15-Day Celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year, also called ‘Spring Festival‘ in China, is the longest and most important one of Chinese traditional festivals. It begins on the first day of the first lunar month, and ends with Lantern Festival on the 15th day. For Chinese people, it is a time for family reunion, just like the Christmas in the West.

Spring Festival or Chinese New Year

Year of the Dragon 2012, Chinese Lunar New Year

Actually, preparation for Spring Festival starts a month or days earlier. Chinese people buy presents, decoration materials, food and clothing for the coming celebration. Also, they would give their home a thorough cleaning. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away bad luck and makes their homes ready for good luck to arrive. After that, the doors and windows are decorated with paper cuts and couplets with Chinese auspicious phrases.

Chinese New Year’s Eve, known as “Chu Xi” or “Eve of the Passing Year”, is a a day when Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner. A dish consisting of fish will appear on the tables of Chinese families. It symbolizes surplus or success. After dinner, many families in mainland China will banter whilst watching the CCTV New Year’s Gala in the hours before midnight. They would hold a countdown to the new year, then the 15-day celebration comes.

Spring Festival or Chinese New Year

Reunion Dinner on New Year’s Eve, Chinese Spring Festival

The First Day of Chinese New Year
The first thing of that day is to welcome the Gods of the heaven and earth, which officially begins at midnight. It tells the arrival of Chinese New Year. After getting up in the morning, people typically wear new clothes from head to toe to symbolize a new beginning in the new year. Most importantly, it is a time to honor one’s elders, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Red envelop, a monetary gift for the new year, are typically given by the married to the unmarried, most of whom are children.

Spring Festival or Chinese New Year

Red envelope – a monetary gift for the new year

The Second Day
Traditionally, married woman will visit and pay respect to their birth parents with her husband on this day.

The Third Day
Though the first week of Chinese New Year is the most important and most celebrated with visits to friends and family. But it is generally accepted that the third day is not a good time to socialize or visit your relatives and friends.

The Fourth Day
This is an auspicious day to re-open the businesses after the main New Year holidays.

The Fifth Day
The day is regarded as the birthday of the God of Wealth. People stay home to welcome the God of Wealth into their homes. In some pleaces, people also re-open their businesses; and shoot off firecrackers in the attempt to get the attention of the God of Wealth, for a good fortune of the new year.

Spring Festival or Chinese New Year

God of Wealth, Chinese Culture

The Sixth Day
It marks the time to visit relatives and friends, plus temples for good fortunate & health.

The Seventh Day
The seventh day, traditionally known as Renri (the common man’s birthday), is the day when everyone grows one year older. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity.

The Eighth Day
Another family dinner is held to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor. However, everybody should be back to work by the eighth day.

The Ninth Day of the Chinese New Year
It is a day for Chinese to offer prayers to the Jade Emperor of Heaven to ensure a good year to come.

The Tenth through Twelfth Day
In these days, friends and family are invited for dinners.

The Thirteenth Day
On the 13th day people will eat pure vegetarian food to clean out their stomach due to consuming too much food over the last two weeks.

The Forteenth Day
Preparations will be made for the Lantern Festival.

The Fifteenth Day

Lantern Festival, Chinese New Year

Beautiful lighted lanterns at night, Lantern Festival

The tradition of Lantern Festival (also called “Yuanxiao Festival” or “Shang Yuan Festival”) on the fifth day has been part of Chinese New Year celebration for more than 2,200 years. Tangyuan or Rice dumplings, a sweet glutinous rice ball brewed in a soup, are eaten this day. At night, children go out to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. The day brings the 15-day celebration of Spring Festival to an end.

Chinese Lunar New Year – Year of the Dragon 2012 is Coming

In Chinese tradition, each year is dedicated to a specific animal. The 12-year cycle of animals are, in order, the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. They appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. In 2012, the Dragon is welcomed back after the 2011 year of the Rabbit. January 23rd, 2012 is the first of 15 days of Chinese New Year’s celebration, and also the start of the Year of the Dragon.

In Chinese culture, dragon is the only animal of the Chinese zodiac year that is not real. Legend says that it is made up of different parts of animals such as a tiger, fish, snake and an eagle. Thus, dragon is alway seen as a powerful almighty king. Chinese people associate the dragon with power, superiority and wisdom – rather a threatening evil in Western culture. Moreover, the Han Chinese call themselves the descendants of the Dragon.

With the approaching Chinese traditional lunar new year – Year of the Dragon 2012, dragon decorations are seen everywhere in China.

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

A man fixes a giant dragon lantern in Rushan City, east China’s Shandong Province.

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Handicraftsmen make dragon lanterns in Suzhou City, east China’s Jiangsu Province.

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Folk artist Cheng Fuyun shows pupils the art of dough carving in an art school in Xiangyang City, central China’s Hubei Province.

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Dragon decorations, Chinese Culutre

Workers make dragon lanterns in Rushan City, east China’s Shandong Province.

Chinese Paper Cutting, Chinese Culutre

Chinese Paper Cutting, Chinese Culutre

Folk artist Xu Jian (1st L) shows his paper-cut work of 100 dragons in Jinan, capital of east China’s Shandong Province.

(Photos from http://www.china.org.cn)

Sonja’s Winter Tour in Ancient City Pingyao, China

Pingyao ancient town is only 1.2 hour’s away from Taiyuan by train; we take a local rickshaw to our hotel around 6pm. The weather is colder and driver said there’ snow around tomorrow which makes

We were surprised to see the well-preserved old town, with narrow lanes flanking with Chinese shops in old style, stone-plated road without any modern architecture. At that time I understand why some people say Pingyao is famous for its antiquity.

When I looked out of the window, it was snowing in large flakes and we were so excited to explore the tiny ancient town in winter day.

The ancient city wall of Pingyao enjoys the longest history compared with others around the country and remains almost intact. The walls are around 12 meters high and 4 meters wide on top. It is said that the whole city is in form of an huge Tortoise which is considered a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture.

pingyao ancient city wall
snow-covered high wall

pingyao snow scenery
Looking down the city view from the high city wall; all covered with white snow and we saw the flat roof.

After the old walls, we decide to buy sightseeing through ticket which is valid within 3 days to some spots in the old city. Not all the spots sold tickets, but you can easily found one through local maps.

Located on the trade route between Beijing and Xi’an, Pingyao was developed into a merchant center. Our first stop was the Rishengchang Draft Bank – the earliest bank in China and beginning of Chinese finance business in the modern era.
ancient bank in Pingyao
an old drafts displayed in counter

On the Ming-Qing Street, there are some locals are cleaning the heavy snow. The three-storey Market Tower is the center of the whole city, with many magnificent buildings and grand shops at each sides of the street, reminding us of the ancient busy traffic and commercial situation.

Souvenirs, handicrafts and local foods could be found on Ming Qing street, and the famed local specialities in Pingyao are Tuiguang Lacquer ware (Polished Lacquer ware), Pingyao Beef Jerky, Handmade clothes/tiger-head shoes and Paper-cutting.
local food
Local food – cat’s ear, made of flour

The main spots inside the ancient city of Pingyao are Rishengchang Draft Bank, Ming-Qing Street, Ancient City wall, official courtyards; while there are other amazing sites outside the town, like Shuanglin Temple, Qiao’s Family Courtyard, Wang’s Family Courtyard & Mianshan Mountain; without direct bus/train to the above-said sites, visitors can rent a bus or join group tours at your hotels. But in snow or icy days, you won’t find proper transport to the spots outside pingyao, since all the main roads are closed.
official courtyard
Pingyao official courtyard

Pingyao Transport
People in Pingyao live a simple and leisure life. Visitors can try to rend a bike with maps in hand and wonder through the whole city in 1-2 days; stop at everywhere you want and enjoy the local dishes. The snowy and icy condition destroyed our biking plan, by walking around on foot still nice.

It takes 1.1 hours’s train and 2 hours’ bus from Taiyuan city to Pingyao; and there’s overnight train from Pingyao to Xi’an which is much convenient for our further tours.

Stay at Pingyao
We chose hotels located inside the Pingyao ancient city, with unique characteristic of ancient Architecture of Shanxi with good facilities. Nice experience and all enjoy the atmosphere of ancient times.
local guest house
This is the local guest house we chose to stay. Here’s the entrance. There are some wooden chairs and tables in unique design, which is good place to enjoy beer and chat at summer night.

hall of the guest house
The main hall of the guest house, also served as resaurant and tea house.  It is a typical room in central China.

Virtual Tour to Beautiful Guilin, China

As a Chinese saying goes, Guilin’s scenery is best among all under
heaven. Its name means “forest of Sweet Osmanthus”. Picturesque Li River
winding through the city with peaks mushroomed inside, makes Guilin
a popular city for sightseeing. There are Guilin’s two most popular
tours: Two Rivers & Four Lakes boat trip in town center at night,
and Li River Cruisefrom Guilin to Yangshuo.Yangshuo is a very picturesque smaller town downstream of Guilin. It features
the incredible karst scenery, beautiful mountains, rivers, caves, and
much more. Not just a sight-seeing place; there are weeks of exploratng
possibilities here, by cruise, bamboo rafting, cycling, trekking, rock
climbing, and combinations of the various modes.

Longsheng, with its famous Longji rice terraces,
offers great hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Four- to
five-hour trek through minority villages of Zhuang, Dong and Yao,
dotting with China’s most spectacularly terraced slopes. Then, enjoy a
relaxed spa at natural Longsheng Hot Spring.

Cathy’s Travel Story: Marvel at Hanging Temple of Mount Heng, Datong

Hanging Temple or Hanging Monastery is one of the impressed sites on my trip to North of China at the end of  2011.The temple, about 65 kilometers from Datong city, was built into a cliff near Mt.Hengshan over 1500 years ago. It is notable not only for its location on a sheer precipice but also because it includes Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements. The structure is kept in place with wooden crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the cliffs. The main supportive structure was hidden!

Hanging Temple of Mount Heng, Datong, Shanxi

Splendid China Hanging Temple

The construction of Hanging Temple started at the end of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 557). Many repairs and extension from different dynasties were made. But, it was damaged during the Cultural Revolution. Most parts of the current structure dates from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1921).

Hanging Temple of Mount Heng, Datong, Shanxi

Magnificent Buddha figure

Nowadays, it becomes a popular tourist sites. Due to its wooden construction, the numbers of tourists have been limited for security reasons during the peak season.

Hanging Temple of Mount Heng, Datong, Shanxi

The Inside of Hanging Temple

Local people said it is much comfortable to stay in the temple in summer. I agree. When I was in the temple, I feel it is much colder in winter, but the nearby scenery is amazing!