I have visited Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Zhujiajiao but one place and event still etched in memory is a wedding procession I joined in Taizhou formerly T’ai-chow. A new-kid-on the block this is an emerging industrial city situated south of Ningbo on the eastern coast of Zhejiang province facing the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. I had accompanied my husband and his office colleague as I did not want to miss…a Chinese wedding. It was an opportunity for me to see the Mainland away from the perfected tourist spots.
We flew in to Taizhou from Guangzhou (humongous airport more of this later) and was received by our host and his family. The welcome dinner was a splendorous lay out, endless fish and meat variety, and the colleague was a blessing as I was in perpetual motion understanding flavours and names of accompanying dishes. Conversation was flying fast and furious till it was time to call it a day.
Next day, bright and sunny, we assembled at groom’s residence to accompany his relatives and friends to the bride’s village to escort her to the city and her new home. The groom and his parents had stayed behind to complete the decoration of the newly gifted apartment to the couple from groom’s family. At appointed time nine Beemers (BMW cars), with one decorated, left the premises driving past the city center, going in circles at a roundabout, possibly to film the calcavade from all angles, and stopping for strategic shots in front of fancy buildings to loud cheering from accompanying guests or ‘baratis’ as we would say in India. We came across other wedding processions because it was supposedly an auspices day for marriages to be solemnised.
The traditional wedding had already taken place and we were going to do the honours of getting the bride from her residence from her village. For me the procession was a ‘gift’ for missing out the traditional wedding.
As we inched closer to the village it was a different China of cultivated fields, slimy ponds with ducks, village homes festooned with drying clothes, women and children sitting on steps basking in the afternoon sun protected by few strays who royally barked on our arrival.
The bride’s family had been informed of two ‘outsiders’ in the wedding party and the bride, her parents, friends, relatives welcomed us into the fold. I could not understand the language but the proceedings reminded me of the extensive celebrations connected with Indian weddings. The bride, in white, was getting ready and the minute she walked out a cheer broke out from the gathered people.
I walked around the house, the tiny rooms and traditional bathrooms and got myself locked in one before being rescued to amusement of elderly ladies. The elaborate wedding feast was being prepared in huge cauldrons in the open courtyard and I could see the variety of fish, Taizhou is sea-land, being cooked. The level of cleanliness was a debatable issue and I preferred to ignore it.
After a home-cooked traditional wedding feast, I had stopped counting the dishes, preparations for the return journey began. We all assembled in front of house for some rituals and finally the bride bade goodbye to her parents and family. The boom and bang of crackers signaled the return journey and a sated gentry brought the bride home to her groom.