Category Archives: Culture

The Lantern Festival

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Today is the Lantern Festival day.

On every fifteenth of the first month of the lunar year, right after the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, people usher in the first full moon of the New Year with a traditional Chinese holiday, the Lantern Festival. Eating Yuanxiao (元宵, glutinous rice balls), and enjoying lanterns and the lion dance are traditional activities that people won’t want to miss.

There is an old saying that the “food is the paramount necessity of the people”. When talking about the Lantern Festival, the tradition of eating Yuanxiao can’t be missed. Yuanxiao is a type of dessert made of glutinous rice with or without filling. It can be filled with black sesame, bean paste, sugar, hawthorn, and so on. There are various ways to make Yuanxiao, including boiling, sautéing, deep-frying, and steaming. In addition, glutinous rice balls are called Yuanxiao in the North, while in the South, they are called Tangyuan (汤圆). There are slight differences in making Yuanxiao and Tangyuan. YaoYuanXiaoIn Beijing, Yuanxiao is best characterized by its filling. People first prepare the dough with the filling and then put it in a machine. The machine gradually shapes the dough into a ball and it’s a little bit like making a snowball.

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However, in the south, making Tangyuan is quite similar to making dumplings, because they are both molded and shaped by hand. Making good Tangyuan requires glutinous rice flour that is of high quality, because it is not easy to keep them fresh.

Besides eating, there is also playing of course. Popular traditional activities of the Lantern Festival include going to the fair, lighting lanterns, and guessing riddles. WushiThe fair is an open market held near a temple or in a park. There are traditional snacks to taste and various folk performances to enjoy. As the name suggests, lighting lanterns involves lighting and hanging various types of beautiful lanterns. Guessing riddles also originated from lighting lanterns. DengMiPeople write riddles on the lanterns and passersby can attempt to guess the answer. At the fair, the first person who successfully solves the riddle may receive a prize.

During the Lantern Festival, not only can you eat delicious Yuanxiao, but you can also enjoy the lion dances. The lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance. Dancers hide themselves in a lion costume, then roll up and down and move left and right to imitate a lion, which is very interesting to see.

This year the Lantern Festival meets Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February. It is said that in ancient times, the Lantern Festival played a similar role to “the Valentine” as well. In ancient times, young girls in China were usually not allowed to go outdoors, but the Lantern Festival was an exception. It was a great opportunity for single young people to meet each other.

Does the Lantern Festival sound more interesting now? Would you like to buy some Yuanxiao or Tangyuan in your local Chinese grocery stores?

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(Attribute to the great course contents of chineseclass101.com)

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Year of the Horse

Horse is one of Chinese favorite animals. Horse provides people quick transportation before automobiles, so people can quickly reach their destinations. Horse even can help people to win the battle. Therefore Horse is a symbol of traveling, competition, and victory. That’s why Horse is connected to speedy success in China.

Horses like to compete with others. They pursue for their freedom, passion, and leadership. That implies that people will have busy schedule for their goals in the year of Horse. Horse hour of Chinese Horoscopes is from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. Sunshine generates lots of heat during the Horse hour. Therefore, horse is connected to heat, fire, and red. Horses like social activities, because horses like to show off themselves. Since horse is a social animal and red is also connected to love, therefore horse is treated as a Romantic Star in Chinese Horoscope.

It is believed that Year of the Horse will bring health and prosperity.

One of the most popular greetings for Year of the Horse is 马到成功, which means wishing you every success, be accomplished instantly, or carry out your mission quickly.

Today is the first day of Year of the Horse. I hope everyone has a prosperous and healthy New Year!

龙马精神,马到成功!

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Happy Year of the Horse! 马到成功!

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Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of Year of the Snake. Happy New Year – Year of the Horse!

骏马做伴, 一马当先, 恭祝朋友们马年大吉大利!

The first day of the 2014 Chinese New Year is on January 31, 2014 in China’s time zone. This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name 春节 (Pinyin: Chūn Jié), since the spring season in Chinese calendar starts with lichun, the first solar term in a Chinese calendar year. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year“.

A reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where members of the family gather for the celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish. In some areas, fish (Chinese: 鱼) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” (Chinese: 年年有余) sounds the same as “may there be fish every year.”

Dumplings (Chinese: 饺子), eaten traditionally in northern China because the preparation is similar to packaging luck inside the dumpling.

Sticky Rice Cake, Niangao or Chinese New Year cake (Chinese: 年糕), most popular in eastern China because its pronunciation is a homophone for “a more prosperous year (年高 lit year high)”.Image

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian (Chinese: 年). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu’s mount.

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This picture brings back a lot of memory from many years ago. It’s how exactly we placed 饺子 (dumplings) on 盖帘 (a disk-shaped apparatus made of stalks of broomcorn which is used to hold food or cover a vat or a basin).

The Chinese Moon Festival

Today is the Chinese Moon Festival, it is the 15th of the 8th lunar month in lunar year. The Chinese Moon Festival is also known as the Mid-autumn Festival. It is the time to celebrate the harvest and also the time for family reunions. When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes, and sing moon poems. It’s like a perfect world. The Moon Festival is the second grandest festival after the Spring Festival, which is also known as Chinese New Year.

I have seen numerous, stylish, yet fresh moon cakes in The Great Wall, our local Chinese grocery store, in the past few weeks. I have tried a few kind and they all taste good!! It is hard to find the old Beijing traditional moon cakes though. They are called “自来红” or “Naturally Red”. I feel I really miss them 😦

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