Category ArchiveChinese Culture
Chinese Culture newlight on 04 Feb 2010
Today is the beginning of the Year of Tiger. Hold on, I hear you say, isn’t the 14 Feb this year’s the Chinese New Year Day?
Well, you are right. Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar, which means the date of new year’s day in relation to western calendar always changes. And this year it falls on Valentine’s Day, when the Chinese 庚寅 (geng1 yin2) year starts.
However, a common mistake is to think the Year of Tiger starts on the Chinese New Year Day. Indeed, a press release from the Great London Authority confidently states, “The Year of the Tiger begins on 14 February”.
It’s easy to think Chinese only use lunar calendar. Actually, the Chinese zodiac, the 12 animals that represent each year in cycle, is associated with the Chinese agricultural calendar, which is a solar calendar. A year begins at the day of Spring Commences (立春), the first of the 24 solar segments of a Chinese solar calendar year. Since the Gregorian calendar is also a solar calendar. The date of Spring Commences doesn’t change a lot each year, always being 3 Feb or 4 Feb, unlike the Chinese New Year’s Day which changes widely, for example from last year’s 26 Jan to this year’s 14 Feb.
There is an online calendar that will show you the Chinese calendar along side the Gregorian calendar, plus common eastern and western holidays.
Chinese Culture newlight on 22 Aug 2009
Edinburgh Fringe 2009 – Chinese Music Old and New
Harmony Chinese Music Ensemble
22 August 2009
The Harmony Chinese Music Ensemble, led by Scottish composer and flutist Eddie McGuire, gave a mesmerising performance at Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile. Kimho Ip, a regular member of the Ensemble, performed a meditating piece using Chinese music instrument yangqi (杨琴) and electric sounds. Cheng-Ying Chuang, who had already given a well-received solo performance at the same venue, also joined in, playing zhongruan (中阮) and liuqin (柳琴), both of the two Chinese music instruments are rarely seen and heard in the UK.
But the star of the night is in no doubt Fong Liu, a vocalist who performed various Chinese folk songs. Initially appearing a little nervous, she soon relaxed and her piercing voice and theatrical style engaged and enchanted the audiences through the evening. Her volume of voice, which is necessary when those songs were originally sung in the scarcely inhabited mountains in the Western regions of China, seemed perfectly suited the generous space of Canongate Kirk.
While singing the mountain folk songs, her voice delivered the extremely enjoyable and touching untamed quality. It was obviously a choice made by the artist, as when she sang the encore, Love Song of Kangding (康定情歌), she abandoned the modernised, gentle version you might have heard elsewhere, and went for the raw, Tibetan style instead. She then showed her extraordinary range by singing a tender Northeastern lullaby and a smooth and soft Eastern folk song, Purple Bamboo Melody (紫竹调).
It’s a shame that Harmony Ensemble only performed one night at this year’s Fringe. Judging from the audiences’ reaction, Edinburgh will surely welcome them back.
Chinese Culture newlight on 05 Nov 2007
The Pearl Awards ceremony was a marvellous occasion. Royal Festival Theatre looked fabulous. Yang Xuefei’s guitar performance with the English Chamber Orchestra, thoughtfully consist of one Chinese and one Rodrigo piece was mesmerising. Niu Niu, the 10 years old piano prodigy won the longest applause though. Even Prince Charles popped in to say congratulations. The appearance of Vanessa Mae on the stage as a special guest caused wild cheers from some sections of the audiences. It’s a great pleasure to see so many beautiful Chinese people at one time in the UK.
It is thus unfortunate that my knowledge of the three ‘unsung heroes’, who received the awards at the ceremony, does not enhance much. I know one of them, Florence Qiu, quite well. I worked for her to organise the Tyneside Cinema Chinese Season some years ago. Florence has worked tirelessly for the Northeast England Chinese community for many years, devouting time and energy to promoting cultural exchange. She is certainly a worthy winner of the award. However, the other two winners remain ‘unsung heroes’ to me. A little more introduction of their work and contribution is no more than they deserve.
Delaying, delayed, severely delayed
On my way back to Edinburgh today, I was sitting on the ‘delaying’ GNER train that stalled somewhere between King’s Cross and Peterborough because a train ahead of us had some problem with the overhead wire. When the train reached Doncaster one and half hour late we were told we were on a ‘delayed’ train. Upon departure from Newcastle, two hour late, the new driver started the announcement with a sign, ‘this is the severely delayed service to…’ making everyone on board smile. An award recognising the Chinese community’s contribution to the British society is certainly ‘delayed’ if not ‘severely delayed’. I hope there will be no further ‘delaying’.
In the introduction of his new book Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China (Chatto and Windus), Duncan Hewitt wrote that when he sat at the cafe of Shanghai IKEA, he can see cars and trucks were rushing around outside the window in the three level elevated roads which also tangled with a light weight train rail. When I was reading this, I was sitting beside a window in a quiet corner of one of the large Waterstone’s in Edinburgh. Outside the window is the cobbled back street, where a pigeon was fighting hopelessly against a seagull for some leftover chips. Incidently, Edinburgh is where Hewitt’s journey started, as one of the students learning Chinese in Edinburgh University who were about setting foot in China in late 80s.
An often heard complaint among the youngests who came to the UK from China is that this place is just a bit dull. People can cite me many things they used to do in China, eating out at a newly opened restaurant, karaoke at a new KTV, or exchanging some latest American tv series are just the common ones. There seems to be endless supplies of new ways of consuming and entertaining. Things are moving rather fast there.
This fits well what Hewitt said, that it almost like the 60 years of post war development in the West has been compressed into 20 years in China. BBC’s Andrew Marr, in his History of Modern Britain, describes the make over of Birmingham in the 60s – the old Birmingham almost completely disappeared while people can’t wait to see a New Britain. Imagine that in a much bigger scale, repeated every five years. That’s what’s happening in China.
BBC Radio 4 last week broadcasted two programs about China and Chinese. Anna Chen tracked the lives of early Chinese migrants in the UK in her 10-part series Chinese in Britain, while Duncan Hewitt read his new book Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China in Book of the Week program. The two programs provide sharp contrast: one is about how the early settlers from China survived and adopted to an alien land, the another is about how the young and old at the present time struggled and prospered when the old rules and value gone out of the window. And yet, both programs give some clues of how Chinese deal with changes, our fondness of “progress” and embrace of the “new”.
Chinese Culture newlight on 28 Jan 2007
You may be aware that 2007 is the year of pig. Since the Chinese New Year starts on 18th of Febuary, any baby born on or after that will be born in the year of pig (boar seems more appropriate term), and associated with fortune and fertility, if you believe that sort of things. Indeed the coming year of pig is called ‘gold-pig year‘, and many Chinese couples are planning to have baby this year. If you are born before that, sorry baby, you’ve missed out. Or have you?
I’ve only learned recently that the ‘zodiac year of pig’ starts not on 18th of Febuary, but 4th of Febuary of 2007, when the Chinese solar term ‘Spring Commences‘ (立春) starts. Chinese use both lunar calendar (as in Chinese New Year) and solar calendar. The solar calendar was mainly used for planning agriculure activity and predicting weather. The whole year, according to the solar calendar, is divided into 24 solar terms based on the movement of the sun. And the date of each term matchs very well with the Julie’s calendar – because both are solar calendar. So ‘Spring Commences’ is always 4th or 5th of Febuary. This makes it easy for anyone who happens to be in around January or Febuary to know which animal he or she is associated with.