The big event of the day started after only a few hundred metres of leaving the camp site. I met a Chinese family that were celebrating those that had passed away. Having a celebration for this reason may sound a bit strange to our western ears, but I can’t find a better word for it than that.
It looked almost like a picnic, and a grandfather, his two sons, and their children were all there. The sun was warm, and for once there wasn’t a strong wind. They sat in a field gathered around fruit, biscuits and liquor that was placed on a blanket. There were five piles of soil in the field where members of the family were buried. This is not uncommon in China. As soon as they saw me, the grandfather literally ran over to greet me and asked if I wanted some liquor. I explained, much to their laughter, that drinking too much liquor so early in the day would make my effort of following the Great Wall in vain.
I stayed for a while, and we had a good talk. They had brought a spade and the daughter had put fresh soil from the surroundings on the piles to freshen them. They had placed biscuits, fresh fruit, peanuts and liquor on a small altar by each grave. The grandfather told me that his fathers and grandfathers generation were buried there.
The Qingming festival is held on the 104th day after winter solstice and is a time for families to enjoy the greenery of the spring and tend to the graves of those that have passed away. You can read more about the Qingming festival here.
When I started walking again, I couldn’t help but think what a good way it was of remembering those that have passed away, and also to include death into life as something natural, and not something that should be hidden away. The grandfather (he had drunk quite a bit, so he stood for a lot of the talking) told me that they do this twice a year in China, and today was one of those days.
I saw several more Chinese visiting their families graves. One guy I spoke to had visited his older brother’s grave that lay beautifully situated looking over the Great Wall as far as the eye could see.
Will be working on pictures for a newspaper article tomorrow, and am trying to arrange for a longer than one-month visa. It is a shame to leave the Great Wall in such nice conditions, but it isn’t going anywhere.
I took my time walking the Great Wall today as I knew it would be a shortish day so I could get back to Datong. Have to mention the end of the walk too.
I came to a small village, and it was only from following the line of the Great Wall through terraced fields for a few hundred metres that I was lucky to see remains of the Great Wall among the houses of the village. Anyhow – there was a bunch of 4-5 old Chinese guys there, sitting on a long bench. They were so cheerful. We had a good talk, and I explained what I was doing. Then I got to take quite a few pictures of them. They looked like they had been waiting for this day the last six months, and now they could finally sit on their bench enjoying the warmth of the spring.
14 kilometres today