The main reason for our weekend visit to Xiaogan was to take part in Qing Ming Jie, which is when family members remember their ancestors and visit their graves in the cemetery. Tian’s three grandparents who have passed away were cremated (like most Chinese after death) with their ashes buried in a cemetery called 烟灯山 (yan deng shan), about an hour outside of the city.
Shortly after arriving on Saturday morning, we headed to the cemetery driving in a car Tian’s parents had rented from a family friend. We thought that with an early start, we could avoid the heaviest traffic in the afternoon. Tian’s dad was determined to waste no time, so he employed the best of his Chinese driving swerving skills all the way there.
Even with an early start, we found traffic got crazy quickly. The reason was that everyone else was heading to the same place, and they were taking whatever mode of transportation they had available. It didn’t help that there was heavy road construction and little traffic control at the biggest bottlenecks either.
Once there, we found a free-for-all for parking. While there were designated areas, there was no one directing traffic or assigning spaces, so it was invariably a mess of cars double or triple parked. No one seemed to think twice, however, basically thinking that everything would get figured out later, which it did after about 15 minutes of maneuvering.
On the way home, traffic was even worse. We were in a stand still for about 20 minutes, and everyone just shut off their cars until they finally sent a traffic cop to figure things out. Interestingly enough we stopped right next to Tian’s mom’s cousin and her husband, who were also coming back from the cemetery. So they rolled down the windows and chatted. Overall, the day was a success. We were safe, and felt that any issues with traffic probably swerved us right.