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35 Facts About Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year has arrived. We are saying goodbye to the year of the Horse, and welcome the year of the Goat. Did you know that New Year was once cancelled by the government? Or that Xinjiang people receive “anti-extremist” New Year’s calendars? What’s on Weibo brings you 35 facts about Chinese New Year.

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Chinese New Year has arrived. It is the most important Chinese festival of the year, and the anticipation starts weeks before it starts. Trending topics on Sina Weibo during this period include “going home”, “not able to go home”, “meeting the family-in-law” or “red envelope” (hongbao, monetary gifts during festivities). Did you know that Chinese New Year was once cancelled by the government? Or that Xinjiang people receive “anti-extremist” New Year’s calendars? What’s on Weibo brings you 35 facts about Chinese New Year.

1 * Chinese New Year has been celebrated for over 3000 years (Li 2006, ch.1).

2 * Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, and begins on a different date every year; always in January or February. It lasts for fifteen days, until the night of the full moon. It usually falls near the first day of spring, hence it is also called the Spring Festival (Smith 2000).

3 * ‘Spending New Year’ in Chinese is ‘guo nian‘ (过年, nian meaning ‘year’). According to Chinese legend, the origins of Spring Festival can be found in the battle against the Nian, a fierce and hungry man-eating beast. Except for ‘spending New Year’, ‘guo nian‘ hence also means the ‘passing of the beast’.

4 * Except for the Han (China’s greatest ethnic group) Spring Festival is also celebrated by 38 other minorities (Li 2006, ch.1).

5 *Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) or Kung Hei Fat Choy (Cantonese) are the most common ways to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinese (恭喜发财).

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6 * Fireworks are an integral part of Chinese New Year. Traditionally, the noise and fire is supposed to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.

7 * Due to worsening air pollution in China’s big cities over the past years, the enthusiasm for fireworks has curbed as the government has started anti-firework campaigns.

8 * 2015 is the Year of the Goat. It starts on February 19th and lasts until February 7th, 2016. Those with birth years 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003 and 2015 are said to have been born in the year of the Goat (Sabin 2015).

9 * The Chinese character for goat 羊 (yang) can mean either ram, sheep or goat- leading to much confusion on what kind of year this actually is. According to one Chinese linguist, the only right translation is goat: it is the goat that belongs in the Chinese zodiac, as it was one of the animals that was commonly eaten in ancient China, along with other zodiac signs such as horses, cows, dogs, pigs and chickens.

10 * The Year of the Goat is marked by positive changes. In terms of culture and arts it promises cool fashion, new styles and bright colors. In terms of politics, reconciliation plays an important role in the Year of the Goat. This will be a year for peace, dialogue and understanding (Sommerville 2014).

11 * The dragon dance is a form of traditional performance seen during the Chinese New Year. The dragon is believed to bring good luck. The Beijing Aquarium even holds underwater dragon dances.

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12 * Ahead of the festivities, there is a mass exodus within China: 2.8 billion trips are made across the country so that people can go back to their hometowns to see friends and families to celebrate Chinese New Year together (Sabin 2015).

13 * Before the festival, people clean their house. They should not clean their house on the first two days of the New Year, as it is considered bad luck to “sweep away good luck” (Sabin 2015). Similarly, people also should not wash their hair during the first two days of the new year.

14 * The color red is the central color of Spring Festival: red is believed to bring good luck and scare away evil spirits. Red is a dominant color in clothing and paper decoration during the festivities (Smith 2000).

15 * During the festivities, there are many traditional snacks and dishes. Sticky cakes and dumplings are commonly eaten throughout these days. If you’re lucky, you might find a coin in your dumpling.

16 * Besides all kinds of delicacies, long noodles are also often eaten during Chinese New Year as they represent longevity.

69c171d3jw1epdngivglaj20hs0dcn06“Preparing for New Year dinner with the family,” says one Weibo user, posting this picture.

17 * Mao Zedong was praised for celebrating Chinese New Year together with the common people (see image).

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18 * In 1986,high-ranking official Hu Yaobang celebrated Chinese New Year in the southern province of Yunnan. In the featured image, Hu Yaobang dances traditional ethnic dance together with locals (360doc).

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19 * The year-end bonus (年终奖金) is an important issue during Chinese New Year. Some employees receive large amounts of money from their companies, others are disappointed with what they get.

20 * Most text messages are sent during Chinese New Year. The current record stands at 19 billion.

21 * If you mention ‘Chinese New Year’ on Weixin, small moneybags fall drop down in the screen.

22 * The best-watched television show during New Year’s is the Spring Festival Eve television gala by CCTV. With an estimated 800 million viewers, this show has the largest audience for any entertainment show in the world, surpassing the Super Bowl.

23 * The first Spring Festival Eve television gala took place in 1983. The show consists of different acts, including comedy sketches (Bin 1998, 220).

24 * This year, Weibo users can watch the live broadcasting of the television gala while commenting and interacting with other Weibo users without switching screens.

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25 * Before New Year’s, Hong Kong hospitals filled up with expecting mothers waiting for a caesarean section in order to make sure their babies were still born in the Year of the Horse, as it is considered a good year to have children.

26 * It is tradition to burn paper money or ‘ghost money’ during the festivities as offerings to the spirits and deceased. The paper money is sometimes made from rice paper, but silver or gold metallic paper is also common.

27 * Doctors have warned people to wear face masks when burning metallic money, as the substances that are produced when burning this money are a potential health risk.

28 * For many young single men and women, Chinese New Year is the period when they receive the most pressure from their parents to get married. Over recent years, a trend has come up where single women rent a date to take home to their parents in order to avoid critical questions on their single status.

29 * The pressure to get married is especially difficult for Chinese gays who have not come out. A Chinese gay rights organisation has therefore launched a video titled ‘Coming Home‘, urging gays to talk to their families and telling parents to be supportive during Spring Festival.

30 * A new year means a new calendar. Giving a calendar is tradition during Chinese New Year.

31 * This year, the government is giving away “anti-extremism” calendars in Urumqi in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to China’s Muslim Uighur population (also read: Islam in China).

32 * You might see a lot of people eating oranges and pomelo’s during New Year. The Chinese words for oranges and tangerines (橘, 桔: ju) sound like ‘luck’ (吉, ji), while pomelo (柚, you) sounds like ‘to have’ (有 you). Eating pomelo’s and oranges is thus considered to bring good luck.

33 * The Year of the Goat has a ‘mascot’ this year. Yangyang the Goat was revealed on the Weibo account of CCTV’s Spring Festival television gala. It is the first time the Spring Festival gala has a mascot.

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34 * Chinese New Year was officially cancelled in 1967 at the time of the Cultural Revolution, as it was believed that the festivities would distract the people from their “revolutionary duties”.

35 * Besides all the do’s, there are also specific don’ts during Spring Festival: do not give clocks as presents, because they symbolise time running out, avoid the use of sharp objects, as they might cut off good fortune, and do not wear black or tell ghost stories, as it might bring about negative energy (John 2015).

– by Manya Koetse

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References

Bin, Zhao. 1998. “Popular Family Television and Party Ideology: The Spring Festival Eve Happy Gathering.” Journal of Composite Materials 33: 928–40.

Chey, Ong Siew. 2011. China Condensed: 5,000 Years of History & Culture. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd.

John, Simi. 2015. “Chinese New Year 2015: Top ten superstitions.” International Business Times, February 17 http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chinese-new-year-2015-top-ten-superstitions-1488173 [18.02.15].

Sabin, Lamiat. 2015. “Chinese New Year 2015: When is it, how is it celebrated – and what does the Goat signify?” The Independent, Feb 17 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/chinese-new-year-2015-when-is-it-how-is-it-celebrated–and-what-does-the-goat-signify-10049702.html [17.02.15].

Smith, Christine. 2000. Chinese New Year Activities. Teacher Created Resources. https://books.google.com/books?id=whFBVSNN_ZkC&pgis=1.

Somerville, Neil. 2014. The Goat in 2015: Your Chinese Horoscope. HarperCollins Publishers. https://books.google.com/books?id=lrzpAgAAQBAJ&pgis=1.

Xing, Li. 2006. Festivals of China’s Ethnic Minorities. China Intercontinental Press 中信出版社.

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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