When I talk about Ghost Month, what comes up in your mind? 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 Daoist terms, as 上元 Shangyuan, 中元 Zhongyuan and 下元 Xiayuan. Shangyuan, or Qing Ming, the Chinese Remembrance Day, takes place on the 4th lunar month (see my other article). Zhongyuan, popularly known as 鬼节 (“Guijie”) or 鬼月 (“Guiyue”) Ghost Month, takes place on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, culture, customs, festival, Ghost Month, rituals, tradition, Zhong Yuan
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.
Posted in Culture and tagged 7 7, china, Chinese, culture, festival, Qi Qiao, Valentine's
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.
Posted in Culture and tagged calamus, china, Chinese, culture, dragon boat, Dragon Boat Festival, Duan Wu, festival, herbs, mugwort, summer, tradition
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.
Posted in Commentary and tagged animation, china, CIFF, cinema, culture, CVF, festival, film, history of animation, indie, King's College, london
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.
Posted in Commentary and tagged china, Chinese, cinema, culture, CVF, Deformity Sci-Fi, festival, film, indie, movie, Sci-Fi, Shanxi
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”.
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, Chinese New Year, culture, Dragon Boat Festival, festival, Golden Week, May Day, Mid Autumn, Moon Festival, National Day, national holiday, public holiday, Qing Ming, Spring Festival, tomb sweeping
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.
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, culture, feminism, festival, history, International Women's Day, Suffragette, warrior
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”).
Posted in Culture and tagged Buddha, china, Chinese, congee, culture, festival, food, winter
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.
Posted in Culture and tagged ancestor, china, Chinese, culture, festival, festival of the dead, Qing Ming, spring, tomb sweeping, tradition
To the Chinese, Spring Festival is as big, important and family orientated as Christmas. In fact the two have some rather similar traditions on ushering in good luck. During Victorian times Twelfth Night, the end of Christmas on the 6th of January, was still celebrated. Do you know that popular children’s game? Whoever finds the dry bean in the cake gets to be king, whoever finds the dry pea gets to be queen and everyone else has to wait on the king and queen. Provided you don’t choke on them, finding the dry bean or dry pea represents good luck coming your way.
Posted in Culture and tagged beans, china, christmas, culture, festival, food, luck, tradition, twelve night, victorian