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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What Does Twelfth Night Have in Common with Chinese New Year?

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.


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Dong Zhi (Winter Solstice)

Last night, we celebrated 冬至 (“dong zhi”) or Winter Solstice, which for the Chinese is one of the 24 seasons in the Lunar Calendar. This is longest night of the year for those in the northern hemisphere, after which the night will gradually shorten and the day lengthen. In Chinese philosophy, Dong Zhi is a time when strong forces of the Yin begin to wane and weak forces of the Yang, start to rise . It’s been an important winter festival for more than 2000 years, as a time for ancestral, heaven worship, rest and celebration of the departure of ill luck, diseases and the health and good luck this will bring.


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