春节 （the Spring Festival）or the 农历新年 (the Lunar New Year) is fast approaching! The new year of the dog begins Friday the 16th of February, with the first new moon of the year. The holiday can fall between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. People start to celebrate the day before the New Year and continue until the 15th day – the Lantern Festival. This year the Lantern festival takes places on the 2nd of March, when people will release red Lanterns to symbolise letting go of the past and moving on into the new year!
Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac
The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 animals; similar to the 12 Western Zodiacs, however each Zodiac represents a year as opposed to a month. This passes in cycles with each year also being associated with an element. 2018 will be the year of the Earth dog, which is the 11th animal in the 12-year cycle.
Your Birth Year ‘本命年’:
The year you are born in decides your zodiac and you won’t be in your zodiac year again for another 12 years! Surprisingly, your zodiac years are the considered the unluckiest in your life and unfortunate events in this year could have lasting effects on you for the rest of your life! So, you are suggested to take extra care to avoid incurring bad luck. Many Chinese people will buy lucky items as talismans, such as red underwear with lucky characters stitched on.
There are also lucky numbers, cardinal directions and colours associated with your zodiac. 3, 4 and 9 are lucky for people born in the year of the dog, as are the colours green, red and purple.
The Origins of Chinese New Year
Every year around the new Lunar Year, a mythological beast called Nian was said to come and lay waste to towns and eat people, particularly children. Everyone would hide from the beast until he left. One year an old man appeared and refused to go into hiding, and decided he wanted to get revenge on the Nian. He put red papers up around the door of his house with lucky symbols and set off loud firecrackers. The day after, the villagers discovered that their town wasn’t destroyed. They believed that the old man was in fact a god that came to save them. The villagers then realised that the the colour red and loud noises deterred the beast. Next New Year the villagers hung up red lanterns, wore red clothes, and placed red character scrolls on windows and doors, and they set off firecrackers to frighten away the monster. Ever since, Nian never returned to scare the villagers!
Characters on the Door
You will see Chinese phrases on red scrolls around doorways, such as ‘出入平安’ , meaning peace wherever you go. The most common character is ‘福’ Fú which means fortune or luck. It is often placed in the centre of the door to ones home, and sometimes you will see that the character has been placed upside down. This is because by placing it upside down there is an added meaning to the character:
Homonyms are common in Chinese language. The Chinese expression ‘福倒了‘ and ’福到了‘ sound identical, so to have 福 upside down also means to have fortune arrive.
New Years Day Celebrations
On New Years day young family members are given red envelopes called hongbao (‘红包) filled with money, fireworks are set off, dumplings are devoured and relatives are put up with. It is a time when Chinese families reunite, with some people travelling vast distances to see their family. The Spring festival period is host to the largest migration of people on earth, with almost 3 billion journeys being made!
Here are some common greetings to say on the New year:
Taboos to avoid doing on the first day of the festival:
- Debt: You should not lend money on the day, and debts should be paid before New Year’s Eve.
- Washing hair: you’ll wash away your wealth for the year.
- Sharp objects: if you cut yourself it is extremely unlucky.
- Sweeping and cleaning: If you sweep up then your wealth will be swept away.
- Theft: If someone steals from you then your wealth for the year will be ‘stolen.’
- Killing anything: Similar to sharp objects, anything associated with blood is very bad luck.
- Taking Medicine: you’ll be ill all year.
- Monochrome clothing: White and black are the colours associated with sorrow in China.
- Giving specific types of gifts: scissors, clocks, or anything with the number 4 (it sounds like death 死) and shoes (they sound like evil!)
Have a happy New Year and remember, watch out for evil shoes!
Spring is just around the corner, so I decided to share a wonderful winter experience in China to say goodbye to winter!
The majority of people may not have heard of Harbin, it is the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang province, China. The city is generally known because of its annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival that has been held since 1985. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is one of the four largest ice and snow festivals in the world! It is usually open to the public from January 5th to February 25th every year.
The two main exhibitions to visit are Sun Island and Ice and Snow World. There are many activities to do here including ice slides, ice skating, dog sledding and dodgem bumper cars on ice etc. Ticket prices for these two magnificent expositions cost roughly 200-300RMB each for adults. It is possible to get discount if you have a valid Chinese student card. These prices may seem expensive but in my opinion, it is a truly magical experience. Pictures do not do this place any justice! As well as these two main expeditions, other tourist attractions that I would recommend are going to see the Siberian Tiger Park, visiting Saint Sophia Cathedral and shopping in Central Street (Zhongyang Dajie).
Harbin has its own unique Russian influence and freezing cold temperatures (-25/-30 °C). It is also well known for its distinct hot coca cola, hot orange juice and famous Harbin ice cream which you can purchase for a very cheap 5RMB, you definitely need to try this! It is easy enough to travel around Harbin by bus; I would recommend doing this instead of getting taxis because they tend to charge high prices and rip you off, especially if you are a 外国人(foreigner). I would recommend spending no more than three days in Harbin, as it is so cold, if you stay longer you may not survive! Don’t forget to wear a lot of layers, bring hot packs and drink hot water to keep your body warm. I hope other travellers will consider visiting this place as I promise it will be a magical experience!
Read more interesting blogs here!
Hi Everybody / 你们好！
So it’s my chance to introduce myself, and after reading through many of the blogs here I feel a bit of pressure!
So who am I…Well, apart from being the new guy with spiky hair, my name is Paul Yeandle and I am the new Trainee Office Manager for InternChina’s Chengdu branch. I am 24 years old and come from Southampton, UK and have just finished studying a Masters degree from Glasgow University in International Management for China, so you could say… it was really China or bust after that!
Just over 3 years ago I first came to China, volunteering at a summer camp in beautiful Yunnan Province – (if you get the chance to visit definitely check it out). This was my first introduction to China and I don’t think my senses ever worked so hard – the smells, tastes and sights were so real, so different and so exotic – I was immediately blown away by everything China has to offer.
So I ended up returning as a teacher, travelling to many mega cities, towns and villages across the country and undertaking an internship through InternChina in Chengdu and have continued to be amazed by what China has to offer. Every day I see things that make me laugh or take a second look because I can barely believe my eyes. I guess waking up knowing everyday will be different, is a unique appeal to this country.
I am extremely happy to join the InternChina team and have been warmly welcomed by everyone from day one. I look forward to working with all of them all to create worthwhile experiences, new friendships and fantastic memories for all our interns.
China has given me so much and as I sit here writing this blog I can’t help but remember the first few days after arriving as China… it really opened up a new world for me and the chance to offer this experience to others is a dream job！