In pop culture parlance, the words “Red Wedding” have become synonymous with tragedy and traumatic loss. In China, however, red weddings have taken on a whole new meaning—or the exactly the same, depending where you stand on the legacy of Chairman Mao.

In Nanjie, a village in northern China’s Henan province, a mass wedding was held on National Day this year in which newly-weds bowed to an altar with a likeness of the Great Helmsman and pledged not to love and cherish each other, but rather Mao Zedong Thought.

For their wedding gifts, the happy couples were then showered with copies of the Little Red Book and Mao badges.

National Day mass weddings have become an annual tradition in Nanjie. While the rest of the country has abandoned the practice, The East is Red still rings from speakers in the village square, which is dominated by a huge Mao statue.

At morning, noon and evening, the sound of the Maoist hymn—briefly China’s national anthem during the Cultural Revolution—resounds like a call to prayer.


Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others