January 1st in Chinese is called “元旦” (Yuán dàn). “元(Yuán)” means “beginning,” and “旦”(dàn) refers to “dawn at daybreak” (if you look closer at this Chinese character you will find the sun rising above the horizon) and also refers to “daytime”. The combination of “Yuan” and “Dan” together means “from the very beginning”; namely, it means the first day of a year. Although 元旦 is not the first day of the Chinese New Year, it is still a public holiday. After all, no one wants to go to school or work on the first day of the New Year.
Laba Festival 腊八节 (là bā jié) is celebrated on the eighth day of the last lunar month and refers to the traditional start of celebrations for the Chinese New Year. “腊”(là) in Chinese means the 12th lunar month and “八”(bā) means eight. This year it falls on January 1st. People always eat Laba rice porridge on the Laba Festival. Laba rice porridge 腊八粥 (là bā zhōu), also called 八宝粥(bā bǎo zhōu), contains glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peanuts, dried lotus seeds and some other ingredients such as dried dates, chestnut meat, walnut meat, almond, peanut. Altogether eight ingredients are used and is cooked with sugar to make the porridge tasty. It’s a very nutritious winter food. Do you like to eat porridge 粥 (zhōu)?
In Beijing when you ask for directions 问路 (wèn lù), people will always direct you with instructions to go east 东 (dōng), south 南(nán), west 西(xī) or north 北(běi); these are not the left 左(zuǒ) and right 右(yòu) directions that are commonly used in Western culture. This may because Beijing is a city with long, straight boulevards and has avenues that are criss-crossed by a network of lanes. Many roads are aligned from south to north or from east to west. Do you have difficulty finding 东南西北?
Did you know? The common English expression “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” has a Chinese equivalent in the phrase “距离产生美” (Jùlí chǎnshēng měi). In the case of the Chinese phrase, the elapsed time that makes Western sentiments grow is replaced by distance. This can be seen when looking at this phrase in its individual components:
距离 (Jùlí) means “distance”
产生 (chǎnshēng) means “to produce”, and
美 (měi) means beautiful
So we can see that this phrase can be taken to literally mean “Distance makes things beautiful”, and the things this Chinese phrase is referring to would be the longing that two lovers have for each other.
圣诞节 (Shèng dàn jié) or Christmas Day will coming soon. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of the Western world. Do the Chinese celebrate Christmas in China? Well, though Christmas Day is not a public holiday, Christmas celebrations are becoming more and more popular in China. Particularly in urban areas, you’ll find Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations on the streets and in department stores
The ancient Chinese believed that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on our health, replenish our energy, and conserve our strength.
Winter is Yin in nature; it is inactive, cold, and damp. Remain introspective, restful, and consolidate your Qi through the season and prepare for the outburst of new life and energy in the spring.
“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat, by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang, and what is hard and soft. So it is that dissolute evil cannot reach the man of wisdom, and he will be witness to a long life.” - Huangdi Neijing Suwen
Element: Water • Nature: Yin • Organs: Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Adrenal Glands, Ears, and Hair • Taste: Salty • Emotion: Fear and Depression
Winter is ruled by the water element, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands.
According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered the source of all energy (Qi) within the body.
They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.
During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney Qi. It is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter — rest, reflection, conservation, and storage.
Foods for Winter
Winter is a time when many people tend to reduce their activity. If that’s true for you, it’s wise to reduce the amount of food you eat, too, to avoid gaining weight unnecessarily. Avoid raw foods during the winter as much as possible, as these tend to cool the body. During winter you should emphasize warming foods:
Soups and stews
Miso and seaweed
Garlic and ginger
Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts help to warm the body’s core and to keep us nourished. Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend a minimum quantity of energy.
Staying Healthy This Winter
Seasonal changes affect the body’s environment. With the wind, rain, and snow comes the colds, flu, aches, and pains.
Here are a few tips to staying healthy this winter:
Wash your hands regularly. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons that we catch colds and flu in the winter season is that we are indoors and in closer proximity to others in cold weather. Protect ourself by washing your hands regularly and try not to touch your face.
Get plenty of sleep. The Nei Jing, an ancient Chinese classic, advised people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.
Reduce stress. Find a way to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Such methods may include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, simple relaxation therapy, or whatever method you use to release the stress and pressures of modern life.
According to TCM, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can work together to throw your immune system off, allowing pathogens affect your body.
Build Up Your Protective Qi (WeiQi)
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can prevent colds and flu by building up the immune system with just a few needles inserted into key points along the body’s energy pathways.
These points are known for strengthening the circulation of blood and energy and for consolidating the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.
Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year also serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems. The ultra-thin needles don’t hurt and are inserted just under the skin. The practitioner may twist or “stimulate” them once or twice, and they are removed within 10 to 20 minutes.
Acupuncture Point: Du 14
One particularly important point to attend to is Du 14. Located below the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebrae, approximately at the level where the collar of a T-shirt sits on the neck.
Du 14 activates the circulation of blood and Qi to strengthen the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (wei qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.
This point is often used to ward off, as well as shorten, the duration colds and flu.
Having a nap after lunch午睡 (wǔ shuì) is a good habit. There are advantages to having a daily nap. First of all, you can remember things better and make fewer mistakes. Also, you can learn things more easily after taking a nap. A twenty-minute nap can relax you and relieve your stress. A nap can make you cheerful.
The order of words in a sentence in Chinese is very important. To underscore the importance of Chinese grammar, let’s take the characters “好” (hǎo) and “看” (kàn) as an example; respectively, they mean “good” and “to look”.
When used in the combination of “好看” (hǎokàn), this result should be familiar to many of you as “good-looking”, as in: “你穿的衣服很好看!” (Nǐ chuān de yīfú hěn hǎokàn!) “Your clothes look great!”
However, a combination that uses “看好” (kànhǎo) is one that isn’t a error of the prior example, but a phrase that has a meaning of its own: “to look favorably upon”, as in: “我向你的前途看好。” (Wǒ xiàng nǐ de qiántú kànhǎo) “I look favorably upon your future prospects.”
As it is, do take care to mind your Chinese grammar!
We’ve all been in the situation before in which you want to tell someone who has done something nice for you that this very act of kindness is more important than the act itself; in English, this often is marked by the phrase “it’s the thought that counts”.
Well, Chinese also has this kind of phrase and it has to do with giving presents. The custom with Chinese when receiving gifts is not to open them right away as is the custom in the West, but instead to put them aside and only open them when the guests have all left. So the phrase 礼轻情意重 (pinyin: Lǐ qīng qíngyì zhòng) means “gifts are not as important as friendship”; while gifts are accepted, a host should entertain his guests first instead of being interested in the gifts they offer.
It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that China is the world’s most populous country. There is a Chinese expression that usually symbolizes the China scene -人山人海 (rén shān rén hǎi). This translates literally as ‘people mountain people sea’. It describes “people everywhere as far as the eye can see, or a big huge crowd”. This is a phrase that is very evident in China, especially during the holiday periods
When we hear that about a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, we know to expect someone who we can’t take at face value, but have to be careful as to what their true intentions may be. As it were, there is also a Chinese saying that means the same thing: 衣冠禽兽 (Yīguānqínshòu). Let’s take a look at…
Have you ever seen an elderly man walking slowly in China? Ever notice how they always have their hands clasped behind their back as they slowly perambulate down the road? Well, there is a Chinese term to describe this kind of walking, it’s called 四方步 (Sìfāng bù). This term is literally translated as “four-sided step” in which 四方 means “four sides”. So after a big meal, if you want to take a leisurely stroll, why not try a 四方步？