Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 20 – On January 28, 2017, the Year of the Rooster/Chicken will begin. If you were born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, or 2005, then, according to the Chinese Zodiac you are a rooster or chicken! However, this isn’t as easy as just the year, as Chinese New Year, or the lunar new year, is on a different day each year. For a complete list of dates, look here: https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/rooster.htm
For those who will be born in the upcoming year, 4714 of the Lunar Calendar, they will more specifically be “fire roosters” “or “red fire chickens.” In one place online, I read that according to more specific info, 2017 is actually a female, or chicken year. We are seeing a lot of roosters and chickens as we are out and about, although they don’t seem as plentiful as some of the other zodiac animals in previous years have been. My picture shows a live chicken from where we live, some rooster statues from a Spring Festival Flower Market, and lots of cute plush chickens from the display window of our local variety store.
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 2016: A Picture A Day, December 20 – Christmas is NOT a legal holiday in China. It is acknowledged by many people, and of course the Christians in China celebrate the best they can, while working and going to school! Young Chinese people like the idea of celebrating Western holidays, even if they think differently about what they are celebrating, and stores in the bigger cities take advantage of selling Christmas decorations. China has also developed one of its own Christmas traditions: Giving apples on Christmas Eve. This came about because the word for apple, “pingguo,” sounds similar to “ping’an ye, ” which means “peaceful night.” The Chinese connect this to “Silent Night” which to them represents the Western Christmas Eve. Stores sell special little boxes that apples can be given in on Christmas Eve. I’ve never tried to buy an apple on Christmas Eve, but supposedly the price goes way up because of the high demand.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 9 – Our local shopping plaza has just switched its decorations from Halloween to Christmas. And… along with the Santa Claus toys, the first roosters have appeared! Chinese New Year is very early next year, arriving on January 28th. 2017 will be the “Year of the Rooster,” so, it looks like in China, Santa will be sharing the spotlight with the rooster this holiday season :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 6 –Dongguan, the city we now live in, has been considered the “world’s factory” for about 20 years (although things are starting to change, factories looking for cheap labor are moving out and high tech industry is moving in. This area produces a large amount of the world’s factory made merchandise: shoes, clothes, toys, cell phones, and more are specialties. The company my husband works for manufactures many name brand products, including Swiffer mops, Brita water filtration products, Procter and Gamble products, and more, plus their own line of household cleaning brushes, sold at Walmart stores.
Some quotes I found online:
“Dongguan, the city known as the “world’s factory,” is home to more than 10,000 foreign-invested enterprises and one of the largest global manufacturing bases.” (that was in 2013)
“One out of every ten pairs of sneakers around the globe is made in Dongguan, one in every five persons on average has a sweater which is made in Dongguan and 30% of toys in the world are also made in Dongguan. “
When I was in the states, just for fun, one day when I was in Pat Catan’s craft store, I purposely looked for things “Made in Dongguan.” It was easier finding them than I expected, and I’ve done the same in the past, looking for things made in Shenzhen while shopping in a Cracker Barrel store!
Today, we went to a small ladies holiday lunch and cookie exchange, then shopped at a temporary Christmas shop in the restaurant’s basement. I was expecting a little shop, but it was quite large, filled with items supposedly from a factory which supplies products to Hobby Lobby stores. This was a treat to have this type of merchandise to browse because usually you can’t find items made for export for sale in China.
Todays pictures show a small section of the Christmas shop we were at today, some of the items I found in the USA that were made in Dongguan, and the tag from a brush at Walmart, made by Hayco (actually in Shenzhen), where Jim works.
So, I have a challenge for those of you reading this … next time you are shopping and think of it, pay attention to where things were made. I know most just say “Made in China,” but, see if you can find something made in the area where we live: Guangdong province, and the main cities are Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. You could even make a game of it and send your kids on a hunt around your house too :-) If you find something, come back and comment here! :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 2 – When we were at the zoo on Monday, they had a display of Chinese paper-cut monkey designs; Remember, this is the year of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac. Chinese paper cutting is a folk art that can be traced back at least 1500 years, and is still very popular today. Paper-cuts are used as decorations and given as gifts for special occasions like weddings, birthdays, etc. During Chinese New Year celebrations, the “Fu” symbol, which I wrote about with the bat post a few days ago, is a really popular decoration. Paper-cuts are usually made from red paper, but there are also ones in many colors. Sometimes they are made by folding the paper and cutting it with scissors to get a repetitive design, and sometimes a pattern is laid flat over one or more pieces of paper and they are cut with s small knife. Paper-cuts can be extremely detailed! In China, you can often see various items decorated in ways to represent paper-cuts. In my picture, the upper left and lower right monkey designs are some from the zoo display, the upper right is a sale display from back in February at the Spring Festival Flower Market, and the lower left is a large paper-cut we have hanging in our picture window. Ours has “Fu” in the center (although it is backwards here because we hung it to be read correctly from outside), and the four characters at the top basically say “Peace and safety in the four seasons.”
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 31 – I was surprised that we actually had trick or treaters last night: 2 kids and their dog! There was no planned trick or treating where we live, so I wasn’t expecting anyone, but I did find something to give them :-) Halloween isn’t really celebrated by most Chinese, but in areas where expats live, and also where children have English classes and learn about Western culture, there are often parties. This year, I think I’ve seen more parties advertised for adults, at bars and restaurants, than activities for kids! Some of the housing complexes with a lot of foreigners have trick or treating (But not in Songshan Lake, where we live). Our shopping plaza has Halloween decorations up, and the supermarket and one other store had small sections of Halloween items for sale. These pictures show the ‘signs’ of Halloween in Songshan Lake: left – The red lanterns came down and were replaced with Jack-o-lantern lanterns! Top right – The one store that has a big window display has it all done up for Halloween, pumpkins right along with the red lantern window stickers :-) Bottom right – A close up of one of the plastic jack-o-lanterns … with an evergreen branch handle! And Lower left – A place for pictures in the center of the plaza, those panda statues that have been around for a while now, are there right along with the haunted house :-) That’s it, Halloween Chinese style!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 9 – Today was the Chongyang or Double Ninth Festival in China. It is the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The common word for nine is “jiu”, which also is the way the word for “long” is pronounced, and “jiu jiu” means “forever.” Because of this, the day was always a time for worshiping ancestors. Today, because of its symbolism for longevity, it is Seniors Day. Younger generations are supposed to show respect to the elderly and make it a special day for them. A very old tradition on this day is to climb mountains. 1500 years ago in China, during the Tang Dynasty, poets often wrote about climbing mountains and it was/is believed that by doing so, disease could be prevented. I remember when we were in Guilin a few years ago and had two elderly women accompany us up Moon Hill, they were in far better physical shape than I was! They said they climbed the mountain a couple times a week. Today’s picture was taken by my friend, Nancy Liang, when she and her daughter climbed Nanshan Mountain in Shenzhen this morning. Since chrysanthemums are blooming at this time of year, they are always admired during the festival, and Chrysanthemum wine is usually enjoyed. The festival can also be called the Height Ascending Festival or the Chrysanthemum Festival.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 1 – Chinese National Day has been celebrated on October 1st since 1949. It is celebrated in China, Hong Kong and Macau. The week following is called “Golden Week.” It is comparable to the USA’s 4th of July, only it lasts a full week instead of one day. Schools are closed as well as many businesses. Mainland China has three official days off, but many people will then have to work the weekend after to make up time. Travelling is very popular during this holiday, since people have more time off. New flags are put up on display, some areas have parades or fireworks. Our plaza had some live music, and we could have gotten a free little flag from our housing office if we wanted (which we didn’t) but, there’s really not much happening right here! The picture shows flag banners along the main road and above the escalator at the supermarket.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 15 – Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, also called Moon Festival. It is the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar and celebrates the official start of fall. It is a holiday spent with family and/or friends, As with all holidays, having dinner together is important, then the evening (if possible) is spent gazing at the full moon, lighting lanterns, and eating mooncakes! Traditional mooncakes are a rich pastry, with sweet fillings of lotus seeds, red beans, nuts, or fruit, and a salted egg yolk in the very center. They are usually round to symbolize the moon. Because of their richness, they are not eaten whole, but cut into smaller wedges when served. There are many different types today, including snowskin mooncakes, which are made with a glutinous rice dough and are usually white or colored, and even frozen ice cream mooncakes! They are served with Chinese tea or fruit wines. Giving mooncakes as gifts is a tradition, so there are many, many options available to buy! Large, fancy, expensive packages, to smaller, single packaged individual ones. The majority come in pretty metal tins, I’m always tempted to buy them just for the tin! although I didn't get pictures of them this year!) I have a variety of mooncakes in the pictures:
Top: These are our homemade mooncakes :-) Middle left: These were ones we bought that we could eat because they had rice flour and bean starches instead of wheat flour, inside is egg yolk and black sesame. Middle center: This is a Starbucks snowskin mooncake. Middle right: Tins with snowskin and more traditional mooncakes. Bottom: Lots of gift packages to choose from at the supermarkets!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 13 – Although Western Culture traditionally has a “man in the moon,” did you know that China (and some other Asian countries) have a lady and a rabbit in/on the moon? Celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China supposedly dates back more than 3000 years and although the legends vary slightly, the typical story is that Chang-e, now called the Moon Goddess, took either an elixir or pill of immortality and ended up making the moon her home. Her husband missed her so much that he gave sacrifices to her. Others soon followed, and starting worshipping the moon because of her, thus the beginning of the Mid-Autumn, or Moon Festival. In Chinese mythology (and many other cultures), there is also a rabbit, called the Moon Rabbit or the Jade Rabbit, who lives on the moon and makes elixirs for Chang-e with his pestle. So, you will often see them together in decorations for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Next time you look at the moon, see if you can find the Moon Rabbit and his pestle! Here is a short video of the more complete legend of Chang-e.
Today, Leah and I were in the ‘downtown’ Dongguan area and we passed this large display being set up.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 12 – One of the traditions of the Mid-Autumn, or Chinese Moon Festival is for children to parade around carrying lanterns, under the full moon, on the festival night. Traditionally, these were handmade, often to look like animals or flowers, but today many can also be purchased ready-made. In addition to children carrying them, they can be hung in trees or around houses, some kinds are floated on water, and some are let loose to float skyward. The stores near us have many options for sale, from kits to make or decorate your own, basic paper accordion style lanterns, ones with modern day characters, and modern, plastic ones with flashing lights! Here are various lanterns we’ve seen for sale near us, as well as a couple pretty ones (with flowers and birds) that I bought for decorations :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 8 – One week from today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, so I’ll be posting some pictures for this holiday. While we were in Hong Kong on Tuesday, we walked through Victoria Park, and they were setting up a display of the large, colorful, modern style lanterns. There were so many that I loved: fish, turtles, penguins, elephants, llamas, rabbits, monkeys, ladybugs, the Monkey King, and other Chinese characters! I wish I could go back and see them all set up and glowing at night, but here are some pictures of getting ready for the holiday.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 3 – It amazes me how quickly things can change in China! I can go to my “home” in the USA, and even if I’ve been gone a year, hardly anything is different. Not so here! We were in the Philippines for 2 ½ weeks and there is now a new store! This is right by the entrance of the local supermarket, so I’m there at least twice a week, and I saw no signs of something new being built before I left! So it was quite a surprise to see it on our first day back! It’s a nice little Japanese brand shop with some nice things :-) I took the bottom 2 pictures as I was coming down the escalator from the supermarket, so you can see it would be hard to miss, the area used to just be open! The new store has glass walls on three sides, with everything around it still the same, bicycle rentals behind it and a drink and snack place to the side. I guess this was just a simple little store, but skyscrapers also go up in an amazing amount of time!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, August 9 – Today is Chinese Valentine’s Day, called 七夕节“Qixijie” or “Double Seventh Festival.” It is always celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, and has been for about 2000 years! In modern times, it is celebrated much like the Western Valentine’s Day, which is also celebrated in China. Quoted from www.chinahighlights.com , here is the quick version of the legend behind the holiday:
“An oxherd, Niulang, with the help of his ox (the demoted cattle god) married a fairy, Zhinü, who became a weaver girl. Zhinü's mother, a goddess, returned Zhinü to heaven. Niulang pursued using the ox's hide. The goddess separated them by a river of stars (the Milky Way), but magpies were allowed to form a bridge for them to meet once a year (Qixi).”
So, how does the picture tie in? This morning, I saw an elderly lady walking, then she stopped and chose a long piece of bamboo from a pile of scaffolding on the ground and proceeded to carry it across the street. Then she started beating the branches of a tree with it! I HAD to find out what she was doing so walked over to her. I could see something reddish-orange, with black centers in the tree. She came over and showed me, talking the whole time, but all I understood as she pointed at the black centers, was that they were good to eat! So, I sent a picture to our young friend in the nearby town and she didn’t know, but found out from her grandmother what they were. They are “Ping Po” or “Chinese chestnuts! Also called “seven sister’s fruit” because it turns out that they are a traditional food of the qixijie or Chinese Valentine’s Day! When the black husk is broken open, the fruit/nut inside is a yellowish color (see upper right picture where she opened one) and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are different from the chestnuts roasted in winter time though, these ones are “Sterculia monosperma,” a tree native in this area. Quite a lot of information for one day! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 21 – In honor of my husband’s birthday today, I have a picture of a Chinese lotus candle. The Chinese traditionally celebrate their birthdays by eating long noodles; long noodles to celebrate a long life. Another fun Chinese style celebration is the Chinese lotus candle. You light the center and then the candles on the petals are in turn lit and the flower opens and starts playing Happy Birthday J www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 9 – The 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar is when the “Double Fifth,” also called the Dragon Boat Festival, is celebrated in China. It is celebrated to honor a poet named Qu Yuan. In modern times, dragon boat races are held in many cities worldwide. In China, people also eat “zongzi” which are dumplings made of sticky rice with either sweet or savory fillings. They are wrapped in bamboo or other large leaves. My favorite have red bean filling. Since we knew we would miss the festival and the fresh dumplings, we had bought some frozen ones to enjoy before we left China.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 1 – International Children’s Day is celebrated on June 1st in China, as well 46 other countries worldwide. When we first went to China I was surprised to learn about it since I had never heard of Children’s Day in the USA, although Wikipedia says it is celebrated in the USA the second Sunday in June each year. There are also many countries that celebrate Universal Children’s Day on November 20. Our first Children’s Day in China was just a few weeks after we had first arrived in China and Leah was invited to attend the activities at a local elementary school. The children first did their morning exercises and a program, then the rest of the morning had a carnival type set up with games to play and activities to participate in. At the end, each child received a treat bag. These pictures are from 2009.
Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 4, 2016 -Today was an official holiday in China, called Qing Ming Jie 清明节, or Tomb Sweeping Day/Festival. It is a day/weekend celebrated by Eastern religions to pay respect to your ancestors, clean their graves, burn incense and make offerings. I’ve never actually seen a grave in Guangdong province, they are outside of the city. I have seen them when we were at the rice terraces (which is pictured) and also driving through the New Territories of Hong Kong. Since they are in the countryside, families usually pack a picnic to enjoy after tending to the graves. Nowadays, since so many people aren’t in their hometowns where their ancestors’ graves are, you can hire someone to tend to the graves for you. I thought it was interesting that those people who are specifically remembered are considered part of the extended family and called the “living dead,” whereas those who have been forgotten by their families are considered to be ghosts or the “dead dead.” The belief is that you can send things to these ancestors by burning a likeness of the object, so, as you can see by the pictures, you can buy paper money, houses, cars, games, jewelry and even iphones and ipads! My favorite is the package with Hades tea and beer! Leah took these pictures yesterday at the wet market in Dalingshan, the town next to us.