Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Lantern Festival 2013

Feb 24th is the 15th day of the first lunar month and the first time in the year to see a full moon (if there is no smog!). It is the official end of the Chinese New Year festivities, and is marked by the Lantern Festival. In Chinese, it is called the "yuan xiao" festival, and we all get together as families and eat small sweet dumplings, called yuan xiao, on that day.
One can see many lanterns hung up and children playing outdoors with all kinds and colours of lanterns, some to be floated up into the sky with their personal wishes or new year resolutions.
To mark this happy occasion, I have taken some pictures of different designs of Chinese lanterns you can find in the market for home decoration.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy New Year of the Snake

Today is the first day of the year of the water snake. Snakes are not generally liked, feared even, and this year may have its share of unhappy incidents as in previous snake years, such as Pearl Harbour Attack1941, 9/11 Tiananmen incident 1989, or even the Great Depression of 1929.

Many "experts" have been making their predictions. Feng shui master Mak Ling-ling predicts the stock markets will enjoy a smooth first-half before becoming turbulent in the second half of the year. Look at all the gold ( and longevity peaches) in the picture above.  "It's just like the movement of snakes -- fast, aggressive and sharp, but cunning and tricky at the same time," she tells AFP.

Let's hope all goes smoothly for all of us, including the next Chinese President Xi Jinping who was born in a snake year (1953), as was Chairman Mao. Were you born in the Year of the Snake (...1941, 1953, 1965, 1977..)? Then according to China Daily, you are charming, popular, analytical, sociable, but not very communicative, and....well you can see the other characteristics, good and bad in this link:

The snake pictures in this blog come in different shapes and sizes, but mostly are drawn with friendly faces to make them more likeable!

We had our traditional family dinner last night of too much food (including home made dumplings), and watched the 4 hr CCTV show, with the noise of fireworks in the background. There were less fireworks let off this year after the government reminded us the pollution index in Beijing would still be quite high these days - after all no one wants the smog to come back!

The Chinese character with an snake-like left side adaptation is "fu" or happiness. 

Snake years are sixth in the cycle, following the dragon. So how did the snake get into the zodiac in the first place? According to China Daily, legend has it, long ago, snakes and frogs were friends. Snakes had four legs then while frogs didn't. Crawling frogs worked very hard, not only did they seek food for snakes but also caught pests for human beings. Therefore human beings liked frogs and hated snakes.

Snakes then turned vicious, they would bite human beings and animals whenever they got the chance. The Jade Emperor in heaven tried to persuade the snakes to be kind, but the arrogant snakes refused, so he ordered his soldiers to cut off all snakes' legs and give them to the frogs. Now with four legs, frogs became more hard-working. Legless snakes, determined to make a change, began eating pests for human beings and to combat floods from dragons. They offered their body as medicine to treat patients.

In order to encourage snakes to do more good, the Jade Emperor put them into the Chinese zodiac list - sixth in the cycle, following the dragon. After that, snakes didn't attack human beings all of the time, but if they did, occasionally driven by evil, they would cast off a layer of skin to show their determination to restart being kind. But snakes have always held a grudge against frogs, biting whenever the two meet.

Whatever the case, it's a time for family reunions and celebrations all over the country. I will have a rest for a couple of days and then my first clients of the year arrive in Beijing.

Thank you all for your help and support during the outgoing Year of the Dragon, and I wish all of you and your families all health and happiness during the incoming Year of the Snake.