Wed and buried

The Age (A2 section)

IT’S a Chinese tale to gong the heart: two young lovers, taken before their time, are married in the grave. But beneath this story’s romantic surface rots a putrid secret. The couple never knew each other in life. He was a bachelor who died alone. She was a peasant from a neighbouring province who was murdered and then sold to his family as a sacrificial bride.

This is the macabre plot of minghun, Chinese afterlife marriage. Grief-clobbered parents, desperate for their dead son to escape the shame of eternal singledom, arrange for a female corpse to be buried next to him. They then marry the couple post mortem. She becomes his wife in the spirit world, his ghost bride.

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The language epidemic

Page Seventeen

‘THIS burger is scrumptious Dad.’

At the time I didn’t really know what the words meant or what the repercussions were. But Dad did. He bolted upright, dragged me to the sink, scrubbed my mouth with soap and water and then picked up the phone.

‘Boy’s sick.’

‘Words.’

‘Take look.’

‘Tomorrow?’

Dad slammed the receiver and turned to face me.

‘Shut it,’ he said.

Single-minded obsession

Voiceworks

THE governors of the country with the largest population, longest wall, largest dam, biggest Buddha, longest sea-crossing bridge, highest railway, largest airport terminal and soon to be tallest tower (the Shanghai World Financial Centre) tend to take a single idea just a bit too far.

We’re all familiar with some of the schoolbook examples of Chinese single-mindedness. The Great Wall was a 2000-year-long obsession that cost millions of lives and made a better courier path than barricade. Then there was the Cultural Revolution from 1969 to 1976, when the entire population became possessed with the urge to modernise. Students tore about the country trashing temples, tearing up ancient texts and tormenting the elderly.

But few people know that this organised insanity also extends to the environment.

China’s black heart

The Age (travel section)

UNTIL I visited Linfen, a coalmining town in central China, I never considered black to be a colour. But in Linfen, where the sky is bluish black, the trees are greenish black, and the dirt is brownish black, black is more than just a colour. It’s an entire palette.