Chinese Halloween

The time is upon us. When pumpkins grow faces, kids visit strange places it’s scary because it’s not a dream. Soon you will encounter Halloween… halloween (The red banner above 万圣 (wàn shèng jié kuài lè) means ‘Happy Halloween’).

你好呀!你知道最近的节日是什么?在欧洲,美国,等等 人们庆祝Halloween, 但是中国人庆祝什么? Allow me to translate; ‘Hiya! Do you know what the most recent festival is? In Europe, America, etc people celebrate Halloween, but what do Chinese people celebrate?’. Today I’m here to answer that question. The other day I found out that Chinese people have their equivalent of Halloween. I was surprised because it seemed like such a western tradition, but of course the Chinese festival is a lot different. In addition to that, the Chinese festival is not something that is joyfully celebrated by the Chinese people, rather it is an annual occasion they believe takes place and so they make arrangements to follow it.

I’m going to put a disclaimer that I don’t celebrate either of these festivals myself, but I am aware of the customs due to living in England, and researching the Chinese celebrations.

Henceforth I will try to limit the use of ‘Halloween’ (no promises can be made) because the Chinese festival has it’s own name, which is: 鬼节 (guǐ jié). 鬼节means ‘Ghost festival’, but is also known as ‘The Hungry Ghost festival’. It is a traditional Taoist and Buddhist festival that is still earnestly practised to this day. It is believed that on the 15th night of the seventh month (following the lunar calendar) the gates of heaven and hell open to allow ghosts and spirits to enter the realm of the human world. Some people believe that their deceased ancestors will visit them during this time so they make offerings to welcome the spirits. For example, special paper money will be presented to the spirits and then burnt so that they can use it when they return to their realm. I once saw people preparing extravagant gifts for the dead spirits on a TV documentary, which included paper computers and Ferrari cars. These items were available to be bought by the general public, and then respectively offered to their ‘ghost visitors’. However the typical offerings include incense, paper money and food (usually rice, rice wine and chicken).

Unlike the western celebrations, Chinese people ‘celebrating’ 鬼节 will try to keep their children inside the house so that they do not come into contact with the spirits that come out at night. As well as that people may take extra precautions not to upset the spirits. For example you should not take photos during the festival incase it captures a spirit that will haunt you later. Here are some interesting photos I found on the BBC website; (no one was haunted in the making).

鬼节 happens in mid July so it’s not something that is concerning Chinese people at this moment, however Halloween is fast approaching. If you celebrate Halloween then be cautious of where you go and the people you interact with because it can be a dangerous time. On a lighter note, what did you think of my spontaneous rhyme at the start?

If you plan to celebrate Halloween or鬼节 then good luck 世界!

从欣妍 – From Xinyan

Being busy and idioms to help


A lot has been keeping me occupied lately which is why I haven’t been so frequent with my uploads. Being busy is a good sign of progress in my eyes, as I believe that there is always something for a person to be doing. There is definitely a lot in store for me (as well as other fellow students) for the rest of the year, but I do not wish to mark this as excuse. Instead I want to outline that I am not abandoning my blog and leaving it dormant, but that I would rather devote time to write posts that I am pleased with once my timetable is more…concrete? I have in fact prepared a list of topics that I wish to cover, and it seems like the list is forever growing. It’s quite beneficial to take a moment to reflect on your progress and then accordingly build on your strengths and weaknesses (like how you may encounter target setting in a school environment); therefore I feel that the past two weeks have allowed me to prepare greater resources and additionally organise separate endeavours. Since this current academic half term I have been acting as a confidant for a few friends, and also helping students manage the stresses of University applications. Because of this I have been particularly focused on future goals, and I hope that this short message can act as food for thought for you during the busy period that you too are experiencing.

Bearing in mind the theme of this post I thought it would be appropriate for me to unveil the grandeur of Chinese idioms by sharing idioms related to being busy and striving forward. Idiom in Chinese is 成语(cheng yu). They are not exclusive to China and can be found in almost all cultures. The word ‘idiom’ has Linguistic usage, however the idioms that I am concerned with are short phrases with a moral that can be learnt from its explanatory story. I suppose the best way for me to define an idiom is by describing that they are like short fables. In order for me to elaborate allow me to give a few example of phrases you may be familiar with that are in fact classed as idioms: ‘’Hit the books’’, ‘’When pigs fly’’, ‘’Scratch someone’s back’’ and ‘’Don’t judge a book by its cover’’. These idioms all remain quite popular and so it is likely you may have you heard these being used. I personally find most English idioms that I have come across to be rather strange, especially when I cared to compare them with the few Chinese idioms that I have learnt. For example to ‘scratch someone’s back’ is not designed to convey an unsightly image of a person scratching someone’s back; but is actually meant to communicate that a person is willing to help someone with a task, so long as they return the favour!

Chinese idioms interest me because their teachings can be implemented into our daily lives, as well as the fact that the stories are so inventive and can be appreciated by people of all ages. There are a couple of idioms that I have learnt in greater depth which I can share on a separate post, however as promised here are some idioms that could motivate you to strive on with work.

今天的第一个成语是(today’s first idiom is): 脚踏实地 (jiǎo tà shí dì). The literal meaning of this is ‘to step on solid ground’. Logically it follows that walking on ground that is solid will be more stable than ground that is cracked. In the same way the idiom illustrates that people ought to work hard and proceed with work in a steady and stable manner. For example, a student should plan or organise their tasks in advance so that they can eventually carry them out with stability.

第二个是 (the second is): 全力以赴 (quán lì yǐ fù) which has the literal meaning of exerting all of one’s strength. The messages in Chinese idioms are based on common ideas. To exert one’s strength is to say that a person should try their best in a task or to work towards a goal. This particular idiom has a tone of formality, but is still used in everyday speech. It should also be noted that it is usually used when discussing actions that are yet to be completed. For example it could be used to say that ‘The little boy should try his best to finish reading the book’.

最后第三个是 (lastly, the third is): 半途而废 (bàn tú ér fèi) literally means to walk half the road and give up half way. This is an example of a negative idiom, which aims to show you how you ought not to behave. The idiom is about starting a task without seeing it through because you leave it incomplete halfway through the task. In the instance of a negative message, the idiom would be understood by telling someone that they should not ‘walk half the road and give up’. In the simplest terms this would be conveyed by using the word 不 (bu) which means ‘no’. So for this particular idiom you can say ‘你应该不半途而废’, which means that ‘You should not leave a task incomplete’.

I tried to include idioms that weren’t too random and fitted in with the theme of being busy and involved in tasks, but still working hard. I hope that you were able to relate to what I discussed and that you can use the idioms to motivate you.

If you find yourself wanting to leave a task unfinished but strive to complete it; good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

KuāFù Chasing the Sun 夸父追日


In the last set of packages that I sent to my Chinese friends I included storybooks and novels suited to their personalities. For example, I gave one of my friends ‘The Princess Diaries’ (and told her what I could recall of the films) since she is into fashion. I also gave someone else a story about a mythical adventure in the woods since she enjoys sports (it was the closest match I could think of). This prompted me to ask my friend about traditional Chinese stories. I wanted to know if China had their equivalent of fairy tales like Cinderella, but since their culture is so different to the west I came to terms with the fact that I’d have to satisfy my expectations with Mulan (by that famous company also mentioned in my first post, whose name shall go unmentioned…yet again). Instead my friend offered to teach me a fable. The story that I will share with you today is called 夸父追(kuā fù zhuī rì) ‘KuāFù chasing the sun’ and it explains the formation of the Deng forest. I worked with her to translate the story into English from a children’s book she had, so what I am sharing is what I understand the story to be.

古时候,有一个人名字叫夸父,他很有志气。Once upon a time there was a man called KuaFu, he was very ambitious.

他看见太阳在走,便说:“太阳我要和你比赛!”. He saw the sun whilst walking and said “Sun I want to compete with you”.

他追呀赶呀,一直追赶到太阳落山的地方。He chased and chased, and stopped chasing once he reached the place of the sunset.

他累得气喘吁吁,渴得侯咙冒烟,就喝干了渭河的水。He was tired of running and his throat became thirsty, so he drank from the river.

可是他仍然渴得不行,又喝干了黄河的水。After drinking from Wei River, he was still thirsty so he drank in the Yellow river (the longest river in China).

喝了黄河水也不解渴。他听说北方有大泽,便向北方赶去。The water from the Yellow river was not sufficient for him to drink, so he went to the north to drink from the North Lake.

还没有赶到大泽,夸父就渴死了。他留下的手杖,化成了桃林。However before he reached the grand lake, he died of thirst. He dropped his staff and it transformed into the Deng forest.

Since my encounter with the story of KuaFu, I have asked my teacher the same question about Chinese stories as I had originally asked my friend. My teacher prepared some Chinese storybooks for me to read; but without English translation or pinyin! (-it’s actually quite fun, and my teacher praised my ability to read characters that I am yet to learn). Perhaps I will share a few of the stories for you to read. Also, whilst searching for a suitable picture to upload I came across a site that had also explained the fable. It’s fairly short so if you are interested here’s the link: I noticed that the author gave greater detail to describing who KuaFu is, which is worth reading.

The moral of the story is that you should not bite off more than you can chew.

If you ever become thirsty like KuaFu, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

十月十日 – 10th Oct

Today happens to be the anniversary of the ‘Double tenth’ event that I had discussed in my previous post! (加油中国). This will be a short post written in Mandarin, talking about a film that I watched to gain insight on Chinese history (particularly the formation of the People’s Republic of China) called ‘The Soong Sisters’, which in Chinese is called: 宋家皇朝 or 宋家三姐妹 (Sòng jiā san Jiě mèi)。 我们今天看了“宋家皇朝”,它讲的是关于中国现代历史,宋家三姐妹的故事。她们叫宋蔼龄,宋庆龄和宋美龄。她们都又美丽又出色。她们一个爱钱,一个爱,一个爱她的国家。 我被这部片陶醉。我觉得这个故事很有意思,而且那些的演员演得非常真实,感人。

如果你想看中国近代的历史片, 世界我祝你好运


The 1911 revolution

现在我的中文课开始学习中国历史 = Now my Chinese class has started to study Chinese history.

One of the key events that we learnt about was the revolution that took place in the year 1911. I decided to summarise what had instigated the revolution in order to help me retain the details (using information from our Chinese history textbook for reference). Some parts are not written in great detail but it’s all coherent so do take a look.

The ‘Double Tenth’ (10th October 1911) in Wuhan was the date when troops refused to supress a group of dissidents. It was not unusual for local difficulties to occur; however this brought about a chain of similar mutinies taking place in neighbouring provinces. Local revolutionaries joined in with the military defiance of Beijing (the people were generally against Beijing because that’s where the orders came). The survival of the Manchu dynasty depended on a swift response to the uprising. This was difficult to achieve because loyal commanders were scarce in the provinces and they were needed to carry out the task. The government called upon Yuan Shi Kai to lead Beijing against the rebels. He agreed to this, but his ulterior motive was to come to terms with the revolutionaries so that he could overthrow his masters (significant authority figures) who had previously humiliated him. Shikai’s personal ambition was to resurrect the empire and make himself the new Emperor. Meanwhile (in November) rebel delegates gathered in Nanjing to declare the establishment of a Chinese Republic, and had appointed Sun Yatsen to be the Republic’s first president. Shikai realised that Yatsen and the Nationalists would not be able to create a genuine Republic without military backing, so he offered Yatsen a quid pro quo (balanced exchange). Yuan made a proposition for Yatsen to relinquish his newfound presidency to Yuan so that he could use his military strength and political influence in Beijing to overthrow the Manchu dynasty. In early February, Sun Yatsen willingly handed over his presidency to Yuan. Yuan presented an ultimatum to the Manchu dynasty, which was to either abdicate or be overthrown by force. The Dowager Empress (mother of Emperor Pu Yi who was too young to make decisions at the time) did not want further bloodshed of the people, and so a formal abdication decree was issued on behalf of the five year old Emperor Pu Yi.

Many more events unfolded from then which laid the foundations for the China we know of today.

If you decide to learn more about the Chinese revolution, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.