LIFE> Fashion
Red lanterns raised for first shelter wedding
By Zhu Linyong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-10 07:57

Last Saturday was the first wedding of the temporary shelter communities in Dujiangyan, central Sichuan province, since people moved in following the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake.

Over a thousand guests, neighbors and former quake-relief volunteers witnessed a simple but romantic wedding ceremony held for Ma Jianqiang, a Canadian-Chinese man and Ji Yanli, a local girl.

It was a simple wedding. No brilliant wedding lights. No dazzling music band. No big wedding banquet. A small wooden makeshift podium was set up and decorated with flowers for the wedding ceremony on open ground, at Division C of the Happy Home Temporary Shelter Area in Dujiangyan, one of the urban centers hardest-hit by the quake.

The most eye-catching thing was probably a sedan car that ferried the bride to Room C1-30, a temporary shelter for the bridegroom.

Ma Jianqiang had bought a house in Dujiangyan just before the earthquake.

 Red lanterns raised for first shelter wedding

Ma Jianqiang and Ji Yanli at their wedding in a temporary shelter community in Dujiangyan. Chen Kai

But his new house was totally destroyed in the quake and he had to move into a 20 sqm shelter, allocated by the local government in July.

In the red wedding room, Ma and Ji prepared their essentials for the big day. There were red lanterns, a double bed built with bricks, a used TV set, rattan chairs Ji got from her parents and a used sofa she bought from a dirt market.

The wedding banquet was served in the dining area of the temporary shelter community. The dishes for each table were 300 yuan ($44), at least 200 yuan cheaper than the normal dishes served at restaurants.

A local wedding company organized the wedding for free and a local retailer provided the wines, liquors and soft drinks for the banquet. At the wedding, Ji and Ma donated 100 sets of electric blankets to money-strapped elderly people in the shelter community.

"It was a simple wedding. But it was memorable. And we hope everyone was able to share our joy and happiness," said Ji, a clerk with the Tourism Board of the Qingcheng Mountain and Dujianyan Waterworks.

In early May, Ma and Ji got to know each other, with the help of a go-between.

The May 12 earthquake occurred one day after their first date and while Ma was comforted to find his family safe, he was greatly concerned about his girlfriend.

Forgetful of the dangers, Ma went out in a desperate hunt for Ji's whereabouts. Two hours after the first major quake, Ji received six mobile phone messages from Ma, asking her to calm down and wait for him to come.

Finally, Ma found Ji safe but bewildered by the chaos. When reunited, the duo agreed to make a life-long commitment to each other.

During that period of emergency, Ma recalled, he kept saying to himself: "If we both survive the disaster, I will devote all my life to loving her."

Now he says: "Life is beautiful. In the face of disaster, life is short and fragile. The earthquake has taught me to treasure what I have."

Chengdu Evening News contributed to the story