One day at the end of September 2013, Q, a friend who’s living in Shangri-la, has invited me to come with her to her hometown Weixi, which is located on the hills of a fertile valley in Western Yunnan and is a 5-hour-drive across steep mountain roads from Shangri-la. Weixi is a city surrounded by mountains which is located in the Weixi Lisu Autonomous County. Not many foreigners make it to this city – usually only those who are on their way to Deqin at the Tibetan border stop here to rest for the night. I’m at a bar-like tea house with my friend Q and a few friends of hers. One of them loves to joke. After he tells a joke, I’m laughing.
He says: “We don’t laugh like that here. Showing your teeth with your mouth open, that’s unheard of.”
I: “But doesn’t Q laugh just like that?”
He: “She’s an exception. We cover our mouth with our hand, so we don’t show our teeth.”
I: “I know about this tradition, but I guess I just don’t care.”
He: “You know why we do that? Because it’s cold here in winter and our teeth will freeze if we don’t cover them with our hand.”
He was so serious all the time that only in the end do I catch on that he’s joking. After that, we all laugh together, showing our teeth.
Has anyone ever told you to cover your mouth with your hand if you’re laughing? I’d love to read about your experiences.
On a side note: I took some gorgeous pictures of the city and the mountains surrounding it while staying at my friend’s place in Weixi, but unfortunately my phone broke on the last day there and almost all of the photos are lost. The only ones I could safe are the ones shown here. The pictures show the family dog and a local delicacy the family prepared for Q grandpa’s birthday– wasp larvae.