Chinese Laba Festival falls on Jan. 1, 2012

Chinese Laba Festival

Chinese Laba Festival

In China, the twelfth month of lunar year is called “La month,” and the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month is thus called “Laba Festival”. As a traditional Chinese holiday, Laba Festival marks the official start of Spring Festival, and the most distinctive and popular tradition on the festival is making and eating Laba rice porridge.

There are two popular stories of the origin of Laba Festival.

One story goes that Laba Festival was originated from Sakyamuni. He was saved by a shepherdess with her lunch — porridge made with beans and rice when he fell into unconsciousness by a river in India from exhaustion and hunger. This enabled him to continue his journey and on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month after six years of strict discipline Sakyamuni finally realized his dream of full enlightenment. In order to commemorate this incident, every year at the Laba Festival Buddhists eat Laba porridge and offer it freely to the poor.

Chinese Laba Festival

multiple ingredients as glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas, dried lotus seeds, red beans, dried dates, chestnut meat, walnut meat, almond, peanut

According to another story, Laba Festival was set by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang to commemorate his hard days in the early Ming Dynasty. When he was suffering from cold and hunger in jail, Emperor Zhu found some red beans, rice and other grains in rat holes and boiled them into porridge on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. Later, Emperor Zhu achieved the throne and named this day as the Laba Festival, the porridge as Laba porridge.

Chinese Laba Festival

Laba Rice Porridge


The most popular custom of Laba Festival is eating Laba Rice Porridge. Laba rice porridge is quite delicious with multiple ingredients as glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas, dried lotus seeds, red beans, dried dates, chestnut meat, walnut meat, almond, peanut, etc. As a nourishing and healthful food, Laba porridge serves as a symbol of good fortune, long life, and fruitful harvest.
Another custom is the soaking of Laba Garlic, which is particularly popular in northern China. Garlic is soaked in vinegar for twenty days starting from Laba Festival and then the garlic is used alongside Chinese dumplings (or jiaozi) around Spring Festival.

Sarina’s Travel Journal in Nov 2011: Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a holy mountain full of legends is a must-see in Lijiang. The blue sky, floating fog and the pure snow contribute a picturesque fairy land. Every sight brings you a surprise and every step takes you to a new scene.

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Landscape at the foot of the mountain.

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Another 10 minutes bus from the entrance to the cable car station.

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

We were taking the car up to the mountain.

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Like a jade dragon lying in the snow, to protect the local Naxi people.(Ancient local legend)

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

We met a couple taking their wedding photos on this holy mountain.Long time ago, Jade dragon Snow Mountain was said to be a place where young lovers sacrifice their life to approve their true love and escaped from the arranged marriage by their parents. Now this place is favored by lovers.

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Like a holy place up to heaven, so amazing.

Holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Had fun on the mountain. We can play the snow activities.

Sarina’s Travel Journal in Yunnan: Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou

Bai Ethinic Minority group is an attraction in Dali, Yunnan. Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou is the most representative of Bai-style residence. The breathtaking architectural style will give you a strong impression.

Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou, Yunnan

The courtyard

Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou, Yunnan

I wore the dress of Bai ethic girls, standing in the second floor of the courtyard. The customs and culture there impressed me.

Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou, Yunnan

A phoenix is on the top of the architecture. This means women take a high position in the family of Bai ethnic minority.

Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou, Yunnan

“Sandaocha” is a traditional regional tea ceremony consisting of three unique tea flavors. First bitter, then sweetness, and finally a bitter sweetness (also a bit spicy). A bitter tea represents a hardship in life. A sweet tea stands for happiness while the mixed flavor is for pondering life.

Yan Family Courtyard in Xizhou, Yunnan

This show comes up when the host presented us the third tea, the bitter sweetness tea. Life is full of bitterness, but sweetness. This show is called Qiaxinniang( it means pinching the bride).

Sonja’s Hiking Journey along Mutianyu Great Wall in Nov 2011

After seeing the touristy & crowded Badaling Great Wall section, Mutianyu Great wall section becomes my favorite sections of the Great Wall in Beijing. It is around 85km from city Beijing, featuring beautiful natural landscape with dense wooded; the wall itself is original and well-preserved.

We planned to walk up the great wall along the stone steps, which would take around 40 minutes hiking while the plan has changed to cable car due to time limited. So we take a cable car up to the 14th watch tower (besides cable car, there’s a chairlift to the 6th watch tower.)

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

Look out the window of cable car

There are 20 towers on the Mutianyu Great Wall that stretching around 2.5km, which is distributed in short intervals. The 20 watch towers are numbered from right to left, with the 20th the highest point.

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

The highest watch tower on Mutianyu Great Wall, see its challenging slope!

Even we have short time there, we still have at least 1.5 hours to hike up and down. And I decide to walk from the 14th watch towers to the 20th one. The top of the great wall is wide and flat, with some steep steps occasion. There are few tourists on the wall and I took some people-free photos at ease.

The weather is cold in later November of Beijing, and I wore a hat, glove as well as wind-proof coat to keep myself warm. But after a short period of walking, I felt warm and indulged myself in the empty wall.

Sometimes, other hikers just surpassed me but I kept on a slow pace.

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

Other Hikers bypassed me

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

Little kids enjoyed themselves on wall; after taking this photo, they began to run and had a race!

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

Looked out the wall, i found this little creatures; so common in norther China

The pine & cypress trees are still green leaves while most other plants were standing naked.

The whole walking itinerary is moderate, except the last sheer steps leaded to the 20th watch tower. I also encountered old hikers who planned to walk to the Gubeikou great wall section from Mutianyu wall. Sure, if you have enough time, that’s possible since Mutianyu great, wall links Juyongguan Pass to the east and Gubeikou to the east.

It takes lesser time back to the 14th watch tower and cable car, since I spent shorter time on road.

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

The pine & cypress trees are still green

Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

Back to the starting point of hiking, there’s 1-minute’s way to the cable car.

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival Falls on December 22, 2011

Dongzhi, literally “the Extreme of Winter”, is the 22nd one of 24 solar terms each year, and marks the winter solstice. It always comes around December 22 in Gregorian calendar. The day is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians.

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

In China, Dongzhi was originally celebrated as an end-of-harvest festival. Today, it is observed with a family reunion over the long night, also named “Chinese Thanksgiving”. Family members get together to drink mellow wine, eat delicate food, visit friends and relatives, exchange presents and host memorial ceremony for ancestors and Gods.

In the northern China, eating dumplings and wontons on Dongzhi means gaining positive energy and getting rid of negative power. Red bean porridge is welcomed in Shaanxi since it is considered effective to avoid ghosts and epidemic disease.

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

People in Northern China eat dumplings.

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

Wontons, food in Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

In the Southern China, especially in Zhejiang and Jiangsu Province, tangyuan is no exception on this specific day. Each family member receives at least one large tangyuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. Tangyuan with stuff is used to honor the ancestors at night ceremony while tangyuan without stuff used to worship Gods in the morning ceremony. Also, there is a tradition eating long noodles in the hope of long life.

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

Tangyuan, or balls of glutinuous rice, symbolizes reunion

About the origin of Winter Solstice Festival, please follow:

Sarina’s Hiking along Tiger Leaping Gorge in Winter Yunnan

Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canons in the world, is tucked between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Haba Snow Mountain. It is near the beginning of the Yangtze River (world’s third longest river). The spectacular scenery makes it be a really wonderful place for hiking enthusiasts.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lijiang, Yunnan

Tiger Leaping Gorge is divided into three parts, the upper, middle and the lower. As time is limited, so we took the hiking on the middle part only (1 day tour). The middle part is the most beautiful part of Tiger Leaping Gorge. Our itinerary is Tina’s House – Zhang Teacher’s House – Sky Ladder – Bridge – Tina’s House.

Tiger Leaping Gorge,Lijiang, Yunnan

There are places where you have to walk carefully next to a cliff, and the path gets very narrow in some places. For safety, it is best to go with a group.

Tiger Leaping Gorge,Lijiang,Yunnan

The Sky Ladder, maybe not suitable for everyone. Below it follows the cliff, then the Tiger Leaping Gorge. When climb it, maybe you should not look back.

Tiger Leaping Gorge,Lijiang,Yunnan

Travel Tips:
1. Hiking in this area requires strong physical strength as the trail is narrow and steep in many places.
2. Don’t take too many things with you. Just as simple as possible.
3. Sun glasses and sun block lotion are necessary. The Sunshine is really strong from April to November.
4. Chocolate and water are good things for you. They will fresh you up a lot after a long time hiking.

Safety Warning:
1. Though the trail is well used, it is safer not to hike it alone. It might be best to travel with a partner or in a group.
2. The hiking trail is a little bit slippery in many places, please take care.
3. Hospitals and clinics are not available in the mountain area. Also, in the area there may not have someone who speaks English. It is easy to get lost if you are alone.
4. The Sky Ladder is not suitable for someone whose psychological bearing capacity is poor. It is a little bit dangerous.

Silvia’s Travel Journal: Enjoy Warm Wintertime in Yunnan

Two colleagues at Easy Tour China– Silvia and Sarina, have made their journey to beautiful Yunnan from Nov. 3- Nov. 11.

Nov 3. Overnight on train

It’s not easy to take overnight train for those people who can not fall in sleep well. You will hear different noises from here or there such as snore, whisper, walking, whistle of train…Unfortunately, I’m one of them. I felt bad after the long night, need a better sleep in hotel the next day.

Lijiang Ancient Town, Lijiang, Yunnan

Warm Wintertime in Lijiang

Nov 9. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

We expected Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to be the highlight of our trip. Actually, it is. I never forget how exciting we were when we walked out from the cable car. I thought we enter in a Fairy Tale World…We walk to the top as slowly as we can; it’s not funny if we get altitude sickness here as we do not buy any bottle oxygen.Sometimes I ask others who are breathing heavily from the bottle oxygen: Does it smell good? They always answer me: well, not bad. A child who just finishes one bottle asks his parents for one more: again, again. Ah~I guess it’s easy to get an addict. Thanks, for the scenery that I never saw.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan

Breathtaking View of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Nov 10. The last day in Lijiang.

Last night, Sarina and I made different decisions on how to spend the last day in Lijiang. She decided to join in a group to Tiger Leaping Gorge and I will just stay in the ancient town for a leisure day. It might be a pity to miss amazing view of Tiger Leaping Gorge, but to me, leisure and relax are the main keys of holiday, especially in Lijiang. How could I leave if I don’t spend at least half day to be absent of my mind, or just read a book in a nice atmosphere coffee shop? Today, I did everything slowly, had breakfast, walked inside the town, bought some souvenir. At last, I chose a small coffee shop which is on bank of the little river to spend the rest of the afternoon. The singer was singing some slow and gentle songs, and I just read a book about love stories, or feed fishes in the river.It’s really a lovely day. Slow time, warm sunshine and Orpheum songs.I guess I will come back again, just for the romantic time.