Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You Are Such A Pig...

Now that I’ve got your attention let me tell you that this post is only about Chinese Zodiac.

By now you must know that we enter the year of the pig in the Chinese Zodiac Calendar and you will be happy to know that all the babies born this year (i.e. between February 18th, 2007 to February 6th, 2008) are Pigs but not any ordinary pig they are Golden Pigs or 金猪 Jin Zhu and this happens only every 60 years. So if you’ll turn 60 this year you too are Golden Pig (and if any of you are turning 120, not only are you lucky to still be alive but you too are Golden Pig). If you are 12, 24, 36, 48 you are just a normal pig.

Golden Pig is considered an auspicious year so China is expecting a baby boom since the babies born under this blessed sign are believed to have easy lives full of wealth and prosperity.

Hand-cut Paper

Chinese zodiac is divided in 12 animals (Rat/shu3, Ox/Niu2, Tiger/Hu3, Rabbit/Tu2, Dragon/Long2, Snake/she2, Horse/ma2, Goat/Yang2, Monkey/Hou2, Rooster/Ji, Dog/Gou2 and Pig/zhu1) associated with five elements (Wood/Mu 木, Fire/Huo 火, Earth/Tu 土, Metal/Jin 金 and Water/Shui 水) in their Yin and Yang forms which creates the 60-year cycle.

When trying to calculate the relevant year, an easy rule to follow is that years that end in an even number are yang, those that end with an odd number are yin. The cycle proceeds as follows: If the year ends in 0 it is Yang Metal, ends in 1 it is Yin Metal, in 2 it is Yang Water, in 3 it is Yin Water, in 4 it is Yang Wood, in 5 it is Yin Wood, in 6 it is Yang Fire, in 7 it is Yin Fire, in 8 it is Yang Earth, in 9 it is Yin Earth,

If you want to know you Chinese sign click here
And because I haven’t bored you enough and you always dreamed of knowing you (normal) zodiac sign in Chinese. Here are they:

Aries: BaiYangZuo, Taurus: JinNiuZuo, Gemini: ShuangZiZuo, Cancer: JuXieZuo, Leo: ShiZiZuo, Virgo: ChuNuZuo, Libra: TianChengZuo, Scorpio: TianXieZuo, Sagittarius: RenMaZuo, Capricorn: MoJieZuo, Pisces: ShuangYuZuo

So you can impress your friends with the following sentence:

"Did you know that I’m Aries and that my Chinese Zodiac sign is Dog"
"Ni zhidao, wode xing zuo shi BaiYangZuo he wo shu Gou"

Sunday, February 25, 2007


...Not Quite

After Colonel Sanders we’ve got:

If it looks like Starbuck, smells like Starbuck, well it must be Starbuck… Well not in China it can as well be usabucks!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pig Smiley

To celebrate the Year of the Pig… impress your friends with some piggy Emoticoms.

oink, oink, oink

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

And A Piggy New Year To You Too

Cover of the February's That's Beijing Magazine

Chloe and Jeremy in their Red Chinese Outfit

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Let's Party Like...

It’s 1999 2007 4705

Tonight China says good bye to 4704 and the year of the Dog and welcomes the Golden Pig and 4705.

While Jeffrey is in the plane coming back from France, I’m in front of my TV watching the famous CCTV (no it’s not Closed Caption TV it’s Chinese Central TV!!) New Year’s Gala with the sound of loud non-stop fireworks and firecrackers in the background. So the night was going smoothly i.e. watching a nice program on TV without understanding a word of what it was all about (and it’s not only because of the loud noise outside) when I started to go see what was on other channels and I realized to my astonishment that I wasn’t watching the right show on TV, I wasn’t watching THE famous New Year Show followed by 800 millions people in China (yes you read right eight hundred million people). That’s a big audience (Super Bowl with more or less 100 million people is not playing in the same league -Official figure varies from 93 to 141 million-). Good thing I realized my mistake on time or I would have looked really foolish tomorrow while talking to my friends!!!! Shame on me!.

If you could only hear the noise too

23.45 and I thought the noise was bad all night long… that was nothing compared to what was about to start: the most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen. From the corner window of my bedroom I have a 180° view of so many fireworks that my head is spinning from trying to see them all. It seems like every courtyard, every family is competing to send the best sparkles in the Beijing’s sky. It’s full of colors and for once it’s not the pollution but the reds, greens and blues of the fireworks (the pollution and the gun powder smell will come later). Again safety is not an issue, I am pretty sure the safety measures are not taken into consideration…fires are lit within feet of people standing around.
By 00.30 the relative calm is back, I still can hear some sparks being sent off but the big ones are slowly calming down…. 45 minutes of an extraordinary spectacle, like if the all experience was not about a fireworks but about 45 minutes of Finale. I pretty sure it will be on my mind each time I’ll “celebrate” Chinese New Year or even see a firework in the future.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Xin Nian Kuai le - 新年快乐

...Guo Nian Hao - 过年好*

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve… well I should say Chinese New Year’s Eve or 除夕 Chu2Xi4 which mark the beginning of 春节 Chun1Jie2 (Spring Festival - yes it’s already spring here, didn’t you read my previous post!).

Beijing Municipalities have allowed for the second consecutive year fireworks within the 5th ring (after a 12-year ban), which announced a lot of noise. According to legend, in ancient China, the nian2 (年), a man-eating beast from the mountains, could silently infiltrate houses to prey on humans. The people later learned that the nian2 was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, so they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the color red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations. Guo4 nian2 过年, which means to celebrate the New Year, literally means the passing of the nian2 beast. (source: wikipedia!!)

So Fireworks will be authorized all day and all night on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 (that’s 48 hours!) then only (!) from 7am to midnight until the 5th of March, day of the Lantern Festival which marks the end of the festivities.

Here are some Superstitions during the New Year period:
The following is a list of beliefs that vary according to dialect groups/individuals.

Good Luck

  • Opening windows and/or doors is considered to 'bring in' the good luck of the New Year.
  • Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the New Year.
  • Candy is eaten to ensure the consumer a "sweet" year.

Bad Luck
  • Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck. The word "shoes" is a homophone for the word for "rough" in Cantonese.
  • Buying a pair of pants is considered bad luck. The word "pants" is a homophone for the word for "bitter" in Cantonese. (Although some perceive it to be positive as the word 'pants' in Cantonese could be a homophone for the word for "wealth".)
  • A hair-cut is considered bad luck. The word "hair" is a homophone for the word for "prosperity". Thus "cutting hair" could be perceived as "cutting away your prosperity" in Cantonese.
  • Sweeping the floor is considered bad luck, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year; in the same way that having a bath will wash away the good fortune.
  • Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious as well.
  • Buying books is bad luck, because it is a homonym to the word "lose".

* Happy New Year…. Couldn’t you have guessed!!.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Qing Ren Jie Kuai Le

...情人结快乐 - Happy Valentine's Day

China will celebrate Valentine’s Day as the rest of the World. Traditionally they have a lovers’ days which is on the 7th day of the 7th month - which for some obscure reason of calendar they celebrated twice in 2006 because it was a leap year so the Chinese not only add a day every 4 years but a whole month (in the traditional calendar) every 2 to 3 years!!! And last year they decided to add a second 7th month (I’m sure it’s not really clear to you but I will investigate furthermore and write a new post when the time comes) but back to Valentine: When in the States over the Holidays I came upon this ad and I wanted to share it with my loyal male readers!!!!

And the mystery of lingerie shopping has been revealed!!!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Temple of Heaven

...天坛 Tian Tan

What you need might want to know about Temple of Heaven or more specifically the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvest (Qi2Nian2Dian4) which is the crown of the whole complex:

  • Has become a symbol of Beijing
  • Set on a 267 ha (660-acre) park
  • Completed in 1420 where the FengShui masters determined that is was the exact point where Heaven and Earth met
  • Burn to cinders in 1889; a faithful reproduction based on Ming architecture methods was erected the following year using fir from Oregon for the support pillars
  • The 38m (125ft) high vault was slotted together without using a single nail
  • Built for the view of god and seen from above; temples are round with the bases square, a pattern deriving from the ancient Chinese belief that Heaven is round and Earth is square.
  • Decorated in blue, yellow and green glazed tiles representing Heaven, Earth and the Mortal World
  • The 4 central pillars symbolize the seasons, the 12 in the next ring denote the months, the 12 outer ones represent the day broken into 12 traditional Chinese hours, the 28 columns match the 28 Chinese constellations and the circumference of the uppermost roof is 30 zhang, the number of days in the lunar month
  • The emperor would make sacrifices and pray to heaven and his ancestors at the winter solstice
  • Off limit to the common people during Ming* and Qing* Dynasties.

Hall of Prayer of Good Harvest


Great Clear Day (for once!!)

*Ming Dynasty: 1368-1644 ; Qing Dynasty: 1644-1911

Sources: Lonely planet, National Geographic, Frommers, Eyewitness Travel Guides and Insider’s Guide

Friday, February 9, 2007


...Enamel Factory

After the visit to the Silk Comforter factory, I’ve embarked on another Cultural outing with my friend Kim and went to visit an enamel factory, also called Cloisonné.
Cloisonné enamel, an ancient metalworking technique, developed in the Near East was first spread to the Byzantine Empire and from there along the Silk Road to China during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). It used to be reserved for the Emperor and his court.

Cloisonné is the unique technique of the combination of porcelain and bronze.

Model hammering
  • ­ Vessels are constructed with several pieces of copper that are soldered together.
  • A pattern is carefully traced by transferring the design to the surface with carbon paper.
Filigree welding
  • ­ Cloisons (French for partitions), which will act as color-separators, are made with flat wire coppers that are bent with pliers, following a pattern on paper.
  • The cloisons are placed onto the vessel with tweezers and held in place by a soldering paste.
  • ­ The pieces are then heated in an oven to permanently affix the cloisons to the base metal by melting the solder. The piece is then allowed to cool.
Enamel filling
  • ­ Eye droppers are used to fill the cloisons with enamel paste or frit (glass crushed to a powder).
  • ­ The pieces are fired in an electric kiln. The heat causes the enamel to vitrify and settle into the cloisons. Three or four coats of enamel are applied and fired until the cloisons are completely full.
Surface polishing
  • ­ The enameled surface is ground smooth on a lather with water and emery stones and re-fired.
  • ­ The final polishing is also done on a lathe, but with water and charcoal.
  • The final step is to electroplate the exposed copper with gold and silver.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Lama Temple and...

...Ditan Park

Or Cultural Outing

Often described as Beijing most spectacular temple complex and one of the largest in China, the Temple of Heaven or Yong1 He2 Gong1 雍和宫was constructed in 1694 and was originally the home of Qing Dynasty Prince Yong before he became the Emperor Yong Zheng in 1723 and moved to the Forbidden City. It was converted into a Tibetan lamasery in 1744 and became home to monks from Mongolia and Tibet. It has 5 main halls each taller and more impressive than the preceding one with the highlight being a 17-meter/55-foot high (with an extra 6m/20ft below ground) statue of Maitreya (the Future Buddha) in his Tibetan form (clothed in yellow satin). It was carved from a single block of white sandalwood given by the Dalai Lama to Emperor Qianlong in 1750 (It took 3 years to ship it from Nepal to Beijing). The building that houses this Buddha was in fact erected after the statue was carved.

Tower of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wan4Fu2 Ge2)

One of the Hall and a Wheel of Prayer

View from Above and Maitreya Buddha
(Scan of Postcards - photographs are forbidden)

Ditan Park (地坛公园 – Di4Tan2Gong1Yuan2) was named after the Temple of Earth (Di Tan 地坛) which was the venue for Imperial sacrifices to the Earth God. The altar is square shaped, symbolizing the earth. Under the Ming dynasty, five main altars were established at the city’s cardinal points:

  • ­ Tian Tan 天坛 (Temple of Heaven) in the South,
  • ­ Di Tan 地坛 (Temple of Earth) in the North,
  • ­ Ri Tan 日坛 (Temple of the Sun) in the East (not far from where we live)
  • ­ Yue Tan 月坛 (Temple of the Moon) in the West and,
  • ­ Shejie Tan 射杰坛 (Temple of Land and Grain) in the center

The Altar and the Trees are ready for Chinese New Year

Transience Calligraphy

Sources: Lonely planet, National Geographic, Frommers, Eyewitness Travel Guides and Insider’s Guide

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Spring Is Finally Here...

...Even If The Temperature Don't Show It

Today is officially the beginning of spring and it has nothing to do with GMT this time. Chinese being Chinese, seasons in China differs from Europe or the USA. In Western countries, we consider that the seasons start at the solstices (longest day of the year marks the beginning of Summer and the shortest day of the year marks the beginning of Winter) and at the equinoxes (the 2 days in the year when day and night have the same length, start of Spring and Autumn). In Asia they are considered to be halfway through a season. So for 2007 the calendar goes:

  • 立春 (Lichun - Spring): February 4
  • 立下 (Lixia - Summer): May 5
  • 立秋 (Liqiu - Autumn): August 7
  • 立冬 (Lidong - Winter) : November 7

Some trees are already blooming

These dates are valid for 2007 and slightly vary (+/-1 day) from year to year.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Place

The Place or 世贸天阶 Shi Mao Tian Jie (literally “World Business Celestial Slice” ?!!) has the world's longest LED screen: 250m long and 30m wide (820ft x 100ft). It cost RMB 250 million (25 million euros/US$32 million) and they hope it will become an icon of Beijing (So now you know it). But what makes The Place so welcoming for the Westerners (apart from a Starbucks and an English language book shop) is the new Zara store.

Today was the opening (youpi), and every westerner (at least the ones I know) is over excited by the News. We can finally shop at a reasonable price (ok not dirt cheap like some other places around here) but for good quality clothes where the sizes are not restricted to mini, micro and midget (I, myself, went from a size 2 in the States to a size XL in China!!!). Ok it takes out all the fun from bargaining but at least you don’t have to resign yourself to buying that polo shirt with an upside down logo after 2 hours of hard negotiation for a 20 kuai (2 euros) discount. The only problem I foresee is that we will all end up with the same wardrobe and pretty soon the local market will probably sell some Zara rip-offs at a fraction of the price!!!

The Place and the LED
(Only working at Night!!)

The Store (!)

This is what it looks like when the screen is on:

Sharks attack

Friday, February 2, 2007

View From Above...

...Beijing from the Sky

Forbidden City in the background

Bird's Nest (Olympic Stadium) and The Cube (Olympic Pool)

New Buildings by Night (CCTV Tower in the middle right)

No we didn’t take an helicopter trip around Beijing, we only headed to Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall where there is a 3D map of the City. Our apartment complex was just short of the 3D but the rest of the city is covered by a big photo taken from the sky..