After lunch some of the women left but some relatives stayed to help to serve the guests who started to arrive. In the main room there were 80 butterlamps burning in memory of grandfather and the younger son of the family was in charge of keeping them burning throughout the day filling them with melted butter every time one went out. The lamas had also finished the altar and started chanting prayers sometimes beating the big drum and cymbals and ringing bells.
Every guest brought gifts of eggs, noodles, alcohol, butter, barley grains, cheese and possibly meat or something else. Mom kept record of what each family gave so that they will pay back similarly when it’s their turn. Every guest got 2 bags of instant noodles. Previously this used to be youtiao (the pastries) but now everyone just uses instant noodles as the return gift.
Keeping record of gifts
All the guests were served home made noodles with pipa-meat so the big wok at the yard was kept boiling all day.
That was the first day. The second day the lamas continued their prayers in grandfathers room and the village elders came to pray in the main room. i could hear the chants of the lamas and the drums mixing with the chant of the elders.
Mantou (steamed bread) and fried vegetables with meat was served for lunch to the elders. I helped mom to serve the food and the elders thought it was very funny; a foreigner serving food to them! We had a good laugh!
Dad chopping vegetables
The three oldest ladies of the village
After lunch the lamas and the elders had a break but continued the prayers from 3 till the evening when everyone left. This was the 2 day ceremony. Good bye grandfather. We were here to remember you and we hope you found your way!
On July 5th it was one year since grandfather died. According to their belief this is when the soul returns one more time to see the loved ones one more time before it departs permanently, so a ceremony is organized to help it find it’s way. The ceremony lasts 2 days. Preparations for it started already a few days before. Dad churned milk to make fresh butter, ground fresh tsampa (barley flower) and mom made fresh yak cheese.
Mom making cheese
On July 4th people started arriving after the morning duties were done (animals fed). Mostly women relatives arrived but also a few men to help prepare food for the guests. First mountains of flour needed to be sieved.
Also two lamas arrived. They were going to pray in grandfather’s room t help him find his way. They started by hanging a big drum on a frame that father had borrowed and baking tsampa cones for the altar. I’m no expert in Tibetan Buddhism so I don’t know what these are called or what is their purpose. I’ll ask and get back to it later if anyone is interested.
The women also started baking youtiao (kind of pastry with no filling cooked in oil). Some women baked at the terrace, others twisted the sweet pastries into shape in the main room and the cooking took place at the courtyard.
Mom’s brother prepared the pipa-meat (which is salted, dried pig meat, mostly skin and fat with a little bit of meat) that was to be served with noodles to the guests.
Burning off the hair from the pipa-meat. After this it’s soaked to remove the salt, cooked and chopped.
After all the cooking was done it was time for lunch. This seemed to be women’s time together. We moved some tables to the terrace and ate warm youtiao with cold cucumber dish and, of course, lots of butter tea with yak cheese. After the women were done the men had their lunch.
To be continued….
As Xidang is located in the Meili Snow Mountains nature reserve you need to buy a ticket to get into the area. In principle the tickets are for Mingyong glacier and Yubeng village but everyone entering the area has to buy a ticket. Last year when i left they had just introduced a combined ticket. It included all the sights (Moon Light bend -viewing platform, Feilaisi viewing platform, Mingyong glacier and Yubeng village) and it cost 230 yuan. This rule, of course, applies only to tourists. Tibetan pilgrims can enter for free. The other passengers in the car from Shangri-la had all decided not to go to Yubeng as it would take too much time and was too expensive. As it turned out, the ticket pricing had changed just that day and now you could also buy separate tickets for each site. After short negotiations i was allowed to enter also without paying the ticket as I promised I wouldn’t be going to Yubeng and one of the girls at the gate had heard of me living in the village before.
When I arrived to the house grandma was at the yard spreading barley grains to dry. When she saw me she started crying. I was also very happy to see her as she’s already 85 years old so it is always uncertain if there will be a next time. And so it was with grandad. He had died July 5th the previous year. One year after the death the family organizes big ceremony as the soul returns to see the loved one more time before leaving permanently. And that day is today but more about that later…
And mom, who is always busy with the farm work, hurried home from the fields. Tibetans are not big on hugging but we were all smiles.
Temple by the Mekong
My Tibetan family consists of mother, father, grandma and grandpa and two brothers. Our family also includes two cats, one dog, two mules, six pigs, two cows, four yaks and a rooster and a few chickens. Our old dog just died recently and we kill two pigs every year, but some new ones are born as well. And the next baby yak is going to be mine! The cows and last years baby yak are moms, and dad and the brothers each has a yak bull. It’s time for me to have one. Last years baby yak loves pigs. When she was weaned of her mom, she took the pigs as surrogate, and likes to suck their ears.
Our baby yak
All the animals run around free in the village except during the planting season. They return home every night (well, at least most nights). During the tourist season the mules have to work daily carrying people up the mountain, but now they also can have a rest. I feel so sorry for the dogs. If they aren’t shepherd dogs they spent all of their lives chained down in a short leash. We need the guard dogs as the animals roam around free, so they would come inside the house and eat all the fodder and vegetables mom has worked so hard to get. We need to listen to the dogs. Especially goats are excellent climbers and able to get anywhere. On the other hand, the cats are really enjoying their lives here. Cats are of course necessary as there’s food everywhere for the mice to eat. But the cats are also especially loved. They get treats from the table and mom would even let them sleep with her. The Tibetans say that one hair in the fur of a cat is blessed by the Buddha.
When I came to Xidang we agreed on the rent that I would pay every year, but now the family has practically adopted me. I’m the daughter that especially mom always wanted. Of course I can’t pass as a real Tibetan daughter because I’m no good in the field work, which is womens job. The only thing mom let’s me help her with is washing dishes. But at least I’m female companionship for her in a house full of males. Although farm work is womens job, it doesn’t mean that the men spent their days doing nothing. Everybody works very hard from morning till night, and men also participate in larger farming projects. The older of the brothers drives tourists up from Lijiang which means he’s never home. He also married a Han Chinese girl, so they are never going to live here in the village. In practice, this means that the younger son has to marry a Tibetan girl regardless of his own wishes. Mother can’t keep doing most of the field work alone for much longer.
Me and my family except for dad and big brother