)
The above picture also shows one minor thing I liked about Tianjin — the colour of the taxis! Turquoisey-teal taxis to brighten up the city 😀
Also, something different in Tianjin, was the subway ‘tickets’. Unlike in other cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, where the single journey tickets issued are reusable cards, Tianjin’s machines gave us round, green, plastic tokens (kinda like poker chips…). Swipe it on the way in through the barriers, drop it in the ‘coin hole’ thing on the way out.
This station in Tianjin must be the fanciest subway station I have ever seen….ever:
We walked down Nanjing Lu (yes, we did a LOT of walking) – there’s a very famous road in Shanghai called Nanjing Lu, it’s full of people, shops and bright lights, especially at night, and this road was almost similar. By the time evening fell, we still had some time before our train departed, so we went to see (literally, look at and take a picture of) Tianjin’s TV Tower. I distinctly remember thinking that the sky was a very nice colour.
There was a bit of a manic rush trying to find our train to go back to Beijing. Although we’d got to the station with plenty of time, there were no signs to a handful of platforms, including the one our train was leaving from… We must have walked all the way around the station – twice – before deciding we might as well ask the security guard, seeing as there was no one else to ask. He just pointed up some stairs, which had a sign saying which platforms it led to, ours not included!! We had no choice but to listen to him: we ran up the stairs, ran up some more stairs, still saw no signs to our platform, followed the stream of people, and eventually saw a sign to our platform across the other end of the station. With less than 5minutes to departure time, we were running across the station to our platform, down the stairs, and down the full length of the platform to the carriage which had our seats in. (The stairs come down the the front of the train – carriage 1, our seats were in carriage 8, all the way at the other end of the train.) The train left about 90seconds after we sat down… we were still trying to catch our breath…