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一、10 Things you should know about Chinese New Year


It is the Lunar New Year and everything in China seems to have turned red. Houses are decorated with red Spring Festival Couplets, red lanterns, and red paper cuttings and even city streets are lit up with red lanterns. This is because red in Chinese culture is the symbol of happiness, wealth and prosperity, and can ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. These red decorations are to the festival what Christmas trees are to Christmas.


2.Chinese New Year Isn’t on a Fixed Date


The date for Chinese New Year changes each year. It always falls between January 21 and February 20, which is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year 2019 is on Tuesday February 5.


The lunar calendar is still really important in China, even though it has officially moved to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world. All traditional holidays and days such as the Winter Solstice are celebrated. Some people still calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar too!


3.The festival is celebrated for 16 days till the Lantern Festival.Traditionally, the 16 days from New Year’s Eve until the Lantern Festival each have a special celebration activity. In the evening of the 15th day of the first lunar month (February 19, 2019), on the night of the full moon, families gather for dinner and go out and see fireworks and light lanterns. Lanterns are put up for decoration, let loose to fly, and floated in rivers. I can not wait to go and see this, although I think it is going to be very crowded.


4.It is a day for praying to gods


The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods


5.And fighting off monsters


the myths are much more interesting. According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (年). It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.


6.The festival causes the world’s largest annual migration.


For Chinese people, the most important part of the Chinese Spring Festival is to enjoy a reunx dinner with their families on New Year’s Eve, even if they have to travel long distances. It is the longest public holiday and the whole country is on the move. 200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances for these holidays, and it is estimated that there are 3.5 billion journeys in China. Tens of millions of people travel in other countries too. It makes the largest annual human migration in the world, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush.


8.The Chinese Calendar Is Way Ahead of the Gregorian


Per the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year in 2019 begins the year 4716. The future seems to have arrived because year numbering was once based on the whim of emperors.


9.Fireworks are used to scare evil spirits


Most mainland Chinese believe that the flash and bang of firecrackers and fireworks scare away the Nian, a mythological beast that once came around to eat villagers.


Always a country that likes to do things big and set records, China has often grabbed the record for the world’s largest organized fireworks display during Chinese New Year. Fireworks have been banned here in Shanghai so unfortunately I did not get to see this display.


10.Singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home.


Chinese New Year is a joyful time for most, but for singles above the normal matrimonial age it’s not. In China, females are said to be marriageable up to 30, and males before 32. For “old” singles, parents are extremely anxious. So New Year’s Eve stress is heightened by embarrassing interrogations of the singles. Desperate parents even arrange dating for their single children.


To solve this problem an interesting solution has appeared — renting a boyfriend or girlfriend for the New Year. There are websites and agents who specialize in this business. It is quite sad that people need to go to this extreme just to avoid being questioned by their family.


二、Happy Year of the PIG from the Alleys of Yuyuan Garden.


As I explore the alleys of Yuyuan Garden I am constantly reminded that it is the Lunar New Year and that we have entered the year of the Pig! Chinese New Year 2019 started on Tuesday, February 5th and ends on January 24th, 2020.


You probably know there are 12 Chinese zodiac animals used to represent years, 2019 is the year of the Pig. Zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture, and can be used to determine your fortune for the year, marriage compatibility, career fit, best times to have a baby, and so much more. Many large corporations in China still reference it before making important decisions!


But did you know that the zodiacs originally had something to do with the worship of animals?


One legend says that the Jade Emperor needed to choose 12 animals as palace guards. The Cat asked his neighbour Rat to help him sign up. Rat forgot, which is why they became mortal enemies.


At the palace, Ox was first in line, but Rat secretly climbed onto Ox’s back and jumped in front of him. Tiger and Dragon thought it was unfair, but they could only settle behind Ox. Rabbit found it unfair too. He wanted to race with Dragon and succeeded.


But if you were born in the year of the PIG, 2019 is seen as a hurdle you have jump over as your zodiac year is bad luck. There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons.


Your defence from evil spirits and bad fortune is the colour red. Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewellery, insoles and more! Even in modern times, it’s still treated as a real concern.


三、This is What makes Longhua Temple in Shanghai Unique


Everyone knows that China is all about temples. There are Buddhist temples, Taoist temples and also Confucian temples. To the untrained eye, most of these look the same, but not all are created equal. I love exploring these different temples and learning all about them as they are a part of the unique Chinese culture.


1.The temple complex is the biggest temple complex in Shanghai.


Longhua Temple & Longhua Pagoda is the oldest, largest and most majestic Buddhist building in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River Delta, and is also one of the best reserved temples in Shanghai.


2.This hall is surrounded with red lanterns and fresh flowers 2. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in Shanghai


Not only is the Longhua Temple the largest temple in Shanghai, but the pagoda is the only one in Shanghai that existed before modern times. It was first built in 242 AD, but because of the several destructions by the wars, most of the buildings in Longhua Temple were reconstructed although the style of Song Dynasty (960-1279) still remains.


3.The smell of insence drifts through the whole temple grounds 3. The 7-story pagoda is a Shanghai landmark.


The lovely Longhua Pagoda is not open to visitors due to its age and fragility and can only be admired from a distance. It is a 7 story red brick and wood, structure and it looks like a delicate Song-era pagoda. You will see this pagoda featured on countless images depicting temples in China.


4.The pagoda used to be the tallest building in Shanghai until modern times


The seven-storied, 40.4 meters high Longhua Pagoda stands in front of the Longhua Temple. Each storey is smaller than the storey below, and all the levels are encircled by balconies and banisters. Bells on each corner of the octagonal eaves make cheerful and lively sounds as the wind passes by. Unfortunately modern buildings tower over this beautiful structure now.


5.The Room with 500 Golden Statues


Just outside of the main entrance of the third hall called the Daxiong Baodian where there is a big golden sitting Budda statue, there is a side hall where you can see 500 little gold statues arranged in rows. They shine and glitter in the light. From the austere courtyard with the smoke of fires and burning incense, the golden and bright statues are a striking contrast.


6.The Grand Hall of the Great Sage (Daxiong Baodian):


The halls in the temple were built strictly according to the traditional Buddhist symmetry that are neat and equitable in layout, magnificent and dignified in architecture. The most impressive hall is the Grand Hall of the Great Sage. In it, there is a big golden statue of Buddha along with several statues of arhats. The Longhua Temple complex is often crowded with devotees bringing incense to the Buddha images. Chanting music is played, and people bow and kneel in front of them.


What is your favourite temple in China?


四、Dafu Buddha, a Chinese Masterpiece


“MASTERPIECE. No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or obxt that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.”


I thought of the Dafu or Leshan Giant Buddha that I had the opportunity to see while on my China Odyssey with my mom.


The stairway leading down to the feet of the Buddha This Buddha is seated with his hands resting on his knees


At 71 meters tall, it is the largest stone Buddha in the world and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.