Qingminging in Qingdao (Or “Honoring My Ancestors with Beer and Cream Puffs, As You Do”)

April 7, 2012

This past week was Qingming Festival here in China. Often referred to as “Tomb-Sweeping Day,” the festival is a time to honor your ancestors by, well, sweeping their tombs and doing other ancestor-honoring stuff. Like leaving small offerings of food and wine and burning stacks of gold-colored paper meant to symbolize money.

The money thing is kind of like a postmortem version of Paypal, if you will. You burn the paper as a means of sending your forefathers and foremothers a little pocket change to use in the afterlife. Because, apparently, they don’t take American Express there. And you wouldn’t want to be without some spending cash in heaven as I hear the shopping there is really to die for. (Sorry. I’ll stop now.)

"Money" for sale.

As I had no tombs to sweep in China and school was canceled for three days for the  holiday, I decided to honor my ancestors another way – by taking a trip. Because I like to burn my money a different way — namely, by charging airfare to my credit card.

I managed to coerce a friend into joining me, and we headed off for the coastal city of Qingdao. Located south of Beijing on the Shandong Peninsula, Qingdao is home to a number of pretty beaches and the Tsingtao Beer Brewery.

It turns out that we weren’t the only ones who decided to honor our ancestors by booking a beachy, beer-filled vacation. Qingdao was positively packed during the three days that we were there.

Despite the blustery, chilly weather, the beaches and boardwalks were swarming with Chinese tourists determined to make the most out of their holiday.

Just another quiet day at the beach...

Which, of course, meant posing for photos.

Pointing randomly off into the distance is the new peace sign.

And wearing his and hers matching hoodies.

Children in full-on winter gear collected seashells and played in the sand.

And a few hardy souls showed up in skimpy Speedos to play beach volleyball and brave the freezing water.

Like Baywatch, really.

And, then, there was this lady, who wore what appeared to be a nylon ski mask the entire time. We suspect she must have been a Power Ranger. Because, really, think about it, there’s no other logical explanation for this, is there?

I expect this look to catch on.

The main reason I wanted to go to Qingdao, though, was not to visit the beaches, but to go to the Tsingtao Brewery and Beer Museum. You know, for my ancestors.

You see, I doubt my ancestors were exactly the beach-going types. I come from a long line of Midwestern farmers. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a whole lot of beachfront property in Indiana.

Besides, if I am any indication of what my forebears looked like, they must have been a sturdy lot, prone to being suspicious of Spandex. I highly doubt any of them would have eagerly embraced a chance to break out their Speedos.

But, I do have a feeling my ancestors were big fans of beer. That is if my ancestors were anything like my current family members.

The last time I went back to the Midwest for a family reunion, my cousins had set up a wet bar in my grandmother’s basement, and they were serving mojitos. So, yeah, I’d say it’s safe to say my ancestors probably imbibed a few.

This is what a family reunion looks like in my family. Oh yeah.

On the day we visited The Beer Museum, it also happened to be packed full of tourists – mostly large tour groups. Probably also intent on honoring their ancestors by taking photos of themselves in front of the beer-shaped fountain.

The museum featured displays about the history of Tsingtao Beer Company as well as some dusty old equipment and posters detailing how beer is made.

And lots of rather somber looking wax figures doing somber looking beer making stuff.

The solitary life of the beer scientist.

Frankly, I can’t say I paid that much attention to all the displays because, hey, who really wants to learn stuff while on vacation?

Honestly, I’d rather just believe my beer was manufactured by magical elves and fairies. And, apparently, according to the fine people at the Tsingtao Beer Museum, I’m really not that far off the mark.

The Beer Fairy... like Tinker Bell but drunker.

Besides, I imagine all that museumy stuff would have been of little interest to my ancestors. They probably had a lot of fields to plow and cows to milk or something. They didn’t have time to waste looking at wort collecting troughs. I mean, seriously, who has that kind of time?

Blergh! Not another wort collecting trough!

So I kind of just walked through the museum as quickly as possible, so I could get to the part where they serve you free beer and peanuts.

My ancestors would be so proud.

After visiting the Beer Museum, my friend and I decided to hit up the Qingdao Wine Museum.

Again, for the ancestors.

And because it happened to be right down the street from the Beer Museum.

Ooo, shiny!

This museum also had an abundance of rather somber-looking wax figures.

Ah, the solitary life of the guy who does whatever this guy is doing.

Except, because there wasn’t a whole lot of English signage in the museum, I’m not entirely sure what any of these wax figures had to do with wine.

Simply labeled "Napolean and Wine." Who needs more explanation than that, really?

Unfortunately, I don’t think my ancestors would have been as impressed by the Wine Museum. If only because the free glass of wine they serve you at the end of the tour was pretty bad. Like, so bad it made the bag of “strawberry flavor corn curls” taste kind of good.

Red wine & strawberry corn curls. An obvious pairing.

When my friend and I weren’t visiting alcohol-inspired museums or hanging out on the beach taking photos of Power Rangers, we were eating.

Again, for the ancestors. Because I have a feeling my ancestors probably really liked to eat.

Eating stuff on a stick.... for my people.

Plus, it’s hard not to eat in Qingdao as the food was pretty amazing.

I mean, the food in all the Chinese cities I’ve been to so far has been pretty amazing, but Qingdao has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in this country. Seriously, how the fine people of Qingdao even fit into their Speedos, I will never know because I’m pretty certain I gained ten pounds in the three days I was there.

There was, of course, your usual selection of delicious Chinese street food, like stuff on sticks and steamed buns.

There was a bevy of seafood – everything from sea urchin to starfish.

While I can’t say I’m much of a sea urchin or starfish fan, I did have some grilled oysters and some octopus, both of which was really delicious.

Why, yes, all the photos I have of myself are of me stuffing food or beer into my face... why do you ask?

There were even a few unexpected food surprises, as well. One morning, I chanced upon a group of men selling slices of this thing:

Packed full of nuts, dried fruit and honey, it was like one big, delicious granola bar. I accidentally bought, like, two pounds of the stuff, and have been gnawing on it ever since.

And, then, there were all these little bakery stalls selling cream puffs, which tasted like heaven and happy thoughts.

I really probably should have set some of those cream puffs on fire to send them to my ancestors in the afterlife — just like how they do with the paper money. I think they really would have appreciated that.

But, as it was, I was too busy shoving them into my face.

It’s possible I ate, like, twenty of them in one sitting.

Cream puffs, get into my face.

I’m sure my ancestors would have been really proud of me.

And, then, they would probably have told me to go plow a field or something.

Have you ever traveled somewhere just to go to one specific museum or place of interest?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On April 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm Audrey | That Backpacker said:

    Hahahaha, I think your ancestors would be proud! You know, this stuffing yourself with cream puffs and beer sounds an awful lot like what I’ve been doing since I moved to Korea… Love the creeper shots at the beach!
    Audrey | That Backpacker recently posted..The NYC Psych Ward, Or My Manhattan Hostel

    • On April 8, 2012 at 7:47 am Sally said:

      So, yeah, I would usually feel like a total creeper about snapping photos of people like I did while in Qingdao (even when those people were wearing Power Ranger hoods and obviously WANTED their photo taken). BUT, so many people kept on taking photos of us (uh huh, we were the freaks… nobody cared about the Power Ranger, but everyone kept on staring at the 2 weirdo foreigners & then trying to take our photo), so I felt totally justified. Or at least that’s how I’m justifying it to myself. 🙂

  2. On April 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm Valerie Hamer said:

    Maybe the Power Ranger woman had had plastic surgery? Or that’s a reach.

  3. On April 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm Leigh said:

    awesome, do hope you and Beth invite me along to your next adventure cause I’m jealous

    • On April 8, 2012 at 7:42 am Sally said:

      Not sure when the next adventure will be. There was almost too much adventure last time. (Did you hear about our train ride home? Sheez. That was a pain.)

  4. On April 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly said:

    Another great blog post. Your ancestors would approve… And the woman on the beach? Power Ranger? C’mon now. It’s obvious what she is. She’s a Mexican wrestler. Oh, and… Best.Granola.Bar.Ever. Does look kinda hard to cut through, though. Maybe they were trying to make rice krispy treats and just got the proportions wrong? Sigh. Those silly Chinese!
    James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly recently posted..Home, Sweet, Home Chi Minh City

    • On April 8, 2012 at 7:38 am Sally said:

      (But, okay, you may have a point about the Mexican wrestler thing.)
      (And loving the blog, James. Is this new? I don’t remember you posting a link to it before.)

      • On April 8, 2012 at 8:36 am James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly said:

        Kinda new. Started it about 6 months ago but just got around to getting a new name for it. Joining the .com world. Eeeek! But now that I’m not working (finally!) I’ll have more time to start writing and taking photos… Thanks for checking it out!

        You look all bundled up in the pictures. Is it still that cold in China?
        James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly recently posted..Home, Sweet, Home Chi Minh City

        • On April 8, 2012 at 8:56 am Sally said:

          Yeah, it was actually very cold the first 2 days we were there — much colder and windier than in Wuxi. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really packed appropriately, so I ended up having to wear like every layer of clothing… and eating lots of cream puffs. For warmth, you know.

  5. On April 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm Jacob Yount said:

    Wonderful photos and writing as always Sally. The photo of the gal in the ski mask… priceless and worth the price of admission alone. I came for the witty writing, I stayed for the photos.
    Jacob Yount recently posted..Quoting Promotional Products from China Suppliers

    • On April 8, 2012 at 7:37 am Sally said:

      “Come for the writing, stay for the photos.” I think that’s going to be my new tagline… except it should say something about scaredy cats. Can we work that in?

  6. On April 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm Sid Kane said:

    I wonder if we have any wine/beer museums in South Africa. I know that we have a wine farm that houses a slave museum, but I have no idea if we have places that showcase the history of alcohol …

    Can’t say I’ve ever traveled to one place for a specific museum …
    Sid Kane recently posted..Knead, OMTOM, Muizenberg

    • On April 8, 2012 at 7:33 am Sally said:

      Wine farm/slave museum? Hmmm, that sounds really, umm, jolly. (Not.) But I could imagine you’d probably need a drink or two after going through the slave museum so it might be convenient that the two are together.

  7. On April 8, 2012 at 11:33 am Alex said:

    When I studied abroad in Guatemala, one of Senior Seminar classes took place at the beer factory across from my house. It was great!

  8. On April 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm Hanna said:

    wonderful photos!!!

  9. On April 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm ciki said:

    My favourite is always the paper Mercedes Benz! I mean, you might drive a trishaw in this life, but hey, in the next, you’re gonna move around in classy wheels! Gotta love the Chinese;)

  10. On April 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm Ross said:

    The Power Ranger on the beach is awesome. If there is a logical explanation for it, I would love to hear it. It appears everyone is keeping their distance from her. Glad you were brave enough to sneak close and snap a photo.
    Ross recently posted..Saint-Maurice-aux-Riches-Hommes

  11. On April 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm Heather said:

    So pleased you took time to honor your ancestors :-)!!

    In Oz, I made Adam and Nicole take a detour to the SMALL town of One Tree Hill, as I watch the TV show by the same name. It didn’t matter that the town in the show was just “Tree Hill” — I had to go to get pictures, a postcard, SOMETHING. Turns out it was so small that after taking a photo with a sign on the side of the road there was NOTHING else to do. Oops!
    Heather recently posted..Ordering a special meal on a flight

    • On April 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm Sally said:

      Well, it sounds like it was definitely worth the trip. When I was in Ireland I really wanted to go to Sallygap because of the name. I don’t think I got to go but I do have a picture of me in front of the sign. So good enough, right?

  12. On April 9, 2012 at 1:30 am jan said:

    Apart from the honouring of your ancestors, which I can see you take r e a l l y seriously, the highlight of your trip for me was the red power ranger. Next fancy dress party I am going to start that craze up in Australia.

  13. On April 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm Jen Ryder said:

    Great pictures and post as usual. I am loving being a subscriber to your blog now! And you’ve inspired me to go back to Qingdao since I didn’t make it to the beer factory last time. What a fool I was!
    Jen Ryder recently posted..Tomb Sweeping Day

    • On April 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm Sally said:

      Thanks, Jen! Glad you’re enjoying the blog! And you went to Qingdao and didn’t go to the beer factory? Wah? That’s just wrong. You must fix that ASAP!

  14. On April 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm Carmel said:

    My husband and I took a day in our 2 week road trip down the California coast to visit the Bigfoot Museum in Willow Creek. It was only about an hour from where we were, but it was definitely a priority for him. Turned out to be a fun day and a pretty interesting place.

    Do you think your palette has changed much since living in China for so long?
    Carmel recently posted..Ganache-Filled Cupcakes

    • On April 10, 2012 at 1:01 am Sally said:

      Omigod, the Big Foot Museum sounds totally AWESOME. Now I want to go!

      Hmmm… I don’t think China has changed my palate that much — probably because I eat a lot of meals at home. I love Chinese food, but I find I can’t eat it every night… plus, I like to eat a lot of fresh, raw vegetables and the restaurants in China like to cook the heck out of the vegetables. I’m still really bad at eating spicy foods, too. I keep on thinking I’m getting better, but then I’ll have something really spicy and almost die. Luckily, the food where I live is not as spicy as in other regions of China.

  15. On April 9, 2012 at 7:10 pm Priya said:

    Ahh, I want a vacation. I want to go somewhere. = I want to go to the beach.. though I have plenty of beach access here in Chicago but it’s not the same.. there are no power ranger-type people here! Ahh, looks like you had a great time! And um, if alcohol was allowed at my family reunions, it’s be a lot less painful. Just Sayin’

  16. On April 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm Sabrina said:

    Bad wine in a wine museum? No fun! Those cream puffs look delicious though. I loooove cream puffs 🙂 That crazy lady with the mask is too funny. Seriously, WTF?! How would you ever come up with dressing like that?
    Sabrina recently posted..Beaches near Rome: Santa Marinella

  17. On April 10, 2012 at 1:36 am Matt said:

    Of course the Tsingtao factory was packed with tourists. Someone once said that this is famous so it is written in the Chinese Constitution that tour busses must drop off everyone to see it (and anything else famous in the world). Chinese do not know how to travel by themselves. Everything is conquered in a pack mentality, making the mere thought of going to war with them (which will hopefully never happen) absolutely terrifying.
    Matt recently posted..Spring Break 2012, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand

    • On April 11, 2012 at 2:53 am Sally said:

      well, if I was in a Chinese tour group, I would want to go to the Tsingtao Brewery. Seems much more exciting than going on a tour of a garden or temple or something… plus, you’d have tons of people around to pound beers with. 🙂

  18. On April 10, 2012 at 8:02 am Roy Marvelous said:

    This is totally off-topic but I was an extra on an episode of Power Rangers (true story).

    I don’t recognize that lady in that picture though. Are you sure she wasn’t a Mexican wrestler?
    Roy Marvelous recently posted..The Perpetual New Guy & New Contract Resolutions 5.0

  19. On April 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm Waegook Tom said:

    Sally, you’re as always a model for us all, honouring your relatives in such a thoughtful way. You are my role model.

    Also, the nylon mask thing…I guess it’s to stop any remote form of tanning, but it’s a bit extreme! The women over here in Korea just wear huge plastic hats.

    Or she’s the Pink Ranger. I prefer to believe that. Oh Kimberley, you’ve let yourself go a bit…
    Waegook Tom recently posted..An Interview with Breakaway Backpacker

  20. On April 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm Daisy said:

    I am certain your ancestors would approve!

    My relatives went out last week to do the tomb sweeping thing. I stayed home because it was cold and raining. My grandmother was a very reasonable woman. I am sure she understands that it’s not personal!

    The beer museum looks crazy though! Were all the wax figures of white people?
    Daisy recently posted..Young, Green Garlic Knots with Parmesan and Marinara Sauce

    • On April 14, 2012 at 6:34 am Sally said:

      Good question. I didn’t even think about the ethnicity of the wax figures! I reviewed my photos and most of the wax figures at the beer museum (except the scientist dude) look like they could be Asian. Most of them are wearing hats so it’s kind of hard to tell, really. The wax figures at the wine museum are all white — but that’s because they were representing important figures from wine history like Napolean Bonaparte and Jesus. Umm, yeah.

  21. On April 14, 2012 at 4:41 am choi kum fook said:

    I went out for tomb sweeping in town of Bentong, nearby Kuala Lumpur,for my parents and ancestors on Sunday,1st, April.I found out many people, used modern electronic tools, Of course made of paper,like computer, ipad, iphone etc, burning them, as symbolized the ancestors also having modern living in another world!Ha! Ha! So Wonderful and amazing! The Chinese are believed Chingming Festival as New Year for ancestors.So they burn everythings they have, like house,car,clothes, crackers etc. Miss Sally, you seem to know more Chinese culture than me, after living a year plus in China,although I am Chinese.That means you know a lot things in China by mean of traveling,learning and observing.Well Done!!Miss Sally,You could be a GREAT writer! I felt very very disappointed, missing the Holland National Museum, when I was toured in Holand ten years ago..

    • On April 14, 2012 at 6:28 am Sally said:

      Mr. Choi,
      I think I still have a lot to learn about Chinese culture — especially the Chinese language! I’m sorry I didn’t bother to learn any while I was living on the farm. This would have been the perfect language immersion experience for me.

  22. On April 17, 2012 at 3:33 am Ceri said:

    Literally travelled to Sants Cruz last week just to walk along the boardwalk, take pictures of the shots I recognised from ‘The Lost Boys’ and play arcade games. 😀

    Ohmygosh, so much food on this post. I LOVE it.
    Ceri recently posted..Finding Tranquility in Davis, California

  23. On June 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm Liz T said:

    Next time you’re in Boston, you might like a tour of the Harpoon brewery. They give you a glass at the beginning and keep refilling it throughout the tour. Which makes the tour way more interesting! At the end they give you as much as you can drink.

    I would also like to go to the Bigfoot Museum. Wow.

  24. On August 31, 2012 at 12:13 am Jen Ryder said:

    Just saw this article and thought of your Power Ranger picture: http://www.cnngo.com/shanghai/life/facekini-woman-chinas-latest-beach-sensation-680659. Explains a lot.
    Jen Ryder recently posted..A Day at the Market


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