The Year of the Dragon

On April 12, 2012, in Cultural Experience, Festivals, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

What people have in mind when they hear about the Chinese New Year are probably dragon dances and fireworks. Those are very traditional elements of the festivities and when you travel to Beijing or another big city you should certainly see this part of the culture if you get the chance. If you book one […]

What people have in mind when they hear about the Chinese New Year are probably dragon dances and fireworks. Those are very traditional elements of the festivities and when you travel to Beijing or another big city you should certainly see this part of the culture if you get the chance. If you book one of the China hotels in a good location you might even have a good view from the hotel room. But for safety reasons this practice has been banned in some major cities and also keep in mind that there is no general public celebration apart from the fireworks.

This holiday belongs to the family and combines in a way Christmas and the Western New Year’s Eve and is a holiday period that lasts 15 days. It’s the time of the year when families get together, exchange presents and enjoy meals together. One of the most important parts is the feast on the evening of the New Year. There are different kinds of traditional food, depending on the region. In the north for example jiao zi (Chinese dumplings which are shaped like a crescent moon) are very typical.

From New Year’s Day on every day has a certain meaning, a typical meal, activities that should be avoided or that are usually done. The eighth day is the end of the official holiday and people go back to work. The Chinese New Year festivities end with the Lantern Festival which is always on the day of the first full moon. On this day families get together and especially for kids it’s a very enjoyable night. They make paper lanterns to illuminate and march under the full moon.

The origin of this holiday goes back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). During this economically prosperous and politically stable time celebrations during New Year blossomed with the purpose of spending time with the family.

Every year in the Chinese calendar stands under the sign of one of the twelve zodiac signs, which are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In China 2012 is the year of the dragon, which is the fifth sign or to be more precise the New Year of the Chinese calendar began on January 23, 2012 and will end on February 9, 2013. These dates change every year according to the Gregorian calendar and range between late January and mid February.

In China the dragon is the mightiest of all signs and a symbol of power and wealth, full of vitality and strength. For that reason many Chinese people see the dragon year as a good opportunity to get things started and succeed at something major. It is said that the Dragon year brings luck to those who dare to speak out, to take charge and even to take over.

If you want to plan your stay in China during that time of the year take into consideration that China flights might be slightly more expensive because so many people travel out of town to meet their families and apart from that most tourist attractions are closed on the day of the New Year.

Kung Hei Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year

On January 5, 2012, in Featured China Stories, Festivals, by Jack Li

The Chinese has one of the richest and colorful traditions in the world and one of their most anticipated celebrations is the Chinese New Year.When is it Celebrated? Spring festival, or what is more known as the Chinese New Year, is considered one of the most important events in China. The celebration is based on […]

The Chinese has one of the richest and colorful traditions in the world and one of their most anticipated celebrations is the Chinese New Year.When is it Celebrated?

Spring festival, or what is more known as the Chinese New Year, is considered one of the most important events in China. The celebration is based on the lunar calendar, so that the first day of the lunar year marks the Chinese New Year. Thus, the event falls between late January to early February. The celebration begins on the eve of the lunar new year and continues on until the fifth day of the lunar calendar’s first month. Next will come the lantern festival. This year Chinese New Year falls on February 3; the Year of the Rabbit.

How is it Celebrated?

Generally, the Chinese people prepares for this holiday by making sure everything in their life is in order, or at least under control. By this I mean the house should be clean, rifts or problems should be resolved, clothes worn should be clean or new, etc. At midnight there are fireworks and firecrackers to greet the coming of the new year. The belief behind this is that the noise created by the firecrackers will drive away evil spirits.

What’s in the Menu?

After the festivities, the family will sit down to a feast. A sticky rice pudding called nian gao (or “tikoy”) as well as dumplings is usually present in these feasts. Nian gao is also given to family and friends; the belief behind this is that the stickiness of the nian gao will hold or bind the family together. Also, because of its round shape and sweet taste, it is said to bring good fortune and sweetness to one’s life. In my home, we usually cut the nian gao into lengthwise pieces, roll it into beaten eggs and fried. It’s delicious!

Other Aspects of the Chinese New Year

Houses are decorated with lights and lanterns. Red is a popular color to wear when ushering in the Chinese New Year. Also, hongbao, or red envelopes that contain money, are given to family and friends (especially the youngsters) as a symbol of luck and wealth. There are also lots of musical performances and parades; the most famous of which is the dragon and lion dance. In the Chinese culture, the dragon is the deity of water ensuring that no drought will come. The lion, on the other hand, helps ward off evil spirits since it symbolizes power and courage.

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Dances of China

On July 22, 2011, in Cultural Experience, by Jack Li

You might have heard about the Peking opera and seen the Dragon dance during Chinese New Year celebrations, but did you know that Chinese dance is one of the most varied dance forms in the world? Having originated from all regions of China, it is rich in meaning and its performance demands deep understanding of […]

You might have heard about the Peking opera and seen the Dragon dance during Chinese New Year celebrations, but did you know that Chinese dance is one of the most varied dance forms in the world? Having originated from all regions of China, it is rich in meaning and its performance demands deep understanding of the Chinese culture. Check China Tours and China Flights and travel to the birthplace of dance!

Origins

Dance in China can be traced all the way back to the Neolithic era. The first choreographed dance originated in the army, gradually evolving into military exercises. What is known today as the traditional Chinese dance emerged over the centuries and is de facto a mix of folk dances from all over China, as the regions were being conquered by the Han Chinese. In Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD) the Music Bureau was established, bringing together folk dances and songs from different parts of the country.

Meaning

Chinese dance is based on ancient symbolism. It was performed to express respect towards the spirits of Earth and Heaven. Choreographed hand and feet movements acted out their emotions and aspects of life. Apart from such ceremonial dances, martial (showing fighting techniques), dramatic (depicting historical events) and agricultural (praising nature and work) dances can be discerned.

Chinese dance today

Nowadays, traditional Chinese dance is becoming more and more popular among the youth. Many dancers initially study ballet or modern dance, which gives a new perspective to traditional choreographies.  The mostly performed Chinese dances are believed to be Chinese Ribbon Dance, Chinese Silk Fan Dance, Chinese Round Fan Dance, Chinese Feather Fan Dance, Chinese Classical Dance, Chinese Sword Dance, Chinese Long Sleeve Dance, Chinese Waist Drum Dance, Chinese Lion Dance and Chinese Dragon Dance.

Dragon Dance – a group of dancers (up to 50!) carries a giant Dragon costume on poles. The dance mimics the movements of the Dragon, one of the most important symbols of power and dignity in Chinese culture. In China itself, it is not unusual to see a Dragon dance involving two or even nine dragon costumes!

 

 

Lion Dance – it is similar in concept to the dragon dance with a difference that it is performed by two dancers. They mimic the movements of the lion, dressed in a lion costume. Elements of the lion dance can be found in Chinese martial arts. In China, there are three different styles of the lion dance – Northern Chinese, Southern Chinese and Taiwanese. Lion dance is also encountered in Japan and Korea.

Fan Dance – it has been danced for centuries during important ceremonies. It is very delicate and requires precision from the dancer, as the rhythm of the music changes constantly. There are many types of Chinese Fan Dance – folk and classical, and it can be performed solo or in a group.

Ribbon Dance – it is one of the most popular Chinese dances. It features a performer dancing with a long silk ribbon attached to a short stick. The choreography is precisely synchronised, making it extremely spectacular. It is associated with the legend of an attempt to assassinate the Emperor.


Now, that you know more about Chinese dance and its history, why not try it for yourself? Consult China Travel for more information.

 

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Chinese New Year

On January 18, 2011, in Cultural Experience, by Sandy Li

When you start your China Tours or you stay in China Hotels in winter, you will find that there is something special in China. In winter, Chinese people will meet the coming New Year. Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival is the most important traditional Chinese holidays. The origin of Chinese New […]

When you start your China Tours or you stay in China Hotels in winter, you will find that there is something special in China. In winter, Chinese people will meet the coming New Year. Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival is the most important traditional Chinese holidays. The origin of Chinese New Year is several myths and traditions. It has long history and gains significance all over the world. The date of Chinese New Year is based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Traditionally, Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day of the first month. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as chú xī.

During the festival, regional customs and traditions about the celebration of Chinese New Year vary widely. All the people have a holiday during this festival and go back to their hometowns to celebrate. Because in this festival people who have worked in the whole year have a time for relax and visit their parents and relatives. People will buy some presents, food, clothing and some decorations to welcome the New Year. When you go shopping during this period in China, you will find that all the shopping-mall’s products are in good discount and the whole streets or buildings are put on some red decorations. People could feel the atmosphere of Chinese New Year everywhere.

It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away all bad things and make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be attached with red color paper-cuts and couplets with themes of “happiness”,”wealth”,”health”,”longevity”. Besides, people will make a phone call or sent a message to their friends, colleagues and relatives for celebrating and give them the best wishes in the Chinese New Year or Chinese New Years’ Eve.

On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families, including at least ten dishes. All the people in the family will prepare for the dinner. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken, fished, vegetables and desserts. People also drink beer or wine, and children should give best wish to their elder generations during the dinner. In the past, people have New Year dinner at home, but recently, eating outside is more and more popular. Many restaurants provide different kinds of “dinner for New Year”. If you want to eat outside, you should book it in advance. During the dinner, people will watch the “New Year’s Party” in the TV. This party is hold by CCTV every year at 8:00pm on the Eve of Chinese New Year. All Chinese people may not miss this program. At mid-night, with the bell of Chinese New Year, people will eat dumplings for being lucky. In some regions, people will put some coins or other materials in the dumplings. If you get one with coin, you will be lucky this year. It is a good sign for people to be successful in their works or studies.

The family will end the night with firecrackers. Although the date of Chinese New Year Early is in the winter, all the people including kids go outside to view the amazing fireworks. In the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes.

If you are interested in the celebration of Chinese New Year and want to know Chinese culture well, please don’t hesitate to book China Flights. 

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