Chinese Language and Culture Blog

Living Chinese Symbols homepage : Chinese Language and Culture Blog : January 2006



January 9, 2006 08:05 - Celebrating Chinese New Year

What are the Chinese New Year activities for celebrating this most important festival in the Chinese calendar?

In China, Chinese New Year is called the Spring Festival.

That¡¯s because the first day of Chinese New Year falls on the start of spring.

But why is it that Chinese New Year always falls on a different day each year?

I've always wondered that and finally I figured it out.

The beginning of spring is a fresh start¡­

It's the start of a new year of sowing and reapingchinese new year activities

A wish for a good harvest in the year ahead. (that's how the Chinese character for "year" nian2 Äê came about.)

A cause for celebration!

All around the world, Chinese families

put up Chinese New Year scrolls on both sides of the door,

set off firecrackers(it's illegal in many Chinese cities now, but people do it anyway)

and married adults give children red envelopes filled with ¡°lucky money¡±. read more...

January 11, 2006 10:55 - 6 Ways of Forming Chinese characters

The first way of forming Chinese characters:

The earliest chinese characters look like the ¡°things¡± they represent.

Like humans, animals and natural objects.

They are picture-like writing.

In Chinese writing there are only 300 or more of these pictographs.

This small number is hardly surprising since simple pictures can only represent simple things.

But they form the building blocks of Chinese writing.

They are made of ¡°one unit¡±.

This means, they cannot be divided into two or more characters. Read more...

January 12, 2006 11:04 - The system of forming Chinese characters

Did you know there are only 6 ways of forming Chinese characters?

Yes, 6 kinds of Chinese characters make up the 50,000 Chinese characters in existence today.

Amazing isn¡¯t it?

It shows that there is a logical symbol system used to create Chinese characters.

That they are not just random lines and strokes.

Once you know these 6 types of Chinese characters, you¡¯l find that
learning Chinese writing isn¡¯t so difficult after all.

Oh, one more thing¡­

January 13, 2006 05:32 - The Challenge of learning Chinese characters

When a person is starting out to learn Chinese characters, she faces two challenges:

1. How to pronounce the Chinese character?

2. What does it mean?

Chinese radicals can provide answers to the second challenge.

They are the "meaning" part of Chinese characters.

So, getting a good idea of the most commonly used Chinese radicals will allow a Chinese learner to guess the meaning of a Chinese characters with high accuracy.

There is a system to Chinese radicals.

It is divided into "parts" that denote

man, animal, plant, nature, things, actions£¬numerals, characteristics, numerals

This system is logical for the most part but not always...read more

January 15, 2006 06:47 - 8 Chinese New Year Food Symbols for More Prosperity, Health and Happiness

"Lucky" Chinese New Year symbols are an important part of
celebrating the Spring Festival.

Afterall, it is the start of spring -- a perfect time to
have your New Year wishes come true!

And what better way to usher in happiness, prosperity and
health than to enjoy "auspicious food" with family and
friends?


Here are the Top 8 auspicious food symbols for Chinese New
Year.

These delicious dishes are served during the
reunion dinner on Chinese New Year's eve with family
members.

For a comphrensive list and description of more
Chinese New Year dishes and delicacies, visit:

http://www.living-chinese-symbols.com/chinese-new-year-
symbols.html.

And if you'll like to do some cooking yourself, here are
some Chinese New Year recipes:

http://www.living-chinese-symbols.com/chinese-new-year-
recipes.html

Top 8 Auspicious Food Symbols for Chinese New
Year

1. Hot Pot

A steaming hot pot (or chinese fondue) with meat, seafood
and vegetables) is a must.

Huo3 in hot pot huo3 guo3 »ð¹ø is the same word as huo3 in
hong2 huo3 ºì»ð ¡°prosperous and booming¡±.

2. Fish

Another must-have dish if you want to experience abundance
in the new year.

Fish yu2 Óã is the most popular dish served during Chinese
New Year.

In Chinese fish has the same sound as ¡°surplus¡± and
¡°abundance¡± Óà.

A whole fish is served on Chinese New Year¡¯s eve for the
reunion dinner.

Usually the fish is steamed.

It is a good omen to leave the bones and head and tail
intact.

This symbolizes surplus/abundance and a good beginning and
end in the new year.

Best served whole.

3. Shrimp

Shrimp xia1 Ϻ in Mandarin and ha in Cantonese sounds
like someone laughing.

Eat shrimp for happiness and well-being.

4. Boiled dumplings

A Chinese New Year tradition is eating boiled dumplings.

These are shaped like gold ingots.

Dumplings jiao3 zi ½È×Ó sounds like jiao1 zi3 ½»×Ówhich
means the hour of transition into the New Year.

Hence, in northern China, dumplings filled with meat are
eaten on Chinese New Year¡¯s eve to usher in good luck and
wealth in the New Year.

Sometimes a coin is placed in one of the dumplings. Whoever
bites on it will have plenty of wealth in the new year.

When dumplings and yellow noodles are cooked together they
mean ¡°golden threads through gold ingots¡±.

In the eastern cities of China, like Shanghai, Hangzhou and
Suzhou, egg dumplings are eaten as they look like gold
ingots.

5. Oyster

Hao2 sounds like hao3 shi4 ºÃÊ which means ¡°good
things¡±.

In southern China, it is served with thin rice
noodles.

6. Green vegetables

For close family ties, serve some greens.

Qing1 cai4 Çà²Ë sounds like qing1 Ç× as in qin1 re Ç×ÈÈ mea
ning ¡°close/intimate¡±

7. Sticky rice cake

Nian2 gao1 Äê¸â.

Nian2 means year and cake gao1 sounds the
same as high gao1 ¸ß.

So eating this steamed cake made of rice flour and topped
with red dates has the meaning of attaining greater
prosperity and rank in the new year.

8. Noodles

Known as chang2 shou4 mian4 ³¤ÊÙÃæ meaning "longevity
noodles".


A wish for good fortune -- Good Luck, Prosperity, Longevity,
Happiness and Abundance -- is central to the Chinese way of
life.

Even more so during Chinese New Year!

Read my Chinese New Year special guide.

January 17, 2006 10:30 - In China, Tourists Enjoy Dog Year in New Ways

2006 is the "Year of the Dog" in the Chinese lunar calendar. To celebrate, Shanghai has already begun to promote their "dog business". They have introduced various new items related to dogs in order to attract tourists.

An art exhibition called "When Dogs Meet with Men" will open at the Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology on January 20th. The artists will be showing the complicated simultaneously close and distant relationships between human beings and dogs. Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to make dog figures with traditional Chinese jigsaw puzzles, toy dogs with pottery clay or paint animals with Chinese writing brushes.

At the Shanghai Wildlife Park, the "Enjoy Dogs in the Dog Year" project is underway. During the program, a World Rare Dogs Show in which more than 20 breeds of rare dogs will take to the stage for acrobatics performances.

There will be another dog show on the 88th floor of the Jinmao Mansion. Visitors can enjoy a performance by narcotics and bomb-detecting dogs, a special treat rarely seen on ordinary days.

"Finding the Most Doglike Faces among Fishes" is the new promotion by the Shanghai Aquarium of the Sea. Scores of new fish species with peculiar doglike heads have been introduced to the aquarium recently. According to organisers, each tourist visiting on January 29th, Chinese New Year's Day, will receive a special gift.

From a long traditional custom stemming from ancient times, Chinese have used a 12-animal astrological cycle to count the years. The Chinese Zodiac thus consists of a 12-year cycle, and each year is named after a different animal that imparts distinct characteristics to those born in that year. 2006 is the year of the Dog after the Monkey of 2004, and, for example, 2007 will be the year of the Pig.

2006-01-13 12:12:40 CRIENGLISH.com

January 18, 2006 04:41 - Shanghai surprises

SHANGHAI - In a chilly plywood shack in Shanghai's outer suburbs, a dozen men sat expressionless on wood benches. Their faces and hands were rough, and they looked as if they might have slept in their stained sports jackets.

When the door swung open, all heads snapped to attention.

Rahila Bootwala, outfitted with walkie-talkie, phone and clipboard, strode in searching for first assistant director George Every. She hardly glanced at the men. ``I have no idea what these people are doing,'' she muttered.

That's stunningly lackadaisical for a line producer, particularly one with Merchant Ivory Productions, known for its perfectionism and intelligent dramas made on low budgets.

On other Merchant Ivory projects, Bootwala, responsible for managing all of the people and property during filmmaking, knows ``exactly who's doing what,'' but in China it proved to be a big exception.

Director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, who died last May, have made their trademark period films, such as ``A Room With a View,'' ``Howards End'' and ``The Remains of the Day,'' by traveling to Italy, India, England and France. In China, however, they encountered quirks and hurdles -- such as an unfathomable glut of manpower -- unlike any others in their 46-film career.

Their 47th is ``The White Countess,'' a $16 million film starring Ralph Fiennes as a former U.S. diplomat in the late 1930s who loses his sight, his family and idealism and retreats to Shanghai's sordid bars. He opens a nightclub and hires a White Russian countess (Natasha Richardson) as its headliner. Just as he falls in love with her and begins to shed his cynicism, the Japanese army is poised to invade the city.

Recreating bygone eras with historical and cultural accuracy and filming at authentic locations are Merchant Ivory hallmarks, and so the ``Countess'' cast and 25 crew members from the United States, France and Britain lived in Shanghai for three months at the end of 2004.

Shanghai today has some of the same verve that it had in the '30s. It is, and was, a cosmopolitan hub, crammed with wheeler-dealers and migrants from all over China and every continent -- a stew of cultured socialites and shady characters, rich and poor, hardship and hedonism.

But the city yielded little film footage. For the past two decades, Shanghai has been an endless construction site, with old neighborhoods bulldozed and thousands of high-rises erected. ``You go into the center of the city, and what is left of the 1930s?'' Bootwala said. ``The camera doesn't have the flexibility of turning around and looking.''

The cameras shot most outdoor scenes at night and filmed in the few select buildings that still boast art deco and neoclassical interiors. The most complete remnants of the 1930s were an hour's drive outside the city, at the Shanghai Film Group (SFG) studios. SFG, which became a co-producer, had long-neglected period cars and a set of old Nanjing Road, Shanghai's former version of Fifth Avenue, with trams.

``We couldn't make this film without it,'' Ivory said of the set. ``Usually, we're just on real locations, but it's very hard to find real locations in Shanghai that are from the '30s, particularly streets.

``I've never done so much work on studio location as on this film.''

Merchant Ivory hadn't imagined the people-power of the world's most populous country, either. The filming core of 25 Westerners arrived to find 200 Chinese crew members at the ready. ``It's like an army,'' said Bootwala, who was stationed in Shanghai for six months.

``Not 70 or 80. It's 200,'' she said on the set, still in awe of the head count.

Some of the additional staffing was needed for communication among the multilingual actors and crew -- who spoke English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and a few other Chinese dialects -- but there still seemed to be an excess of warm bodies.

For a three-minute dialogue between actors Fiennes and Hiroyuki Sanada at the White Countess nightclub, some 30 Chinese crew hands were on the set, which is a lot by U.S. or British standards, said Ben Burt, one of the eight assistant directors. With so many people, individuals shrug off personal responsibility, Bootwala added. ``It's difficult to pinpoint and delegate one person. You're addressing a mass of people, not just to one person.''

Bootwala learned ``not to get too frazzled,'' she said. ``It's not going to happen our way, but it's going to happen some way. In their disorganization, there's an organization, which obviously works.''

The advantage of the massive and relatively cheap workforce was that ``anything's possible,'' Bootwala said. In one instance, the art department was asked to fashion a 1930s public-garden setting in a few hours instead of in a day -- and did. The art department, which had many orders ``to disguise unwanted things or to create additions to buildings or old interiors in buildings'' was ``sensational,'' director Ivory said on the set. ``Fantastic workmen. Great carvers and painters.''

Besides providing its critical studio sets, SFG, one of the country's most venerable movie companies, helped whack through China's infamous red tape. ``You think you have the permission'' to film, Ivory said, ``and then you learn you don't. Or you think that you can go there at a reasonable time to shoot, and you find out that you have the permission from say 1 to 3 a.m., which is impossible. We never knew what the reasons were.''

Costumes flown in from England (more than five tons' worth) and fog and smoke machines from the United States (to simulate the Japanese bombings) were held hostage by Chinese customs. It took persistent visits to the police and mayor's offices and the clout of the SFG to sort out the problems.

A potential hitch the filmmakers had considered -- but that never materialized -- was censorship. China's government tightly controls everything from the news to the Internet to cartoons to textbooks, regards media and entertainment primarily as tools for propaganda and is fearful of any criticism.

``The White Countess'' is a love story foremost, but Ivory still marveled that Chinese authorities made no comments about its content. ``We came here with a script (by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro) that was completely about the lives of foreigners -- White Russians, Americans, Frenchmen and so forth. There were virtually no Chinese characters in it. And we were welcomed. Nobody said, `Well, you must cast so-and-so in this or that part, because after all you're making a film in China, and there's Chinese investment in it,' '' Ivory said. ``Nobody said a single thing to us about decadent Shanghai'' of the 1930s.

During the ``Countess'' shoot in Shanghai, Ismail Merchant said various overseas filmmakers were asking him about China. ``The government is more relaxed with the idea of bringing in foreign crew,'' he'd tell them. His key piece of advice: ``You cannot come with an attitude that you are the best or you have better knowledge. You have to come and learn with the people here.''

Filmed in China

Other international film productions filmed entirely or partially in China:

``Empire of the Sun'' (1987)

``The Last Emperor'' (1987)

``The Joy Luck Club'' (1993)

``The Red Violin'' (1998)

``Shanghai Noon'' (2000)

``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' (2000)

``Code 46'' (2003)

``Kill Bill, Vols. 1 and 2'' (2003, 2004)

``Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith'' (2005)

``The Great Raid'' (2005)

``Mission: Impossible III (2006)''

Source: IMDB.com

`The White Countess'

In theaters now

Rated PG-13 (some violent images, thematic content)

Cast Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Hiroyuki Sanada, Lynn Redgrave

Director James Ivory

Writer Kazuo Ishiguro

Running time Two hours, 15 minutes

CHINA LATEST SETTING FOR MERCHANT IVORY
By Barbara Koh

Special to the Mercury NewsSat, Jan. 14, 2006

January 19, 2006 09:29 - How hard is it to learn Chinese?

An independent school has become the first in the UK to make Mandarin Chinese compulsory for pupils, reflecting the growing importance of China on the world stage. But it's not an easy language to master.

China used to be called a sleeping giant. Now, as the world's fastest growing major economy, it is well and truly awake.

British exports to the country are expected to quadruple by the end of the decade and the government wants every school, college and university to be twinned with an equivalent in China within the next five years.

An estimated 100 schools in the UK are now teaching Mandarin, China's official language, according to the British Council - the UK's international organisation for educational and cultural relations.

Compulsory

Brighton College, an independent school in East Sussex, this week became the first to make the language compulsory, alongside French, Spanish and Latin.

But it is a tough language to learn for Westerners. There are two main reason for this, says Dr Frances Weightman, a lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds.

Firstly, the script poses problems. There is no alphabet, just thousands of characters. There are so many that no one can give a definitive total, but it is believed to be around 60,000.


GETTING THE RIGHT TONE
Tone one - A fairly high, even tone
Tone two - A rising tone, much like the sound at the end of a sentence with a question mark
Tone three - Falls then rises. Like the second, but must dip first
Tone Four - Sharp falling tone, a little like how the end of a sentence with an exclamation mark sounds
Half tone - Pronounce words with light tones in about half the time you would a normal word, without putting emphasis on it

Secondly, the tonal system is hard for Westerners. While the meaning of English words does not change with tone, the same is not true for Mandarin.

Four-and-a-half tones are used, meaning a single word can have many meanings. Ma, for example, can mean mother, horse, hemp, or be a reproach depending on tone. How tones are used also varies extensively from province to province.

"The tonal systems can result in a lot of ambiguity for people learning the language," says Dr Weightman.

Westerners have the reputation of using the fourth tone exclusively for all words. It is a sharp falling sound, a little like how the end of a sentence with an exclamation mark sounds.

Pinyin, a system of transliterating Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet, is used by Westerners to learn basic Mandarin. Things get tougher when students start learning characters, but language experts say a person only needs roughly 5,000 to be literate.

'It's like singing'

One thing that is easier in Mandarin is the grammar.

"The grammar is not nearly as complicated as many European languages," says Dr Weightman. "For example there are no verb tenses, no relative clauses, no singular or plural."

The number of people in the UK learning Mandarin has gone up considerably in recent years, she adds.

"It really appeals to kids, they find the different characters fun and grasp the different tones well, it's like singing for them. The more we demystify the language, the more people will learn it. At the moment it is still seen as exotic and a bit strange, which can put people off. But that's changing."


WHO, WHAT, WHY?
A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines
GCSE entries for the Chinese languages of Mandarin and Cantonese crept up to just under 4,000 last year. Even with its falling popularity, however, the number of entries in French still hit 320,000.

Ann Martin, a Mandarin teacher at the Ashcombe School in Dorking Surrey, believes part of the problem is the exam system, which isn't designed for non native speakers and is hard for them to gain good grades compared to native speakers.

"As far as schools are concerned head teachers are reluctant to timetable Chinese because it is not achievable for non-native speakers," she says.

Business experts are in no doubt about how important Mandarin will become over the next few years.

BBC business reporter Mary Hennock says students speaking fluent English and Chinese are going to be the executives of the future.

"China's economy is growing so quickly and becoming so influential in the world economy that people can't afford to ignore it. People who want to be ahead in whatever industry need to think about China and learning Chinese."

I am learning Chinese, and find it fun. So far, I have accidentally told someone I was pregnant (by saying 'I have..'), called my mum a horse, (wrong tone), called my boss my wife (wrong tone again), and told my girlfriend that I want to 'take advantage of my mum' (won't say that again in a hurry!!)... Learn it - it's a good laugh. I'm move to China next week to continue learning.... while I teach English there.
Gareth Williams, Cardiff, UK

I am ethnic Chinese myself, albeit born, raised and educated in Britain. When a teenager, my parents belatedly decided to try and get me to take up Mandarin or Cantonese. To say that I found it near impossible to master is an understatement; ethnicity is no guarantee of ability!
Ivan Tan, London WC UK

I attempted to learn Mandarin Chinese whilst at college. After the short four month course was over, I could remember how to say "thankyou", and "I am a Japanese". It was just too hard for me to use Pinyin and pronounce the words correctly, as the tonal variations of the languages were hard to get right. I now study Japanese, and it's easier by far.
Claire B, Oxford, UK

Mandarin is not as hard as Cantonese which has nine tones. And any mistake you make inevitably leads to a very rude slang expression.
simon, brighton

I think it is brilliant that schools are opening up to the thought of teaching what is perceived as a non-core subject. Languages are a way forward, and are great stimulation for the brain, expecially in young children. If Mandarin is a language of the future then I strongly believe that children should be given expsoure to this, even if this is a basic understanding, its still a good foundation to work from.
Anthony Colley, High Wycombe - Bucks

Westerners see learning Chinese as a preparation for the future, but I see it as a doom of traditional Chinese characters. However, since simplified Chinese characters are taught throughout China, very few people will learn how to write traditional Chinese characters, which are the most precious cultural heritage for China.
Lynette, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Liked your article. I'm planning to live in China. I've studied Chinese 2 plus years. I only know about 1000 characters and read about at the first grade elementry level. I have a long way to go but am convinced it is a language worth learning. I plan on using it for the next decade and beyond.
Brian Keyes, Houston, Texas USA

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Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/magazine/4617646.stm

Published: 2006/01/17 11:32:29 GMT

January 20, 2006 05:02 - Healthy Living, the Chinese Way

Dr. Xiaolan Zhao is not taking any new patients.

For the hundreds of them who attended her book launch last Wednesday at the Roots flagship store on Bloor Street in Toronto, this news will come as a relief --although Zhao has become the talk of the town, their appointments are safe.

Zhao is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and thanks to the fervour with which her clients speak of her talents, her patient list has grown steadily to its current 7,000 since she opened her clinic in 1992. A who's who of Toronto literati, among them Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, sing her praises. Zhao has never advertised or even published the clinic's phone number. The clinic now employs a staff of six.

"When people feel better, they tell people," Zhao explains the day before a book signing in the non-descript house in Toronto's west end that houses the clinic.

Zhao will only see a new patient in the case that an existing one pleads with her to take a look at a relative. Right now, her primary aim is to look after her current roster.

For the rest of us, Zhao has penned a book, Reflections of the Moon on Water: Healing women's bodies and minds through traditional Chinese wisdom.

"I didn't write the book to get one more patient. Quite the opposite," explains the 50-year-old doctor. "I wrote the book because I want people to empower themselves, to look after themselves."

Rob Cohen has been under Zhao's care for the last four years and he emphatically credits her with saving his life following a nasty divorce that took an emotional and physical toll on him.

"I was almost dead. I had double pneumonia and shingles and I was off work for six months," he says. Zhao treated his infections and detoxified him with the typical TCM treatment of herbs, acupuncture and massage.

As her book's title suggests, women make up the bulk of Zhao's patients. When the clinic first opened, she was perplexed to see so many women struggling with fatigue, depression, menstrual difficulties, chronic pain and cancer. She treated them with TCM and saw results.

"Gynecology is not treated with much in Western medicine. The only thing they use is hormones," she says in her quiet, gentle voice. "I feel women are not honouring their body."

Reflections of the Moon on Water makes recommendations for emotional and physical self-care during menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause based on traditional practices.

For example, with the start of Zhao's first period, her parents told her what foods to eat to look after herself. Both her father and mother prepared special soups when she was menstruating, as Zhao explains it is common for Chinese men to have an understanding of foods that offer therapeutic value for women's health.

Zhao, who was born and raised in China's south-west Yunnan province, grew up with a very different view of her body than her counterparts here. In Chinese medicine, menstruation is referred to as Heavenly Water. The month after childbirth is called Golden Month and menopause is known as Second Spring -- not the end of youth. And before Zhao came to Canada, she had never heard of PMS.

"I don't think the symptoms are very strong in China. We are very into prevention. I was shocked these symptoms associated with Heavenly Water were named a syndrome ... Maybe you just need some balancing, maybe you didn't get enough rest or food."

In China, Zhao studied Western medicine and worked as an abdominal surgeon at a hospital that put emphasis on TCM. Witnessing the effectiveness of herbal remedies, she went back to medical school and finished a degree in TCM.

"Chinese medicine is not a science -- it's common sense," says Zhao. "It's intuition, it's inside you. I just want people to understand you can do something for yourself. I have people coming in here and they expect me to do everything and I say, that's not fair, right now I do 50 and you do 50. In the future you do 90 and I do 10. You've got to understand, I don't have dinner with you at night. It's your body."

One thing she has heard from patients time and again is their MD is not working for them anymore."They say the doctor didn't give me any hope, no solutions and they have a lot of pain and they've been given pills and more pills," says Zhao.

While Zhao admits that is problematic, she has not turned her back on Western medicine and believes the two schools of thought should be used in tandem. The feeling appears to be mutual. Of the cancer patients she treats, many are doctors.

One of them, an MD with a brain tumour so entrusted her health to Zhao that when Zhao was returning to China for a holiday, the woman insisted on going with her. "I put her in my hospital where she received all the Chinese herbs plus Western medicine and her brain cancer went into remission," recalls Zhao. "She then quit her position here and went to China for five years to study TCM and now has a practice in Vancouver."

Zhao explains all this with utter modesty. "People think I have magic. I really don't. I'm not a special healer. I'm just a simple doctor."

DOCTOR'S ORDERS

In addition to the acupuncture, massage and herbal treatments used in Chinese medicine, prevention is the primary tenet of Dr. Xiaolan Zhao's guide to good health. Here are some of her basic guidelines:

THREE SQUARE MEALS Zhao never misses a meal. A typical day might consist of seven-grain porridge with almond milk for breakfast, a soup of fresh soy beans and coriander for lunch and steamed fish and vegetables with brown rice for dinner. She always eats fresh food, never packaged. As is typical of most Chinese diets, she doesn't eat dairy or bread.

MENTAL HEALTH CARE Zhao believes there is a strong connection between physical symptoms and one's emotions. In her clinic's atmosphere of trust, Zhao's patients often open up to her.

NEVER STOP EXERCISING Zhao does Tai Chi every weekday morning, and her energetic 80-year-old parents practice the calisthenic martial art in a local park seven days a week.

WATER Drink lots of it.

SPEND MORE TIME IN BED (I) People in North America don't get enough rest, Zhao says. She recommends eight hours a night.

SPEND MORE TIME IN BED (II) In Chinese medicine, sex is as important as food and sleep. Zhao credits it with increasing overall energy, physical well-being and wholeness.

The best medicine: Writing the book on healthy living

Samantha Grice
National Post

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

January 21, 2006 03:54 - Dining out becomes popular on Chinese New Year's Eve

Much like Christmas in the West, Chinese New Year is predominantly a family affair.

And a family reunion in China normally revolves around a huge banquet of food prepared and enjoyed at home on the eve of Spring Festival.

However, China's rapidly developing economy has brought a change of lifestyle, which is affecting the way in which Chinese people celebrate this great occasion.

For example, food is getting simpler compared to the vast array of once-a-year dishes that used to be prepared.

The traditional family banquet on New Year's Eve may now take place in a restaurant as most modern urbanites have become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life and have little time for the laborious preparation of the myriad traditional dishes.

Contemplating the imminent Lunar New Year's Eve, 68-year-old Wang Fu is adamant: "Things aren't what they used to be."

The grandmother from Guangzhou of Guangdong Province laments that, "in the past, it's the most looked forward to day of the year."

Four generations would gather at home and prepare for the elaborate dinner with someone doing the washing-up, another chopping meat and the master chef (generally the eldest daughter) working away at the stove, Wang recalled.

"That's the real meaning of a family reunion," she said.

But all those days are long gone and now only nostalgic memories remain.

Over the past few years, Wang's family have given up the tradition of eating at home, opting to have the big dinner at a decent restaurant instead.

Actually more and more families in major metropolises such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have chosen to dine out for the biggest meal of the year.

Hard reservation

As the holiday eating craze is about to begin, many people still find it difficult to decide where to have dinner.

"I called some of my favourite restaurants like Donglaishun (one of the most famous hotpot restaurants in Beijing) and Quanjude (famed for Peking roast duck) last week. To my surprise, all of them are already booked up," said Zhang Huan, a lawyer in Beijing. "I should have called earlier."

Several months prior to Spring Festival, Beijing's catering industry was already gearing up for the business of the festival feast.

Over 500 restaurants in the capital city had been fully booked by the end of December, local media reported.

Statistics from the catering industry show that many of these popular restaurants are "laozihao," or restaurants with a long history offering Chinese traditional dishes.

Peng Cheng, a spokesperson of Quanjude, which boasts a history of about 140 years preparing varied dishes revolving around Peking duck, said the restaurant started taking reservations for the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner several months ago.

Up to now most of the private rooms in its five restaurants have been booked, Peng said.

Hongbinlou Restaurant, a "laozihao" of Muslim dishes in Beijing, was also embracing the booming business.

Over 800 seats have already been booked by diners on the Lunar New Year's Eve, according to Yang Hao, a manager of the restaurant.

Ever since Hongbinlou started the service of providing a New Year's Eve dinner in 1999, the business has been growing by 20 per cent every year.

About 90 per cent of the reservations were made by large families, according to Yang.

In Guangzhou and Shanghai, most of the leading star restaurants have already secured a full house for the night.

Most restaurants offer set menus at prices that may be as much as double or treble those of regular dinners.

Feasts that cost between 1,000 and 2,000 yuan (US$123 to US$246) for a table of eight to 12 people are the most popular, Yang said.

Apparently undeterred by the expense of dining out, growing numbers of locals are heading to restaurants to celebrate the most important festival of the year.

"One or two thousand yuan is not much considering all the time and effort a New Year's Eve dinner might cost. After all it only happens once a year," said Pan Simin, a middle-aged housewife from Beijing who decided to dine out with her extended family this year.

New tasty ideas

Restaurants of all types of cuisine have all joined the trend, catering for people seeking an unusual dinner.

Many of them offer fixed menus for the New Year's Eve dinner, which usually offers a balance of popular poultry, seafood and meat dishes in a succession of courses.

Almost every dish has a symbolic meaning or a name that sounds like Chinese characters for fortune, happiness, longevity and prosperity.

Fish is a typical main course, because it symbolises a profitable year ahead.

Vegetables embody the freshness of "evergreen" and store good fortune in their roots. Fish balls and meat balls symbolize "reunion" since their round shape portrays "togetherness."

In addition to these symbolic dishes, each restaurant has its own selling point.

Roast duck, the signature dish of Quanjude, is still popular among Beijing diners in spite of the outbreak of bird flu worldwide and many customers have ordered the dish for their New Year's dinner, said Peng.

Yet, Quanjude also presents a number of new dishes particularly for diners who are worried about bird flu, such as barbecued ribs, roast eel with brandy, fungus fish ball soup and braised ox tail.

Fengzeyuan Restaurant, famed for its Shandong food, has a series of sea cucumber dishes as the highlights of its menu.

For spicy-food lovers, Emei Restaurant, known as the "first Sichuan restaurant" in Beijing, is a good choice. Its "gongbao" dishes (with chilli and peanuts) can definitely heat up taste buds of any picky diner.

For those who still want to eat at home, Shanghai Old Restaurant, located in the western part of the capital, is offering "take-out" set-dinners, Shanghai style.

Source: China Daily


People's Daily Online --- http://english.people.com.cn/

January 22, 2006 04:44 - Good Fortune Red Underwear for Year of the Dog

Good luck charms are usually worn around the neck, or on wrist. But this year, Chinese Malaysians are wearing them under their pants.

Red men's underwear emblazoned with auspicious animals and characters have become the rage among Malaysian Chinese ahead of the Chinese lunar New Year holidays, the New Straits Times reported Friday.

Red is considered an auspicious color among the Chinese, and an essential component of feng shui, the Chinese belief of improving fortunes.

Retailers are cashing in by stocking up on these unique items for the Year of the Dog, which begins on Jan. 29, the Times said.

Its article was accompanied by a picture of three young women laughing while looking at a cut-at-the waist mannequin wearing the reversible bright red briefs with Chinese characters in gold. The underwear can be worn inside out to reveal red characters on gold fabric.

"Red underwear make up three of every 10 boxes of underwear we sell daily," the Times quoted sales assistant Nabila Ramli at a department store as saying.

"Because of the strong demand we are also giving it a lot of space on our display stores," she said. The store has had to replenish stocks twice over the past two weeks, she said.

Even the prices of the items come in auspicious numbers 15.88 ringgit (US$4.20; euro3.5), 18.88 ringgit and 19.88 ringgit. The number 8 is considered lucky among Chinese.

The characters printed on the briefs - in the front and at the back - read "attracting fortune," "golden fortune," "prosperous four seasons" and "swirling dragons."

Chinese make up a quarter of Malaysia's 26 million people.

Red Underwear All the Rage in Malaysia, AP, 01.20.2006

January 22, 2006 21:59 - Chinese Scions Take Root

The rail fortune behind the Huntington Library was built using men society shunned. Now local Asian wealth is key to the site's future.

For more than a month, big rigs filled with crates of limestone mined from Lake Tai west of Shanghai have rumbled down the winding roads of San Marino and through the gates of the Huntington Library.

When the final shipment arrives at the end of the month, the library will have collected about 650 tons of loose rock, destined for the largest Chinese garden outside of China.

When the $80-million project is completed, it will become not only an ambitious new feature in the Huntington's world-famous gardens, but an ironic capstone to a remarkable turn in history.

The Huntington, with its more than 150 acres of botanical gardens, 18th century British and French art, and rare books such as a manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," has virtually embodied the image and aspirations of California's white ruling elite.

The money to build it originated from the vast fortune of Collis P. Huntington, one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad. His nephew and heir, Henry E. Huntington, founded the library in 1919, supplementing the bequest with his own wealth from the Pacific Electric Railway, utilities and real estate deals around Southern California.

The Central Pacific Railroad, which connected Sacramento to Promontory, Utah, employed more than 10,000 Chinese immigrants to lay the most treacherous part of the transcontinental railroad through the Sierra in the 1860s. The Chinese laborers, who went on strike to get the same hourly wage as their white counterparts, hacked tunnels through the mountains and laid track in the bitter cold. Many died.

Those who survived were excluded from citizenship in the state and forbidden to purchase land. For decades, Chinese immigrants in California were a largely impoverished underclass.

"If you go back to the deeds of trust in San Marino, a long time before, they stated very clearly this land should not be sold to Jewish people, blacks, and it cannot be sold to the Chinese too," said Dr. Matthew Lin, vice mayor of San Marino and a local developer.

"We've come a long way now."

Indeed, San Marino now has an Asian majority, principally Chinese. And China's booming economy is bringing in many more affluent immigrants.

Though members of the white establishment continue to be a main source of support, the Huntington Library realized that to secure its future it needed help from ethnic Chinese in ways never envisioned by Henry Huntington. The Chinese garden was a way to connect with the new residents, and donors.

"It was about serving a new community," said Suzy Moser, the Huntington's assistant vice president for advancement. "If our neighborhood changes, we need to change."

"When you have an opportunity to serve a new constituency ¡ª and an element of that is to invite them to support you ¡ª you'd be fools not to do it," she said.

To Lin, the Huntington's interest in Chinese donors ¡ª and the community's enthusiastic response ¡ª reflects a change in attitude of the area as a whole.

"Before this, not a lot of Chinese people belonged to the Huntington," he said. "When people immigrated to this area in the '70s or '80s, they tried to raise their children and make ends meet. While they were very busy, they didn't have time to look into the surrounding area.

"Now in the later stages the businesspeople look around and really appreciate it. They've started to give back."

Collis and Henry Huntington's attitude toward the Chinese was simple: "They thought of the Chinese as a labor source," said Dan Lewis, the curator of American historical manuscripts at the Huntington.

Collis Huntington wrote admiringly to a colleague about their usefulness. "I like the idea of your getting over more Chinamen," he wrote to a company official in 1867. "It would be all the better for us and the state if there should a half million come over in 1868."

Anti-Chinese sentiment grew in California, and by the time Henry Huntington was building his local rail lines, the clamor was so strident that he mostly used Mexican and white workers, historians said.

Collis and Henry Huntington would probably be extremely surprised that an institution started by their family was now asking Chinese Americans for money, said Selena Spurgeon, an 82-year-old Arcadia resident who has written a biography of Henry Huntington.

Though Henry Huntington would probably be delighted that people of all backgrounds appreciated his generosity, she said she would expect Collis to be entirely amazed at Chinese Americans' change in social stature.

"He just considered the Chinese servants, not equal socially at all," Spurgeon said. "I'm sure he didn't have any social connection."

Henry Huntington helped found San Marino before his death in 1927. The mansion-lined community of 13,000 became synonymous with old money and power, and a number of its wealthy residents served on the library's board of trustees.

By the 1980s, the San Gabriel Valley was seeing a huge wave of immigration from Hong Kong, Taiwan and later mainland China that transformed once-white-majority cities to San Marino's south such as Monterey Park, Alhambra and San Gabriel. San Marino's prestigious address and highly regarded public schools made it a popular place for wealthy Chinese to settle.

Vivian Chan, who moved to San Marino in 1990, said she and her restaurateur husband initially focused their charitable work on programs related to their three children, such as volunteering at schools, and with educational programs for the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra.

Chan said she took visiting family to stroll around the Huntington back then ¡ª but saw the imposing institution more as a place to visit than as a place to support with donations.

About four years ago, the Huntington recruited some prominent local Chinese Americans, including one of Chan's closest friends, to help with its fundraising efforts. They started with two dinner parties.

Moser came on board about that time, and she said her experience raising money in Hong Kong for another organization was considered a plus in her application. Moser knew from her experience in Hong Kong that fundraising in the Chinese community relied heavily on guanxi, or the connections of the person asking for money.

"In Western culture, you make the case for support," she said. "You pitch the project. Of course, always the better person to be pitching a project is the peer of the person you're talking to. They know each other, belong to the same club. But our emphasis tends to be on the project. In Chinese culture, it tends to be on the person who's asking. If the right person asks, it matters less what the project is."

Chan and her husband eventually donated $10,000 for the garden. She didn't give the Huntington family history a second thought, even though grand uncles worked on the railroad in the 19th century.

Although she remembers hearing stories about how her relatives had to cut their braided queues and wear the same work clothes every day, her grand uncles did manage to make a lot of money laying track. They enriched their villages in the Guangdong province when they came back.

Chan said the support of so many Chinese Americans to the Huntington's new Chinese Garden will showcase their reversal of fortune. "I am quite proud as a Chinese descendant to say, 'Now is our time,' " she said. "We want to make sure our generation and the next generation to come will not forget how far we've come."

The Chinese "weren't treated equally back then, but that is history," added Rosa Zee, a 56-year-old San Marino resident who has also donated $10,000 for the garden.

"I don't have any personal feelings against Henry Huntington's uncle," said Zee, who until recently worked as outreach director for the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. "It happened and you can't go back and say you hate them¡­. This country has treated me well."

One reason donors have responded so well to this Huntington project is the Huntington's commitment to build the garden according to Chinese traditions ¡ª right down to importing the rocks, Moser said.

That commitment was crucial, said Paul Zee, 55, a retired South Pasadena businessman (not related to Rosa Zee) who donated about $10,000. Zee last summer became one of the Huntington's first Chinese American members of the board of overseers, the library's advisory group.

"If I wanted to invite you over for a Chinese dinner, I'm not going to serve you chop suey," a dish invented in America's Chinatowns ¡ª he said. "I'm going to give you an authentic Chinese dinner. It's that simple."

Many of the donors feel the same. The president of the Los Angeles branch of the China Ocean Shipping Co. donated 100 cargo containers so the garden would not have to bust its budget to bring over materials from China.

When completed in 2008, the first phase of the Chinese Garden will include a 1.3-acre lake, an ornate teahouse, a zigzag granite bridge, and lush landscaping with native Chinese plants such as bamboo, camellias and tree peonies. Eventually, if all $80 million can be raised, the garden will cover 12 acres of the Huntington's grounds. The cost of the six-acre first phase is estimated at $16 million.

"It has to be authentic," added Yee-Jen Shuai, a San Marino lawyer who has donated about $5,000 to the project. "In China, the stone workers and woodworkers have their own way of building. American laborers could do it with no problem, but they wouldn't use the same techniques."

One recent afternoon, in a woodsy area behind the nursery, about 40 wooden crates sat holding bone-white pieces of limestone webbed with peach-colored veins of sediment and embedded with gray pebbles. The surface of the Tai rocks was scarred and rough, but they all bore smooth holes as big as a pomelo or as small as a cherry. They are one of the distinctive features of a scholar's garden typical of Suzhou, an ancient city near Shanghai.

"They don't look like anything you see" in the United States, said Laurie Sowd, the operations director of the Huntington's art collections and botanical gardens.

Library officials commissioned artisans in Suzhou to pick granite cladding for the bridges and carve traditional swirling patterns on select pieces of granite. Other artisans have carved the wood that will decorate windows, doors and beams.

But unlike Collis Huntington and his contractors, who could easily import boatloads of Chinese laborers, the library ran into modern-day visa problems trying to bring 13 of the artisans associated with the Suzhou Institute of Landscape Architectural Design to supervise the placement of the limestone rocks and granite.

For a few months, the visa impasse caused a problem for the contractors. For one thing, they couldn't read the Chinese writing on the crates, so they had difficulty figuring out which batch of granite went with what bridge.

The library sought the help of some of its well-placed friends, including Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles. The visas cleared Thursday afternoon.

By Jia-Rui Chong and Lynn Doan
Times Staff Writers

January 21, 2006http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-garden21jan21,0,2560428.story?coll=la-home-headlines
From the Los Angeles Times

January 24, 2006 01:40 - In China: Online poetry new Internet wave

Reading poems online has become the new wave of the Internet. Cherry Jiang, a 16-year-old middle school pupil, often has to endure her mother's complaints when she surfs online. Her mother grumbles that her daughter uses the "advanced game machine" to play games, chat and visit meaningless Websites.

But her mother was in for a shock, although pleasant, when her daughter showed what she has been using the computer for.

"She was shocked after I showed her how to search the background of a poem by Li Bai (a famous poet in the Tang Dynasty) using the Internet tools," said Jiang.

Even her teacher at school was surprised on two occasions when she discovered her daughter possessed knowledge beyond her age, the mother said.
Jiang uses the search engines every Chinese net citizen uses but not every one knows their functions.

Baidu.com kicked off a second-tier Website recently called "guoxue," which covers literature, philosophy and able to search the history of China. Its coverage is from the Chunqiu period (750 BC) to the Qing Dynasty which ended in 1911.

At present, the new site includes 100,000 Webpages and 140 million Chinese characters. Baidu provided its own content through cooperation with guoxue.com. Users can use different categories, including general, author and book, to search.

For example, the result of the key word search "Li Bai" contains three parts ¡ª a brief introduction, famous poems and the book containing his poems.

Users can also read most Li Bai's poems online through Baidu's platform, which is free for now.

"It's an absolute 'guoxue' content platform and we hope to promote our own culture in the Internet. That will help young people learn the culture of our country with its 5,000 years of history," Baidu said.

Baidu's general search can also find the poems and quotations, but often in the fifth or 10th pages. The top positions of the result are occupied by latest news or articles quoting the poems, which can't provide users original poems in the complete forms, according to a Shanghai Daily test.

Baidu provides the "guoxue search" in Chinese only.

Interestingly, "Baidu" was inspired by a poem written more than 800 years ago during the Song Dynasty that reads in part ¡ª "hundreds and thousands of times, for her I searched in chaos, suddenly, I turned by chance, to where the lights were waning, and there she stood." Baidu, whose literal meaning is hundreds of times, represents a persistent search for the ideal.

On the other hand, Google has also launched a "scholar search" in many languages, including English and Chinese.

Google's service covers articles published in academic journals. Compared with Baidu's "guoxue", Google's "scholar search" has more professional users.

Google also has a plan to digitize all books in the world online called "Google library", but it has faced protests from traditional book publishers over copyright issues.

Google has also announced it would invest heavily to put universities' books and out-of-date books into the database for its planned "library" service.

The ancient poems face few copyright disputes, so the search engines promoted the services for the poems as the first step, analysts said.

(Source: shanghai Daily)

BEIJING, Jan. 23

January 25, 2006 02:56 - In Asia, English is useful but Mandarin is rising

Inside a brightly painted classroom, a circle of kindergarten kids sits facing their teaching assistant, a Filipina. "So what kind of present do you want from Santa?" she asks in English. "Do you want a toy? Who likes Barbie?" Some of the girls stick up their hands.

"We also have a Barbie for boys. What's he called?" the teacher continues. Several voices overlap, all speaking in English. "Ken!" "I want boy Barbie!" "I too want, miss!" After the hubbub subsides, the day's lesson begins: The sound made by the letters Q and U.

Next door, another group of preschoolers is playing a game. Their profile is identical - under 5, over 90 percent Thai. But the teacher is Taiwanese, the language being spoken is Mandarin, and the classroom d¨¦cor is Chinese.

After recess, the children will swap places - and switch languages. When school is over, pupils revert to speaking their mother tongue. The next day, it's back to the immersion classes in English and Chinese.

Welcome to the cutting edge of Thailand's flirtation with Chinese, an ancient language increasingly seen as the new dialect of diplomacy and trade in East Asia. In the last few decades, China's economic rise has rippled across the globe, jolting policymakers and dazzling investors.

In its wake, Mandarin is also making gains.

Just as the US leveraged its superpower status to promote its language and culture, Beijing is busy exporting its tongue. It may lag behind English as a global language, but there's no doubting its rising appeal, especially in Asia.

Thailand hasn't turned its back on English: It's still compulsory in public schools, and likely to remain so. But starting from this year, thousands of schools will introduce Chinese as a foreign language, with a target of enrolling 30 percent of all high school students in programs within five years.

"There's been a lot of interest among parents as well as students to learn the Chinese language," says Khunying Kasama Varavarn, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education. "We hope to establish at least one secondary school offering Chinese in every province."
Wanted: 100 million Mandarin learners

Thailand is counting on support from Beijing, which has promised to train more Thai language teachers, send native speakers to work in Thai schools, and provide free teaching materials.

China is already supporting language training in dozens of countries and reportedly has set a target of raising the number of foreigners studying Mandarin around the world to 100 million by 2010. Currently, more than 30 million people worldwide are studying Mandarin, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua.

Since 2004, China's Education Ministry has opened language centers called Confucius Institutes in over 20 countries, including South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Sweden, and Kenya.

In 2004, 110,844 foreigners from 178 countries were studying Mandarin in China, says Xinhua, up 43 percent on 2003. In Southeast Asia, private language schools in Malaysia and Indonesia report rising enrollment in Chinese classes, according to Knight Ridder.
Business professionals keen to learn

For now, most Thai students of Chinese attend private classes. At ICI, a language school in Bangkok, principal Liu Xiaoying sees a steady stream of professionals keen to master Mandarin. Many work for import-export companies and want to expand their business with China.

Ms. Liu, who was born in China and moved to Thailand, says that anyone can learn the language with a bit of effort. But like many in the private education sector, she has her doubts about the government's plans to teach Chinese to the next generation.

"Everyone studies English for five hours a week, and they study for several years, but how many of them can actually communicate in English? How many people can use English to do business?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

The answer is not many, which is why well-heeled Thais enroll their children at international schools where classes are taught in English by native speakers. It's a formula for bilingual competence, and a route to a university spot in the US or Australia.
English is great...

But why stop at two languages?

Located on an airy campus abutting a country club, Concordian International School began five years ago as an experiment in foreign language immersion. Today, it's probably the world's only trilingual primary school teaching three languages that use different scripts.

Literacy in Chinese requires learning thousands of different characters. Written Thai has its own alphabet that derives from ancient Indian scripts.

Most Chinese classes teach the written and spoken. The kindergarten at Concordian teaches basic characters to preschoolers, just as the English teachers teach the letters Q and U.
Thai is for recess

Starting from kindergarten, the 230 students at Concordian spend their days immersed in English and Mandarin, while chattering away in Thai during recess (a handful of non-Thais attend). After Grade 5, most classes are taught in English, with Mandarin as a foreign language and additional instruction in Thai.

"Not everyone is linguistic. Not everyone can learn languages well when they are older," says Varnnee Ross, the school founder. "But languages can be learned naturally when you're a child."

Like most of her students, Ms. Varnnee hails from Thailand's successful ethnic-Chinese minority. Her father, who began by raising chickens, is among the country's wealthiest men and reputably the first to invest in China after Deng Xiaoping opened the door to foreign capital in 1978.

However, few Thai-Chinese students speak Mandarin at home.

Typically, their grandparents are the last link to China, and often like the idea of passing on their culture and language, says Ms. Varnee.

The motivation of the parents, though, is "the logic of the businessman" who sees the value of communicating with Asia's economic powerhouse.

"I think I'm more romantic than them," sighs Ms. Varnnee. "I would like my children to appreciate beautiful poems and beautiful Chinese writing and understand the meaning in paintings because it's another level of culture."


By Simon Montlake | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

BANGKOK, THAILAND - Jan 12

January 25, 2006 03:23 - Travels: preferred leisure for both rich and ordinary Chinese

Travel is the most popular form of leisure for both rich and ordinary Chinese, according to surveys conducted by a private company run by Rubert Hoogewerf, a former British accountant who became well-known for his list of the 100 richest Chinese.

Rich Chinese favor Sanya on Hainan Island in South China, and Australia for domestic and overseas travel destinations, according to the Hurun Report, a polling company named after Mr. Hoogewerf, who is known as Hu Run in China.

The survey was carried out among 589 rich people whose personal assets exceed 10 million yuan (about 1.23 million U.S.dollars) each.

According to the survey, rich Chinese favor luxury brands from Europe, such as Bentley or Rolls-Royce for cars, Vacheron Constantin or Cartier for watches, Hennessy for cognac, or Davidoff for cigars. They pay more attention to fishing and to sampling alcoholic drinks than family affairs.

Via Sina.com, a Chinese Internet portal, the Hurun Report also carried out a separate survey into the lifestyle of the Chinese residents.

The online survey showed that both rich people and ordinary people prefer travel as a form of leisure, but there are differences in their lifestyles: compared to ordinary people, the rich work longer hours, have more business trips, but enjoy fewer holidays.

SHANGHAI, Jan. 12 (Xinhuanet) --

January 25, 2006 03:27 - 7.4% Chinese surnamed "Li"

Among every hundred Chinese people, 7.4 are surnamed "Li," dubbing the most popular family name in China, said a survey supported by China's National Natural Science Foundation.

Following "Li," "Wang" and "Zhang" become the second and third biggest surnames in China, accounting for 7.2 and 6.8 percent of the total population respectively, the survey said.

The survey, conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and a Shenzhen based company named Dinchang, has investigated about 1,110 counties and cities covering nearly 296 million people with altogether 4,100 surnames.

China is the earliest country in the world to use family name, dating back to 5,000 years ago. Surnames in China have been passed down through paternity.

Two decades ago, CAS published its first ordering of Chinese family names, which found the first three big surnames also Li, Zhang and Wang, however, their proportions against the whole population were 7.9, 7.4 and 7.1 percent respectively, higher than the present findings.

"The decline of the three big name owners actually is a matter of research methods," said Yuan Yida, a surveyor with the CAS, "Last time's sample population was only 570,000, this time, however, is nearly 300 million. It's incomparable."

To find the data and distribution of Chinese family names could help to find the diversity status of Chinese chromosome Y and the disease distribution, according to Yuan.

Apart from the scientific ranking, A Collection of Chinese Family Names has been quite popular for generations. The book was edited by an unknown intellectual in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). He collected 504 family names according to rhymes, making it easy to memorize.

The book has profound influence on Chinese as many children start to learn Chinese characters by reciting it.

BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhuanet) --

January 26, 2006 03:23 - Get Set for a Chinese Style New Year!

Put yourself and your home in a festive Chinese New Year mood! How can you decorate your home for more happiness, prosperity and good fortune? Read this article, then read my Chinese New Year Special for more Chinese new year ideas, symbols and activities that will start your Year of the Dog with a bang!

Getting into the festive spirit when it comes to decorating your home this Spring Festival can make your place look great, but might also change your luck when it comes to happiness, prosperity and good fortune this year.

The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is the time for fireworks and crackers, sparkling lights, sumptuous feasts and colorful and festive New Year decorations.

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the festival falls on January 29 this year.

After cleaning their houses both inside and out, Chinese people traditionally begin decorating their rooms to reflect an atmosphere of joy and festive fun.

Some plaster calligraphy of Chinese characters with meanings centered around happiness on their doors, as well as individual characters which bring blessing, longevity, luckiness and prosperity in the New Year.

Some paste paper-cuttings on gates, windows, walls and lamps, in order to bring good luck to their families.

Others will fill their homes with flowers, fruit and trays of sweets, as these are symbols of hope and prosperity.

This year, we bring you a list of places to go to pick up all the New Year decorations and gifts you need to leave your home looking both smart and unique.

If traditional Chinese handicrafts are your thing, head to Taikang Road, where you'll find a charming assortment of renovated lanes and warehouses.

The tiny There Art Studio deals mainly in Shannxi Province's traditional folk handicrafts.

A wide collection of artifacts can be found in the store, including vivid clay figurines, exquisite paper-cuttings, refined traditional New Year paintings, lovely cloth products, all of which are Shannxi Province specialties.

One of the most popular pieces in the shop is a cloth tiger, priced from 120 yuan (US$14.81) to 320 yuan. Such pieces are one of China's best-loved folk art features, as Chinese people regard the tiger as a symbol that wards off evil and protects wealth. People also make these cloth tigers to prevent illness and bring luckiness at Spring Festival.

The materials used and procedures employed in making them vary. Usually, people take a piece of cotton or silk and fill it with sawdust or a kind of course grain.

Then they color or draw on the silk, or embroider, cut or patch it to give the tiger a facial outline and decorative pattern.

Tigers are often made with enlarged heads, big eyes, big mouths and big tails to show their courage and power.

Smaller children will also take great delight in wearing little tiger shoes.

Esydragon on Taikang Road has various tiger shoes on sale.

Tiger shoes are commonly found on babies' feet in rural China even today. The shoes are entirely made of cloth with the toes made into the shape of a tiger's head.

These beautiful hand-sewn shoes are thought to carry within them magical wishes for protection and this is why Chinese parents make their children wear them.

The fierce tiger faces, invoking the energy of the king of the beasts, was often used on children's clothing to frighten away evil, as well as to bring the strength and courage of the tiger to the wearer.

These little shoes can also brighten your home as they make a wonderful, whimsical wall or bookcase decoration.

Simply Life and Shanghai Pin also sell an elegant assortment of Chinese decorative items, such as table covers, embroidered cushions and Chinese candles.

A quick stroll around the Xiangyang Fashion And Gift Market or Yu Garden also reveals an array of all the usual items such as spring coupletsat lower prices.

You can add elements of the New Year just by buying a lantern in reference to the Lantern Festival, which falls on February 12 this year, that ends the 15-day long celebration.

Every Chinese household should also feature live, blossoming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career.

Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity.

In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs.

The plum blossom signifies reliability and perseverance; the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness.

Also, oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

In the week before the New Year, special flower markets devoted to New Year blossoms open around the city.

You can walk around flower markets to find potted picks of the festive season.

A bowl of oranges in the dining room table, a red scroll, a Chinese lantern -- it doesn't have to be expensive. But adding just that little something can help you feel the hope and excitement of the coming New Year.

Shanghai Daily, Created: 2006-01-24 CST, Updated: 2006-01-25 CST

January 26, 2006 22:11 - Chinese New Year is all about tradition

Want more abundance, prosperity, good fortune and better health? You could literally "attract" what you eat this Chinese New Year, by knowing what are the traditional Chinese foods and fruits which stand for these desired qualities. Bon apetit!

Abundance, prosperity, good fortune, health -- who couldn't use a helping of all of the above?

In the dishes that are traditionally served for Chinese New Year's, beginning Sunday, celebrants can literally savor good helpings of foods associated with all of these desirable qualities.

Cone-shaped bamboo shoots, tough on the outside but deliciously crunchy-fresh on the inside, are one of the fruits and vegetables that symbolize wealth. Bamboo, along with chrysanthemums, plum blossoms and orchids, is one of the so-called noble plants.

For any food lover who has tasted only the ubiquitous canned bamboo shoots, there is also a wealth of flavor in the fresh shoots, which are in season right now. Find them in Asian produce aisles, such as the ones at the 99 Ranch chain or large markets in local Chinatowns or on San Francisco's Clement Street. It's not hard to prepare them if you have a good, sharp knife -- just follow the instructions in the accompanying recipe and photos.

These shoots, in a simple preparation redolent of ginger and steeped in soy sauce and rice wine, are one of the small dishes that start off a traditional New Year's dinner (served Saturday and Sunday) at Betelnut restaurant in San Francisco's Marina District.

Alexander Ong, the restaurant's executive chef and a Chronicle Rising Star in 2000 when he headed up the kitchen at short-lived Xanadu in Berkeley, draws on childhood memories as much as on his professional culinary training in devising his menus.

Meals were important times of family bonding for the Ongs, ethnic Chinese living in Malaysia. "We (children) could spend time with our buddies after school as we wished, but you had to be home by 6 for dinner, or you were in trouble," he recalls.

A new dad, Ong plans to raise his son with similar principles, because he considers food an important part of a cultured life. He cringes when he sees young people -- including some on his staff -- propel themselves through the day with sugary soft drinks and snacks.

It was at his parents' table that Ong learned the nuances and cultural significance of many of the foods he now serves.

Golden pomelo

Take pomelo, a fruit native to Malaysia that is widely believed to be the ancestor of grapefruit. Ong features it, along with grapefruit, in a fresh-as-the-new-year salad, accented with cilantro, mint, chiles and peanuts in a zesty lime dressing. The hefty, golden citrus fruit is a symbol of abundance; peanuts signal longevity.

Ong insists that pomelo not be cut with a knife into neat sections, as one would partition an orange for a pretty presentation. Rather, he has his cooks shred the juicy fruit by hand.

As proof that this is the best way to prepare pomelo, he presented a plate with cut pomelo sections and a heap of fruit torn by hand. The shredded fruit not only has a more appealing texture but actually tastes fresher, he says. He is right, though he admits he has no scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

Color has a lot to do with the symbolism of foods. Just like the gold of the pomelo, the golden hue of gingko nuts augurs well for the diners' financial well-being, as do red beans that join the nuts in a fermented rice dish the chef likes to cook.

But what good is wealth if you can't enjoy it for long? Better add long-life noodles to the menu. In Ong's version, the chewy-slippery high-gluten noodles are matched with foot-long shreds of carrot, the relatively bland twosome punched up with ginger, garlic, scallions and the familiar green as well as less common yellow garlic chives.

Garlic for luck

Garlic, in traditional lore, virtually guarantees good luck and many heirs, and garlic chives connect you with eternity.

Winter melon soup is a must for New Year's. The melon itself (believed to ensure longevity and to ward off demons), has little flavor, the chef says, but like a blank canvas, it becomes interesting as it binds flavorful ingredients -- garlic, ginger, fried shallots and shredded cooked egg among them.

One of the most mysterious, and somewhat controversial, dishes on the menu is emerald bok choy, arranged around black moss that's topped with scallops. Ong uses fresh seafood rather than the customary dried scallops.

Controversial fungus

Most people, including many familiar with Asian cuisine and ingredients, think black moss' tangle of inky threads is seaweed.

Not so, says Ong. It's a fungus that grows deep in the ground in desert conditions in Mongolia. Its Chinese name, fat choy, means hair vegetable, as indeed it resembles black hair.

Some environmentalists are concerned that the harvesting of this plant, which grows up to 3 feet deep into the ground, destroys other vegetation and contributes to soil erosion.

But you'd have a hard time convincing tradition-true Chinese diners that you shouldn't have fat choy for New Year's. After all, fat choy also means acquiring wealth. As in Gung Hay Fat Choy.

Betelnut, 2030 Union St. (near Buchanan), San Francisco; (415) 929-8855. Lunch and dinner daily. New Year's dishes range from $4.88 (chilled Shanghainese winter bamboo shoots) to $12.88 (minced pork lion's head braised with napa cabbage).
Cone-shaped winter bamboo shoots, tough on the outside but deliciously crunchy-fresh on the inside, are one of the vegetables that symbolize wealth.

1. Cut off the tip and trim ?-inch from the base of firm bamboo shoots. 2. Slice off the tough, outside leaves to reach the heart of the shoot.

3. Continue around the shoot until a roughly rectangular core remains.

4. Cut the solid core into about 1/8-inch thick, even slices.

5. Stack the slices and cut into julienne strips, the size of matchsticks.
Shanghainese Winter Bamboo Shoots

At Betelnut restaurant in San Francisco, this is one of the small dishes served at the beginning of a Chinese New Year's meal. Chef Alexander Ong suggests dry sparkling wine or chilled Chinese beer as an accompaniment.

INGREDIENTS:

4 heads fresh bamboo shoots, julienned to yield about 3 cups

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine

2 tablespoons regular soy sauce, such as Kikkoman

1 teaspoon sugar

Pinch kosher salt or to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

One by one, place the cone-shaped bamboo shoots on a kitchen towel to prevent them from slipping while being trimmed.

Using a very sharp knife, trim off the outer leaves and the woody part at the bottom of the shoot. Cut into thin slices and then cut again lengthwise to obtain thin julienne sticks.

Heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan; swirl around to coat the whole pan. Add the bamboo shoots, spreading them into a single layer with a flat spatula and reduce heat to medium-high if the oil starts to smoke. Cook 2 minutes, then turn the bamboo over. Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add the ginger and mix in well. Add the rice wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Add the soy sauce and sugar and cook until the sauce clings to the shoots, abut 1 minute. Season with salt to taste.

Spread the bamboo shoots on a flat plate, cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.

PER SERVING: 90 calories, 2 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 cholesterol, 346 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

Karola Saekel is a Chronicle staff writer. E-mail her at kcraib@sfchronicle.com.

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/01/25/FDGOSGQ21E1.DTL

January 28, 2006 01:26 - In China: How Beijingers Celebrate the Spring Festival

Want to know how ordinary Chinese in Beijing usher in the Year of the Dog? Read this special report. Better still listen to the audio in English. It'll put you in a Chinese New Year mood! I recommend this resource for keeping up with changes in China. Life in China is changing by the day. New buildings go up seemingly overnight, consumers find their selection of goods expanding every time they shop, college graduates are staggered by their career choices. Life in China is changing for the better, but with the changes also come new problems and issues. What is happening in China today, and how are people dealing with their difficulties? Read and listen to "Life in China".

Hello and welcome to this edition of Life in China. I'm Shanshan. As we approach the arrival of the Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, people all over the country are busy preparing for the most important celebration on the Chinese calendar, which this year falls on the 29th of this month. Last minute gift shopping, joining endless queues for train tickets home, this time of the year is a frenzy of activity. But although people still commonly practice age-old Chinese New Year traditions, such as family reunions and the giving of hongbao, or literally "red bags", many newer, more western influenced activities have also gained popularity in recent years.

So in today's special New Year's editionof the show, we take a look at what is happening around Beijing in the lead up to this important annual event.

The old saying goes that every dog has its day. In China, every dog has its year! According to the Chinese zodiac, 2006 is the year of the dog; so the leading role of this year's celebrations belongs to none other than man's best friend. Our reports Yan Yinan has the details:

As people are busy picking up new-year's gifts, dog-related goods have become especially popular. Without exception, toys, greeting cards, and various gadgets bear images of dogs. Even pet dogs have found themselves being pampered by doting owners in honor of the coming dog-year. In fact, China's new canine affections, combined with 2006 being the Year of the Dog in the Chinese Zodiac, have given dog owners the perfect reason to pamper their pooches. A pet shop owner tells us she is delighted with the latest surge in her business.

"Since the year of the dog is coming, many dog owners are coming to check up on their holiday list for festival dog clothes, dog biscuits, fun toys and cozy doghouses for their puppies! Without question, all are related with this year's zodiac sign¡ªthe dog!" And of course, pet shop owners haven't missed the chance to fill their shelves with special goodies for dogs during the pre-New Year's shopping season. Popular gifts for canines have included fancy dog clothes, gourmet dog food, colorful dog toys and nutritious dog vitamin supplements. Dog owners themselves also enjoy shopping for these gifts and are more than happy to splurge on their four legged companions.

"I've had a Basset hound for about two years. I'm looking for some specially designed toy as a New Year's gift for him. Actually I¡¯ve bought him a lot of toys, even more than I have for myself. Dogs are born loyal and intimate to man and I just take my puppy as my child." And for those who have been considering the idea of owning a dog, next year may be the perfect time to take the leap and adopt a puppy.

"Puppy Joy" is a place where dog lovers can always find helpful hands to meet their pet care needs. They offer indoor baths, haircuts, pedicures for dogs, as well as help in finding the right dog for new owners! Go to Life in China.


January 28, 2006 21:11 - Dining Out Becomes Popular on New Year's Eve

Today is Chinese New Year's eve. As we speak, millions of families in Asia are having their yearly reunion dinners. When I was young the reunion dinner was the most looked-forward-to feast of the year where families gather at home to celebrate the passing into Chinese New Year. The situation is somewhat different today. Families prefer dinning out at restaurants and favorite restaurants are booked months in advance. Wishing everyone -- whether or not you're Chinese -- a healthy and prosperous Year of the Year. May everything go smoothly for you in the New Year!

Much like Christmas in the West, Chinese New Year is predominantly a family affair.

And a family reunion in China normally revolves around a huge banquet of food prepared and enjoyed at home on the eve of Spring Festival.

However, China's rapidly developing economy has brought a change of lifestyle, which is affecting the way in which Chinese people celebrate this great occasion.

For example, food is getting simpler compared to the vast array of once-a-year dishes that used to be prepared.

The traditional family banquet on New Year's Eve may now take place in a restaurant as most modern urbanites have become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life and have little time for the laborious preparation of the myriad traditional dishes.

Contemplating the imminent Lunar New Year's Eve, 68-year-old Wang Fu is adamant: "Things aren't what they used to be."

The grandmother from Guangzhou of Guangdong Province laments that, "in the past, it's the most looked forward to day of the year."

Four generations would gather at home and prepare for the elaborate dinner with someone doing the washing-up, another chopping meat and the master chef (generally the eldest daughter) working away at the stove, Wang recalled.

"That's the real meaning of a family reunion," she said.

But all those days are long gone and now only nostalgic memories remain.

Over the past few years, Wang's family have given up the tradition of eating at home, opting to have the big dinner at a decent restaurant instead.

Actually more and more families in major metropolises such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have chosen to dine out for the biggest meal of the year.

Hard reservation

As the holiday eating craze is about to begin, many people still find it difficult to decide where to have dinner.

"I called some of my favourite restaurants like Donglaishun (one of the most famous hotpot restaurants in Beijing) and Quanjude (famed for Peking roast duck) last week. To my surprise, all of them are already booked up," said Zhang Huan, a lawyer in Beijing. "I should have called earlier."

Several months prior to Spring Festival, Beijing's catering industry was already gearing up for the business of the festival feast.

Over 500 restaurants in the capital city had been fully booked by the end of December, local media reported.

Statistics from the catering industry show that many of these popular restaurants are "laozihao," or restaurants with a long history offering Chinese traditional dishes.

Peng Cheng, a spokesperson of Quanjude, which boasts a history of about 140 years preparing varied dishes revolving around Peking duck, said the restaurant started taking reservations for the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner several months ago.

Up to now most of the private rooms in its five restaurants have been booked, Peng said.

Hongbinlou Restaurant, a "laozihao" of Muslim dishes in Beijing, was also embracing the booming business.

Over 800 seats have already been booked by diners on the Lunar New Year's Eve, according to Yang Hao, a manager of the restaurant.

Ever since Hongbinlou started the service of providing a New Year's Eve dinner in 1999, the business has been growing by 20 per cent every year.

About 90 per cent of the reservations were made by large families, according to Yang.

In Guangzhou and Shanghai, most of the leading star restaurants have already secured a full house for the night.

Most restaurants offer set menus at prices that may be as much as double or treble those of regular dinners.

Feasts that cost between 1,000 and 2,000 yuan (US$123 to US$246) for a table of eight to 12 people are the most popular, Yang said.

Apparently undeterred by the expense of dining out, growing numbers of locals are heading to restaurants to celebrate the most important festival of the year.

"One or two thousand yuan is not much considering all the time and effort a New Year's Eve dinner might cost. After all it only happens once a year," said Pan Simin, a middle-aged housewife from Beijing who decided to dine out with her extended family this year.

New tasty ideas

Restaurants of all types of cuisine have all joined the trend, catering for people seeking an unusual dinner.

Many of them offer fixed menus for the New Year's Eve dinner, which usually offers a balance of popular poultry, seafood and meat dishes in a succession of courses.

Almost every dish has a symbolic meaning or a name that sounds like Chinese characters for fortune, happiness, longevity and prosperity.

Fish is a typical main course, because it symbolises a profitable year ahead.

Vegetables embody the freshness of "evergreen" and store good fortune in their roots. Fish balls and meat balls symbolize "reunion" since their round shape portrays "togetherness."

In addition to these symbolic dishes, each restaurant has its own selling point.

Roast duck, the signature dish of Quanjude, is still popular among Beijing diners in spite of the outbreak of bird flu worldwide and many customers have ordered the dish for their New Year's dinner, said Peng.

Yet, Quanjude also presents a number of new dishes particularly for diners who are worried about bird flu, such as barbecued ribs, roast eel with brandy, fungus fish ball soup and braised ox tail.

Fengzeyuan Restaurant, famed for its Shandong food, has a series of sea cucumber dishes as the highlights of its menu.

For spicy-food lovers, Emei Restaurant, known as the "first Sichuan restaurant" in Beijing, is a good choice. Its "gongbao" dishes (with chilli and peanuts) can definitely heat up taste buds of any picky diner.

For those who still want to eat at home, Shanghai Old Restaurant, located in the western part of the capital, is offering "take-out" set-dinners, Shanghai style.

(Source: China Daily)

January 30, 2006 02:28 - Forecasting the Year of the Dog

Now that we've officially passed into the Year of the Dog, what holds for the year ahead? Time to bring out the "experts" --- Feng Shui Masters. What are their predictions? What industries will prosper this year? Will there be as many natural disasters? Let's hear what they forecast for the Year of the "Fire Dog".

Dog set to fetch a mellow year

IT may be a dog-eat-dog world, but conflicts could abate in the Year of the Dog ¡ª as long as canine watchfulness doesn't turn into anxiety and paranoia, Chinese soothsayers say.

The global economy will do well despite gyrations in the lunar year starting on Sunday. But if you're looking for a big jump in the stock markets you may be barking up the wrong tree.

Be on the lookout for diseases involving livestock or lungs this year, especially coming from the west. Drought and fires could be a problem this year as well.

"This year will see less severe war, natural disasters and international conflict compared with last year," said Raymond Lai, a master of fengshui, the ancient Chinese art of living in harmony with the environment and using the elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth to tap life's energy.

Last year was turbulent because wood and metal elements clashed. This year will be represented by the more harmonious combination of fire and earth.

"We will see things go back to normal and have a less intense year," said Lai.

That said, we could see more of the kind of earth and weather-related disasters that struck in the Year of the Rooster, like the hurricanes that hit New Orleans or the quake that shook Pakistan in October killing 73,000 people, some of the soothsayers said.

An intriguing factor in the geopolitical equation is that US President George W. Bush was born in 1946 ¡ª a Year of the Dog.

For those born in a dog year, their normal tendencies toward loyalty and vigilance risk turning into dogmatism.

For Bush and his wife, Laura, also born in a dog year, this year will be filled with "debate and anxiety", said California-based astrologer Shelly Wu.

"They'll get their pajamas on early and they sit around and worry about things," she said. "We are not going to disarm (in Iraq) any time soon, especially in a dog year."

Hong Kong-based fengshui master Edwin Ma predicts it will be increasingly a dog's life for the United States, while China's clout rises in the Year of the Dog.

"As the fortunes of the US continue to weaken in 2006, more unpredictable problems are to be expected. Occupied with its internal affairs, it is likely that George W. Bush will perform some petty action for distraction," he said, adding that China's economy will remain strong.

Published on ShanghaiDaily.com (http://www.shanghaidaily.com/)
http://www.shanghaidaily.com/art/2006/01/28/238564/Dog set to fetch a mellow year.htm


Mixed Forecast for Chinese Year of the Dog

Many Asian countries - such as China, Korea, Vietnam and Singapore - will celebrate the beginning of the Lunar New Year starting Sunday, January 29. Chinese soothsayers expect the coming Year of the Dog to be mainly positive and peaceful, but warn natural disasters could be in store.

In Chinese astrology, the dog is the most likable, honest and straightforward of all animals. Its influence is expected to bring a year of justice and harmony.

Each year of the Chinese 12-year zodiac is dominated by an animal. And each year also comes under the influence of one of the five elements - fire, water, wind, earth and wood. This year is a fire year.

Practitioners of Chinese geomancy, or feng shui, predict that in the so-called fire-dog year, world leaders will be more likely to solve long-running conflicts.

The outlook for the economy is mostly rosy, too. Raymond Lo, a well-known feng shui master in Hong Kong, says the year of the dog will be good for all industries related to the elements of fire and wood.

"Wood element is actually related to a lot of consumer products such as fashion, textiles, books and magazines, wooden furniture - this area is the most beneficial in the year of the dog. The other area is the fire industry, like the stock market, energy, oil price," he said.

Lo predicts the sectors that will do less well in 2006 are those related to the element earth, such as the property market, metal industries and mining.

He says the most negative aspect of the dog year will be the increased likelihood of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions.

But Lo says it will also be a year of increased spirituality across the globe.

"In cultural things, in entertainment you will see more ghost stories, more spiritual things, more religious things, issues coming up," added Lo.

Chinese astrologers predict those born under the signs of the dragon, the dog, the ox and the goat are likely to find this year challenging, but rabbits, tigers and horses are more likely to find peace and harmony over the next 12 months.

By Claudia Blume, VOA
29 January 2006

January 31, 2006 04:18 - Seeing Red: the Color of China

Red has always been a color associated with China. Love it or hate it, "red" and "Chinese" have always gone together. It symbolizes prosperity and wards off evil. During Chinese New Year, you'll literally "see red" everywhere in China. But "Chinese red" is also a fashion statement. Like in Zhang Yi Mou's award-winning movie, Raise the Red Lantern, in which he uses red lavishly throughout the film. Or in red underwear, a bestseller every Chinese New Year. Chinese have an interesting habit of wearing red underwear during his or her zodiac animal year, which happens every 12 years.

No color has quite the effect that red has. For China the color has such significance and associations that it is China's color and this New Year it will be impossible to avoid. It does, however, evoke different feelings in different people, writes Michelle Qiao.

Magazine editor Liu Xuewei bought a giant crimson fish to grace the pale wall of her Shanghai apartment. This stunning paper fish does not match the snow-white tone of her trendy apartment opposite Century Park. But she said something red in the room made her feel good as Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is coming.

Chinese' mania for red reaches its climax around the Chinese New Year festival. There are so many red goodies springing up like mushrooms in shops, as traditional as the Spring Festival couplets written on red papers or as fashionable as sexy laced red short pants.

If every country leaves an impression of a unique color like yellowish Egypt, ocean blue Norway or foggy, grayish United Kingdom, the bright, pure, heart-stirring red suits China most. Seldom a director in the world like Zhang Yimou would use red in such a lavish way in his award-winning movie "Raise the Red Lanterns."

"Red is a thick, compelling color in my mind. If there's something red at home, such as a big red Chinese tie, the atmosphere will be different," says 35-year-old film producer Li Xiaojun. "But I cannot explain why red works on me that way. It's just a habit, a tradition that I'm so used to,"

Zhong Fulan, a professor on folk custom from East China Normal University says a passion for red is a typical Chinese tradition.

"Red is the most festive color of all as it symbolizes prosperity and flourishing," says Zhong. "Chinese believe red things can ward off evils and disasters and thus bring them luck and joy."

Zhong notes that Chinese' preference for red begun during the time of Huang Di (The Yellow Emperor, who was the first sovereign of civilized China and recognized as the common ancestor of the Chinese people). Archeologists have found most fabrics in an unearthed mausoleum during the Warring States Period (476-221 BC) are in different degrees of redness.

The leader of Yihetuan (Corps of Righteousness and Harmony), a folk organization to fight against foreign invaders around the year 1900 renamed himself to Hong Deng (Red Lantern), whose signature dress was a big red hat, red trousers plus two red flags.

The celebration of the Spring Festival originated in the legend of monster Nian (year), which ancient Chinese used red color to fright away and prevent family members from being attacked.

"In Chinese history there used to be an admiration for color yellow, which is attributed to a respect for the earth by farmers," says Zhong. "But gradually yellow has become an exclusive color for the royal families since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD)."

Chinese also have another interesting habit of wearing red underwear during his or her zodiac animal year, which happens every 12 years.

"I didn't wear red underwear during my last animal year 11 years ago. That year was bad luck so I planned to strictly follow the rules throughout my animal year next year," says producer Li.

Zhong says in addition to festivals Chinese brides attired in all-red clothes usually taken to the bridegroom's home by a traditional red sedan. Her wedding bed is paved with red quilts while her dowry box is covered by red papers. If they get a son later, they will dye bowled eggs red to send to friends to share their happiness.

Tradition is tradition. Not every Chinese loves red from their innermost heart.

"I have a complicated feeling toward redness," says editor Liu. "I have several red clothes and friends always say I look good in red. But I seldom wear them because red is too bold and outstanding. I don't like but I respect the color."

"Chinese have given too much meanings to this warm, exciting color, which has turned into almost a signal today," says 28-year-old architect Tao Le. "But I don't like this color and feel Chinese red is a bit vulgar. I don't like colors embedded with meanings. But sometimes red is necessary in some designs."

And perhaps red is by all means imbued with many meanings in China, from history to today. No matter whether you like it or not, festive or not, there's always something red in the tender part of every Chinese heart.

"Red: the color of China" Shanghai Daily, Created: 2006-01-27 CST, Updated: 2006-01-28 CST

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