In China, there is the Gregorian New Year and the Lunar New Year

December 27, 2017

In China, it’s possible to celebrate a new year twice each year in different months – once during the western New Year based on the Gregorian calendar (December 31, 2017), and a second time during the Lunar New Year (February 16, 2018).


December 31, 2016, in Beijing

The earliest recorded festivities to welcome a new year date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox, a day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness, announced the start of a new year.

If the first recorded New Year’s celebration was in March, why was it moved to January 1st? The answer may be found at History.com where we discover that Emperor Julius Cesar introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries use today, and Cesar made January 1st the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings.


December 31, 2016, in Hong Kong

The Chinese Lunar New Year gained significance because of several myths and traditions. History.com reports, “The ancient Chinese calendar, on which the Chinese New Year is based, functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records indicate that it existed as early as the 14th century BC, when the Shang Dynasty was in power (1600 – 1046 B.C.).”

Traditionally, the lunar new year festival was a time to honor deities (gods) as well as ancestors, and it is celebrated in countries and territories that have large Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines.


Lunar New Year Celebration at Shanghai Disneyland in early 2017

For readers who haven’t been to China, this is your chance to experience what it is like to live in a country with more than 1.3 billion people. In China, during major national holidays, there are a lot of people on the move and it becomes so crowded on trains and buses during this time, it’s possible for a passenger to end up standing for a trip that might take hours because the more expensive seats were sold out.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Did you know that Christmas is celebrated in Communist China?

December 20, 2017

I don’t read or speak Mandarin and a few years ago in early December an e-mail arrived that was in Mandarin and there was a link to a video and other attachments.

Since I learned the hard way years earlier that you don’t open an attachment from an e-mail when you don’t know where it’s from, I waited until Anchee read it and said it was from one of our daughter’s grandfathers in China.

Inside the attached file were twelve virtual Christmas cards in English with flashing Christmas lights in winter settings. There was also a link to a video where people in China were being asked questions about celebrating Christmas.

Daughter’s grandpa lives in Shanghai, and the city’s shopping malls were decorated for Christmas. It seems that many Shanghai Chinese adopted the Christmas holiday and take it seriously even giving gifts.

One Chinese man in the linked video said, “Perhaps because Shanghai is quite an international city, we attach much importance to this festival and celebrate it in a grander manner compared to other cities in China.”

A young Chinese woman said, “If you live overseas for a long time, you will know that this is the time to reunite with your friends and exchange Christmas presents with those you know.”

The twelve virtual Christmas cards our daughter’s grandfather attached to his e-mail said:

  1. “Remember… Through the year, be thankful for what you have…”
  2. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… You are richer than 75% of the world.”
  3. “If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.”
  4. “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… You are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.”
  5. “If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… You are ahead of 500 million people in the world.”
  6. “If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death… You are more blessed than three billion people in the world.”
  7. “If your parents are still alive and still married… You are very rare, even in the United States.”
  8. “If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful… You are blessed, because the majority can, but most do not.”
  9. “If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder… You are blessed because you can offer healing touch.”
  10. “If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore … You are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.”
  11. “Have a good day, count your blessings, and pass this along to remind everyone else how blessed we all are. You are wished a Merry Christmas.”
  12. “Remember … throughout the year, be thankful for what you have been blessed with …”

This e-mail came from a grandfather that fought on the winning side of China’s Civil War (1925 – 1949), and then he held an important position in China’s Communist Party until he retired at 67 (as the 1982 Chinese Constitution requires).

Country Digest says that Shanghai has a population of more than 24-million people, and only 2.6-percent (624k) are Protestants and Catholics.


There are Chinese and expatriates who celebrate Christmas in Beijing too.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Sipping Tea in China

December 6, 2017

The Chinese invented tea.  Then thousands of years later, the British stole the secrets of tea making, and you can read about that theft in For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History.

However, whenever I’m in Shanghai, I enjoy visiting this shopping area. Go early; it gets crowded.

The Huxinting Teahouse has been around for a long time, and the last time this pavilion was restored was in 1784.  Then it was turned into the tea house in 1855.

The area in Shanghai around the Huxinting Teahouse is a good place to shop. Hint, do not pay asking prices. Be willing to bargain.  Start low and meet in the middle. Don’t be too cheap either, because the business you are buying from has to earn enough money to survive too.

And if you want to read my review of “For All the Tea in China”, click the link in this sentence.

To learn more about Shanghai, also click and read:
Shanghai
Shanghai’s History & Culture
Shanghai Huangpu River Tour
Eating Gourmet in Shanghai
Chinese Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Eating Turkey in China

November 22, 2017

Turkey is a big bird most Chinese seldom eat. However, eating duck and chicken is common. Duck is even considered a delicacy. In fact, the Unvegan says, “No trip to Beijing is complete without eating some Peking Duck.”

The Virtual Tourist said, “It is thought that Beijing roast duck, like the tradition of roast turkey in America and the UK, owes its origin to the roast goose that is still popular in Europe on festive occasions.”

Most Americans do not celebrate the Chinese New Year (the Spring Festival) and most Chinese do not celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that Canadians also celebrate, but earlier in October than when it is celebrated in the U.S.

CBS News.com reported, “America is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of turkeys. As a nation we’re also the largest consumers of turkey …” and “China is the second-largest market for U.S. turkey exports, reportedly buying more than $70.5 million in turkey meat in 2012.”

If you are visiting China during Thanksgiving, you have a choice between Peking Duck, which is easier to find, and turkey.

Go China says, “Just head to your local international grocery store (Jenny Lu’s in Beijing … Cityshop in Shanghai) and stock up on all the fixings: frozen Butterball turkeys, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie makings. But you better do it fast, there tends to be a run on these items so if you’re shopping on the last Thursday in November, you’ll be out of luck.”

In fact, if you are visiting Shanghai, the Shanghai City Guide helps you find where to buy your favorite food. There are even Walmarts in China (if they sell turkey), and The Beijinger.com tells us where to get stuffed on turkey for Thanksgiving.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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To Get Around, take the Bullet Trains and Use the Subways in China

July 26, 2017

Believe me when I suggest avoiding driving or taking a taxi in Beijing unless it is midnight and the city is sort-of sleeping. Beijing is one of the worst cities in the world to drive in. This is probably true for most of China’s crowded cities.

To give you an idea of what I mean by crowded, New York City has a population of about 8.5 million and is ranked #1 in the United States with Los Angeles #2 with less than 4 million people. There are 160 cities in China with a population of over 1 million vs only 10 in the United States.

Here are China’s top five cities ranked by population.

Shanghai – 22 million

Beijing – 10 million

Guangzhou – 11 million

Tianjin – 11 million

Shenzhen – 10 million

I have been to Shanghai and Beijing several times between 1999 – 2008, and have been stuck in Beijing traffic breathing toxic fumes and watching the taxi’s meter adding numbers to the cost of the trip when we could have walked faster for free.

The other choice is Beijing’s subway system built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (and it’s still expanding), which I prefer using. It’s fast and efficient, but wear a money belt because it can become sardine-can crowded creating a perfect environment for pickpockets. I didn’t even wear my backpack on my back. I put it on my chest where I could keep an eye on it. To be fair, Smarter Travel.com warns us of the dangers of pickpockets in New York City. The same advice will help in any major city you visit.


This video was filmed in 2013 when only one subway line was open. Today, Xian has three subway lines with sixty-six stations and an average of 1.5 million people riding the subway daily. Last time I was in Xian in 2008, the subway system was still under construction.

Then there is China’s high-speed rail. It didn’t exist in 2008, and I haven’t been back to China since. Why fly when you can see China from a bullet train moving at 120 – 160 mph (or faster). The Economist reports, “Less than a decade ago China had yet to connect any of its cities by bullet train. Today, it has 20,000km (12,500 miles) of high-speed rail lines, more than the rest of the world combined. It is planning to lay another 15,000km by 2025.”


“China’s high speed trains make travelling the country easy and quick but there are certain things you should know that’ll make using the high speed trains in China a painless process!” – Learn how to ride high-speed rail in China from The Adventurer

Then Manufacturing.net asks, “Why is There No High-Speed Rail Network in America?”

Here is the simple answer. Since World War II, the U.S. has spent about $33-Trillion on its military budgets and fighting endless wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan causing millions to be killed and/or maimed. Without those wars, there would probably be no ISIS. Then there is the fact that since President Reagan in the 1980s, the focus in the United States has been on cutting taxes mostly for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. That has led to about $20 trillion in debt for the federal government. During this time, the U.S. has not kept its infrastructure up-to-date – improvements that would have provided millions of new jobs and benefited the American people.

If the United States had avoided starting so many wars and had a military budget equal to China (ranked #2 in the world), it would have saved about $32-Trillion since World War II. There would be no national debt and the U.S. might even have its own bullet trains speeding from coast to coast.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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Marco Polo wrote, “It is without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world.”

June 21, 2017

Huangzhou is considered one of the most beautiful cities in China. In 1127, the Song Dynasty made the city their capital after losing northern China to the Jin Dynasty.

“Spring Day on West Lake” by Ouyang Xiu (1007 – 1072 AD)

“The lovely Spring breeze has come
Back to the Lake of the West
The Spring waters are so clear and
Green they might be freshly painted.
The clouds of perfume are sweeter
Than can be imagined. In the
Gentle East wind the petals
Fall like grains of rice.”

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

The city of Huangzhou (developed in the 4th and 5th centuries CE) is about a hundred miles or 161 kilometers from Shanghai. I’ve visited this city several times. My last trip was in 2008.

The city has one of the largest bike sharing projects in the world and one of the most successful. Launched in 2008, the city of Huangzhou provides 50,000 free bicycles at 2,000 bike stops across the city, and in July 2012 a paper was published on the Clean Air Action Planning in Chinese Cities: Hangzhou and Jinan Cases.

Li Zhi Hong of Hangzhou Public Transport says the city wanted to encourage citizens to leave their cars and use more public transportation. The bicycles allowed people to take that final kilometer from the bus station to their destination.

The bikes are also great for tourism.

Hangzhou’s architecture and gardens are renowned, and it is situated among hills and valleys in which some of the most famous monasteries in China are located.

Huangzhou, also known as the Westlake, has been one of the more environmentally conscious cities in China. For instance, the city’s government made space to build parks alongside the rapid development and modernization. That’s why Huangzhou has remained picturesque unlike many other cities in China where concrete has taken over.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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A Trip to China isn’t Complete until Hangzhou

April 5, 2017

If you ever visit China, plan to see this tourist attraction in Hangzhou. Before 1949, it was the home of a wealthy family but was first owned by Hu Xue-yan (1823-1885). There’s more to Hangzhou than this mansion, but it’s still worth seeing. Watch the 2nd video to discover more about the city.

Hu Xue-yan made his money in banking then expanded into pawn shops, import-export, real estate and made his biggest fortune as the founder of a Chinese herbal medicine company. After he died, his family lost the fortune and sold the house.

The house was built in 1872. After it was renovated in 2008, it was turned into a museum and tourist attraction.

When the Communists won China’s Civil War in 1949, the mansion (covering about two acres) was owned by another family that made its fortune first in the silk industry then banking.

During a visit to Hangzhou, for a few yuan, you will be able to tour most of the mansion and the gardens.

The Hu Xue-yan mansion is in a city with a population of more than eight million, but once inside its walls you have no sense of the crowded city outside. Once the owner was home and the gates closed at night, it was a world-of-tranquility apart from the city.

The city of Hangzhou is more than two-thousand years old and was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279 AD) before Kublai Khan conquered all of China and founded the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368 AD).

There is a famous Chinese saying:  “In heaven there is paradise, on Earth there is Su and Hang (Hangzhou – Paradise on Earth).

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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