Tibetan New Year Festival of Losar 2012

Losar is the Tibetan word for “new year”. Losar Festival in Tibet is the biggest event, just like the Christmas in the West. It marks the beginning of Tibetan New Year. The festival lasts for 15 days, from the 1st to 15th day of the first month in Tibetan calendar. Since most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, celebrations of Losar are permeated with strong religious atmosphere. They feature ancient rituals, stage fights between good and evil, chanting and passing fire torches.

Losar - Tibetan New Year

Tibetan people are dacing for celebrating Tibetan New Year

DateHistorically, since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 A.D., the first day of the first month became fixed as Losar – the New Year. The Tibetan calendar is made up of 12 or 13 lunar months, each beginning and ending with a new moon. A thirteenth month is added every two or three years, thus an average Tibetan year is equal to the solar year. Tibetan people follow a lunar calendar, so the date of Losar changes from year to year. In 2012, the Tibetan New Year begins on February 22.

Losar - Tibetan New Year

Qiema - a box of traditional Tibetan food symbolizing auspiciousness.

Losar - Tibetan New Year

Kasai - a special kind of fried curled dough sticks

PreparationActually, preparations for Losar start a month or days earlier. Tibetans buy food, clothing, furniture, and decoration materials for the coming celebrations. On the 19th day of the twelfth lunar month, tradition says that it is a day for cleaning. People would clean their houses very thoroughly to sweeps away bad luck.

Losar - Tibetan New Year

Offerings on household shrine

Traditions & CelebrationsTraditionally, the celebrations begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth lunar month, that is, the day before the Tibetan New Year’s Eve. The custom that day is to make a traditional noodle soup called “Guthuk”. It is made from nine different ingredients including dried cheese and various grains. This dish is served with small dumplings. The dumplings are stuffed with one of various things such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one’s dumpling are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one’s character. Wool means “good-heartedness”, and coal “black heart”. It is a good way of merrymaking. After dinner, people let off firecrackers and torches are used to rid the homes of evil spirits which may be lurking. On the last day of the year, Homes are freshly painted, families dress up in new clothes, good food and special dishes are cooked. People then honor the gods in their household shrines and place offerings before them. Also, Monasteries are all deckled up in the finest decorations and a Blessing Ceremony is performed on the first day of Losar.

Losar - Tibetan New Year

"Night of Guthuk" on the 29th day of the 12th lunar month

By tradition, the most important thing on the first day of Tibetan New Year is to seek “holy water”. In the morning, Housewives would get up very early, and cook a pot of barley wine for the family. When dawn breaks, they head for a nearby river, or well, to fetch the first bucket of water. For the “holy water”, the family would be blessed with good luck for the New Year. Also, family member will greet each other with well-meaning wishes – “Tashi Delek”. In the coming two weeks of celebrations, Tibetans will also exchange New Year’s greetings, worship gods and horse-racing.

Losar - Tibetan New Year

Horse-racing for New Year's celebrations

China nominates Tianshan Mountains for UNESCO heritage bid

Tianshan Mountains (or Celestial Mountains) in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of Northwest China, with their spectacular glaciers and diverse wildlife, have been nominated for inclusion on the U.N.’s World Heritage list, local officials said on Feb. 13.

Tianshan Mountain, Urumqi China

Snow-covered peak and spectacular glacier within Tianshan Mountains range

Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang China

Green and boundless glassland with beautiful natural scenery

The government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region recently submitted an application to the UNESCO World Heritage Center for review and evaluation, said officials from the Tianchi Administration Committee, a body that oversees preservation efforts for the Tianshan Mountains.

The Tianshan Mountains stretch for 2,500 km in Xinjiang, bordering Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The range is home to 15,953 glaciers, the most of any mountain in the country, as well as the endangered snow leopard. About 66 percent of the world’s 2,500 remaining snow leopards live in Xinjiang.

Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang China

Vanishing Snow leopards in Tianshan Mountains

Bogda Peak, one of the snowy peaks within the tianshan mountain range, is covered with snow all the year round and thus nicknamed “the sea of snow”. On the mountainside of Bogda Peak, there’s a lake called “Tianchi” (meaning “heavenly lake“). It is 1,900 meters above sea level and as deep as 90 meters. The crystal-clear lake water is made up of melted ice and snow. The lake is like a big mirror reflecting the snow-white peak and emerald-green spruce trees. The picturesque spot is a famous tourist attraction.

Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang China

Tianchi or Heavenly Lake on the mountainside of Bogda Peak

(Source from: Xinhuanet.com)

Incredible Chengdu – Native Land of Pandas, China

Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan province in Southwest China. Its name literally means “becoming a city”, and dates back to the city’s founding over 2,300 years ago. For Chengdu, it is perhaps best known outside of China for lovely Giant Pandas and spicy Sichuan cuisine. Actually, it is a tourism paradise for travelers, with enchanting natural scenery, amazing historical sites, unique cultural ambience, and leisurely lifestyle. It is also called ‘a city where one would not think of leaving once there’.

Like many major cities in China, Chengdu is a place of contrasts – modern and ancient. Traditional wooden architecture and tree-lined streets are giving way to flashy malls and glassy high-rises. New western style buildings can be found everywhere in the downtown. However, the city still boasts a long glorious history and rich culture that can’be rivaled. Among many historical sites in and around Chengdu are Wuhou Memorial Temple, Du Fu Thatched Cottage, Sanxingdui Ruins, Leshan Giant Buddha, Emei Buddhist Mountain, Qingcheng Taoist Mountain, and… Whatever one’s interests, there is always plenty to do.

Impressively, Chengdu has the reputation as a very “laid-back” city for its carefee lifestyle. Something is still present in the city’s teahouse where locals will spend the day relaxing, drinking tea and playing mah-jong. Traditional teahouses in Chengdu feature bamboo chairs and wooden tables, and jasmine tea is served as the local staple. They can be spotted on almost every city corner, and are a focal point of Sichuan culture. Besides, Chengdu people clearly know how to enjoy their colorful nightlife, from dinner party at hotpot restaurants, tasting snacks at night markets, singing KTV, to dancing at night clubs.

And of course, no visit to Chengdu is complete without going to see the pandas. As China’s national treasure, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. For protection, a breeding center for giant pandas was founded in the north suburbs of Chengdu. It offers a good chance to go eye to eye with cute pandas.

Chinese Lantern Festival

The first month of the Chinese lunar calendar is called yuan month, and in ancient times people called night xiao. On the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, it is the first night to see a full moon after the New Year. Thus, the day is called “Yuanxiao Festival” or “Shangyuan Festival”. According to Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. Also, Chinese people celebrate it as Lantern Festival. The date in the Western calendar changes annually; and in 2012, it falls on February 6.

Chinese Lantern Festival

Various lanterns displayed to greet Lantern Festival

Of course, for Lantern Festival, the displaying of lanterns is a major event at night. In the moonlight, lanterns with various colors, shapes, and sizes are hung in the streets. People walk at a leisurely pace, and appreciate the creativity of diverse lanterns. Children carry self-made or bought paper lanterns, and have fun with their family. “Guessing lantern riddles” is an essential part for lantern watching. The puzzles or riddles were written on a piece of paper and posted on the lanterns. If one can solve that puzzles, a little gift would be given.

And, Tangyuan, a traditional food for Lantern Festival, is eaten together with family. Its name has a similar pronunciation as the word for “reunion” in Chinese. In Northern China, it is also called “Yue Xiao”, which derives from the festival. The food is made from glutinous rice flour with stuffing in round shape. The difference between Tangyuan and Yuanxiao is the way they are made. People in north China make yuanxiao by rolling a hard stuffing in glutinous rice flour. In south China, tangyuan is prepared by placing the filling inside rice flour wrapping, similar to the making of jiaozi. The round shape of the balls and the bowls where they are served, come to symbolise the family togetherness.

Chinese Lantern Festival

Tang Yuan - Lucky food eaten on Lantern Festival

Besides, some performances would be staged in the daytime of the festival, like setting off fireworks, dragon dance, lion dance, land boat dance, yangge dance, and walking on stilts, etc.

For more infos about Lantern Festival, please follow this link:

http://www.easytourchina.com/fact-v354-the-lantern-festival

Lucky Food for Chinese New Year (Spring Festival)

As a popular Chinese saying goes, food is heaven for the people. It is not surprising that food plays a major role in any Chinese festivals. During Spring Festival, several “lucky” foods are served to celebrating Chinese New Year. As their names are homophones for words that mean good things, they are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune.

Fish
Fish is always a must for new year’s celebration because it is a symbol of prosperity. The pronunciation of “fish” (鱼) in Chinese makes it a homophone for “surpluses”(余). It is customary to serve a fish for the New Year’s Eve dinner. Usually, fish is not cut into pieces, but cooked as a whole. When fish is placed on the dining table, its head must be at the elders, as a sign of respect. In most areas, fish is not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” (年年有余) sounds the same as “may there be fish every year”.

Fish, Lucky Food for Chinese New Year

Fish, a symbol of prosperity, make it a homophone for "surpluses".

Jiaozi
Jiaozi or Chinese dumplings are one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and year round in the Northern provinces. Jiaozi symbolize wealth because its shape resembles a gold or silver ingot. Chinese people make dumplings after reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve, and the preparation is similar to packaging luck inside the dumpling. When people eat Jiaozi around midnight, they hope that it will bring prosperity and good luck for the forthcoming year.

Jiaozi, Lucky Food for Chinese New Year

Jiaozi symbolizes wealth, for it looks like a gold or silver ingot.

Niangao
Niangao literally means “new year cake” with a homophonous meaning of “higher year”. It is a kind of sticky cake made of glutinous rice flour and sugar in the shape of rectangle or circular. The color of the sugar used determines the color of Niaogao (white or brown). Chinese people usually send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days of the new year. It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during Spring Festival, for its symbolism of “promoting year by year”.

Niaogao, Lucky Food for Spring Festival

Niaogao, with a meaning of "promoting year by year".

Tangyuan
Tangyuan, also called Yuexiao in Northern China, is a boiled glutinous rice ball with stuffing. Its name “Tang-yuan” in Chinese has similar pronunciation as the word for “reunion”. It is eaten traditionally on Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 1st month in Chinese lunar calendar. Thus, Chinese people also call the day “Yuanxiao Festival”. It officially ends the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations.

Tangyuan, Lucky Food for Spring Festival

Tangyuan signifies "reunion" for their similar pronunciation in Chinese.