A collective wedding ceremony held on April 26 in the Qiang ethnic minority village of Jina in Beichuan County, Sichuan, marked a new beginning for people who had lost their loved ones in the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake. Most of the people getting married had lost their previous partners in the earthquake, and each couple had a heart-wrenching story to tell.
As the 20 couples celebrated their marriages in a moving ceremony, the village that had experienced such horror last year, resounded with song.
A collective wedding ceremony was held on April 26, 2009, in Jina village in the Sichuan county of Beichuan, which was devastated in last year's Wenchuan earthquake.
Jiang Yong and Ni Shuang: young love
Jiang Yong and Ni Shuang were the youngest couple getting married on April 26, and with Ni dressed in a colorful Qiang traditional wedding gown, standing alongside the tall, slim Jiang, they were undoubtedly the best-turned out couple on the day.
Last year 27 year old Jiang had a good job in the office of the Beichuan county government, a pretty wife and a lovely daughter. But the May 12 earthquake wrecked his quiet and happy life.
Jiang was taking his wife to work on his motorcycle when the quake hit. He regained consciousness to find his wife lying critically injured some dozens of meters away. She was able to speak and told him she could not move her arms. Jiang wrapped her in his clothes and tried to carry her to a doctor but, on the way, someone told him the hospital had been buried.
His wife died an hour later telling Jiang with her last words to "take care of our daughter." Jiang was powerless to help her and could do nothing but watch as she passed away.
That evening Jiang found a piece of cloth to cover his wife and took her body to a mass grave. The next day, like everyone else in Beichuan, he threw himself into rescue and relief work.
Bride-to-be Ni Shuang gets ready for her wedding by putting on a traditional Qiang-style wedding dress. The Beichuan area is inhabited by many people from the Qiang ethnic minority.
Some time later, a relative introduced Jiang to Ni Shuang. Ni is a gentle and kind-hearted girl, the same age as Jiang. She was buying furniture for her own wedding when the earthquake snatched her fiancée from her.
The two-year-old baby girl in Jiang's arms attracted a lot of attention. Ni said: "At first I was not used to being called ‘mum'. But I love her so much. She is a little angel!" Jiang chuckled when he heard this.
Jiang has bought a new motorcycle and now takes his new wife to work everyday. They often climb mountains together and sometimes have lunch in a country restaurant. "Though we lost so much in the earthquake, we know we can be happy together," said Jiang.
Wei Yingfan and Feng Deqiong: in the autumn of their lives
Wei Yingfan, a 61-year-old retired teacher, came to Beichuan with his wife to look after their grandson. But their dreams of a peaceful retirement were shattered when Wei's wife died in the earthquake.
Wei moved again to live with his eldest son in nearby Mianyang City. There he was introduced to Feng Deqiong, a capable lady who was helping her younger sister run a restaurant. Similar backgrounds and similar life experiences brought two broken hearts together.
"We are both in our sixties but we cherish our life together. We just want to support each other and take care of each other till the end of our lives," said Wei. They were married on April 10.
Couples plant trees to celebrate the beginning of their new lives together following a collective wedding ceremony held in Beichuan County, an area devastated in the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.
Yang Changbin and Zhou Xiaohong: first love comes round again
Yang Changbin escaped injury last May because he was out working in the fields when the quake happened. But his wife, who had gone into town to visit his mother, was killed, along with his mother, his 8-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
Yang was tortured by grief until, one day, he met Zhou Xiaohong, who had lost her husband and 10-year-old son. They fell in love at first sight. Yang said it felt like he was experiencing first love all over again.
The couple's families were overjoyed that they had found a chance of happiness. Yang recalls: "The most touching moment was when I asked her to visit my ex-wife's parents; she said yes." Yang looks after his ex-wife's parents as they have no other children. His in-laws accepted Zhou as if she was their own daughter.
On Tomb Sweeping Day this year, after returning to the ruins of the old town to pay respects to their dead relatives, Yang and Zhou told their families of their plan to get married. They plan a big celebration feast when they return from their honeymoon on Hainan Island.
Yang has a lot of plans for the future. He wants to take Zhou and her parents to a new house in Kaiping as soon as the weather gets warmer because, he says, the area will be good for Zhou's health. He also wants to have a baby with Zhou after she recovers from a back injury she suffered in the quake. As he speaks, a blissful smile spreads over his face.
Last spring brought disaster to this remote region of China but, a year on, there are many signs that the extraordinary resilience of ordinary people is helping them rebuild their lives and, while never forgetting the past, find happiness in the present.
(China.org.cn by Ren Zhongxi, April 29, 2009)