Chinese Birthday Traditions

Many people in the United States hold big celebrations for various milestone birthdays including a sweet sixteen where they can get their driver’s license, a bar crawl when they can legally drink on their 21st birthday, and smaller parties as they get older with their family and close friends. In China though, traditional birthday celebrations differ. Traditionally, Chinese people do not pay much attention to birthday celebrations until a person turns 60 years old. Sixty years is considered a cycle of life in Chinese culture, so the 60th birthday is regarded as very important and is celebrated with a big party. Chinese culture expects a person to have a big family filled with children and grandchildren by 60 years old, and therefore see it as an age to be proud of.

A person’s 61st year is seen as the beginning of a new life cycle. After the 60th birthday, celebrations are held every 10 years up until the person’s death, and generally, the older a person is the grander their birthday celebration is.

Sixtieth birthday parties can be large or small, but no matter the size the celebrations meal always includes peaches and noodles, which are the signs of a long life. When the noodles are cooked they cannot be cut short. Shortened noodles are thought to have bad implications. Although the celebrations are said to include peaches, the peaches, in fact, are not real. Steamed wheaten food with a sweet stuffing are called peaches because they are made in the same shape. Everyone at the party must eat the food as a sign of well wishes to the guest of honor.

If you’re planning on attending a traditional Chinese birthday party typical presents usually include two or four eggs, long noodles, artificial peaches, tonics, wine and money in red paper.

Besides the 60th birthday, some families in China also place importance on celebrating the third and twelfth birthdays for children. A child’s twelfth birthday celebration includes the birthday boy or girls friends and their parents. It is similar to a wedding ceremony with a delicious banquet and speeches by guests at the party.

Although many in China celebrate birthdays with the previously mentioned traditions, many Chinese people now seem to be following American birthday customs. Cakes with candles to represent how old a person is turning are becoming more common, along with making a wish when blowing out the candles. This is quickly becoming regarded as the best part of the birthday party.

What is your favorite birthday tradition? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to know more about birthday traditions around the world? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to www.scola.org!

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Housing Arrangements in China

Last week we shared with you Dating and Marriage Traditions in China, so it only makes sense that this week we talk to you about what happens after marriage. What are the housing arrangements of the married couple? Who do they live with? Our provider from China shares the following:

            For the CPP-CN-Beijing Parliament Buildinghinese people, family is very sacred, so the Chinese always have their family at the forefront of their mind wherever they go or wherever they are. In the past, Chinese people enjoyed living as one big family, where sometimes even as many as four generations lived together in the same home. Similar to a small community, there were distinct classes in these extended families. The eldest always enjoyed the highest status.

         Just like any other community, these living conditions could not properly function without any discipline. People in China often say “A family has its own rules just as a state has its own laws.” Under these past, traditional housing arrangements some of these laws included the husband being permitted to beat their wives, the father being permitted to beat their sons, and parents were in charge of the daily life of their children, including their marriages. Also, in these small communities each clan had its own ancestral shrine, where their ancestors were offered sacrifices and worshiped. Every member of the family was obligated to honor their ancestors.

            These days, things are quite different. The extended family housing arrangements have been replaced and small/core family housing arrangements have become more mainstream. Correspondingly, the lifestyle of the people has changed greatly, but their sentimental attachment to their family and the importance they place on family has remained unchanged.

Want to know more about housing arrangements in China and other countries? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to www.scola.org!

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Dating and Marriage Traditions in China

Last week you learned tips and taboos when traveling to China. This week, we are going to teach more about the Chinese culture, specifically dating and marriage.

Traditionally in China, marriages were arranged by the parents and youth would not see their husband or wife until the day of their wedding ceremony. However, at the beginning of the 20th century things changed greatly. These days Chinese couple photo for jokeyoung men and women have the freedom of finding their own significant others. Many choose to date colleagues and former classmates.

Chinese people are very warmhearted and are eager to match single friends and family. It is a longstanding belief that this is good fortune for the match maker. So if you are in China and someone asks about your marital status, don’t be offended. It is a good chance they are trying to help you find a match.

In China, there are many ways to begin a date. If you arrange the date yourself, you do not need to acquire consent from the parents. If it is arranged by the parents or family friends, prepare to be very tired after the date, as the parents will ask a lot of questions. Typical first dates include going to cafeterias or a tea house. If the two people enjoy each other, they may go on other dates to restaurants and cinemas.

Currently online dating is popular in China. There are also many dating programs on TV.

Are dating and marriage traditions in China similar to those in your country? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Want to know more about dating and marriage traditions from around the world? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to www.scola.org!

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Visiting China: Tips and Taboos You Need to Know

The seasons are changing and many of you may be thinking ahead to your summer travel plans. If your plans include traveling abroad keep reading! Many foreign countries have taboos and laws that are essential for travelers to know before you arrive. The following list was shared with us by a SCOLA provider in China. He says many travelers from abroad may become confused and frightened by Chinese customs. This handy reference tool makes it easy for newcomers to Beijing to fit right in.

Greetings

1. When addressing someone, it is customary to add terms of honor before their family name based on their age: lao (honorable old one), xiao (honorable young one) or occasionally da (honorable middle-aged one).

2. Most greetings begin with a brief handshake. When greeting the elderly or senior officials, your handshake should be gentle and include a slight nod. As an expression of warmth, it can be acceptable to cover the handshake with your left hand. As a sign of respect, Chinese usually slightly lower their eyes when meeting someone.

3. Embracing and kissing are not parts of a Chinese greeting or saying good-bye. Public displays of affection, or acting in too carefree a manner are not advisable in public.

Conversation

4. Be cautious in political discussions.

Gifts

5. Normally, Chinese will not accept a gift, invitation or favor until the second or third time it is presented. In their culture, this shows modesty and humility. If a person accepts too quickly it can make them look aggressive or greedy. The same goes for opening a gift in front of the giver.

6. When wrapping a present, be aware that Chinese give much importance to color. Red represents luck, and pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity. Do not wrap gifts in white, grey or black, as those are funeral colors. When you are ready to present a gift, hand it off with both of your hands.

7. Acceptable gifts may include lighters, stamps, t-shirts and exotic coins, and the following gifts should be avoided: white or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums), which are used for funerals, pears, the word for Pear in Chinese sounds the same as separate and is considered bad luck, red ink on cards or letters symbolizes the end of a relationship, and clocks of any kind. because the word clock in Chinese sounds like the expression “the end of life”.

Food and Dining

8. Tipping is not normally practiced in China and almost no one asks for them. Only in some luxurious hotels are tips expected.

9. While eating, place chopsticks next to your dish instead of upright in your rice bowl. In China, when someone dies, their shrine may include two incense sticks stuck upright in a bowl of sand or rice. If you stick your chopsticks upright in your dish at the dinner table, it looks like the shrine and is comparable to wishing death upon person at the table!

10. When drinking tea, do not face the spout of the teapot towards anyone. It is impolite.

11. Don’t tap on your bowl with your chopsticks. People in restaurants where the food is taking too long and beggars tap on their bowls. It is insulting to the cook.

12. People in China dine out at least once a week with friends or family members as a way to strengthen relationships. The dinner will last long and include alcohol drinks.

Are you planning on traveling to China soon? Were these tips helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Be sure to check back next week to learn more about Chinese Dating and Marriage Customs!

Want to learn more tips and taboos for international travel? Check out Savoir-Vivre…coming soon!

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China: Making Learning (Even More) Fun

For your entertainment, SCOLA has acquired a few more jokes to share with you from China. It is safe to say this has been our funniest Country of the Month yet!
儿子战战兢兢地回到家:“爸,今天考试只得了60分”。爸爸很生气:“下次再考低了,就别叫我爸!” 第二天儿子回来了:“对不起,哥!”
One day, a boy did poorly on his test at school. He went home after and nervously said, “Dad, I only got a 60% on the test today.” His dad was very angry and said “Don’t call me dad if you ever do that bad again!”The next day the son came home after school and said “Sorry brother!”
农夫向医生诉苦,说他晚上上床后常觉得脚冷。是,医生说:我也常常有这种现象,那时我就会搂著太太,这样脚就会暖和来!这个农夫鼓起很大的勇气说:这是一个很好的办法,但是--你太太什麼时候才方便?
A farmer complained to a doctor that his feet always got cold while sleeping at night. “Yes,” the doctor said,“I myself used to feel that way too. Now, I hug my wife tightly to make my feet warm.” The farmer thought about this for a while and finally asked with great bravery “That is really good thinking. The problem is, when will your wife be available?”
A man said to his wife “Dear I haven’t had a thrilling experience in a long time.” The next day she took him to a jewelry store.
A woman wanted a fur coat as a birthday present. She said to her husband, “Dear, my birthday is coming up. Don’t you want to go and see those fluffy things for me?” The husband slaps his thigh and said “That’s a good idea! Let’s go right now or the zoo will be closed!”
A husband said to his wife “Since we have been married, I have realized that marriage is a heavy job!” His wife said “Of course, that is why two people have to share it.” The husband asked tentatively “So don’t you think we would feel more relaxed if there were three people?”
A husband said to his wife “I appreciated your praise tonight when you told the neighbors I was talented.” The wife said “You have neither money nor position and your looks are very plain. If I hadn’t told such a lie other people would laugh at me!”

Want more jokes? Let us know which country you would like to hear a joke from in the comments below!

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LEI Feng: A Legend of a Chinese Soldier

Recently, a SCOLA provider from China shared the following with us about LEI Feng, a Chinese soldier that is famous in his country:

“Someone who is alive has been dead ; someone who is dead has been alive” these two lines are from the well-known poem “Someone” written by Zang Kejia, a famous modern Chinese poet. LEI Feng , a simple Chinese soldier belongs to the latter, he passed away 52 years ago, but he is still alive in the Chinese people’s mind.
During his 22 years’ short life, LEI Feng created a legend of a Chinese soldier. He did not perform a world-shaking deed, all he had done were simple things which reflected his selfless and noble personality. He considered himself a son of the Chinese people, and served the country and its people wholeheartedly. He loved all jobs that were assigned to him. “Be a useful peleifeng's photorson to the society” is what he wrote in his diary.
Born into a poor peasant family on December 18, 1940, LEI Feng was raised by one of his relative, as he was an orphan at the age of seven. Along with other poor children he was sent to school after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. After his graduation from junior high school, he became a tractor driver in the countryside, then a worker. He joined the army as a truck driver in 1960.

On August 15,1962,  it was raining and LEI ’s colleague An was backing up the truck while LEI was directing him. Unfortunately , the truck struck a telephone pole which fell and hit LEI Feng’s head. All the rescue measures failed and LEI Feng died. He was only 22 years old. Two days later, his funeral was and, according to the newspaper, more than 100,000 local people attended. The scene was touching. People told stories about him in tears.

On May 3, 1963, eight months after LEI Feng’s death , the late Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China wrote that “To learn from Comrade LEI Feng” . A large scale campaign to learn from LEI Feng was held all over China. March 5th was later named “Learning from LEI Feng’s Day” .

The stories about LEI Feng are popular in China, if you ask about LEI Feng to anyone in China , you will be surprised to find that almost everybody can tell you a story or two about him. He has helped so many people, the followings are just examples:

One day a woman took her son to see her husband working in a city far away, but she found that she lost her wallet and train ticket as the train was leaving. She was so anxious. LEI Feng happened to pass by and when he heard of her troubles he consoled the woman and took her to buy a new ticket with his limited soldier’ subsidy. The woman was very touched and asked his name and address. Lei Feng smiled and answered “My name is a soldier, I am living in China.” At that time a train ticket cost a lot of money. There were three successive natural disaster from 1959 to 1961, which made bki-20130613163355-920287395the country short of food and commodities, and the economy was in tough.

Another woman remembered that she and her two children met LEI Feng on the street on a stormy afternoon. They lost their way home in heavy rain and LEI Feng spent two hours walking in a muddy country road holding one of the boys in his arms. By the time they got home safe, it was dark. LEI Feng returned to the army without any food.

Villagers remembered LEI Feng’s money donation when the village was in disaster.

The students remembered LEI Feng was their after-school activities counselor. At that time, schools often invited model soldiers to be after-class counselors.

LEI Feng often traveled by train for lecturing in other cities. The trains were crowded and never had enough seats for each passenger . LEI Feng always gave his seat to the elder.

When he saw the busy train attendant , LEI Feng helped clean the floor, carry luggage for passengers and serve people hot water.

LEI Feng was an army truck driver and spent most of his time was on the road. He always carried a book in his bag and whenever  the truck stopped for a while, he would take the book out to read. He liked to spend his spare time in his dormitory reading. He began to write a diary in 1957 and after his death, people selected 121 diary entries and published them by the name LEI Feng‘s Diary.

On June 7 1958, he wrote “If you are a drop of water do you moisten a small piece of land? If you are a ray of sunshine do you shine through darkness? If you are a grain of rice do you feed a useful life? If you are a screw do you forever stand fast at your post? If you want to tell me what your thought is,do you promote the lofty ideal day and night? Since you are alive do you want to put in a lot of hard work for the future life of mankind and make the world better and better?I want to ask you what you have done for the future. At the warehouse of life, we should not aChairman Mao's calligraphy to learn from Comrade LEI Fenglways take from it (maybe use consumer is better).

On October  20, 1961 he wrote “Life is limited, but it is limitless to serve the people, I would like to put the limited life to infinite service to the people.”

LEI Feng’ spirit is handed down from the elderly to the young.

The army where LEI Feng served , named his squad as “LEI Feng Squad” , and they keep a bed for LEI Feng. A soldier has made a bed for him every evening after his death. At every morning’s training the commander will address every soldiers name. when he calls “LEI Feng”, all the soldiers at “LEI Feng Squad” will answer loudly at the same time “Here”. Fifty-two years have passed, old soldiers have left and new ones have come, but the tradition has never changed.

In China, we address LEI Feng to those who help the others without leaving their names. The volunteers and LEI Feng teams appear in large numbers in China. They are active at every corner of the country and they help those who need it. “Help Others and Happy Ourselves” is their slogan.

It is easy for a person to do one good deed, but it is difficult for him to help others all his life. LEI Feng, a simple soldier set an example for us 52 years ago . He tells us that a person can live happily and noble in his way.

 Be sure to check out www.scola.org for more resources about China and other countries around the world!

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SCOLA and CYRTV: An Adventure in Education

The past few weeks SCOLA fans have been learning a lot about our Country of the Month, China. But you may be wondering where all this information is coming from! Years ago SCOLA formed a business relationship with China Yellow River TV, a television station in China. Many employees at CYRTV have contributed to the material we have shared with you for our Country of the Month. Today, a CYRTV employee wants to share with you the history behind the relationship between SCOLA and CYRTV.

Founded in 1991, CYRTV(China Yellow River TV) is run by Shanxi Radio and TV with the support of more than 180 other TV stations around China. Their media specializes in Chinese language and the promotion of Chinese culture. CYRTV has material on TV,  radio, magazines and news media. Its headquarters are in Taiyuan, Shanxi. As business expands, the CYRTV Beijing base is laying foundations for further development.

On August 23rd, CYRTV began to broadcast Chinese TV programs via SCOLA to North America. Now there are three Channels broadcasting Chinese TV programs. The Confucius Institute (China) Channel on SCOLA Channel Three broadcasts 24 hours of  Chinese language teaching and cultural programs. SCOLA Channel Four plays one  hour  of Chinese programming per day, including news and information programs, as well as documentaries about China. SCOLA Channel Seven plays two hours of Chinese programming per day about culture, Chinese education, travel, scenic places in China, literature, history, and much more. All the programs are uploaded to SCOLA for online users to view live or download.

Together CYRTV and SCOLA  run Chinese radio broadcasts launched on December 18th, 2008. SCOLA Chinese Radio currently broadcasts two hours of radio programs on entertainment, education and culture. Tune in online!

Throughout the years CYRTV and SCOLA have formed a good friendship. In 1994, CYRTV began sending work teams to the U.S. About 50 experts and reporters went to SCOLA to work for a year.

The Chinese team was responsible for producing daily Chinese news program and giving lessons to local schools. During their stay, they enjoyed work with their American colleagues and formed friendships with local people. The dedication of the following people has strengthened the relationship between CYRTV and SCOLA:

1994: Jia Bin, Yang Hong, Zhang Xiao Ling and Liang Bo.

1995:  He Xiaoyan, Liu Kerui, Guo Hai and Yu Baolin.

1996:  Ling Li, Tian Jinhu, Hu Yao Ping and Tan Jun

1997:  Zhao Yaqin, Hong Wei, Yuan Qinghong and Li Jia.

1998:  Bai Xiao Dong, Li Jing, Ma Jia, Liu Zhi Lan, Wu Sai Ping, Yin Chun Jing, Wang Bao Hui and Chen Li Xia.

1999:  Bai Xu Ming, Shen Yan, Zhang Hua, Liu Hua and Wu Xing Ming.

2000-2001:  Hu Xin Ling, Cai Shu Rong, Li Zhi Hua, Yin Y Mao and Jiang Wei Dong.

2003-2005:  LiLi, Deng Yuen, Dong Lili, Fan Tai Yu, Ren Xiao Bing and Xue Bing Bing.

2006-2007:  Cai Xiao Ming and Chang Hong.

The 78 people that make up the CYRTV staff, are a harmonious and warm family. They are proud and happy to reach so many people around the world via their SCOLA broadcasts. They love to teach Americans about China, and teaching Chinese is their mutual mission. They will continue to do their best to strengthen the collaboration and friendship to make the world a better place.

Along with material for the Country of the Month, CYRTV has also been crucial to the Chinese language and culture resources we share with our subscribers on www.scola.org. Contact us today for your free trial and see how SCOLA and CYRTV can help you with your language learning goals.

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China: Making Learning Fun

As we begin our Chinese adventure, you may start to notice the perks of following our SCOLA Country of the Month. Each month, followers can learn traditional international recipes, vocabulary in native languages, and compare their countries climate and geography to that of the Country of the Month.  This month is full of good luck, as our providers in China have sent along something extra.

The Chinese providers are making the March Country of the Month not only educational, but also entertaining! The Chinese providers have sent in traditional recipes to make your mouths water, fascinating clips of Huangshan Mountain to captivate your mind, and unlike any other Country of the Month before them, jokes to tickle your funny bone!  The jokes they sent will not only give you insight into their culture and the holidays they celebrate, but will make you laugh as well! Enjoy!

The first Chinese joke we will share is about Qingming Festival. Qingming Festival will be celebrated April 5th, 2014 in China. The Chinese enjoy a day off of work to worship their ancestors. According to Chinese customs, people visit the tombs with gifts for their ancestors to enjoy in the other world including fruit, wine, flowers, food, and paper money. They put the food, fruit, and flowers in front of the tomb. They spray the wine and burn the paper money so it rises to their ancestors. They also put fresh soil to cover the tomb, and plant twigs around the tomb. The Qingming Festival is also one of 24 solar terms in China.

Qingming Festival (Memorial) is coming up so a man went to an offerings shop to buy sacrificial offerings. There he saw some paper Apple phones. He felt very strange. He said, “Aha, but if I burn an Apple phone, how will my ancestors know how to use it?” The shop owner said,”Steve Jobs is already there to teach them, why are you worried?” Appeased, the man bought one. The shop owner then reminded him, “You should buy a charger, you don’t want them to ask you to deliver a charger there do you?” When the man checked out he said “May I have your business card? The shop owner asked why, and the man said “I will burn your business card with the offerings to my ancestors, that way if the phone has any problems they can come looking for you!”

The next joke is about Valentine’s Day in China.  As in the United States, Valentine’s Day was also celebrated on February 14th in China. The Lantern Festival in China also fell on Valentine’s Day this year! The night of the Lantern Festival, people in China enjoy the first full moon of the year. It is a family holiday, where they gather together and eat sweet dumplings made of glutinous rice flour filled with sweet ingredients like sesame and peanut.

On the night of the Lantern Festival families go to parks or public squares to watch lanterns in different shapes and sizes. The lanterns are different shapes and designs, some made to look like special characters or historical figures. The sky is colored red with lanterns. People also write riddles on the covers of the lanterns or on pieces of paper hanging from the lanterns. Young children are carried on the shoulders of their fathers, the old are supported by the young, and the young forget the year of hard work. Children’s laughs and screams of excitement can be heard throughout the night.

SCOLA’s friend from China tells us “It is interesting that your holiday and our Lantern Festival happen on the same day in China. Our Lantern Festival is also a holiday for love in many places in China. People in Hainan Island will exchange flowers for love, or express good will…Today if you receive flowers,you spend today as Valentine’s Day, if you receive sweet dumplings, you consider it Lantern Festival, if you receive nothing, just consider it Friday!”

A Chinese man asks his brother what he thinks of Valentine’s Day. His brother answers “Valentine’s Day? Oh, let me think. It is the same as Tomb-Sweeping Day (the Chinese Festival on April 5, to memorize the ancestors). Giving flowers and food and saying something sweet to make the ghost happy.” The man replies “Younger brother, you are wrong. The conversation on Tomb-Sweeping Day is a conversation between humans and ghosts in the human language, but the conversations on Valentine’s Day are between two humans in a ghost language.” The brother says “We cannot regard money as important, but buying reasonable gifts and flowers is ok. The Valentine’s Day is short, by the time you blink it passes. But if you don’t buy gifts and flowers, that day is so long, and difficult. Do you know the worst thing about Valentine’s Day? Do you? It is when the gifts are not ready!” The man replies “No, the worst thing about Valentine’s Day is when the gift is ready, but you have no lover!” His brother says “ Brother, that is not a big deal. The most miserable thing is that the gifts are ready, and the lover is ready, but your wife finds out!” The man laughs and says “Nonsense, the most miserable thing is that the gift is ready and you take it home for your wife, and sadly discover she is out spending Valentine’s Day with her lover!”

And last but not least:

A man received a text from his neighbor: “Sorry that I have been using your wife, I have been using day and night, and whenever you are not at home. In fact, I have been using more than you do.I confess to you because I feel guilty.I hope you will accept my sincere apology.”The man went home and fought with his wife.A few minutes later he received a text,”Sorry ,I typed wrong, it is not wife, it is your WIFI!”

Do you have a joke from your culture or country you would like to share with SCOLA? Post it in the comments below!

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Your Upcoming Travel Itinerary

SCOLA and China Yellow River Television have been shortening the distance between McClelland and Taiyuan for 23 years, and next month, China is coming to you! If you follow our social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, you may have noticed each month SCOLA presents a “Country of the Month”. Our social media followers can learn a lot about countries around the world such as traditional recipes, typical weather conditions, and a vocabulary word in the country’s native language.

In May 2013, our journey began in the country of Morocco and this March, followers have the opportunity to visit China…from the comfort of their own home! The country has interested viewers with programming on World TV Online, readers with magazines and newspapers on Foreign Text, and learners with lessons on Insta-Class. Featuring China as our Country of the Month will give people that do not already subscribe to SCOLA a small preview of the authentic Chinese resources SCOLA has to offer.

At the end of the month, you may find yourself wanting more information about the country and not ready to move on to the next one. Our website has additional resources from every country we visit for the SCOLA Country of the Month.  Want to know more traditional recipes from Nigeria? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to www.scola.org! Want to learn more Czech vocabulary? Check out Insta-Class or Specialized Word Video Search! Come see for yourself that the Country of the Month features only a small portion of the material SCOLA offers to subscribers.

Is there a country you would like to see featured as the Country of the Month? Let us know in the comments below!

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