Posts filed under: Chinese Culture

On February 5, 2019, Chinese New Year launched across the world in the grandest of splendor. This year, we celebrate the Year of the Pig (猪年).

The Chinese zodiac, a 12-year cycle of animal years and their applied traits, goes back so far in history. According to the Chinese legend, the Jade Emperor of the Heaven wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being into man’s world to spread the message that the earlier one went through the Heavenly Gate, the better the rank one would have.

The next day, animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate. Rat got up very early. On his way to the gate, he encountered a river. He had to stop there, owing to the swift current. After waiting a long time, Rat noticed Ox was about to cross the river and swiftly jumped onto Ox’s back. The diligent Ox did not mind at all and simply continued. After crossing the river, he raced towards the palace of the Jade Emperor. Suddenly, Rat jumped out of Ox’s back and dashed to the feet of the Emperor. Rat won first place and Ox was second. Tiger and Rabbit came third and fourth. Good-looking Dragon was fifth and Snake ranked sixth. Horse and Goat were ranked seventh and eighth. Then came Monkey, Rooster and Dog. Finally, the Pig arrived as the twelfth animal.

Such is the Year of the Pig. Years of the Pig include 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, and 2031. Due to the pig’s traits of generosity, hard work, and compassion, the Year of the Pig is auspicious indeed. This year is considered the Year of the Earth Pig (土猪). In Chinese element theory, each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five elements: Metal (金), Wood (木), Water (水), Fire (火), and Earth (土). An Earth Pig comes once in a 60-year cycle. It is theorized that a person’s characteristics are determined by their birth year’s zodiac animal sign and element. A person born in the Earth Pig year is believed to be communicative, popular among their friends, and with a strong sense of time keeping.

Let’s enjoy the Year of the Earth Pig, and join in the celebration with billions of others worldwide.

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The Harvest Moon Festival, commonly referred to as the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), is a celebration rich in Chinese lore. It involves the tragically romantic story of Chang’e, the moon goddess and her mortal husband Hou Yi. It is celebrated extravagantly with big dinners and family reunions. In many parts of Asia, there are children’s lantern parades, and lion dances. But ask any Chinese person about the festival, and they will tell you it’s all about the mooncakes.

Why? Because this is the time of year when the mooncakes are produced. Often baked and packaged lavishly, the mooncakes are meant as gifts. Families share the delicious confection with each other to celebrate the holiday with joy as they honor the good fortune of the harvest season.

Mooncakes are round like the moon, stamped in elaborate decorations, and rich with egg yolk in the recipe. One (a day) is usually enough to satisfy the craving for this yearly treat. They come with a sweet paste filling inside, often red bean or lotus seed paste, although many other varieties of the filling, such as black or white sesame seed, are also available. One such favorite is mooncakes baked with a salted duck egg yolk in the center, again symbolizing the moon. As a cake, they are usually individually proportioned at approximately four inches each in diameter, but some chefs in China will attempt extremely large mooncakes to commemorate the holiday. In whatever way they are made, they are delicious, and always a welcome gift.

While mooncakes make the Mid-Autumn Festival a special one in Chinese culture, the festival itself was always an importantone to the Chinese ancestors. It was held to celebrate their harvest and all their hard work in the last days of the season before the changing of the weather. The specific day is determined by the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Mid-Autumn Festival is set to be the 15th day of the eighth month. Always on a full moon, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls this year on September, 24.

The legend behind the festival is also a sad and beautiful one. Chang’e was the wife of a famed archer Hou Yi, and they livedat a time long ago when the Earth was plagued by ten suns. Yi shot down nine of the suns with his arrows, leaving one remaining for light and warmth. His heroic actions were seen by one of the immortals, who chose to give Yi an elixir for immortality. But Yi did not want immortality without his wife to join him, so he kept the elixir in his home. A subordinate of his, Peng Meng, learnt of the elixir and tried to force Chang’e to give it to him, but she swallowed it instead. Flying into the sky with her new immortal powers, she chose the moon as her home. When Yi returned and heard of what had happened, he grieved and offered fruits in devotion to his wife. When the people observed his gifts, they followed suit and worshipped with him.

Truly a special time in the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a welcome opportunity to get together with friends and families and share the joy of the season together – with mooncakes!

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The Qixi Festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival (乞巧节), falls on the 7th day of the 7th month on the Chinese lunar calendar. It is a festival in China celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in mythology. In 2018, the Festival falls on Friday, August 17th.

The Festival has been celebrated in China since the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). Based on the legend of “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl” (牛郎织女), the day is celebrated at the time of years when the stars Vega and Altair become bridged together across the Milky Way by a third star. As the tale goes, the cowherd Niulang, with the help of his ox (the demoted cattle god), married a fairy, Zhinü, who became a weaver girl. They lived on earth happily. However, Zhinü’s mother, a goddess, returned Zhinü to heaven. Niulang pursued Zhinü with the help of the magic hide of his faithful ox. The goddess separated them by a river of stars (the Milky Way), but a flock of magpies were allowed to form a bridge for them to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month.

In ancient China, to celebrate Qiyi, girls took part in worshiping the celestials (拜仙) during rituals. Under the moonlight, they prayed to Zhinü for dexterity in needlework which symbolized the traditional talents of a good wife. Today, Qixi has evolved to become the festival of romance. It is often called the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

The legend of “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl” is considered one of the Four Great Folktales, the others being “The Legend of the White Snake”(白蛇传), “Lady Meng Jiang”(孟姜女) and “Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai”(梁山伯与祝英台).

In Japan, Qixi is celebrated as the Tanabata festival, and in Korea, the Chilseok festival.

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One of China’s most popular holiday activities is the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 Duānwǔ Jié). Traditionally held at the start of the fifth solar month every year, this festival is a fun-filled way for the family to welcome the beginning of summer.

The highlight of the Dragon Boat Festival is the dragon boat racing. Local teams race each other in the long flat boats decorated to look like dragons. A drummer beats loudly at the front of the boat to set the pace of synchronized paddling as boats race for first place. An all-day affair, families picnic alongside the shore to cheer on the boat teams. Often local vendors will be on hand with food stalls and related gift items, as well as face painting, games, and activities for the children.

The Dragon Boat heritage originated, it is said, in honor of Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Miluo River. As the villagers searched and searched for his body by beating the water with paddles and scaring the fish with drums — the legend goes — the Dragon Boat Festival grew out of a wish to not forget him.

Locally, in Southern California, Dragon Boat Festivals are not bound to the early June timeframe, which provides residents opportunities this year to watch and participate in these joyous activities.

It’s been a long-time Long Beach tradition to hold the event along the park and recreation’s public lagoon at 5839 Appian Way. Plan now to attend this year’s event to be held on July 28-29. Their website ( also contains a fuller story of Qu Yuan and the history of the Dragon people of China.

For those that think they have what it takes to enter a Dragon Boat race, they still have time to prepare a boat and practice. The 6 th Annual Los Angeles County Dragon Boat Festival will be held at the Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale on Saturday, October 6, 2018. For information on sponsorships and participation, please go to For more information on the Dragon Boat Festival as they are celebrated in China, please see

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