Chinese New Year

  This is the most important holiday in China – like Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving combined. It has been celebrated for over 4000 years. In ancient times, it was the only holiday for farmers, labourers, maids and soldiers. The rest of the year they worked around the clock seven days a week.

The actual date is not fixed because China used a lunar (moon-based) calendar. It’s on the first day of the first moon and falls between 21 January and 19 February. The exact date used to be announced by the Emperor himself. As the Son of Heaven, only the Emperor had the right to set the calendar. It was a major event because farmers planted their crops according to the Emperor’s calendar. If the calendar was correctly set and the growing season was successful, there would be plenty of food.

Chinese families spent weeks getting ready for New Year. They would clean house, pay bills, bathe, have their hair cut and put on new clothes, usually red in colour. In the old days, many poor people could afford to eat meat only once a year. They would save their copper coins and go hungry the rest of the year for this special occasion. The main meal was eaten at a round table. If someone was absent, a place would be set for him anyway in front of an empty chair.

The holiday is celebrated in much the same way now. Special foods include rice cakes, pork, noodles, fish and dumplings stuffed with chives and pork. There is a special dessert called Eight Treasure Pudding which signifies family union. It is made with sticky rice, lotus seeds, red dates, dried candied fruits and red bean paste. In the afternoon, people visit family and friends and exchange gifts. Children are given lucky money in red envelopes.

On the streets there may be a lion dance or a dragon parade, accompanied by beating drums, cymbals, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, and musicians. Firecrackers are supposed to scare away evil spirits. In the evenings, colourful lanterns dot the storefronts and fireworks light up the sky.

Chinese New Year celebrates family and friends, and symbolises good luck and a new beginning. It is the most important holiday in China.



 Chinese Zodiac relates each calendar year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year cycle.

The twelve animals are the following:

  1. Rat   
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit          1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 are Rabbit Years
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Ram
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11.  Dog
  12. Pig


Legend has it the twelve animals were chosen by Buddha.  He summoned all the animals and announced that the first twelve would be included in the Chinese Zodiac.  The rat came first, the pig last and all the other animals came in between.

One polite way of finding out someone’s age in China is to ask that person, `Under which animal sign were you born?’  If she says, `Rabbit’, you’ll know she was born in 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963 … and so on.

Chinese New Year will fall on February 3rd, 2011.  This is the year of the Rabbit.

Last year (2010) was the year of the Tiger and next year (2012) will be the year of the Dragon.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are talented and affectionate.  They are admired and trusted by others.  Though fond of gossip, they are tactful, kind, wise and good-natured.  Most compatible with those born in the Year of the Goat, Pig or Dog. 


Rabbit  =  tù兔 is pronounced in the fourth tone  like the word two.  [audio:|titles=Tu]

Year    =  niάn 年 is pronounced in the second tone .  [audio:|titles=Nion]

兔 年   =   Year of the Rabbit  [audio:|titles=Tu_Nion]

New   = xīn  新 is pronounced in the first tone  [audio:|titles=Xin]

新   年  =  New Year  [audio:|titles=Xin_Nion]

China    =   zhōng 中  guŏ 国  [audio:|titles=Zhong_Guo]

CHINESE NEW YEAR = 中 国 新 年  [audio:|titles=Zhong_Guo_Xin_Nion]

Special News: Obama’s Daughter Sasha Practices Chinese with President Hu

   Hello Readers!  I thought you might find this story about Sasha Obama and Chinese president Hu 胡 Jintao 锦 涛 cute. I wonder what Sasha said to President Hu?

Obama’s daughter, Sasha, practices Chinese with Hu


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Talk about a high level language exchange.

President Barack Obama’s nine-year-old daughter, Sasha, wanted to test her developing Chinese skills this week while Hu Jintao was in town.

Just whom did she want to practice them with?

The Chinese president himself, according to a White House official who recounted the story on Thursday after a formal state dinner the previous night.

“The president pointed out last night at the state dinner that his daughter, Sasha, is a very young girl but her class is studying Chinese,” Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, told a video conference with Chinese bloggers.

“She’s under 10 years old and they’re studying Chinese, and she wanted to have the chance to practice her Chinese with President Hu.”

Sasha attended Hu’s welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn on Wednesday morning with friends and could be seen waving a Chinese flag excitedly as her father and Hu walked around the grounds.

The two presidents paused to visit when they reached the nine-year-old and her friends behind the rope line.

“Not every (child) has the opportunity to try out their first phrases of Chinese with the president of China, but she had that chance,” Rhodes said.

He said the anecdote illustrated Americans’ desire to get to know China better with more people studying the country and doing business there.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Hang Zhou Bay’s Grand Bridge

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Hang Zhou Bay’s Grand Bridge

杭  州  湾  大  桥

Hang 杭  Zhou 州  Wan 湾 Da 大 Qiao桥  is the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world.  It is 22 miles long and cost 11.8 billion yuan (1.7 billion US dollars) to build.

Hang Zhou Bay =  杭 州  湾 [audio:|titles=Hang_Zhou_Bay]  is an inlet of the East China Sea, bordered by the province of Zhejiang 浙 江 [audio:|titles=Zhejiang]  and the municipality of Shanghai 上 海 [audio:|titles=Shanghai]

It lies south of Shanghai 上 海 [audio:|titles=Shanghai], and ends at the city of Hangzhou 杭 州 [audio:|titles=Hangzhou] Hangzhou Bay  杭 州 湾 [audio:|titles=Hang_Zhou_Bay] contains many small islands.

Opened in May 2008, the bridge has a six-lane motorway and a 10,000 square meter service center in its middle.

The bridge shortened the highway travel distance between Ningbo 宁 波 [audio:|titles=Ningbo] and Shanghai上 海 [audio:|titles=Shanghai]  by 75 miles and reduced travel time by car from 4 to 2.5 hours.

杭 州 湾  大桥

Hang 杭 Zhou 州 Wan 湾 Da 大Qiao 桥

Hangzhou              Bay         Big         Bridge

杭 is pronounced Hang [audio:|titles=Hang] in the second tone /

The left half of 杭 is the radical 木 (There are approximately 200 radicals.  To look up a word (such as ) in the Chinese dictionary, you identify the radical in the word (which in this case is ), and count the number of strokes in (four). In the dictionary, the radicals are categorized in a radical-chart by their number of strokes.  The 4-stroke radical section with radicals such asare preceded by the 1-stroke radical section with radicals such as ,   2-stroke radical section with radicals such as , and 3-stroke radical section with radicals such as .  Go to the radical chart and identify the 4-stroke section.   All the characters with the radical are listed in the section according to the number of strokes in the right half of that word.  In the case of the number of strokes in its right half is again four.)   

州 is pronounced Zhou (zh is pronounced like the letter J and zhou sounds like Joe) [audio:|titles=Zhou] in the first tone –.  The character 州 means administrative region.

Chinese cities usually consist of two characters.

 Hangzhou 杭 州 [audio:|titles=Hangzhou] is the provincial capital of Zhejiang province. Situated 112 miles south-west of Shanghai 上 海 [audio:|titles=Shanghai], it has a population of 6.5 million.

Founded over two thousand years ago, 杭 州 is renowned for its culture and beauty.  The city wall was built in 591 AD during the Sui 随 [audio:|titles=Sui] Dynasty (please consult my book titled China: Land of Dragons and Emperors which you can download for free).  The Second Sui 随 Emperor also built the Grand Canal which stretches from Beijing 北 京 [audio:|titles=Beijing] (northern capital)  in the North for 1103 miles and ends in 杭州 in the South.  The Grand Canal is the longest artificial river in the world.

杭 州 was the Capitol City of China during the Southern Song 宋 Dynasty.   Marco Polo described it as one of the grandest cities in the world.

The character WAN 湾  [audio:|titles=Wan] means BAY and is pronounced in the first tone.  Note the three dots radical on the left half of 湾 denoting that the word has something to do with water.  Hangzhou Wan 杭 州  湾 means Hangzhou Bay.

The character DA 大  [audio:|titles=Da] means BIG, GRAND, GREAT, LARGE, STRONG and is pronounced in the fourth tone. 

The character QIAO 桥  [audio:|titles=Qiao] means BRIDGE and is pronounced in the second tone.  The letter Q is pronounced CH in Chinese.  Hence QIAO is pronounced CHIAO.  Note the 木 radical occupying the left half of 桥.

Thus the five characters Hang 杭 Zhou 州 Wan 湾 Da大 Qiao 桥  [audio:|titles=Hang_Zhou_Wan_Da_Qiao]  are translated as Grand Bridge of Hangzhou Bay.

Art Unveiling

  My husband Bob and I traveled to Shanghai last year to visit the area where I grew up, and while we were there we met Jane Chang and Jonathan Chan. The husband and wife team were in the process of developing a four star luxury hotel: the Holiday Inn Shanghai West located at 2000 Hu Qing Ping Road.  Telephone 86-21-3973-8888.

When we showed Jane and Jonathan photographs of Bob’s large abstract painting “Algal Rhythms,” they commissioned him to create a similar work for their hotel lobby.

Bob worked tirelessly for a long time to complete the painting.  The result was “Curvilinear Algal Rhythms,” a spectacular 6ft by 10ft canvas (the largest Bob has ever painted) dotted with graceful forms and flowing lines. The owners of the hotel loved the painting so much that they purchased five other paintings of Bob’s from Marion Meyer Fine Art Gallery in Laguna Beach, where Bob’s paintings are currently represented.

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the unveiling of Bob’s painting with a party at our home in Laguna Beach. This video footage was taken at that event, and we hope you can sense the festive excitement and that wonderful feeling of kindred spirits coming together to toast my husband’s talent. He has certainly been a constant source of inspiration to me during the 39 years of our marriage.

I hope that you will be enjoying the company of loved ones during the coming Chinese New Year on February 3rd, 2011, Year of the Rabbit.

 When I was a little school girl in Shanghai, it was the ambition of all my classmates to learn English.  Now that I am old and living in California, everyone is asking me the best way to learn Chinese.

How the world has changed! Is Chinese difficult?  Yes and No. The good news is that Chinese has practically no grammar: no singular or plural, no masculine and feminine nouns, no past, present and future tenses. The bad news is that every Chinese character is a picture that needs to be memorized.  But there are shortcuts available.

I wish to thank every reader who visits my website.  It’s great to hear from  you.  In return, I would like to give you a present. 

 All of us recognize that China will probably become the world’s largest economy in twenty years’  time.  Knowing Chinese will not only give you understanding of China’s history and culture, it will also create endless opportunities for a brilliant future.

 Please click on ChineseCharacterADay and sign up for free Chinese lessons.  That is my gift to you.