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Jade Emperor

The Red Envelope

Chinese New Year, which will fall on 16 February 2018, is celebrated by the Chinese all over the world. It is also known as the Lunar New Year as it is based on the lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar in Western countries. In Malaysia, the first two days of the Chinese New Year celebration are public holidays.

2018 is the year of man’s best friend, or the Year of the Dog, according to Chinese astrology. The celebration starts with the new moon on the first day of the Lunar New Year and ends on the full moon, 15 days later. The 15th day of Chinese New Year (or Chap Goh Mei) is observed with a lantern parade in Chinese communities.

The origin of this celebration dates back to early Chinese civilisation 5,000 years ago. The word Nian, which means “year” in Chinese, was originally the name of a ferocious beast that preyed on people on the eve of New Year. To scare Nian away, the people pasted red paper decorations on windows and doors, and set off firecrackers, as Nian was afraid of the colour red, the light of fire and loud noises. Therefore, at the beginning of every year, they repeat these rituals which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Legend also has it that the ancient Chinese asked a lion for help. The lion wounded Nian, but it returned a year later. This time, the lion couldn’t help as it was guarding the emperor’s gate. So, the people used bamboo and cloth to fashion an image of the lion. Two men crawled inside, pranced and roared, and frightened Nian away. This explains the Lion Dance, one of the most impressive sights during Chinese New Year.

The phrase Guo Nian, which may means, “survive the Nian”, is used to mean “Celebrate the (New) Year”. The word Guo in Chinese means “to pass”.  Today, red paper decorations and firecrackers still signify the cheerful Chinese New Year period.


CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION IN MALAYSIA

The New Year season starts early in the twelfth month of the previous year and lasts until the middle of the first month of the New Year.

In Malaysia, Chinese New Year preparations begin a month before the actual celebration, when the Chinese shop for decorations, food, drinks, new clothing, groceries and titbits. Chinese New Year songs are heard in shopping complexes which attract customers with many seasonal sales and promotions. Chinatown at Petaling Street is an ideal place to experience the excitement of the pre-festive celebration.

It is customary to spring clean the house and symbolically sweep away any trace of bad luck to make way for good luck and fortune. Some families even renovate their houses or give them a new coat of paint. After that, the houses are decorated with paper scrolls bearing verse couplets inscribed with blessings and auspicious words like happiness, longevity, and wealth.

Long before the eve of Chinese New Year, people living far away from their families make their journey home. Traffic jams build up on highways while airports, bus terminals, and train stations are normally packed.

No matter how tiring the journey may be, family members are expected to gather around the table for their Chinese New Year eve reunion dinner, the most important meal of the year. After dinner, they spend the night playing cards, watch TV programmes dedicated to the celebration, or just have a good time catching up with each other.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, ritual homage is offered to ancestors and reverence paid to the gods. New clothes are worn and younger family members greet their elders saying Kong Xi Fatt Chai (Mandarin) or Kong Hei Fatt Choi (Cantonese), meaning “congratulations and prosperity”. The ang pow, a red envelope with cash, is given by married couples to children and unmarried adults.

The seventh day of Chinese New Year is known as “everybody’s birthday”. On this day, the Chinese eat yee sang, a combination of raw fish, pickled ginger, shredded vegetables, lime and various sauces. This meal is supposed to bring prosperity and good fortune to those who eat it.

On the eighth day, the Hokkien-speaking community pray to Tee Kong, the God of Heaven at midnight. On the ninth day, numerous offerings are set out in the forecourt or central courtyard of temples to celebrate the birthday of the Jade Emperor. The 15th day is Chap Goh Mei which marks the official end of Chinese New Year.

During the Chinese New Year period, many Chinese families often receive visitors at home. Relatives and friends, regardless of their race and religion call on one another, exchanging good wishes and gifts like tangerines (called Kam in Cantonese, meaning “Gold”) and other traditional New Year delicacies.

The Chinese New Year open house, like other major celebrations in the country, is also held on a national level to enable all Malaysians and tourists to enjoy the cultural event. The Malaysian open house concept bears testimony to the fact that tolerance and mutual respect prevail in this multi-racial country.
Through the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year, the spirit of peace, good health, happiness and prosperity is engendered and spread among people.

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Chinese New Year Trivia

1)

Gong Xi Fa Cai, as many mistakenly believe is, not Happy New Year. It means I Wish You Prosperity.

2)

Dumplings are synonymous with prosperity. It is believed that the more you consume the delicacy, the wealthier you would become.

3)

Sweet food items are usually served in a tray consisting of 8 portions.  Apart from symbolizing unity and togetherness and unity, the number 8 is traditionally considered a lucky number.

4)

Noodles signify long life. You’re supposed to be consuming them in the length they come. If you cut them to make swallowing manageable, you run the risk of shortening your life.

5)

One should really be quiet and not say anything while making the nian gao, customarily offered to the Kitchen God before his return to Heaven to present his report on each household to the Jade Emperor. A slip of the tongue is not going to put you in the good books of the God.

6)

What are the differences between five-clawed, four-clawed and three-clawed dragons in ancient China? Not all dragons are created equal in ancient China, though the winged creature was an emblem for the Emperor and royals. During  the Zhou Dynasty, the five-clawed dragon signified the Son of Heaven (Emperor), the four-clawed were the nobles and three-clawed were represented the ministers.

7)

We mentioned that Westerners portrayed the dragon as an evil beast.  Not all Westerners think of dragons as malevolent though.The Scandinavians, for instance, thought highly of dragons. They worshipped and revered the creature which inspired the design of their famed war boats. Of  course these vessels bore the names of venerated dragons.  

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Here Comes The Dragon


   Here Comes The Dragon!

Dragon Year
Enter the Dragon!

Legend has it that the Jade Emperor, the ruler of the heavens, had called for a meeting of the animals. He had ordained that the Zodiac be named after each animal according to the order of their arrival at the meeting.

It seems the dragon came in fifth. Being a fair and wise ruler, the Jade Emperor questioned the dragon as to why it did not come in first, having wings on its back and all. The latecomer explained that it was held back to help bring some rainfall to some farmers. He later saw a rabbit stranded on a log in a river and had aided the poor creature to the shore.

The Jade Emperor was so impressed with the Dragon’s helpfulness that His Majesty included it into the Zodiac, despite it being the only mythical animal among the lot.

What’s in Store for the Much-Anticipated Dragon Year?

Starting a new business? Embarking on a new career path? Planning to tie the knot or have a baby? If you’re a Chinese, you couldn’t be happier that the Year of the Dragon is just around the corner .

The Dragon Year has always been considered the most auspicious in the Chinese Zodiac and indeed, the 2012 Chinese New Year looks set to provide us a fair share of excitement, prosperity and meaningful events!

Joey Yap, founder of the Joey Yap Consulting Group, author of over 80 books on Feng Shui and face reading, calls 2012 as `a year of changes’. As 2012 is the Year of Water Dragon, it will bring much cleansing and clarification, as water refreshes and nourishes all negative elements.

He added that the Dragon Year also brings growth and renewal. Bickering people will tired of arguing and quarrelling – they would resort to finding solutions and answers to their problems.

Feng Shui expert, Lillian Too, along with her daughter, Jennifer Too, call 2012 a `transformative year’, a harbinger of good luck and prosperity.

 

 
Though the Chinese dragon looks intimidating it’s a symbol of generosity and compassion
(public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
 

The Stuff Dragon People are Made Of

Westerners perceive the dragon as a fire-breathing, man-eating, evil beast and malicious ‘lizard’, with depictions of its viciousness in folklores and movies like “Dragonheart” and “Reign of Fire”. Even the Disney cartoon, “Sleeping Beauty”, portrays the creature as malevolent, with the nasty Queen turning herself into a dragon to kill the Prince!

So, do people born in the Dragon Year exhibit the so-called villainous character of the dragon? They don’t seem to.

The Chinese regard the dragon as a symbol of generosity, auspiciousness, prosperity, not to mention regal and imperial authority. So much so only Emperors were allowed to sport the dragon symbol in their regalia.

A wise guardian, protector of the weak and a symbol of happiness and joy, the mystical dragon is held in high esteem by the Chinese, and like the creature, the people born under this Chinese Zodiac Sign display a great amount of generosity, compassion and other exemplary qualities.

These extroverts enjoy outdoor activities and are essentially thrill-seekers. Being highly imaginative and rather dominant, they make good engineers, architects, philosophers and lawyers.

Pearl S Buck Dragon Child

Dragon child :1938 Nobel Prize Winner, Author Pearl S. Buck
(public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

Dragon People, however, possess a short temper and are prone to emotional eruptions.

Famous Dragon People include Courtney Cox, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Isabella Rossellini, Shirley Temple, Ringo Starr, Pearl Buck, George Bernard Shaw and John Lennon, among others.

 

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