It’s Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节 / qīng míng jié), the time when families go maintain their ancestors’ graves and burn offerings to them. See the links at the bottom for more about Tomb Sweeping Day and the tradition of burning spirit money. These photos are from around our neighbourhood tonight.
According to one of our Chinese tutors, who has a law degree and teaches at Tianda for her day job, among Tianjin’s new April enforcement of previously unenforced laws (like spitting and bikes going through red lights) is a crackdown on street vendors. That includes the little wheelie carts selling spirit money and a surprising variety of other paper offerings.
Burning paper money in the street is not illegal, according to our tutor, but it is discouraged and in some cases grudgingly accommodated (see the propaganda posters in this post). Selling the spirit money, however, is illegal, and apparently they’ve had the obligatory news stories of vendors getting raided, etc.
If they stop letting bikes go through red lights (traffic has been noticeably changing) I’m going to be bummed. I have a couple language school buddies who’ve developed a whole set of terms a la CHiPS for essential bike rider maneuvers in Tianjin traffic. Looks like our days of no-rules, every-person-for-themselves, in-the-way-means-right-of-way bike riding might be numbered.
More about Tomb Sweeping Day and burning money in the road: