the crane

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Yang Fusheng 杨福生 was a very well-respected man, and head of Dingcun village for many years:

Yang Fusheng

Many people came to his funeral, including one foreigner – me.

I asked the Yang-family whether it was okay if I stayed and took pictures, and they very kindly allowed me complete freedom.

Obviously I tried to make myself invisible again. But again, there’s no way.

In the process I took more than 400 pictures (I rarely shoot this much), and I have only been able to get rid of a very few of them.

I just wasn’t able to delete these pictures.

So here’s the set. It’s a lot, so I’m going to limit the text to captions for you.

The family is performing the rituals, dressed in white mourning dress:

the Yang-family

There are prayers and food offerings:


Then the family’s friends start carrying the casket on its way out of town:

carrying the coffin

Outside of the courtyard, more prayers:

the sons

Then the casket has to cross the fire:

fire for the dead

A risky process for the carriers:

moving out

The long march out into the hills begins:

the march

All ritual items get carried along the way:

the son-in-law

The men in the family lead the trek up into the hills:

the sons leading

…and a long trek it is:

getting close to the grave

…all the way up to the grave site:

the grave

The friends slowly lower the casket into the grave:

lowering the casket

Figures of white cranes, amongst other things, are put into the grave with the casket:

putting the crane into the grave

Then the hole gets filled up, and the family watches in silence:

filling the grave

While the grave site slowly turns into a small mound, food offerings are placed in front of it, and a stack of all the other things used in the ceremonial process is being piled up and prepared for burning:

the sons with the offerings

Only the family remains during this last fire:

Traditional burial in the countryside. The mourning wreaths are being burned.

…watching in silence as the flames eat all the things symbolizing this day, and eventually slowly die:

the family and the fire

Then the small group slowly makes its way back down into the valley:

return to the village

…leaving behind the site of the grave of Yang Fusheng:

Yang Fusheng's grave

…a very well-respected man:

Yang Fusheng

I had lunch with the family I was staying with, then played around with the neighbors a bit:

fun in Dingcun

So I got off for a terribly late start and walked until late at night, listening to the same African song over and over again:

nightwalking in Shanxi

Even though my shoes were wet because I had forgotten to put on my gaiters before, and even though I couldn’t really see where I was going, even though it was cold like hell, it still felt somehow…


  • Uli

    Christoph, selbst aus der Ferne bin ich tief beeindruckt von den intensiven und spirituellen Eindrücken, die Dir heute ermöglicht wurden. Es scheint eine besondere Erfahrung zu sein, die Du heute machen durftest. Ich denke, es ist nicht selbstverständlich, daß Dir als Fremden erlaubt wurde, dabei zu sein und außerdem völlig frei alles fotografieren zu dürfen. Bestimmt hast Du viele weitere emotionsgeladene Bilder gemacht. Großartig!
    Wie lernst Du Familien kennen, bei denen Du übernachtest, so wie heute?
    Pass auf Deine Füße auf!


  • Christoph

    Die Leute waren super, ja.
    Das mit dem Übernachten lief so: Ich komme im Dorf an (im Tal, abseits von allem anderen, dazu noch eingeschneit) und frage nach dem Hotel. Man erklärt mir, es gäbe keins. Ich gebe mir ein jämmerliches Aussehen (musste ich nicht viel zu beitragen, glaube ich) und frage nach dem Dorfchef. Der gute Mann hat sich dann um alles gekümmert und mich einer Familie vorgestellt. So war das dieses eine Mal.


  • rindy

    if the dead people is over 90years old,it be called"Xi sang",the people u saw were in white clothes and red hats.
    i don't know why ,maybe they thought 90's is a long life.


  • John

    i think those 400 frames were very well spent, indeed. very touching and beautifully done, one of your most compelling discoveries yet, revealing a facet of the culture unknown to most of us. that's what this is all about, yes? discovery … documentation … and sharing it all with us. (as well as the experience of a lifetime for you). thanks, christoph!


  • David lee

    Another good person gone with the wind, a really native funeral ceremony, you must know China much better than most chinese when you finish your plan.


  • Christoph

    rindy: What a nice way to honor the elder ones!
    John: This experience has really been very touching for me.
    David lee: Dude, I can only do my best to try to scratch the surface of this abundant cultural heritage!


  • Joshua

    Wow the brevity n depth of this life
    Honored w fire n birds
    N suffering by loved ones to support ones tradition back into the All One

    So touching
    Thank you for showing a heart full way to honor an elder


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