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The bride's relatives help her to attach ornaments to her headscarf.
Xihaigu, in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is a hardscrabble landscape. It is called the "dry sea," as it has little water, no rivers and no forests. Walking through the ravines and gullies that criss-cross Xihaigu, one might feel that an individual is only an ephemeral speck of dust next to the ancient hills. In this bone-dry world, live over one million ethnic Hui people. They keep alive their handed-down traditions while seeking new ways to keep up with the times.
Weddings are some of most exciting and solemn events for the residents of Xihaigu's Huanggu village. According to customs that have been followed for hundreds of years, girls should be proposed to when they are 15 years old and should be married before their 20th birthday. After then, few girls stand a chance of getting married.
16-year-old Tian Haiyan is about to get married to a repairman named Ma Rui. According to tradition, one day before the marriage ceremony, she should stay in her bedroom for the whole day. Food is delivered to her room.
In the morning, cars provided by the bridegroom come to her home to collect her. After group prayers led by an imam, the cars depart. Ma Rui is absent during the wedding ceremony as he is only allowed to see his bride after she has spoken her vows. The traditional outfit of a Hui bride is simple, with Tian Haiyan wearing a red headscarf and red cloth.
At noon, the bridegroom, the families and guests are invited into a tent full of dry fruits and nuts, bought at great expense. The local village imam spends half and hour chanting scripture. After that, the bridegroom finally can meet his new wife.
Shy and quiet, the couple finally have time to think together about their shared future. As tourism and other economic activities grow in the region, they hope that their lives can improve along with their home.
The bridegroom smiles happily as he sees his bride.
The village imam spends half an hour chanting sacred scripture during the wedding ceremony.
The wedding car carries the bride to her wedding. Her mother says farewell to her daughter.