With contracts signed and money paid, it was apparent that the families still hadn't moved out from the house. We approached our mayor to delicately enquire what we had done wrong. 'Oh nothing'...'but you haven't handed over yet'. As is the often the case in the countryside, ritual trumps process. With this direction, we asked the venerable Jin Laoshi (teacher) to lead a ceremony for us to take over ownership of the house, and then begin the building work. We invited the families selling, local party leaders, our carpenter Yuzong, and local TV.
On a table in the formal hall, we lit candles, put out food and lit incense. Alcohol was scattered on the North, South, East and Western ends. Jin Laoshi, leading the families, apologised to his ancestors for selling the house and asked them to watch over us.
No ritual is complete in China without Firecrackers. The objective is noise, and they never fail to deliver. This celebrates and announces any new business or event, and wards away evil spirits.
A small fire was lit behind us, with (pretend) money burnt to appease the ancestors who had poured so much into this house, which was now being sold to outsiders.
State TV came to film the ceremony and do interviews - you can watch them here (begins 8min 15s) (Chinese)