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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 founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.

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While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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