Author Archive

Dongzhi (冬至) Celebrating Winter Holidays in China

by Joe

For many Americans, the fall months bring some of our happiest memories and traditional celebrations that we share with family and friends.  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas follow one another in quick succession ensuring many moments of happiness as we celebrate our friendships and shared values.

Of course, this is also true in China, although the celebrations are as different from ours as our two cultures are unique from each other.  We are approaching the period of Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year), which normally occurs in China on either the 21st, 22nd or 23rd of December each year.

History of the Dongzhi Festival

China is a vast country composed of many different peoples, each of them has their own traditions.  On that day, the northern hemisphere has the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After that, areas in this hemisphere have longer days and shorter nights.  This is the traditional time of year when fishermen and farmers prepare for colder months to come. 

“Dongzhi” means ‘the arrival of winter/ winter’s extreme’ and this festival is thought to be one of the most important festivals the Chinese celebrate.   Having its origins in the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, the winter solstice festival represents balance and harmony in life:  the yin qualities of darkness and cold reach their height of influence on the shortest day of the year, but they also mark a turning point for the coming of the light and warmth of yang.

In Northwestern China (Shaanxi Province), Winter Solstice was traditionally regarded as the starting point of a new year during the Zhou and Qin dynasties (1046 – 207 BC).  Festivals and ancestor worship still play important roles in this holiday. 

During the reign of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), the holiday grew in importance. It was important during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907)  and Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) when the emperors officially proscribed it as a day to worship and sacrifice to their god and to the ancestors. It has also been called the Changzhi Festival or Yashui.

 

Traditional Foods Served During the Dongzhi Festival

Traditional dishes vary with the region: the north emphasizes different foods considered warming in traditional Chinese medicine because of their warming qualities or because they help ensure a healthy respiratory system

Pronounced tōngjyùn in Cantonese and tāngyuán in Mandarin and meaning “round balls in soup” has the same sound as a word that means “reunion”, “wholeness”, or “unity”.

In Southern China, sweet, sticky rice balls are served at this time of year. This dish is a great example of how the Chinese enjoy using homophones (words that sound like other words) to give each other good wishes or refer to desired qualities.  For instance, one winter solstice dish pronounced tōngjyùn in Cantonese and tāngyuán in Mandarin (汤圆) and meaning “round balls in soup” has the same sound as a word that means “reunion”, “wholeness”, or “unity” (团圆).   The round shape of the balls and the bowls in which they are served have also come to symbolize family togetherness.

 

Celebrating the Winter Solstice, a Chinese family shares a traditional Tibetan meal of Tsampa.

Another much loved food is Tsampa, a food that is considered integral to Tibetan culture.   It is  a hearty, nutty-tasting flour made from roasted barley and mixed by hand with butter tea, dried dri cheese (the dri is the female of the yak species) and sometimes sugar, to form a dough.   Along with Tsampa, people also enjoy mutton (rabbit), noodles or drink winter wine for celebration.

 

Folklore and history play an important role in Chinese cultural life and there is an old story about the dumplings served during this festival.  At the legend goes, Zhang Zhongjing was  a renowned medical scientist at the end of Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220).  He’d been away from his village for some time and when he came home, he  found his fellow-townsman suffering from coldness and hunger.  More severely, many of them had terrible chilblains in the ears.  To relieve the suffering, On the Winter Festival, he cooked food named Jiao Er with a stuffing of medicine and other ingredients fending off the cold to feed these people, and they recovered soon.  The local saying, that one’s ears will be frozen if he doesn’t have dumplings on the Winter Solstice, is an echo of this historic moment. 

 

The Chinese also share various proverbs or sayings related to the weather during the Winter Solstice.  A few of these include:

·         The Nines of Winter (Shu Jiu 数九):  This is a common custom for the festival. It refers to the nine periods of nine days each following the Winter Solstice. After that, it becomes warmer and spring will be around the corner.  A familiar folk song reminds people about appropriate safety measures during this time of year; People cannot put their hands in cold air in the first and second nine days; walking on ice can be achieved in the third and fourth nine days; willows on the banks start to sprout in the fifth and sixth nine days; ices dissolve and water flows freely in the river in the seventh nine days; in the eighth nine days, wild geese fly back to northern areas, and for the following days, farm cattle start to work in the field.

·         Zhejiang 浙江 (An Eastern, coastal province of China): If it is fine on Winter Solstice, the first month of the lunar year will be rainy; it also works to the contrary.

·         Heilongjiang 黑龙江 (Northeastern China): If it is sunny on Winter Festival, the New Year will be rainy. If it is rainy during Mid-Autumn Festival, Winter Festival will be sunny.

·         Hunan 湖南 (South Central China) and Guangdong (Southern China): If it is cold on Winter Solstice, the New Year will be warm. On the contrary, if it is warm,  the New Year will be cold.

·         Shanxi 山西 (North Central China): If there is northwest wind on Winter Solstice, it will be dry for the next whole spring.

No matter how you and your family choose to celebrate the coming holidays here at home in America, the entire staff at Word4Asia wishes you a very warm, happy and healthy Holiday Season!

 

Like this post? Share it on your social media!
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Patriotic Celebrations in China

by Joe

A beautiful fireworks display is held on Nation’s Day.

Every October, China celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China. This year marked the 69th anniversary of this event. On the mainland, “Nation’s Day” is given a seven-day celebration (referred to as Golden Week) while in Hong Kong and in Macao, the celebrations are shorter; one day and two days respectively. China’s Martyrs’ Day is closely associated with “Nation’s Day” and actually occurs one day prior to it. In total, this span of time is set aside for the Chinese people to reflect on their country’s significant achievements since the founding.

Nation’s Day has become a popular day for weddings in China.

Nation’s Day
A number of different events help make Nation’s Day special. Beijing, for instance, is draped in flower decorations and festive plant sculptures. This past year, a gigantic flower basket placed in Tian’anmen Square attracted many tourists.
There is also a patriotic flag-raising ceremony at Tian’anmen Square. In 2017, 115,000 people from many Chinese provinces assembled to take part in the festivities. Sporadically, military parades may also be held. Since 1949, there have been 14 such parades. The last one was in 2009 when China celebrated its 60th anniversary.
In recent years, Golden Week has become a very common time for weddings to take place.
Gift giving is also common during this period. As in other Chinese celebrations, the Chinese custom of placing cash in red and gold envelopes continues. Very often, the gifting custom is limited to newlyweds during this celebration. Amounts may range from $45 to $75, most commonly, but in some groups, amounts are much higher, extending to hundreds or thousands of Yuan.

Martyrs’ Day
Many people in China’s history gave their lives to the founding of the nation. China officially recognizes as many as 1.93 million martyrs although the figure may be as much as 10-times higher than this.
Martyrs are officially defined as “people who sacrificed their lives for national independence and prosperity, as well as the welfare of the people in modern times, or after First Opium War (1840-1842).” This special day of recognition was approved by the Chinese legislature on 9/30/2014. The statement made at the time was that Martyrs’ Day is aimed at “publicizing martyrs’ achievements and spirits, and cultivating patriotism, collectivism, and socialist moralities so as to consolidate the Chinese nation’s cohesiveness.”

Modern China’s social values ( click for more detail).

On Martyr’s Day,  the nation also recognizes China’s socialist values which include prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between how the West defines these terms and the way they are perceived in China. The Chinese think of these as ideals to work toward instead of already accomplished realities.
In addition to Martyrs’ Day, there are two other annual, national memorial days. The others are “Victory Day of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression” on September 3 and “National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims” on December 13.

Sources:
http://en.people.cn/90785/8494839.html
https://www.8020sourcing.com
https://www.travelchinaguide.com

 

Word 4 Asia believes that understanding Chinese culture is a very important foundation for building productive relationships in China. For over twenty years, we have helped our clients achieve their goals in China by working closely with the Chinese people and their government. If your plans include a focused effort in China, we hope you’ll contact us. We’d love to share our expertise and be a part of your progress. Contact Gene@word4asia.com to start a dialogue!

 

Like this post? Share it on your social media!
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

A Greener China

by Joe

A Clearer Future
It has now been nearly five years since Chinese former premier, Li Keqiang, announced to the world that China would “resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty.”  China’s aggressive stance on achieving greater sustainability is in response to what has been referred to as an “Air Apocalpyse”.  More than 1.6 million people per year die in China from breathing toxic air. 

 

A view of Beijing; after a rain (left) and on a smoggy day (right)

The statement marked a major shift away from China’s former policy of putting economic growth before environmental sustainability. At the time, many people wondered if this lofty goal was really achievable. Impressively, China has made major advances.   An example of progress:  concentrates of fine particulates (sulfur and metals) in the air have been reduced by 32 percent on average in some of China’s largest cities.

As a result of its environmental improvements, Chinese citizens can expect better health and longer life spans; increases which can be counted in additional years. For instance, assuming that these environmental gains are permanent, the 20 million residents of Beijing are projected to live an estimated 3.3 years longer on account of these changes. Citizens of Shijiazhuang will receive an additional 5.3 years, and those in Baoding 4.5 years. Nationally, the average Chinese citizen may live an additional 2.4 years longer.

Benchmark the Accomplishment
These changes and improvements have occurred over the last four years. In comparison, it took the United States nearly a dozen years to achieve similar improvements in our own environment.

The Power of Goal Setting
Leading up to premier Li Keqiang’s speech, urban areas were assigned pollution reduction goals. For instance, the Beijing area was required to reduce pollution by 25 percent, and the city set aside an astounding $120 billion for that purpose.

Moving Past the Numbers
Stretch goals like these were supported by emissions measurements at the level of individual firms. For example:
• China prohibited new coal-fired power plants in the country’s most polluted regions, including the Beijing area.
• Existing plants were told to reduce their emissions. If they didn’t, the coal was replaced with natural gas.
• Large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, restricted the number of cars on the road. The country also reduced its iron- and steel-making capacity and shut down coal mines.
The Chinese people are familiar with personal sacrifice in support of national objectives. For instance, part of the pollution abatement plans included removing coal boilers – used for winter heating – from many homes and businesses. This was done in winter, even though replacement heaters were not yet available.

No Easy Feat
China has invested heavily to achieve their environmental improvements. In fact, between 1998 and 2015, more than $350 billion have been poured into 16 separate sustainability programs which addressed challenges to more than 65% of China’s land area.
Consider what the nation has done so far:

• Reducing erosion, sedimentation, and flooding in the Yangtze and Yellow rivers
• Conserved forests in the north-east
• Desertification trends have reversed in many areas, and while mostly driven by climatic change, restoration efforts have helped.
• Reduced the impact of dust storms on the capital Beijing
• Increased agricultural productivity in China’s center and east.
• Deforestation has declined, and forest cover has exceeded 22%.
• Grasslands have expanded and regenerated.
• Agricultural productivity has increased through efficiency gains and technological advances.
• Rural households are generally better off, and hunger has largely disappeared.

China’s Commitment to Sustainability

As of now, Chinese air pollution levels still exceed their own standards and far surpass World Health Organization recommendations for what is considered safe. Much has been accomplished, and much still is left to be done. However, China is committed to addressing their vexing environmental challenges including:
• pollution of its air, water, and soils
• urban expansion
• vanishing coastal wetlands and the
• illegal wildlife trade

A huge sign of the nation’s commitment was shown when President Xi has laid out the 13th Five Year Plan which expresses his vision for a Chinese ecological civilization; a “beautiful China”.
President Xi’s broad framework for improved sustainability includes:
• Devoting “more energy and taking more concrete measures to advance the building of an ecological civilization, accelerate efforts to develop green production and ways of life, and work harder to tackle prominent environmental problems.”
• Ratcheting up Beijing’s control of environmental policy in an effort to overcome a lot of the local autonomy concerns that have hurt the implementation of similar policies in the past. This is critically important as Beijing rolls out a limited nationwide cap-and-trade program, which introduces a complex market mechanism for emissions reduction into a still largely state-directed economy.
China is poised to have a truly impressive 21st century. The nation recognizes its size and potential contribution to either environmental sustainability or ecological ruin and is making plans to lead toward greater sustainability.

Like this post? Share it on your social media!
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Business Lessons from a Road Trip

by Joe

Lesson #1: Los Angeles and New York are not America!

Word4Asia Consulting is a true boutique firm. My team and I assist Western nonprofits who wish to work legally in mainland China. We work with the largest network of #nonprofits in our sector and as our reputation grows, so does our client list and vice-versa.

I’m a motorcycle enthusiast. For some years now, I’ve reserved a special ten day period in the summer to get out on America’s backroads for a solitary ride. The goal is to ride roads I have not been on before. I literally take the ‘roads less traveled’. I’ve just completed my latest trek, a 3,995 mile adventure from my home near Los Angeles to northern Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and then back again via Highway 50, the loneliest highway in America. I avoid the interstates whenever feasible.

Using this unique perspective, I’d like to share some business thoughts derived from my hours of reflection. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the read and some truths which will be helpful to you in your arena of #leadership.

 

 

Hear me!  I like large Cities. My wife and I live in Orange County.   I enjoy NBA, NFL, options for eating, beaches, malls and people. Despite the high cost of living, it would be hard to leave.

This past spring, I heard Steve Mnuchin share at a Los Angeles World Affairs event.  He said, “One thing I learned quickly when I took the position is that New York and Los Angeles do not necessarily represent America.”  Riding the roads of our country brings this home mile after mile after mile. Not only do most people not live in LA or New York, they have no desire to do so. They question why my wife and I would spend the money we did for our crackerjack size property when we could easily trade it for acreage. Maybe we’re insane.

On my annual ride, I’m mostly ‘alone’.  I don’t encounter the number of cars I see en route to LAX.  In rural/normal America, there are seldom lines, people are usually ready to begin a conversation and seem quite content to live in a location where demonstrations are not experienced, helicopter chases of stolen vehicles are unseen and the price of gas is a dollar per gallon less than we Angelenos have to pay. Scenic lakes, mountain vistas and bucolic landscapes are still unencumbered by sub-divisions.

Frankly, the only way I know of to fully appreciate this principle is to go ride the roads. Statistics don’t fully make the point. To fully understand the drastic difference, you have to experience the drastic it.

Like America, China is replete with super large cities full of energy and life.  Often colleagues or clients assure me they understand China when what they have seen is Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. China is a big country.   However, as in America, it can be tempting to paint with too broad a brush.   The truth is that 42% of China’s population is still living in rural areas. Over the past twenty years and over 120 trips to China, I have been able to see pretty much all areas.  This includes the most rural regions where roads do not touch. Like America’s small towns and back roads, these places are also China and the people who live there have very real opinions and feelings.

Today, China is undergoing an unprecedented rate of change.  As I think about my experiences there, I have to consider two factors; what I’ve learned on my trips and when I learned it.  To assume that what I learned about China ten years ago is still true would be a mistake.

As thought leaders trusted by others to recommend and guide decision making, we must be sure to remember “Los Angeles and New York are not the sum total of America.” We live in a big, complicated and varied world.  What is appropriate in one location could absolutely be disastrous in a nearby community.

As #consultants let’s discipline ourselves to get off the Interstates, out of the airports and five star hotels and experience, listen to, and actually see the expanse of our targeted space.

Gene Wood is founder and CEO f Word4Asia, a leading non-profit consulting firm headquartered in Orange County, California.  We work with customers who want to legally conduct business in mainland China.  With over twenty-years of continuous operations, we have successfully helped our clients accomplish their objectives.  If your plans include China, we’d be happy to talk with you and provide some insights we hope will be helpful.  You can reach me at gene@word4asia.com.  I’ll look forward to your call!

Like this post? Share it on your social media!
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

 

Celebrating Winter Holidays in China

For many Americans, the fall months bring some of our happiest memories and traditional celebrations that we share with family and friends. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas follow …

 

Read More

 

Patriotic Celebrations in China

Every October, China celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China. This year marked the 69th anniversary of this event. On the mainland,…

 

Read More

 

A Greener China

It has now been nearly five years since Chinese former premier, Li Keqiang, announced to the world that China would “resolutely declare war against pollution…

 

Read More

2018 Annual Training Meeting: Israel!



Word4AsiaWord4Asia

Word4AsiaWord4Asia

Copyright © 2017 - Word4Asia