It's official: I'm now a multi-billionaire! I bought this ten billion yuan note in the local market the other day (for 1 jiao = 1p). They usually get bought in bundles to be burned on graves at Spring Festival so that one's ancestors want for nothing in the afterlife. But my plan is simply not to burn it. Brilliant, right? Then, I just have to find a little shop with a distracted shopkeeper who will give me change from my ten billion note. Watch this space...
A rather morbid theme to today. China's "Tomb Sweeping Festival" is next week, so Jiajia and I went to her Gran's grave today to beat the crowds. The cemetery is one of the prettiest and most peaceful places in/near Kunming. We also passed a dead dog on the expressway on the way back. Then there was the pile of soft toys dumped by the rubbish bin by Jiajia's flat. They seemed clean and cared for to us. Maybe they were making a bid for freedom, or it was a mass teddy suicide?
It's about a year since Jiajia's Grandmother died, so we took a visit to her grave yesterday to pay our respects. Jiajia was brought up by her Gran and she still thinks and talks about her often. It's about an hour's drive from the city. You can see the enormous cemetery in the background in this photo. It's actually a pleasant enough place to visit - lots of greenery, very well kept up, overlooking a lake, piped lift music everywhere, etc.
Afterwards, we visited the fantastic Pan Long Si Temple which is nearby. It's the most important Buddhist Temple in the Kunming Area and apparently the most visited (though it was pleasantly quiet while we were there).
It's an enormous and really interesting complex, and yet gets less foreign visitors than other Kunming Temples as it's 40km from the city and tricky to get to (without a car).
The "Arhats" [see photo above] are disciples of Buddha and their 3D depictions on the walls there were stunning.
The many temple halls had various statues [see photo right] and were decorated in different ways, so there was plenty to see.
There was a small and dingy museum, too, where Jiajia tried to copy the pose in one of the pictures [see below left]. And we saw a tree growing through the middle of a covered walkway which "suddenly seemed to sprout arms" when I went to take it's photograph [see below right]! All in all, a temple worth revisiting, and a bargain at 8RMB (80p)!
Next week is China's annual "Tomb Sweeping Festival" where people return to their ancestor's graves to tidy them up and celebrate their lives. Ava will be in Shenzhen again next week, so today we took the opportunity to avoid the crowds and pay an early visit to her Gran's grave. The cemetery is about an hour's drive outside Kunming, though as we hit a series of tailbacks from various traffic accidents on the highway (one was a five car pile up), it took us longer.
Ava was raised by her Grandmother, so it was particularly sad when she passed quite suddenly about 6 months ago. Ava still thinks and talks about her a lot and was naturally a little upset when visiting her grave. Her Gran was a strong believer in Buddhism, so Ava honoured her belief by finding her a spot in a Buddhist cemetery, overlooking an auspicious temple called "PanLongSi". After leaving flowers and cake, and burning incense and fake money we visited the small temple in the cemetery for a chat with the monk there. Ava said she also prayed for my dizziness to stop, which was a kind thought (I've had worse dizziness over the last week since starting to take the medicine designed to stop it!?). Despite black clouds, the rain held off (the government are said to be seeding clouds to try and overcome the current drought) and we drove back to busy and noisy Kunming having enjoyed the peacefulness and birdsong of the cemetery.
Ava's Grandmother died earlier this week and I was invited to attend the day of funeral ceremonies with her. We started in the morgue and, after preparing the body, travelled with it to the crematorium. After performing various traditional rituals we transported the ashes to a cemetay for storage until a more auspicious month, when they will be formally buried. It was a curious day for me, witnessing a complex and fascinating series of rites and rituals, whilst very aware that this was no fun "cultural outing" - people were upset and everything had to be done with solemnity and dignity. I've been to a few funerals in the countryside - noisy and chaotic affairs - but this one was more ordered and ritualised, and a cremation instead of a burial. So it was something of a privilege to be involved and I was glad to hear my attendance had been in some way helpful. But a tough day for all concerned.
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