NOW IN 22 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES. CLICK ON THE LOWER LEFT HAND CORNER “TRANSLATE” TAB TO FIND YOURS!
By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: one of the 366 pages from my 2016 Chinese wall calendar. While giving the Gregorian date and day, the rest of the information contains a wealth of information from the Chinese calendars, the 12 Earthly and 10 Celestial Stems, detailed astrology, horoscope, almanac, Buddhism and more – way more outside the scope of this article. Pictured is February 8th, 2016, the first day of the Chinese New Year of the Monkey. At the top is also the Muslim calendar date, for China’s 24 million followers of Islam. (Image by Jeff J. Brown)
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Sixteen years with the people on the streets of China, Jeff
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] would like to offer you a monthly review of Chinese events, based on their two calendars, which have been in use going back 5,000 years. One is lunar (yueli = 月历) and the other is agricultural (nongli = 农历). The lunar calendar provides most of the traditional festivals. The agricultural calendar has 24 solar “terms”. So every two weeks, there is a weather related phenomenon. These are calculated based on each 15-degree movement of the Sun along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Sun’s apparent path across the sky each year. Fifteen times 24 equals 360 degrees, a full circle. Thus, please note that a single date is given for each solar term. But, they can fall a day or two earlier or later on the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Lunar calendar festivals can change more than a week or so, depending on how they mesh each year, since naturally, the Chinese agricultural calendar uses lunar calendar dates.
For the names, Pinyin and Chinese are provided, if you’d like to look up the terms online or in Pleco. Also, for more details on each day/date, just search the name on the internet, if you’d like.
If you talk to the Chinese about these calendar events, they will be flattered and impressed that you know. You may even trigger dates that they have forgotten, since the civil (Western) calendar dominates daily urban life. However, the Chinese calendars are still very much a part of rural Chinese society, and even a solid minority of urban folk, who have immigrated to the cities. This is especially true of older citizens. I continually meet Chinese who couldn’t care less about the Gregorian calendar. They lead their lives via the double Chinese lunar and agricultural calendars, along with all the detailed, daily astrology that is associated with them. As I’ve always said, astrology is truly the world’s most popular and followed religion.
January and February Chinese Calendar Events
So, you may be asking, why are January and February combined? This is because, since the Chinese calendar is lunar, Chinese New Year’s, or Spring Festival’s date can change. Just as Christian Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full Moon on or after the Spring Equinox, China has its own cadence for New Year. Chinese New Year falls on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice or when a thirteenth, intercalary month is added, the third New Moon after Winter Solstice. The thirteenth intercalary month is added to the Chinese calendar, to keep the lunar phases in sync, a little like Leap Year in the Gregorian calendar. This is because the traditional Chinese calendar has four seasons of 81 days each, or 324 days. As well, by rule, the winter solstice (Gregorian December 21st) must fall in the 11th Chinese month. Thus, the extra intercalary month is added to make sure this all clicks.
Confused? So am I. But, it’s been working like a charm for one-fourth to one-fifth of humanity for 5,000 years. Just know that Chinese New Year can start as early as January 21st and as late as February 20th, in the Gregorian calendar.
1.1: like the Western New Year’s Eve, the Gregorian New Year’s Day, January 1st is a great excuse to celebrate, but it is just not the same thing as Chinese New Year. It is a recent import into the holiday schedule in China.
1.5: Agriculturally, we are rapidly reaching the depths of winter, with the Small Cold (小寒 = Xiaohan) on January 5th. The temperatures are still dropping. The Sun is at 285 degrees longitude (called right ascension in astronomy) along the ecliptic.
1.20: Big Cold (大寒 = Dahan) on January 20th. This time of year is as bad as winter is supposed to get. If you live in Northern China, you get the picture. The Sun is at 300 degrees right ascension.
Like all months, there are two agricultural days in February.
2.4: Moving on into February, the agricultural Start of Spring commences on the 4th (Lichun = 立春). This is officially the first solar term in the Chinese. The Sun is at 315 degrees right ascension. If you live in Northern China, where it is still bone cold, this seems a little strange, but it does make more sense in Southern China, where the temperatures are higher, and below the freeze line, where they can grow crops year around. In imperial times, the emperor would start fasting three days before Lichun. On Lichun, he and his ministers would go towards the East, to make a sacrifice and prayers for a good harvest, to the Goddess of Spring, since she lived in the East. At the local level, all over China, some of the tax revenue was spent on hiring artists to paint Lichun cattle images. Then an official would be nominated the “Spring Official”, going door to door, to give a cow painting to each household. This is of course due to the fact that cows are so central to traditional farming, providing the power to pull plows, give milk, meat and umpteen different body parts for a variety of uses in rural life, much like the bison for Plains Indians in North America. For food, Northern Chinese like to celebrate Lichun by eating spring pancakes (like Peking duck crepes), filled with green bean noodles, bean sprouts, spinach and chives. Southerners eat fried spring rolls, filled with similar fresh veggies. Yummy! Great way to start the new year.
2.19: Rain Water (Yushui = 雨水) lands on the 19th. More apropos for the South, this is the start of the rainy spring season. In the North, it can still be snowing. The Sun is at 330 degrees right ascension.
We now get to the January and February lunar events, which have moving dates:
Laba (腊八, which means “12th month-eighth day”) happens on the eighth day of the preceding month before Chinese New Year, called “La”. Traditionally, a thick porridge with vinegar-cured garlic (which turns green from the acetic acid, so don’t panic), pickled vegetables, dried and cured meats stirred in. It sticks to your ribs on a cold day. Starting with Laba and continuing through to the Little New Year (below), this two week period is the classic “spring cleaning”, where all the old is swept up and out, to have a nice, fresh, “new” house for the New Year.
Little New Year (Xiaonian = 小年) falls one week before the start of the big Spring Festival and “Big” New Year. On this day, households traditionally worship the Kitchen God (Zaoshen = 灶神). He came into vogue after the popularization of the brick oven, a family focal point to be sure, so no surprise there. Zaoshen is the arbitrator for every family’s moral character and goodness, so he is not to trifled with. On this day, in the kitchen, a paper image of the Kitchen God is burned, so that this smoke will rise up to him, revealing the truth about the family. Prayers are offered, asking for protection and safety in the new year. Then, another image of Zaoshen is fixed on the kitchen wall, as a reminder of needing to be good citizens on a daily basis.
New Year’s Eve (Chuxi = 除夕), is time for the family to get together for the next 15 days of eating, drinking, celebrating, praying and resting. Gifts of fruit, meats, eggs, nuts, food seeds, liquor and wine are traditionally offered. Gift packs are now a multitrillion yuan industry, as you can see everyone carrying red bags and sacks full of goodies, to their loved ones, as they are on the move.
Those that can, give gold, silver, jewelry and the children are plied with “hongbao” (红包), red envelopes full of renminbi. This year, it was all the rage to send hongbao via Alipay, Wechat, Sinaweibo, etc., by the billions, to friends, colleagues, teachers (I get and give a bunch), bosses, etc., in trivial amounts, as a fun ritual. If you do give a non-electronic hongbao, make sure the number of bills is even, as odd numbered bills are given at funerals. Lucky numbers include six and eight. Never give a number of bills or amount that has a “four” in it, since its Chinese homophone is the same as “death” (si). If you want to give 400 RMB, use eight 50-yuan bills, for example.
This is of course the proverbial Night of Armageddon, where the world’s biggest fireworks display happens, as hundreds of millions of citizen light up the sky, building to midnight and thereafter. They are meant to scare away evil spirits and usher in a positive, fruitful new year. Learn a lot more here, including some great video footage: http://chinarising.puntopress.com/2016/02/08/the-politics-of-chinese-fireworks/
In this modern age, today and tomorrow are two of the humanity’s biggest travel days, with every train, extra trains, flights, extra flights, buses, extra buses and jam packed expressways (no tolls on holidays!), crisscrossing the People’s Republic. During the traditional 40-day period surrounding Chinese New Year, the Chinese nation will conduct 3.5 billion travel segments!
Throw in China North, South, East, West, 55 minorities, Tibetan Buddhism, popular Daoism/Confucism/Buddhism, outside influences from visiting Chinese living overseas (called Huaqiao = 华侨), visiting 2nd generation Chinese who have another nationality (Huayi = 华裔), Chinese who lived overseas and have now returned to the Motherland (Haigui = 海龟), meaning “sea turtles”!), and what each family or region does can vary widely. Below are bullet points on common traditional practices.
Day 1: New Year’s Day (Yuandan = 元旦, Guonian = 过年 or Xinnian = 新年). Time to propitiate the gods and honor your elders. Dragon and Lion dances are also to scare away evil spirits and please the all-powerful spirits up in the sky.
Day 2: Open the Year (Kainian = 开年). Wives are to go visit their blood relatives. It is also sort of like the British Boxer Day, as those who can afford it, give money to the poor, who are out in the streets, seeking alms.
Day 3: Red Mouth Day (Chikouri = 赤口日). This is an unlucky day to visit or receive visitors. Stay home, pray and burn hell money (described later) for your ancestors and the gods. That bottle of booze in the pantry? Better wait until tomorrow.
Day 4: usually a big banquet of eating and drinking, called the Spring Dinner (Chunwan = 春晚), although this name has now been usurped by CCTV’s mega-extravaganza on New Year’s Eve.
Day 5: God of Wealth’s birthday, the day is called Powu (破五). Dumplings (jiaozi = 饺子) and more dumplings for breakfast and throughout the day. Pray to this very important god and set off some firecrackers in his honor, but nothing like New Year’s night. Saving money is one way to help become prosperous, so don’t light up the sky. This popular god is called Guangong (关公).
Day 7: People’s Birthday (Renri ＝ 人日) traditionally means the day when common people become a year older, those that may not know their real birthday.
Day 8: another big dinner to gear up for tomorrow’s religious celebrations. It is also the day many people return to their workaday jobs. So the boss/company will hold a big banquet for all the employees, to express their appreciation for a job well done, and inspire them to reach new heights for the upcoming year.
Day 9: the Jade Emperor’s birthday. It is called Tiangongdan (天公诞), using the same word for “birth”, as the Chinese name for Christmas (圣诞节 ＝ Shengdanjie). Lots of food, drink and prayers to celebrate. Maybe better to pray first, before uncorking that big bottle of fire breathing, 60% ethanol Maotai. Ganbei! Feel the burn! Shivers! Goosebumps! Argh! Another round!
Day 10: the party just keeps on rolling for big daddy Jade Emperor Tiangong. Pray, then eat, drink and be merry to the max.
Day 13: vegetarian day. Greens, fruits, nuts and tofu, to clean out the system, after two weeks of eating and drinking way too much. This is also the day to pray to Guanyu (关羽), the Chinese God of War. He was a real life general in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) who won over one hundred battles. He was so venerated for his warrior achievements that over time, he was deified. Business people all want Guanyu’s magic mojo, and since it is now time to go back to work in three days, who do you call? Not Ghostbusters. Go pray to that fierce looking, bearded guy, whose mighty sword removes enemy heads like a hot knife cutting through yak butter.
Day 15: Lantern Festival (Yuanxiaojie = 元宵节). This is the 15th day of the New Year and therefore the Full Moon, since the Chinese lunar calendar months start on the New Moon. This celebration formally closes the New Year festivities.
Lantern Festival is one of the oldest celebrations in China. It has roots going all the way back to the Bronze Age, circa 2,000BC, with metal framed lanterns being shown off and feted during Chinese New Year. It became a recognized celebration during the Han Dynasty, 200 years before Christ, and has been going on ever since. Paper was invented in China around 200BC, so its use to make lanterns, in lieu of metal or wood, made them much more widely used, thanks to lower costs and increased production.
Traditionally, families and communities walk the streets after sundown, with lighted, red lanterns, to represent the Full Moon. In the South, they will usually also light candles outside everyone’s houses, to help make sure the gods and goddesses find their return to the heavens, as well as to help guide the lantern parade participants back home safely. As with many Chinese festivals, fireworks and dragon dances are de rigueur. Both are meant to scare off evil spirits and bring good luck.
On this day, everyone eats Tangyuan (汤圆), glutinous balls, with a filling on the inside. The filling can be anything vegetable. Popular fillings are red bean or jujube paste, sesame, rose or osmanthus flower petals, walnuts, carmelized citrus peel, and walnuts. Southerners put the filling in by sticking a finger into the dough ball, stuffing the filling in and then closing it back up. Northerners are more elaborate. They start with the filling, wrap it in a layer of dough. Then they wrap/roll that small ball with filling, then another layer of dough, etc. This is repeated until it is the right size and the outer layer is of course dough. The dough is made of rice flour and they are simmered in a light sugary syrup. Being white and round, Tangyuan represent the Full Moon.
As with the Mid-Autumn Festival in September (see below), you may see riddles on these lanterns (miyu = 谜语). Unlike English riddles, which have a single, oblique question and the answer, Chinese riddles usually have three parts: the question, a clue and then the answer. Given all the thousands of homophones in Chinese, the riddles can be subtly challenging, which helps explain the added clue. Chinese lantern riddles are the ultimate brain teasers, highly engaging and often head scratching.
At lantern festivals, the riddle wall is often the most popular place for visitors. Hundreds of new riddles are presented on a big display and mobs of Chinese will pass much time debating and discussing possible answers. Most riddles are only up to four or five characters, sometimes just one or two. So, the secondary clue is often critical to solve them. Even the secondary clues are famous for their brevity, often saying things like “answer has only one character”, or “answer is an axiom”, etc. Riddle composers are admired for their intelligence and wit. For the many hours of time creating them and preparing the wall, riddle writers will often ask for a small fee to whisper an answer, if someone gives up. But, like an endless enigma, most fans refuse to ask and will take them back home or to work, so that others can get involved in trying to come up with all the possible answers. Aren’t movies and stories with an unsolved ending the best, anyway?
Although social media has mitigated its importance, another custom on Day 15 is for young singles to look for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Spring is coming and those gonadal hormones are a’ throbbing, darling. Traditionally, the women write their contact information on mandarin oranges, then releasing them to float in a river or lake. Dreamy eyed young men fish them out of the water and eat them, of course carefully noting the contact information beforehand. Depending on the taste, sweet or sour, it indicates whether the sender is possibly a good fit. How does it go? “Hey babe, your mandarin sure did taste sweet! Wanna make some marmalade together”? In any case, it is a fascinating, pre-internet way to meet someone new.
End of February is Dragon Raises Head Festival (Longtaitou = 龙抬头) and being the second day of the second lunar month of the year, it can move earlier or later. As well, it is also called by its traditional date, 2-2 (Eryue’er = 二月二). This is an ancient agricultural celebration in harmony with the weather cycle. The dragon has always been considered the king of all the animals and giver of rain. Thus, by raising its head to the skies, it will usher in spring rains. Prayers are made to the Dragon King.
Like many festivals in China, spring pancakes and noodles are eaten. Since the weather is warming up, women used to wear sachets of fragrant ingredients, as an insect repellent, and even today, as a wish for good luck. Back in the day, women were not supposed to sew on 2-2, so that the needles would not poke out the Dragon King’s eyes. This, while the family would spread ashes on the ground around the home, then on the house floors and around the big pickling or vinegar jar, as a symbolic way to ask the dragon to bring plentiful rains for planting.
For the men of the house, the big ritual still widely followed is to go get a 2-2 haircut. On this day, barbershops will open at four in the morning and not close until late at night. Grandpas and grandsons will stand in line for hours, to wait their turn. It is not unusual for a single barber to give 500 haircuts on Longtaitou. The weather is getting nicer and it’s time to spiff up for those after dinner and weekend strolls around town and in the public parks.
In some parts of China, 2-2 is still celebrated as the first day of the Taihao Temple Fair (Taihao Miaohui = 太昊庙会). This ancient temple fair is to honor the sister-brother deities Nvwa (女娲) and Fuxi (伏羲), and it lasts until the third day of the third month. This goddess and god are in the thick of Chinese creation lore, being credited with creating humanity, cooking, fishing, hunting and the Chinese writing system we still use today. Quite the Dynamic Duo. Back off Batman and Robin!
March Chinese Calendar Events
March is a very important month agriculturally. It’s spring. Time to roll up the proverbial shirtsleeves and hew your back to the soil.
3.7: on the 7th is Insects Awaken Day (Jingzhe = 惊蛰), marking the warming weather. Almanacs say, “spring ploughing never rests, after Insects Awaken Day”. Traditionalists also associate white tigers with this day, which if bitten by one, will bring bad luck and evil people in their lives, sort of a werewolf theme. So, they draw a white tiger, putting pig’s blood on its mouth, so their neighborhood white tiger will have been fed. In Southern China, there is a similar spinoff, where the people will smash paper villains, to keep them at bay. As for this day’s name, the crickets, cicadas and mosquitos are coming out, after a long, cold winter, which also means the weeds are starting to sprout. So get those hoes working, men and women, and I don’t mean ‘hos! The Sun is at 345 degrees right ascension.
3.21: the Spring Equinox is on March 21st (春分 = Chunfen). This is the day when the Sun is perfectly perpendicular over Earth’s equator, because the plane of the Equator aligns with the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Everywhere in world, even at the North and South Poles, it is exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, give or take a few minutes. This slight discrepancy is due to Earth’s precession, since the rotation on its polar axis has been and continues to slow down for the last 3.5 billion years. Watch a slowing, spinning top start to wobble backwards and you will see precession. Equinox means “equal night” in Latin. The Sun is at 0/360 degrees right ascension. Not coincidentally, this is also the start of the Western zodiac, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. The Ides of March. Springtime.
During the 15 days of Chunfen, the Chinese divide it into three five-day periods, called a hou (侯). People say that swallow birds fly back north during the first , lots of thunder can be heard in the second third and lightning strikes in the final hou. Activities during this solar term include balancing eggs in the vertical position, on a level surface, and if you can pull it off, it will bring good luck. Why now? Because it’s equinox and the Earth is perpendicular to the Sun, naturally. Traditional Beijingers will make a symbolic sacrifice to the Sun god, by offering Old Sol a zhonghe (), or sun cake, which is round and yellow, of course. Southerners will feed their farm animals sticky rice balls to thank them for all the upcoming hard labor in the fields，as well as make sacrifices to the birds, to appease them into not eating the grain in the fields, later in the year.
During the springtime, there is a lunar festival called Dragon Raising Head (Longtaitou = 龙抬头), which falls on the second day of the second month, which is late February or March, depending on the year. Lots of different activities include getting a haircut, roasting beans or melon seeds and making popcorn. Longtaitou is a celebration of cranking up agricultural work needs. No more excuses. Time to get after it.
April Chinese Calendar Events
April has the usual two, biweekly agricultural calendar dates, with the first one being of special note.
4.5: April 5th is Clear and Bright Day (Qingming = 清明). Ah… The weather is starting to get warmer, with tufts of gossamer, cumulus clouds waltzing in a translucent, azure sky. See? It just makes you want to wax poetic, doesn’t it? The Sun is at 15 degrees right ascension.
Today is also the famous Tomb Cleaning Festival. This is where people go out to their family gravesites, to clean and decorate them. It is of course also a time to pray and talk to one’s ancestors, as well as leave food for their spirits to eat in the afterlife. This is a one-day holiday in China.
Interestingly, this is the only agricultural calendar solar term date that has become a traditional national holiday in China. All the others come from the lunar calendar.
4.20: Then, on April 20th, is Grain Rain (Guyu = 谷雨). No surprises here. Spring rains should be falling and young shoots of grain, vegetables and grasses should be sprouting up out of the ground. Being the end of spring and beginning of summer, temperatures should start rising fast. Water and warmth mean insects, so this a time for crop pest control. With the rain and heat can be high winds, especially out of the north, where the Gobi Desert is. Thus, Grain Rain is also a time when Northern China can have sand/dust storms. In Northern China, people eat the leaves from the toona sinensis tree, like a vegetable, as they are supposed to be “tender as silk before the rains”. Northern fishermen also embark on their first fishing trip of the season now, so there is the Grain Rain festival, which includes offerings and sacrifices to the sea, as well as prayers for a bountiful harvest. Southern Chinese drink “spring tea” on Grain Rain Day, as it removes heat from the body. The Sun is at 30 degrees right ascension. Even in Manchuria (Dongbei = 东北), the Harbin Ice Festival park should be melting down now.
May Chinese Calendar Events
5.1: China, being the leading communist country in the world, naturally celebrates International Labor Day, on May 1st. Surprisingly, it does not generate much of a paid holiday, usually 1-2 days. Maybe as a communist country, the citizens take their advancement and gains too much for granted. Hey, what are you doing? Get back to work!
5.6: in the Chinese agricultural calendar, summer begins on May 6th (Lixia = 立夏). The Sun is at 45 degrees right ascension.
5.21: Grain Fills (Xiaoman = 小满) on the 21st. This is where corn, wheat, rice and soybeans start to plump up, but are still far from ready for harvesting. The Sun is at 60 degrees right ascension.
June Chinese Calendar Events
This is the intense part of the Chinese agricultural calendar.
6.6: on June 6th, Grain in Ear (Mangzhong = 芒种) means that the grain heads are starting to look like something. Also, for late season crops, like vegetables and seed crops (sunflower, etc.), this is the time to plant. The Sun is at 75 degrees right ascension.
6.21: June 21st is the all-important Summer Solstice; the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest night, with the exact opposite happening in the Southern Hemisphere, since the Sun is directly perpendicular over the Tropic of Cancer, which is 23.5 degrees north of the equator. Why? Because the Earth is tilted the same number of degrees on its North-South Pole axis, relative to the plane of its orbit around Old Sol. The Sun is at 90 degrees right ascension.
For the lunar calendar, we have the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwujie ＝ 端午节). It falls on the fifth day of the fifth month. In addition to racing dragon boats, people eat very glutinous rice, wrapped in bamboo leaves (zongzi = 粽子). Zongzi are formed in a triangular shape, like an Indian samosa and then steamed. In the middle, they usually contain a small chunk of Chinese date (zaozi = 枣子or other similar, sweet fruit, and often a small chunk of meat to go with. The beverage of choice is realgar wine (雄黄酒 ＝ xionghuangjiu).
In traditional Chinese lore, masculine energy is especially high around the Summer Solstice, with the hot Sun up most of the day. Dragons are associated with masculinity and thus, the use of dragon boats, for men to competitively race (naturally, feminine energy is the opposite, around Winter Solstice, with long nights, Full Moons, and associated with the phoenix).
The favorite story about where this festival came from is to commemorate the death of a famous poet, Qu Yuan (340BC-278BC), of the Zhou Dynasty. On the fifth day of the fifth month, he committed suicide by drowning himself. The local people got in boats with long paddles, to try to fish his body out of the water. When they couldn’t recover it, they threw sticky rice in the water, to keep the fish from eating Qu’s body.
There are a number of other stories and versions, which is to be expected in a country as big as China, and for a story that is over 2,000 years old.
And the realgar wine? Its name literally means “hero’s yellow wine”, with the yellow coming from adding powdered arsenic sulfide (realgar) to your favorite grain spirit, a few hours before consuming it. This reddish mineral is to help ward off evil spirits and keep you healthy for the rest of the year. No wonder they call this macho beverage “heroic”, since when sprinkled around plants, realgar is an effective insecticide, herbicide and repels snakes as well. Now, it is also a known carcinogen, so these days, commercial realgar wine uses natural coloring agents, to get the desired golden hue. Maybe it’s all just a great excuse to get drunk.
July Chinese Calendar Events
Time for all those grain crops to grow into a bountiful harvest and that means hot, sunny weather and hopefully, plentiful rain.
7.7: July 7th is the start of the hot summer period, called Small Heat (Xiaoshu = 小暑). The Sun is at 105 degrees right ascension.
7.23: then comes the Big Heat (Dashu = 大暑), on July 23rd. The Sun is at 120 degrees right ascension. If you live in Beijing, you know just how miserable the Big Heat season can feel. The hot, rainy, humid air is so dead, you could hear a mouse fart, if it weren’t for all the swarms of (now Zika virus-infected) mosquitos, biting you in the ass.
August Chinese calendar events
8.1: People’s Liberation Army Founding Day. In Pinyin, it’s Zhongguo Jianjunjie (中国建军节). The PLA was established by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) on this day in 1927, to fight against the Japanese and Western colonialist occupiers, and eventually, against Chiang Kai-Shek and his KMT, all of whom were run out of China by October 1st, 1949, China’s National Day. No other army on earth has quite the personal relationship and admiration that the PLA receives from the people of China. Also called Bayi (八一), there are concerts, parades, street fairs and fireworks in local neighborhoods, like we have in ours the last week in July, to celebrate.
8.8: Autumn begins on the agricultural calendar. Time to start preparing for the big harvest. In Pinyin, it’s Liqiu (立秋). The Sun is at 135 degrees right ascension.
8.20: Seventh day of the seventh lunar month, this is China’s Valentine’s Day. In Pinyin, it’s Qingrenjie (情人节), which means, “Lovers’ Day”. It is also more traditionally known as Qixijie (七夕节 = Evening of Sevens Festival) or Qiqiaojie (乞巧节 = Seeking Skills Festival). The story surrounding it involves a mortal man who married a goddess and she stayed on Earth to be with her loved one. The gods and goddesses on high found out and forced her to head back home. She cried so much that today we see her tears as the Milky Way, as a result. The husband’s magic ox got him sent up to be with her. Due to his heroic feat, instead of sending him back down to Earth, the gods and goddesses decided to let lover boy stay. But, they were only allowed to be together one day per year, on Double Seventh. She is represented by the star Vega and he by Altair, and of course, they are divided by her Milky Way of tears between them. Ah, the vagaries of cosmic love. And those gods and goddesses, jeez Louise, they can be SO demanding!
8.23: End of the Heat: temperatures are going to start falling, according to the agricultural calendar. Grains should start to dry out on the plant stalks. In Pinyin, it’s Chushu (处暑）. The Sun is at 150 degrees right ascension.
8.28: Hungry Ghost (or Spirit) Festival. In Pinyin, it’s Zhongyuanjie (中元节). It is like the West’s Halloween or Latin America’s Day of the Dead. Hungry Ghost Festival is actually the culmination of the entire seventh lunar month, honoring families’ ancestors. This month is when their spirits come back to communicate with their living family tree. It is a time to pray and talk to one’s ancestors, since they have come back from the spirit world to be with you. You may see people burning “hell money” (for Westerners, “heaven money”) on the streets.
This day is the midpoint of the seventh lunar month. Thus, there is a full moon, when the spirits are most active. They must be kept happy. No one wants angry ancestors. So, food is offered at temples for ancestors to eat and the hell notes are for them to have money in the spirit world, to take care of their needs. Wealthy people are known to burn real RMB notes. You can buy hell notes outside most Buddhist temples in China. They make fun and cheap, cross-cultural gifts, when going back home. Make sure they say “Hell Note” or “Hell Money” on them, for full effect.
September Chinese calendar events
9.3: Victory Day over Japanese Aggression and World Fascism. Sometimes, only the first part of the full name is used, sometimes, only the second half. This is a brand new national holiday, starting in 2015, established to honor China’s incredible contributions during World War II, which are, quite frankly, totally ignored in the West. Other than Russia, no other country sacrificed so many citizens, in the fight against international fascism. Both countries lost at least 25 million citizens each, with some estimates up to 35 million each. To put this into proper perspective, Allied countries lost a total of one million military and civilian citizens combined, which is one-fiftieth, or two percent as many as Russia and China together.
Thus, China wants to raise world awareness of its huge efforts and sacrifices. Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin worked very closely to coordinate Russia’s May 9th celebration with China’s first September 3rd, 2015 event. Putin and South Korean President Park Geun-hye (who fought off intense American pressure to boycott the celebration) were the guests of honor with Xi, on top of Tiananmen Gate. Fifty-one countries were invited to observe the massive military parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. All of the Western countries except Czech Republic and Japan refused to send their leaders, or at least a high ranking member of the government, opting for lower level representation, down to secretaries from their embassies in Beijing. Only the Philippines refused to send anybody. That’ll show those nasty Chinese! Never mind that if it weren’t for China’s WWII efforts, they might be speaking Japanese in Manila today…
Its full name is long and there are several variants, so here’s one:
Zhōngguó rénmín kàngrì zhànzhēng jì shìjiè fǎn fàxīsī zhànzhēng shènglì 70 zhōunián
For an historical and geopolitical analysis of 9.3, read here: http://chinarising.puntopress.com/2015/09/04/from-may-9th-in-moscow-to-september-3rd-in-beijing-the-anti-west-order-comes-full-circle-moscow-beijing-express-on-the-saker-44-days-radio-sinoland/
9.8: according to the agricultural calendar, today is White Dew Day, or Bailu in Pinyin (白露). This is in recognition that the temperatures are falling, the early morning dew is heavier and can look like a Seurat painting, with white dotted sheets covering the ground and crops. The Sun is at 165 degrees right ascension.
9.10: National Teacher’s Day, Zhongguo Laoshijie (中国老师节). In Chinese schools, students bring gifts and cards to their teachers, to pay their respects and thanks.
9.22: Autumn Equinox, just like in the West. In Pinyin, it’s Qiufen (秋分). This is the day when the Sun is perfectly perpendicular over Earth’s equator, on the ecliptic, because the plane of the Equator aligns with the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Everywhere in world, even at the North and South Poles, it is exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, give or take a few minutes. This slight discrepancy is due to Earth’s precession, since the rotation on its polar axis has been and continues to slow down for the last 3.5 billion years. Watch a slowing, spinning top start to wobble backwards and you will see precession. Equinox means “equal night” in Latin. The Sun is at 180 degrees right ascension.
9.27: Mid-Autumn Festival. In Pinyin, it’s Zhongqiujie (中秋节). It’s also called the Lantern Festival and Moon Festival, and it comes from the Chinese lunar calendar, the 15th day of the eighth month, which is a full moon. It is traditionally when the fall harvest should start, so family, friends and neighbors gather to celebrate the bounty and prepare for the big job ahead.
This is also the date to worship the Moon. Thus, moon cakes are served and round lanterns, representing the full Moon, are paraded this night. As with the Lantern Festival at the end of Chinese New Year (see January and February above, for details), riddles are often put on the lanterns, for amusement and social engagement. Since it is only a one-day festival and in the thick of the scholastic year, Chinese schools will often put riddles up around the place, to help celebrate this national tradition.
October Chinese calendar events
10.1: National Day (Guoqingjie = 国庆节). On this day in 1949, around one million spectators were packed in and around Tiananmen Square. Mao Zedong, along with the pantheon of Chinese communism, stood atop Tiananmen Gate, with the Forbidden City to their backs, to pronounce to the world the liberation of the People’s Republic of China, the New China. Please don’t use the word “independence”. That’s can be a no-no here and offense can be taken. The Chinese always considered themselves independent, even during their 110 years of being plundered and raped by Western colonialism and 50 years of Japanese fascism. Liberation is where it’s at, baby, as in the People’s Liberation Army.
As a result, American anti-communism reached frothing-at-the-mouth, rabies-on-the-brain levels. Accusations of “losing” China helped launch the witch-hunts of Joseph McCarthy and the careers of thousands of other Red China haters. To this day, it is still a huge political machine across the West, which has helped shape much of the world’s postwar geopolitical history: the Korean War, the Southeast Asian Wars, Taiwan, Japan, Tibet and more recently, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. These have been and continue to be Eurangloland’s ceaseless efforts to contain China and overthrow the Communist Party of China (CPC). This powerful, influential Western lobby will never sleep or stop spending billions, until a puppet government has been installed in China. Don’t hold your breath. It’s been almost 60 years of total defeat on their part and the CPC is in the dawn of its Red Dynasty.
10.8: Cold Dew Day (Hanlu = 寒露). From the Chinese agricultural calendar, this signifies that hard frost is not far off into the future, since when farmers go out into fields to check their nearly ripe crops, the dew is icy cold. The Sun is at 195 degrees right ascension.
10.21: from the Chinese lunar calendar, this the Double Ninth Festival (Shuangjiujie = 双九节). As might be expected, this falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. In ancient times, this was considered a day of bad omens, since “nine” carries lots of Yang (of Yin-Yang lore) and double that means imbalance or disharmony. Thus, it is also called Chongyang Festival (重阳节), which means “Heavy Yang Festival”.
So, people traditionally climb mountains (to symbolically seek safety). Also it can be called Chrysanthemum Day, since due to its cleansing properties, this flower is worn, drunk as tea or as a specially made wine. No mums? Then the Cornelian cherry plant (zhuyu = 茱萸) will do just as well, as it’s also good for purification. Impress Chinese friends and neighbors by giving them a mum flower, zhuyu stem or chrysanthemum tea on this day. Among some families, especially in the South, they will also go to their ancestral graves to share a spiritual feast with their long gone loved ones, sort of an extra Tomb Sweeping Festival, which falls in April.
Then finally, there is the modern Double Ninth version. During the Mao Era, in an effort to “get rid of the old”, different ways to celebrate these ancient holidays in “New China” were developed. For Double Ninth Festival, the modern fashion is to honor all of society’s elders. But hey wait, that’s Confucism, right?
10.23: Frost Day (Shuangjiang = 霜降). This is a very important day in the agricultural calendar, as the first frost means it is time for the villagers to rally together to start the arduous task of bringing in the (hopefully huge) harvest. Time to sharpen the sickles and oil the cart wheels, as much of China’s grain harvest is still done manually. Of course, Frost Day is only symbolic in Southern China, where it may never freeze and they can grow up to three crops a year. So there, it signifies a continued drop in temperatures, as the calendar marches towards the Winter Solstice in December. The Sun is at 210 degrees right ascension.
November Chinese Calendar Events
This month only has the two normal agricultural days.
11.8: after Frost Day (Shuangjiang = 霜降) on October 23rd, winter officially commences on November 8th (Lidong = 立冬). The Sun is at 225 degrees right ascension.
11.27: Light Snow (Xiaoxue = 小雪) occurs two weeks later, on the 27th. This is meteorologically true for Northern China, but much less so in the South. The Sun is at 240 degrees right ascension.
December Chinese Calendar Events
Like November, December is fairly inactive for the Chinese.
12.7: Heavy Snow (Daxue = 大雪) is to fall on December 7th. The Sun is at 255 degrees right ascension.
12.21: of course, the Chinese knew about the Winter Solstice (Dongzhi = 冬至), thousands of years ago; on the Gregorian calendar, it is December 21st. This is the shortest day and longest night in the Northern Hemisphere and the opposites in the Southern Hemisphere, since the Sun is directly perpendicular over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is 23.5 degrees south of the equator. Why? Because the Earth is tilted the same number of degrees on its North-South Pole axis, relative to the plane of its orbit around Old Sol. The Sun is at 270 degrees right ascension.
12.31: finally, from the Gregorian calendar, the Western New Year’s Eve, on December 31st, has recently been borrowed, to count down the clock at midnight. Chinese can call it 年关 (Nianguan) or 新年前夕 (Xinnian Qianxi), as well as the same names mentioned for Chinese New Year. It is important to note that the Western New Year is dwarfed in significance to the traditional Chinese New Year (see January-February). But, the cool thing for the Chinese is that they get to do it every year – twice!
MATERIAL TO ADD:
How the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac were chosen:
Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
JEFF J. BROWN, Editor, China Rising, and Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing, The Greanville Post
Jeff J. Brown is a geopolitical analyst, journalist, lecturer and the author of The China Trilogy. It consists of 44 Days Backpacking in China – The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013); Punto Press released China Rising – Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and for Badak Merah, Jeff authored China Is Communist, Dammit! – Dawn of the Red Dynasty (2017). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing and is a Global Opinion Leader at 21st Century. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff writes, interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on YouTube, Stitcher Radio, iTunes, Ivoox and RUvid. Guests have included Ramsey Clark, James Bradley, Moti Nissani, Godfree Roberts, Hiroyuki Hamada, The Saker and many others. [/su_spoiler]
Jeff can be reached at China Rising, email@example.com, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (Jeff_Brown-44_Days) and Whatsapp: +86-13823544196.
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