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After funerals comes the wedding
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08:40, March 19, 2009

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The county government of Beichuan in Sichuan province, ravaged in the massive May 12 earthquake last year, will next month sponsor a Qiang-style group wedding for 20 couples, who lost their spouses in the 8.0-magnitude quake.

It will be the first group wedding since Beichuan became the country's only Qiang autonomous county six years ago, said Chen Wen, an information officer in Mianyang, Sichuan.

The announcement has given Li Xuesong, a 39-year-old plumber, who lost his wife in the earthquake, a reason to smile.

Together with Zuo Xueli, a 23-year-old woman from Hubei province, who he fell in love with after his wife's death, Li went to the county office on Wednesday to sign up for the government-sponsored group wedding.

"Reconstructing Beichuan does not only mean rebuilding the houses that were ravaged, but also rebuilding families that were broken forever," Li said.

Li said that like him, many residents, who lost their spouses in the quake, had considered suicide, but finding a new partner had given them the courage to live on.

The deadline for signing up for the group wedding is April 15.

A committee from different county government departments will select the 20 couples, representing different walks of life, said Feng Bin, a Beichuan county official.

The county will hold the wedding in a Qiang village called Jina.

Each couple will be allowed to invite a maximum of eight relatives or friends to attend the banquet the government will organize, he said.

After the wedding, each couple will get an all-expenses-paid five-day trip to Sanya, Hainan province, Feng added.

Not just the hopeful couples but other locals too are excited about witnessing the wedding in Jina, named after the "most beautiful Qiang goddess".

The Jina village, surrounded by scenic mountains and 69 stone towers, traditional abodes of the Qiang people, was the first to be rebuilt after the quake, which killed about 10 percent of the 300,000 Qiang people living in the county.

Beichuan, traversed by the Jianjiang River, consists of an old county seat in the southwest and a new county seat in the northeast.

Of the nearly 70,000 people who died in the disaster, more than 10,000 were from Beichuan.

According to Yang Yongfu, deputy chief of the Beichuan county bureau of civil affairs, more than 2,000 locals lost their spouses in the quake.

By the end of last year, some 100 people, who had lost their spouses, had remarried.

"None of them held a proper wedding because they were living in prefabricated houses and did not have much money," he said.

Source: China Daily

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