Moon Cakes

Tiny sticky cakes with a salted egg yolk in the middle. Sounds tasty, no?
One baked lotus seed paste mooncake with one egg yolk weighs about 180 g, has 790 calories, and contains 45 g of fat, so they taste good, but aren’t so good for your figure, unless you want to end up looking like the autumn moon!


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Zhong Yuan: Ghost Month

This year’s Ghost Month started yesterday. Are you now thinking of Dias de Muertos? You’ve got the right idea. This is the Chinese version. There are three traditional festivals of the dead on the Chinese annual calendar, known in Taoist terms, as 上元Shang Yuan, z中元Zhong Yuan and 下元 Xia Yuan. Shang Yuan, or Qing Ming, the Chinese Remembrance Day, takes place in the 4th lunar month (see my other article). Zhong Yuan, popularly known as 鬼节 (“Gui Jie”) or 鬼月 (“Gui Yue”) Ghost Month, takes place on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.


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7 7: Qi Qiao

Today is the 7th day of the 7th month in the Chinese lunar calendar, commonly known as 7 7, the Chinese Valentine’s, and women’s festival. The origins of 7 7 date all the way back to the 3rd century BC, and to the Nanyang civilisation in Henan, the cradle of ancient Chinese culture. Amongst many great achievements, the Han Dynasty saw the advancement of native Chinese astronomy, the silk industry from the breeding silk worms, growing mulberry leaves to weaving, and Nanyang was known for its fine stock of cattle. Like many ancient civilisations, the Chinese held the stars in great awe, they divided the sky into 28 constellations, anthropomorphising many in the naming process. So from the development of ancient Chinese industry, agriculture and astronomy, came this beautiful legend that inspired the festival.


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Duan Wu (Dragon Boat) Festival

Summer is here again, with Dragon Boat Festival to mark it. This year, instead of delivering my culture tweets, I’ve put together an article, so that people interested to look further can read more about it. After all, Dragon Boat Festival is China’s major traditional summer festival, and probably the second most well-known celebratory event after Spring Festival.


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An Evening of Independent Chinese Animation

This year’s Chinese Visual Festival is collaborating with the Chinese Independent Film Festival to bring to the UK their 10th anniversary animation selection, and I went to see it at King’s College in the middle of May.


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Deformity Sci-Fi

残废科幻 (“Can Fei Ke Huan”), quite crudely translated as “Deformity Sci-Fi”, is a peculiar, heady mix, shot in Shanxi, the hometown of up and coming Chinese indie director Jianqiang Xue (a.k.a. Kokoka). It follows the lives and misdemeanors of a gang of lowly thugs as they go about their daily business, arguing, fighting, drinking, collecting money and committing crimes against the backdrop of an imminent alien visitation.


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National Holidays in China

As we are enjoying our first bank holiday weekend of the year in England, eating hot cross buns, and looking forward to a four-day week ahead of us, I have been thinking about national holidays in China. Even If you are based in the West, you may increasingly have to deal with the Chinese calendar, as companies you work with suddenly shut up shop for “Tomb Sweeping” or “Double Nine”.


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The Magnificent 7: Warrior Women of China

This weekend is International Women’s Day (8th of March). In China, it is celebrated with speeches on TV, stage shows and gifts for women from their junior loved ones. I remember presenting my mother and aunties with flowers and pictures I drew as a child. A Polish colleague once told me that in Polish tradition, females of all ages are eulogised on International Women’s Day. So both her and her daughter of five years of age, would get flowers on this day. Over here though, it is celebrated by white middle-aged men asking “when is it International Men’s Day?” all over Facebook and Twitter. So I’ve written about some strong female warriors throughout Chinese history, to remind everyone to think about how recent women’s emancipation still is, even in Britain, the land of the Suffragettes; and to also tell you that even if a civilization as patriarchal as China, there are strong female role models to be found, throughout history.


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La Ba: a Winter Festival

Winter Chinese festivals are few and far between. 腊八 La Ba is one of them. Other than meaning “wax, 腊”La”, was an ancient ceremony of offering to the gods that happens on the 12th month of the lunar calendar, on the 8th day (hence “ba”).


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Qing Ming (It’s Not Just about Tomb Sweeping!)

清明 Qing Ming Festival originated about 2500 years ago in the Zhou Dynasty. It takes the name of a season in the third month of the Chinese agricultural calendar, the season of seed sowing and spring ploughing, when the sky is clear and the air is bright, as indicated by its name. Apart from being an important agricultural season, Qing Ming is also China’s festival of the dead, and a national holiday. Here I outline some traditions observed during the festival. Just so you don’t get bored I am enlivening them with some personal experiences.


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