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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.

Manya Koetse

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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 Insight

Looking at Your Phone While Crossing the Road Will Now Cost You Money in Zhejiang

Pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road are getting a red light in Zhejiang.

Manya Koetse

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Zhejiang Province in eastern China has recently launched a new policy: pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phone risk getting a 50 RMB ($7) fine.

The policy has been attracting the attention of netizens on Chinese social media, where the so-called “Bowed head clan” (dītóuzú 低头族) – a slang word for smartphone-addicted people – has been a recurring hot topic.

People paying more attention to their phone than watching traffic while crossing the road can lead to very dangerous situations. Some graphic videos making their rounds on Weibo today show security camera footage of people getting run over by cars while looking at their phone.

The majority of people responding to the hashtag “Should people be fined for looking down to their phone while crossing the road?” (#低头玩手机过马路该罚款吗#) agree that this kind of behaviour is a risk to traffic safety, but some wonder if a small fine would be effective in combating this problem.

Some cities in China have introduced sidewalks with a “phone lane” and “no phone lane” over previous years, with Chongqing being the first city to do so in 2014.

Mobile phone sidewalk in Chonqgqing. Source https://tech.qq.com

As of earlier this year, the Pedestrian Council of Australia is also looking to implement a law that makes it possible to fine pedestrians who cross the road while looking at their phones.

In Honolulu, the ‘distracted walking law’ already makes it illegal for people to be distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk.

“Fine them!”, some commenters on Weibo say: “And also fine those people using their phone while driving their electric bicycles!”

“I’m not sure about the fine,” another person says: “I only know I bumped into a tree today walking looking at my phone..”

For many commenters, however, the issue is a no-brainer: “Just don’t use your phone while crossing the road. Personal safety comes first.”

Also read: The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Jialing Xie.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

Image via Netflix.

Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

 

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

 

One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

 

“American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

 

Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

“We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

 

“Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

 

Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

“The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

 

“China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

 

Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Edited by Eduardo Baptista

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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