Tag Archives: PA De Voe

Chinese Lantern Festival 2024

The Chinese Lantern Festival (AKA Shangyuan Festival) is on the 15th day after Chinese New Year. This year that’s Saturday, February 24th. It marks the end of the new year celebrations. The lunar new year celebrations start with the beginning of the first new moon and end on the 15th –when it reaches its peak and is the first full moon. This is to highlight the beginning of a positive future, since it’s a time when winter abates and spring is on the horizon. Some consider this to be the most joyous of holidays.

Lanterns of different shapes and colors are hung in houses and out in the streets. Children and adults may walk the streets carrying lanterns. The lanterns may be round, square, of fish or other animal shapes. To make things even more fun, a lantern may have a riddle written on it and the person who guesses the riddle correctly gets a prize. The public festivities include parades with lion and dragon dances. The sound of fireworks can be heard everywhere.  

A favorite treat on this day are glutinous rice balls called yuanxiao or tangyuan. These round dumplings usually have a sweet black sesame, lotus paste, or red bean filling. Although any number of other fillings may be tried. Their round shape suggests something that is complete and whole and is used to symbolize a unified, strong family. Another popular food is an egg noodle known as the longevity noodle because of its length. Eating these noodles symbolizes enjoying a long life.

If you want to make lanterns there are several good DIY sites on the web. Making a lantern is also a good project to share with your child. Here are a few sites that will show you how to make fun, easy-to-do lanterns to celebrate this holiday.

DIY Lunar New Year lanterns:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rQ4ib7pSp4  A child demonstrates how to make lanterns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gA0zE_7j2k   Shows 1 simple lantern.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZKYGmuZn0   Extremely simple paper lantern.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSWcUKYrXyE   One level up from “Extremely simple paper lantern” above.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v12j1bQh9A   5 different ideas for lanterns.

photos are from depositphotos.com

https://www.amazon.com/Mei-hua-Trilogy-P-Voe-ebook/dp/B075SQ261G/

The Lunar New Year 2024 is the year of the Wood Dragon

While in Europe the dragon was seen as violent and dangerous, in China and in Eastern countries the dragon is much more nuanced.

The dragon is the only mythological figure in the Chinese Zodiac (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig). While it roams the skies—often depicted flying among the clouds—it is thought to live in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

As a rain god, it has authority over water in all its forms. It controls everything from storms, typhoons, floods, to the life-giving gentle spring rains. It is the rain which allows people to survive and thrive. And it is that life-giving rain which is associated with fertility and plenty.

Although not the only sign considered lucky in the Zodiac, it may be the most desirable, for there is usually a spike in the birth rate in the year of the dragon.* So why do so many new parents want their child to be born in this special year?

It’s because the dragon is associated with charisma, intelligence, power, strength, and—most importantly—success. These attributes are showered upon dragon-year newborns. What parent wouldn’t want that for their child?

*Note “’Baby dragons’ to rescue China? Beijing is counting on 2024 to fix its population woes – Here’s Why” WION https://www.wionews.com/world/baby-dragons-to-rescue-china-here-is-why-beijing-is-counting-on-2024-to-fix-its-population-woes-681243; and “The Dragon Code: Career Success Through Dragon Baby Insights” Forbes  https://www.forbes.com/sites/juliettehan/2024/02/05/cracking-the-dragon-code-career-success-through-dragon-baby-insights/?sh=6ee5848e4581

Picture from depositphotos.com

The Color RED in Chinese New Year

The color red is associated with fire—one of the five elements (metal, fire, water, wood and air). It is an auspicious color representing vitality, celebration, joy, luck, prosperity, and fertility. Who wouldn’t want their new year to start with such a positive and powerful color?

So, of course, it is the color most associated with celebrations, all celebrations. Its emphasis on prosperity includes fertility. Traditional Chinese weddings are fill with red—the bridge’s dress as well as the decorations.

Nevertheless, you do not want to write a congratulatory note using red ink for the couple’s names. Because, while red is a buoyant color, full of luck and prosperity for the future, it is not used to write people’s names. That’s considered rude and bad luck. There seems to be various possible reasons for this. There is the belief that the King of Hades had a book with everyone’s name in it—living and dead. And, he used red to mark through the names of people who were going to die. On earth, during the Imperial Period, convicted criminals who were to be executed also had their names highlighted in red. Plus, names on tombstones and ancestor tablets could be written in red. All of this association of red with dying made using red for names unlucky and inauspicious.

Except for being careful for using red with names, red is a wonderful, favorable, and auspicious color.  So, enjoy decorating with red and giving out red envelopes (with money inside for the recipient as a gift) this New Year holiday!

*photos from depositphotos.com

For an historical Chinese adventure/mystery read The Mei-hua Trilogy by P.A. De Voe

The Imperial Coroner

MOVIES: HISTORICAL CHINESE MYSTERIES

Chu Chu and An Jun Wang

If you’re looking for a mystery that’s challenging and doesn’t cheat by jumping to a conclusion that’s not supported by clues in the story, this is the series for you. The cases are complex from both the point of view of the underlying conspiracy and the clues left behind—notably also including the dead body.

#御赐小仵作 #TheImperialCoroner #TencentVideo

ENG SUB [The Imperial Coroner] EP01——Starring: Su Xiao Tong, Wang Zi Qi, Yang Ting Dong, Zhao Yao Ke, and Wang Yan Bin

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrFYLbM5HDU&list=PLuidrAcAGAOO3BJx21z2D0Wg1mCxi_Up-

Premiered: 2021

Captions in English & Chinese

Set in the imperial capital of Chang’an during the Tang Dynasty

Chu Chu (Su Xiao Tong) is an aspiring coroner with keen observational and technical skills. Having grown up in a family of coroners, she has experienced the prejudice that comes from being from a coroner family but, nevertheless, is driven to be the best at applying her skills in order to bring justice to those who have died. Her medical findings are ingenious and logical. The audience is brought along through a combination of visual displays of Chu Chu’s medical observations and re-enactments of the crime by Chu Chu and the male protagonist An Jun Wang (Wang Zi Qi), the head of the office that oversees the Ministry of Justice, the Court of Judicial Review and the Office of the Imperial Censors.

These two work together in close consort with their three friends, each with their own highly developed skills, to solve the intricate cases, regardless of who is behind the crime.

The Imperial Coroner

The characters are well drawn and complex in their own right. None appears to be a cookie-cutter portrayal of an arch-type. Plus, they change and develop as individuals and as a cadre of friends through their experiences in searching for truth and impartial justice.  

The Imperial Coroner is a top of the line historical mystery with a beguiling and endearing cast of characters.

The Eight Immortals

RELIGION & THE SUPERNATURAL: Chinese supernatural beings

Immortals are beings who once lived as humans on earth, but now inhabit the upper stratum (sometimes called Heaven or celestial level). They have supernatural powers, can assume human shape, and are able to do anything people do—including eating and drinking.

From: Werner, E.T.C. (1922) Myths & Legends of China (Project Gutenberg)

The Eight Immortals were well-known figures by the Ming Dynasty, and remain important Taoist figures today. Even the number eight itself holds great symbolic significance. Specifically, it represents the stages and conditions of human life: age (young and old), status (low and high), fortune (poor and wealthy), and gender (male and female). The Immortals, therefore, include among their number men and women, young and old, rich and poor, simple and educated.

The Eight Immortals are:

Li Tie-guai, identified by his iron crutch and calabash (bottle gourd)

Lan Cai-he, the youngest of the eight immortals, perhaps mid-teens

He Xian-gu, the only female

Cao Guo-jiu, a mythological figure often seen with a paiban (clapper)

Lu Dong-bin, a real historical scholar and poet from the Tang Dynasty

Han Xiang-zi, identified by a dizi (Chinese flute)

Zhang Guo-lao, a real historical figure associated with old age

Zhong-li Quan, AKA Han Zong-li, often seen carrying a large fan

As with humans, these supernatural beings have frailties as well as strengths, and can both enjoy and abuse worldly delights. In Warned, the second story in the Mei-hua trilogy, the immortal Iron Crutch Li (Li Tie-guai) reveals his knowing, benevolent nature by descending to earth in order to warn Mei-hua. And yet he also enjoys his liquor a little too much—which is why he appears carrying a gourd filled with wine. Similarly, Lan Cai-he, who also comes to warn Mei-hua in Warned, holds castanets because he loves to sing and dance. In the story, Iron Crutch Li and Lan Cai-he come to help Mei-hua by alerting her to danger. At the same time, they do not solve her problems for her. That’s not their job.

While immortals and other spirits were believed to be able to  play powerful roles in the natural world of Ming China, they did not control human behavior or determine a person’s destiny. Instead, supernatural beings such as the Eight Immortals operated as additional, influential actors who needed to be watched for, guarded against, or listened to.

Can you identify each of the eight immortals in the picture above?

Did You Know

Did you know that for hundreds of years during the Imperial Period China’s magistrates embodied the entire judicial system in the area they served? That they were the crime investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury?

Magistrates were appointed to their office and generally served for only three years before being moved on to another location. This short-term service was designed to avoid corruption. The idea was that in three years, the magistrates would not be able to become too closely aligned with the elite of the area. The emperor wanted his representatives to remain distinct and isolated from the people they served. This was because the magistrates had immense authority and power. A close relationship with local influential families could pressure the court to act more as a personal judicial arm for them and their interests versus the emperor and his government.

 

Another critical element in keeping the short-term magistrates from becoming closely aligned with the local elite was that sometimes magistrates would serve an area where they didn’t know one or more of the local languages. Chinese writing is not phonetic and, therefore, could be read by anyone, whether they spoke the dominate Chinese language or not.

 

What we think of as spoken Chinese, however, is not really one language. One language means those who speak it must be able to understand each other—their words are mutually intelligible. Spoken Chinese can differ significantly from region to region. The language spoken in one area may be not understood by their neighboring area. Think of the difference between Spanish and Italian. Both are Romance languages but they are quite distinct from each other. They are mutually unintelligible.

 

This was the situation Chinese magistrates faced. They had a three-year appointment with heavy responsibilities and were often placed in an district where they could not understand the local language(s).

 

Such a situation meant that, in spite of the emperor’s desire to keep the court separate from the local power sources, the day-to-day running of the judicial system depended on local people to fill the positions needed: the jailer, runners, police, scribes, etc. Magistrates sat as an outsider on a pyramid of staff that they had not chosen, did not know, and could not necessarily trust.

 

That is why magistrates often brought their own court reporters. The court reporter played a key role in making sure the documents were accurate and not manipulated in one way or another. The magistrates also often brought a couple of his own personal guards. Men he chose himself, who depended solely on him, and who, therefore, he could trust.

 

I invite you to come and explore the tensions and challenges faced by a magistrate, Judge Lu, as he brings justice to those under his protection—in spite of countervailing forces which could destroy him at any moment. You’ll find a collection of these stories in Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China. Available as e-book, paperback, or hardback.

The Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival, also known as the Spring Festival, marks the end of the two-week celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

All of the New Year decorations are taken down and the New Year taboos are lifted. These taboos include things like not scolding children, not mentioning illnesses or using unlucky words (ex., the number 4), don’t ware old clothing, avoid breaking things like a mirror or bowl, and avoid sweeping or taking out the garbage.

Do you wonder why people avoid the last two—sweeping and taking out the garbage? It’s so they don’t accidentally throw out their good fortune. Yet, the house needs to be clean. What to do? People have a simple solution to this problem: reverse how they clean the floor, go from the outside to the inside of the house. Clever!

And, of course, there are special, tasty foods to eat. Tangyuan, a ball of sticky rice wrapped around a sweet filling, is a number one favorite, along with dumplings, sweet rice cakes, and spring rolls (with or without meat).

The lion dance is performed everywhere. Since the lion is strong and brave, it ensures a secure and safe life by chasing away possible disasters.

In the Spring Festival’s night sky there is a full moon, making it a perfect time for a moon-gazing party. People can view the full moon set in the dark sky or enjoy the moon’s reflection in a pool of water.

And, of course, the night is filled with lanterns. Lanterns everywhere and of all types. Their light in the darkness symbolizes chasing away evil, assuring a good, prosperous year ahead. Many lantern owners make a game for on-lookers by pasting a riddle to their lantern. Something to have fun with while enjoying the festive day.

To quickly learn more about this fun holiday, here are a few internet sources to look at: https://www.chinaeducationaltours.com/guide/chinese-new-year-taboos.htm; https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/festivals/chinese-new-year-taboos.htm; https://blogs.furman.edu/chinamyths/2016/10/26/foods-of-the-spring-festival/; https://hashtaglegend.com/culture/6-must-eat-lucky-foods-during-chinese-new-year-spring-festival/; https://www.chinahighlights.com/festivals/lantern-festival.htm; https://cn.hujiang.com/new/p446587/

 

Sad Beginning for Year of the Rat

Today is the second day of the two week long Chinese New Year’s holiday. Normally, this is a time of joy, bringing family and friends together.

I’ve read that at this time–because people want to celebrate in their ancestral homes–the movement of people returning to be with their families causes the largest migration in the world. That is, several hundred million travelers are on the move. All within a couple of weeks. Amazing.

Unfortunately, this year, due to an outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus, this tradition was curtailed. The Chinese government has quarantined large areas of the country, particularly in the Wuhan region. All public transport, including airports and train stations, have been closed–essentially freezing people in place. This directly impacts tens of millions of people. Most may simply be unable to travel outside of the city where they are working in order to share the holiday with their loved ones. Others may be trapped mid-route. Many cities have cancelled their New Year celebrations.

This is a sad time for the Chinese nation. We can only hope that these drastic measures to contain the virus work, and that next year the people are able to celebrate the New Year fully.

Decorating for Chinese New Year

First, in preparation for Chinese New Year and before doing any decorating, every house should be thoroughly cleaned. Besides getting the house in order for the holiday season, when sweeping and cleaning, all old things and bad luck are swept out along with the dirt. Now the house is ready for a new beginning and good luck to come in.

People also put up special decorations to celebrate the New Year. Here are some of the most common. And, as you’ll see, many of these make great projects for the family’s children so that they can participate in the New Year’s fun.

Two of these were discussed in the last blog post:

  1. Pasting up a red square with the word fu written on it. Fu means good fortune or happiness, something every family can use! This character can be pasted on the window or door either right side up or upside down. When it’s upside down it signifies that good fortune is pouring out and into the household.
  2. Pasting up window and door paper cuts. These are almost always in red, an auspicious color of good luck and joy. It also protects the house against evil or bad luck.
  3. Chinese red lanterns. Not only do they brighten up the night, they drive away bad luck—especially when hung in front of the door. The lanterns can often also be seen hung on trees and outside of buildings.

To learn how to make these lanterns go to: https://www.thepurplepumpkinblog.co.uk/how-to-make-paper-lanterns/

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Auspicious plants to have in the house.
    1. Blooming flowers with unopened buds. Fresh flowers symbolize wishes for a prosperous New Year. The flowers can be plum blossoms, orchids, peonies, chrysanthemums, and peach blossoms. Orchids suggest fertility and abundance, and it particularly good for the household wanting to grow its family. Peonies stand for prosperity. Yellow chrysanthemums represent wealth, prosperity, and longevity.
    2. The “lucky bamboo” (which is not actually bamboo, it’s the Dracaena sanderiana), symbolizing good luck and prosperity.

Photo from TNS, see more at: https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/life/home-garden/2015/02/25/lucky-bamboo-fortuitous-plant-home/24024857/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tangerine or kumquat plant with its fruits round, gold shape. It’s thought to an auspicious plant which produces lots of fruit, therefore, it symbolizes wealth and abundance.
  2. The jade plant because it attracts wealth and good fortune.

 

Do you see a theme here? Yes, indeed: good luck and prosperity. That means in health as well as economically. Happiness and joy are important, too. New Year is a time of optimism about the future. People avoid talking about anything negative or bad. This is not the time to discuss sickness and death. Positive thoughts and positive activities, such as family and friend get-togethers mark the entire 15 day celebration of the New Year.

If you would like to make some decorations for celebrating Chinese New Year there are some very good web sites with free information. A few you might try are:

https://homeschoolsuperfreak.com/chinese-new-year-for-kids/     extensive coverage of many things about Chinese New Year plus fun decorations with printables

https://holidappy.com/holidays/Easy-Printable-Craft-Projects-for-the-Year-of-the-Rat    free printable craft projects for Chinese New Year

https://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-new-year-crafts.html    excellent site for making Chinese New Year crafts

https://www.hellowonderful.co/post/8-CRAFTS-TO-RING-IN-THE-CHINESE-NEW-YEAR/     very nice DIY Chinese New Year crafts

https://www.redtedart.com/paper-mice-finger-puppets/     for easy, simple shaped mouse/rat finger puppets FREE

Other sites to consider for overall Chinese New Year coverage are:

https://homeschoolsuperfreak.com/chinese-new-year-for-kids/     extensive coverage of many things about Chinese New Year plus fun decorations with printables

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/paper-cutting.htm

GUO NIAN HAO! (guò nián hǎo) 过年好

Happy New Year!

 

Lantern image from http://davaocitybybattad.blogspot.com/2012/01/chinese-new-year-of-dragon.html.

Chinese New Year Paper Cuttings

January 25th 2020 is Chinese New Year day. A typical, happy greeting is:    Gong Xi Fa Cai!       恭喜發財            Wishing you happiness and prosperity!

In decorating their houses at this time, people like to paste Paper Cuttings on their windows and doors. This enduring and cheerful tradition goes back at least 1500 years. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is one of the main times of the year when fresh paper cuttings will decorate houses.

Red paper is preferred and is the most commonly used because red symbolizes happiness but, really, any color can be used.

Since 2020 is the year of the rat, many paper cuttings will have its image either cut out in the center or drawn on the paper. If the latter, a border will be cut out around the square, forming an elaborate frame.

A couple of other very popular images on these red squares are:

  • the character chun for spring—which is a positive word because spring suggests a new beginning and growth—and
  • the character fu for good fortune, happiness, and luck.

If chun or fu are written on the paper, they will often be pasted upside down on the window or door. Being upside down symbolizes the dumping out of the character’s goodness and blessing the house with prosperity and luck.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! 

 

 

Image is a free stock photo from rgbstock.com