Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 22 – The chickens and roosters have invaded Pikachu’s spot in the game machine! Did you know that roosters don’t say “cock a doodle doo” in Chinese? They just say “wo wo wo”! Anda chicken says “ge ge!”
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 14 – The Chinese New Year preparations have started! Artists doing custom calligraphy are common at this time of year because people like to have custom couplets made to hang on their doorways. This man had a table set-up at our shopping plaza today and was making some couplets for a woman when I went past. I posted some information about couplets last year January 17, 2016.
In the written Chinese characters, the words are very carefully chosen, as they have very specific guidelines, including that they rhyme, have the same number of characters on each side, and that the two must correspond to and complement each other. Some examples translated would be:
A wide sea lets fish jump; a high sky lets birds fly.
A mountain of books has a way and diligence is the path; the sea of learning has no end and hard work is the boat
Distance tests a horse's strength; time reveals a person's heart.
Smooth sailing with each year; success with each step.
Heaven adds time and people get older; spring fills the world and blessing fills the door.
Life in China 2017: A Picture A Day, January 13 – The use of dougong brackets goes back thousands of years in Chinese architecture. The word “dougong” literally means “cap and block.” They were/are a system of wooden interlocking pieces that gave the needed support because the walls were not load-bearing. They were layered under the wide eaves to support the load of the roof. The more important the building, the more layers of brackets. This system supposedly holds up very well in earthquakes, holding even when brick walls fall. They are credited as the reason so many ancient Chinese buildings lasted for so long. As time passed, methods changed some and the dougong brackets became more decorative and artistic. Today, you can still see beautiful, brightly colored dougong brackets on special buildings. These in the pictures are from the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong and the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou. You can see more pictures of the ones used at the Po Lin Monastery in my blog post here: http://www.myownchinesebrocade.com/travel/2017/1/12/big-buddha-and-ngong-ping
Grocery shopping in China …. sometimes the groceries try to run away! RT Mart in Dalingshan, China. Photo by Leah
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 30 - Spring Blossoms - As I said before, Chinese New Year is called “Spring Festival” in China. This is perfect for the region we are in, as many of the flowering trees have buds or blooms, but I’m not so sure about northern China…it’s always very cold there during Spring Festival! The flower picture on the bottom is a peach blossom; when I walked by the lake today, there were quite a few trees just starting to bloom. The tree in the center top photo is an artificial peach tree on display at our local shopping plaza. The two side photos, I believe, represent cherry blossoms, the left is plastic beads and cotton with a lotion display at the grocery store, and on the left is an ad in the McDonalds window. Blossoms are important for Chinese New Year because if there are no flowers, there will be no fruit, so, they indicate growth. And did you notice that they are all PINK! Peach blossoms also symbolize romance. Different blossoms have different meanings, and their fruit have additional meanings. I found one place that said you should never show one single blossom in a painting/picture because it indicated early death! Hopefully I won’t offend my Chinese friends with this lone blossom! At least there is a bud next to it :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 29 - We went to a Chinese New Year party at a Mexican Restaurant and they had some lion dancers performing. Lion dancers need a good amount of space, so they couldn’t do much in a restaurant, but it was fun to have them so close, and they did more just outside the front door. Lion dancers are a big part of Chinese New Year, as the dances are traditionally done to scare away evil spirits. There are many details about them, too many to list here! If you are interested in learning about the lion dancers, this is a great video explaining about the costume parts and how they work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rKcXN_axqE
Here is a slideshow of some lion dancers from a performance we saw last year: http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4449784d4451304e544d3d0d0a&blogview=true
Photo credit to Leah — at El Calliente, Dongguan, Guangdong, China.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 28 - The traditional belief of the Chinese is that during the year of your zodiac sign, you will have bad luck…. But, you can wear red all year to change this! As you should know by now, red is THE color for everything lucky during Chinese New Year! In modern times, many people no longer believe as strongly in the traditional beliefs, but this one is fun :-) Luckily, red looks great on Chinese people, and, if they get tired of wearing red clothes every day, hopefully they have their red undergarments, socks, or jewelry. The key to these red items changing bad luck to good, is that someone else buys them for you; It doesn’t work if you buy them for yourself! The upcoming year will be the year of the Monkey, so, if you are close to a monkey, join in the Chinese celebrations and buy them some red underwear!
Years of the Monkey: Feb.20,1920-Feb.7,1921, Feb.6,1932-Jan.25,1933, Jan.25,1944-Feb.12,1945, Feb.12,1956-Jan.30,1957, Jan.30,1968-Feb.16,1969, Feb.16,1980-Feb.4,1981, Feb.4,1992-Jan.22,1993, Jan.22,2004-Feb.8,2005
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 27 - Oranges, tangerines, and kumquats are popular decorations at Chinese New Year for a couple of reasons. First, their color is associated with gold, therefore representing abundance and wealth. Second, their names in Chinese sound similar to the words for “luck” and “wealth.” Orange trees are grown in pots especially for display in, or outside of homes and businesses at Chinese New Year, or to be used as gifts. They are often decorated with red envelopes and small lantern decorations. Because these are grown quickly with large amounts of fertilizers, it is not recommended to eat the oranges grown on these decorative trees. We have a small park area within our housing community where there are orange trees growing, and it seems that people have been enjoying the oranges!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 26 - Getting a haircut in China is very enjoyable: You lie flat on a table, and while getting your hair washed, with lots of suds, you also get a nice scalp, neck, and upper back massage, lasting about 10 minutes. I pay an extra 25rmb/about $4usd, to have a special ginger hair treatment, which makes my scalp tingle like crazy, but feels good, and gets me another 5 mins of scalp massage :-) Then you get a 10 minute arm, hand, shoulder and back massage, and finally, you are ready for your haircut! In this picture, there is another table on the other side of me, plus 6 on the other side of the room. This is an upscale salon, and to have a senior stylist do my haircut and blow dry, I pay 132rmb/about $20usd, with a VIP card. Standard salons are much lower priced. Thanks to Leah for taking the picture.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 25 - Snoopy, called 史努比Shǐ nǔ bǐ (pronounced kind of like “sure new bee”) in Mandarin Chinese, continues to be popular in China. It seems that just like in the USA, he’s kind of a classic! I have seen special Snoopy stores, clothes for adults and children, all kinds of pens, pencils, notebooks, toys, decorations, etc, and there is a Charlie Brown restaurant in Hong Kong! And…as you can see by these stickers, Snoopy doesn’t miss out on the Chinese New Year celebration either! If you’ve been following my posts, can you recognize the hongbao, yuanbao, ancient coins, and scrolls (one side of a couplet)?
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 24 - We are currently having extremely cold temperatures for our area. We have heat in our apartment, so we’re not bad, although apartments with thick concrete walls do get really cold! However, many people in south China have no heat at all and I KNOW they are freezing right now! Our normal low in winter is about 10°C/50°F, and today we had snow, sleet and hail, so you know it was MUCH colder! I think my most valuable possession on cold days, other than my teacup, is my electric hot water bottle, especially the one with the hand warmer pocket. In China, you can even get them with cute animal designs :-) I LOVE mine and even take it to bed with me on cold nights. If you decide to try one, be sure to purchase from a reputable shop, as there are some safety concerns.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 23 - Last night, Jim brought home three cans of “liang cha,” or herbal tea, which people had given him throughout the day at work. This is a very popular drink in China, and because of the cans being red with yellow writing, and the meaning of the names, it becomes especially popular at Chinese New Year. There are two brands, basically the same drink. “Wanglaoji” means “King Old Luck,” and “Jia Duo Bao,” or JDB, means “Add More Treasure.” It is supposed to be good for sore throat and dryness in winter, and helping your body handle the heat in summer. The ingredients are water, white sugar (LOTS of it!), herbal jelly, plumeria, chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, common self-heal, licorice root and microcos leaf. I like the taste, but don’t drink it too often because of all the sugar! My thanks to Leah today for her help with translations, and to Peanut for helping to make the picture more interesting :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 22 -We like to try different fruit when we can; I figure it’s a safe food to experiment with! This morning, we had “pepino dulse” for the first time. It’s originally from South America, and is also called the pepino melon or melon pear. “Pepino” is Spanish for cucumber, and it did taste like a cross between a cucumber and a melon. Although the skin is edible, it isn’t usually eaten, so it’s recommended you take it off before eating. Unfortunately, we didn’t really like this fruit, so probably won’t buy it again. But…if you love cucumbers, and happen to see it wherever you live, give it a try!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 21 -These are gold “yuanbao”, a symbol of wealth and prosperity to the Chinese, and very popular during the Chinese New Year Festival. Today, the Chinese currency is still called the “yuan,” and “bao” means “treasure.” The shape, which is supposed to resemble a boat or shoe, represents ancient gold or silver ingots, then called “sycee.” You can also see some ancient coins, round with square centers, represented in the pictures, and on the top right, the God of Wealth is sitting on the yuanbao. I’ve seen people rub the mound in the center, so although I can’t find anything written, I assume this is supposed to bring good luck.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 20 -I enjoy reading notebook covers in stores, there are always some that make me chuckle for one reason or another. Some are cute, some funny, some just don’t make sense, and some are just…. Different! Now, please don’t get me wrong, I don’t say this in a derogatory way, I’m sure that I would do MUCH worse translating something into Chinese! It’s just another part of daily life to enjoy here! Many a time, a stressful day can be relieved by a funny little translation, more commonly called “Chinglish”
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 19 - Feb 8, 2016 will begin the lunar year 4713, and will be the year of the monkey according to the Chinese zodiac. In general, monkeys are considered to be very smart, or “clever,” so people like to have babies in the year of the monkey. If you were born in 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 or 2004, your Chinese zodiac sign is a monkey! However, it’s not that simple! There is also a system of five elements: gold, wood, water, fire and earth. When this is combined with the 12 year zodiac cycle, each combination occurs only once every 60 years. Babies born in 2016 will be Fire monkeys and will be “ambitious and adventurous, but irritable.”
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 18 - In China, as well as Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam, the number “4” is considered very unlucky. This is because, in all of their native languages, the word for “four” sounds almost identical to the word for “death.” Much like “13” in the USA, in buildings, there may not be a 4th floor, or, as we have found, you can get really good deals if you are willing to live on the 4th floor :-) There may not be any floor with a number 4 in it, including 14, 24, 34, 40-49, etc! Public transportation routes may skip using “4.” People don’t like to have phone numbers or license plates with the number “4” in them, and you should never give a gift of four of anything! Around a sick person, don’t even mention the number “4”! Today, we had lunch at a local Japanese restaurant, and I saw that Leah and I were sitting in seats 3 and 5, but right next to each other….no #4!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 17 - What westerners refer to as “Chinese New Year” is literally translated as “Spring Festival.” It is the most important holiday in China. Preparations begin weeks before, and the actual holiday includes the first 15 days of the lunar new year.
Spring Festival couplets, called chunlian , are very popular decorations, with the origin going back over a thousand years. A couplet is a very precisely written form of Chinese poetry which has two lines. These are posted vertically on either side of the doorway and a scroll with a more general message is often hung across the top of the doorway. They are typically written with black ink on red paper, but many today are also written in gold. Nowadays, you can buy all kinds of mass produced couplets, but I have also seen them being custom made.
I gave Leah the job of choosing our Spring Festival Couplets. Here is the best she can translate them, if anyone can give a more accurate translation, please do!
Scroll at top: Peace wherever you go
First Line (on right): Smooth sailing whole family happy together
Second Line (on left): May all your hopes be fulfilled full spring
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 16 - Many times in low to mid cost restaurants in China, along with your teacup, rice bowl, plate, spoon and chopsticks, you will be given a large empty bowl and a pot of tea. Often, the dishes are wrapped in plastic to show that they have been sanitized with heat, but it is considered proper etiquette to rinse your dishes with the tea before eating. Tea supposedly is a good disinfectant and will dissolve any oil that may be left on the dishes. You rinse these over the bowl: I usually first add tea to the cup, then pour it into the bowl, swish my spoon and chopsticks in the bowl, then pour it over the plate into the large bowl. To finish, put the plastic which the dishes and chopsticks were wrapped in into the large bowl and the waitress will come and pick it up :-)