China Focus: Traditions light up Lunar New Year


BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Spring Festival is a time to observe old traditions and celebrate China's cultural inheritance.

Food is an important part of New Year celebration. In northern China, dumplings are indispensable on New Year's eve and the first meal of the New Year.

Wang Yuzhe, of Caoxian County of Shandong Province, got up early on Thursday morning, swept the courtyard floor to clear up firecracker residue and woke the whole family to prepare for the New Year breakfast together -- dumplings.

While wrapping up a coin into a dumpling, Wang said that the person who finds this dumpling will make big money in the coming year.

This associating between dumplings and fortune is said based on the supposed resemblance to "yuan bao" a boat-shaped gold ingot used as currency in ancient times.

In southern China, most people prefer rice to wheat, so families eat "tang yuan", balls of glutinous rice. On Thursday morning, Zhang Menghui in Hangzhou will put on new clothes and sit down to enjoy tang yuan with her family, "Whenever I return home for New Year, we eat sweet tang yuan together," she said. Zhang works in Hong Kong and returns to home twice a year. "For the festivals when I am in Hong Kong, I eat tang yuan with friends to express my longing for home."

In Beijing, temple fairs and crowded Spring Festival gatherings featuring acrobats shows, song and dance performances and stalls selling snacks and souvenirs are the order of the day.

In Ditan Park, the Temple of Earth in the northeast of Beijing, stalls selling traditional handicrafts attract flocks of sightseers.

Xiao Jing brought his hand-made "hairy monkeys" -- tiny humanoid figures made from furry magnolia buds and sloughed cicada shells.The monkeys are set in old-fashioned Beijing street scenes, drinking big bowls of tea and eating sugarcoated haws.

"I inherited the skill from my grandfather. Although this is an ancient craft, it is still appealing today. The scenes are close to life and can still touch people's hearts," he said.

In Tibet, Lunar New Year is doubly joyful this year as it coincides with the Tibetan year of the Wooden Ram.
At 8 a.m., the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa is surrounded by people praying. La Tso left home for the temple at 5 a.m. with her mother. "I am here praying for good health and peace for the family," she said.

In Qamdo, the lunch on the New Year's day is a big family gathering. Yak meat is de rigueur, and people also eat rice cooked with ginseng fruits which symbolize longevity.

In Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, despite a temperature of minus 12 degrees centigrade, the city streets, decorated with red lanterns, are filled with festivities.

For Li Jianjun, 68, the best part for this Spring Festival is that his son has come back home from Shanghai with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Li and his wife spent a whole week preparing the New Year dinner. "We stay at home on the first day of new year according to tradition. We see our in-laws tomorrow and visit other relatives the day after tomorrow," he said.

Li Xinyong, vice president of National Folk Association of China, said, the Spring Festival should not be a carnival, it should be a celebration of folk traditions.

Besides inheriting customs, Chinese people should foster a deeper understanding of their cultural identity, he suggested.

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