Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Parade, fireworks, madness -- and death? -- in Suide's Lantern Festival

I'm in a Shaanxi Internet bar reading about the fire in Beijing and I can't help but think that maybe the Lantern Festival really was more exciting there than in Yenan*.

Then I look at these pictures I took, including the one above, and I think... nah.

Later that night, after an impressive fireworks show (pictures later), at a particularly crowded and festive street corner, I stood 15 meters from the spot where a man either leapt or fell 30 meters off a bridge onto a pile of trash. He lay there unconscious as hordes of people crowded around the railing to see what happened. I was among those who saw the body, and suffice to say, it was disturbing. Firetrucks arrived 10 minutes later and cops tried securing the perimeter, but as this was the Lantern Festival -- the final hours of it, actually -- they weren't all that successful. People kept nudging their way to the railing and saying things like, Qi lai le, qi lai le! (He's getting up, getting up), but that was definitely not the case -- the man never moved.

I'll tell you now that I left before the planks and ladders from the firetrucks were lowered, so I don't know whether the guy jumped or fell (the peanut gallery insisted he fell; they kept saying he drank too much, and they said this with smiles on their faces, which seemed unbefitting of the situation). I don't know whether he survived. It was, to say the least, a bizarre end to a wild holiday.

More bizarre than the CCTV tower engulfed in flames? Not sure. I'll write more about this when I return to Beijing Thursday.

One more note:

Yenan, for those who don't know, was the place where Mao Zedong consolidated his power and more or less created the Communist Party. Since the official end of Chinese New Year festivities, I've moved on with my dad and his entourage -- including a former literature laureate of the province -- to Yanchuang, where we toured Vice President Xi Jingping's old yaodong (yaodongs are essentially rooms carved into moutain faces, like caves, but a bit more homely and inhabitated by people). I'm now in a big Internet bar in a small town in Shaanxi. Details of this trip will be explained in a book in a few years or so.

Or this weekend. We'll see.

POSTSCRIPT: The guy who just logged onto the computer next to me is looking at porn and shifting uneasily in his seat. This may be my cue to leave.

*UPDATE, 2/11, 10:50 p.m.: It's not Yenan, it's Yanan. And, as the updated blog post title shows, it's not Yanan -- it's Suide. For an explanation of this rather egregious mix-up, see this post.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Why the huge comment about shelving?