Archive for the ‘New Year’ Category

China’s Ancient Culture Incinerates Modern Structure

February 11, 2009

When the Chinese see Americans they see our weakness and frivolous habits — too often.

The Chinese hate “American Idol” and our blockbuster Hollywood products.

But the Chinese also crave those same Hollywood products so much that counterfeiters sell pirated DVDs on the streets of Beijing before most theaters in America get a shot at the newest Hollywood offering.

The government of China hates Western porn and all the time wasted by Chinese workers on the Internet.  But China has the largest Internet readership of any country on earth — and they love their porn.

So there are many contradictions in China — especially contradictions between the ancient Chinese culture and the modern world.

So it should come as no surprise that a China New Year celebration featuring that most famous of China’s celebration products — fireworks  — exploded upon merry makers in Beijing this week.

It seems the state run communists TV system, CCTV, invited all its Beijing employees to celebrate the end of the New Year with a feast followed by a fireworks display.

But CCTV had no permit to set off the fireworks and the police protested.

But CCTV is the state in many ways so the police were ignored — which is also an ancient Chinese tradition.

Well you can guess.

The fireworks set ablaze the building still under construction adjacent to the CCTV tower.  That building burned and hundreds of firefighters were needed to bring the inferno under control.

CCTV offered aplogies and said it was ashamed to lose face.  And tower.

Now party-goers tell us, their entire year will be “not lucky.”

So if you are off to China to do business this year: be careful.  The cultural odds may be against you.

Note to Barack Obama: when your oath went badly on January 20, my Chinese grandmother said, “Not lucky.  Four years not lucky.”


Fire damaged Mandarin Oriental hotel building, left, and the ...

Fire damaged Mandarin Oriental hotel building, left, and the new China Central Television headquarters building, right, are seen in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009. An Olympic-style fireworks display put on by China’s state-run television broadcaster was the cause of a spectacular blaze that destroyed a luxury hotel that was part of the network’s landmark headquarters in Beijing, a fire department spokesman said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)


New Year Turns To Fire and Death At China “Party”

February 1, 2009

How many times do we have to learn that fireworks, alcohol and nightclubs don’t mix?

China experienced another unnecessary tragedy of party-fireworks-nightclub when a group celebrating a birthday during China’s New Year shot off fireworks at their table and set fire to a bar in China’s Fujian province, leading to the deaths of 15 people, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The fire was in Changle City, which translates into “lasting happiness.”

This tragedy has been played out in Bangkok where a band named “Burn” ignited destruction and death. Sixty-five people were killed in that fire in the crowded Santika nightclub exposing the dismal safety standards of Bangkok’s shady entertainment scene.

A Rhode Island club fire in 2003 killed 100.

We may never know the complete cause of death in China in this fireworks incident because China controls its media.  But it is a safe bet that fireworks, alcohol and bad safety thinking are to blame.

China fire from CNN:

Bangkok Club Fire On New Year’s Reveals “Host Of Safety Violations” in “Shady Entertainment World”

Policemen and rescue workers look at the bodies of victims outside Santika nightclub in Bangkok January 1, 2009. A blaze at the top Bangkok nightclub killed at least 58 people celebrating the New Year and injured more than 100 others.

Aftermath of the January 1 Club fire in Thailand. Photograph by: Kerek Wongsa/Reuters, Reuters

China Premier’s gifts to Europe come with price-tags

January 26, 2009

China’s Premier flies to Europe on Tuesday bearing vows of support for its crisis-rattled economies, in a bridge-mending visit that shows Beijing‘s potential to use its financial muscle for diplomatic sway.

Premier Wen Jiabao is traveling during China’s big Spring Festival holiday and his diplomats have said his seven-day “journey of confidence” will sprinkle agreements and uplifting declarations on European states battered by economic woes.


China Loves You: Here’s $15

This holiday cheer comes less than two months after China called off a summit with the European Union, venting anger over French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

“This visit is intended to have a lot of symbolic value. I think the Spring Festival time was chosen for good reason,” said Zhou Hong, an expert on relations with Europe at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a leading state thinktank in Beijing.

“China wants to show it’s ready for a fresh start after the recent troubles, ready to expand communication and coordination, especially over the financial crisis.”

Such heartening sentiment from the world’s third biggest economy with its $2 trillion in reserves will probably be welcomed at Wen’s five destinations: Switzerland and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Germany, the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Spain and Britain.

But Beijing’s gifts have price-tags attached.

China is still fuming over Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader condemned by Beijing as a separatist for demanding autonomy for his homeland.

Paris is conspicuously off Wen’s itinerary. Too little time for that, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Hongbo told reporters last week.

Wen can use the lure of investment and deals to remind the often jostling European states that Chinese cooperation comes with perhaps unspoken but nonetheless clear conditions, said John Fox, a former British diplomat in Beijing now at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London.

“Certainly, from the European side and Number 10 Downing Street the focus of this visit will be almost entirely on the financial crisis,” said Fox, referring to the British Prime Minister‘s residence.

“But China is also looking for Europe to rebalance relations, to take the sting out of these disputes.”

Read the rest:

Asian New Year Down in Many Countries Due To Economy

January 25, 2009

Our Vietnamese-American New Year got off to a slow start I thought and our pastor said to enjoy God’s blessings.

In years past, we just had fun!

Then a friend suggested the economy had depress the New Year’s start globally, which is undoubtedly true….


From Czech News, Czech Republic

“They say the year of the water buffalo will not be good. People who are born this year will have to work hard,” Mr. Hai says worryingly in a Vietnamese restaurant Little Hanoi in Prague’s outskirts where a celebration of New Year is about to begin.

The Vietnamese zodiac calls 2009 the year of the water buffalo and the Czech Vietnamese community is likely to experience a bad year, not only because of the water buffalo.

Hard Times

Lots of food and fun festivities welcome the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. This time Prague’s Vietnamese community invited Czech journalists to celebrate New Year with them and thus discover the charms of Vietnam’s most popular holiday called Tet.

The relaxed atmosphere of the Tet celebration was however occasionally interrupted by a mention of the economic downturn that has mercilessly hit the world, including the Czech Republic.

“Why don’t you wish this economic crisis is over soon,” says one of the Vietnamese organizers to a guest who is about to say his wish to a Vietnamese-sign painter.

It is understood by everybody present in the room why the guest should wish the end of the economic crisis. The facts are well known – Czech factories are massively sacking employees and foreign workers are the first ones to lose their jobs.

As soon as their work contracts are terminated, jobless foreigners must return home but often find themselves in a difficult situation, not having any money to buy a ticket. According to humanitarian organizations, hundreds if not thousands of Vietnamese happen to be in a such desperate situation.

“Laying off people is a great problem. We are trying to find some kind of solution for these people, get them a new working permit and we have been appealling to Czech companies to give them at least temporary jobs,” says Le Minh Cau, vice-president of the Vietnamese Association in the Czech Republic.

According to Marcel Winter, the chairman of the Czech Vietnamese Society, the Vietnamese markets that are so abundant in every Czech town are expected to disappear in about three years as a consequence of the global economic meltdown.

“We conducted a survey and our profits dropped down to half in the past year. It is because of the financial crisis,” representative of Asia Dragon Bazar Hong Nguyen said for Aktuálně.cz not long ago. “The truth is nobody really knows what is going to happen,” he added.
In January a Czech green card program kicked off, which allows guest workers to get working permits in the country but has been limited to 12 non-EU countries by the Interior Ministry. Vietnam was excluded over alleged security risks. The only Asian countries included in the list are Japan and South Korea.
The Vietnamese community is the third largest immigrant group in the Czech Republic and Vietnam is also among the 9 priority countries of Czech development aid.
The Czech Republic is the only country in the world that has been providing a continuous humanitarian or development aid since 1945. The first Vietnamese came to the country in 1950 and the prolific cooperation went on until 1989 when the communist government was toppled.

Vietnam: Bad Omen Opens New Year

January 25, 2009

One year ago, a wicked snow storm with cold and ice kept millions of Chinese from reaching home for the start of theLunar New Year.  This was considered an “unlucky” omen that could potentially marr the entire year.  Now Vietnam is experiecing grief instead of joy after a ferry accident claimed several lives at the start of the new Year….


Associated Press
“It’s a tragedy for the province,” said Phan Lam Phuong, the governor of Quang Binh. “It should have been time to celebrate the Lunar New Year.”

He said the provincial government has decided to cancel a Lunar New Year fireworks show.
A small ferry overloaded with passengers sank in central Vietnam on Sunday, killing at least 40 people including seven girls and 27 women.

The 40 bodies, including those of three pregnant women, were recovered from the Gianh river in Quang Binh province, about 315 miles south of Hanoi, provincial police chief Phan Thanh Ha said.

Rescuers were still searching for two others missing, he said. Thirty-six passengers were rescued.

Ha said they initially though another four people were missing, but that turned out not be the case.

“This is one of the worst ferry accidents in Vietnam,” Ha said.

An initial investigation showed the boat was overloaded with nearly 80 people, even though it was designed to carry 12, he said.

Recipes for Asian New Year Good For Everyone

January 24, 2009

Unlike traditional British end-of-year celebrations, where the food plays second fiddle to a festive booze-up, the Chinese celebrate in a different fashion. In communities all round the world the Chinese mark their new year with two weeks of celebrations, in which everybody visits family and friends and they share meals together. Most celebrate with a big banquet that consists of 10-15 courses and delicacies that you wouldn’t find in your average Chinese restaurant.

 The Independent (UK) 

Steamed scallops with black bean sauce 

JSteamed scallops with black bean sauce.  Photo by Jason Lowe

As each course is served, the host respectfully offers the choice pieces to the honoured guest or the eldest, and the fish course is traditionally served last so that some will remain on the table to see the new year in. This year, the Year of the Ox or Buffalo (a sign that symbolises prosperity through hard work), begins on Monday. You can join in the celebrations by having a dim-sum lunch in your nearest Chinatown, or cook up a feast for your friends with the recipes below….

Read the rest and get the recipes:

New Year In Asia: Time for Great Food!

January 24, 2009

News of the impending Chinese Lunar New Year or “Tet,” the aroma of my Mother-in-Law’s fresh hot “heart of beast” soup, plus a news story about the Hanoi Zoo and a brief encounter with a friendly black dog reminded me today that it is almost that magical time of year: the celebration of great eating.

No, not “Super Bowl Sunday.”


My wife’s Mom cooks up many a great delicacy and today it was “heart of beast” soup. I call it this because I have no idea where the heart comes from.

And I mean I don’t know what animal or what vendor.

And I don’t want to know. Like many things Asian, it is made in a mysterious way and it is enough to know that it is no good without a lot of heart…

The BBC News reported today that the Hanoi Zoo had been caught illegally trading in rare animal parts. Carcasses of tigers, elephants and other creatures of God’s good earth had been discovered in strange places. Some parts had been sold or “trafficked.” Some were wrapped in the freezer. An Asian friend said, “Some great eating there.”

Sumatran tiger, file image 

Tigers are used in traditional Asian medicines


I said I didn’t want to know….

Finally, we met a friendly black dog today. We admired her and petted her. Her owner said, “Ten years old. And you know what they say in China? The best dog is black dog.”

I had a feeling this remark came from a chef and not a vet or a dog trainer.

But I didn’t ask.


I Have Eaten A Pack of Dogs and a Flock of Crow But “Hold the Penis”

How about a nice hot bowl of horse meat and noodle during the Super Bowl?

In China, Year of the Ox Promises Prosperity, But Economy Continues to Slow

January 23, 2009

This month, the best Chinese New Year gift for a businessman fighting the economic crisis is a toy ox — a charm for prosperity as China’s economy battles a historic low.

On Thursday, Beijing revealed that economic growth for 2008 had slipped to nine per cent, with a 6.8 per cent slowdown in the fourth quarter. Nine per cent would be one of India’s best runs. But for China, it was the lowest pace since 2001 and the first single-digit growth since 2003.

In 2007, China grew at 13 per cent and leapfrogged to become the world’s third-largest economy. 

So the atheist Chinese are hoping the year of the ox will usher a change of fortune. The ox follows the rat as the second of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. It signifies prosperity through diligence and hard work.

“I sell about 15 pieces of stuffed ox every day,’” Chen Tao, who runs a closet-sized store in an eight-century-old alley, told HT. “People want an ox with the Chinese character of money and fortune on its back, as a gift for businessmen.”

While this correspondent chatted with Chen, a Chinese woman spent over 200 yuan (about Rs 1,400) on red and blue toy oxen for the New Year holiday starting on Sunday. “Let there be ox,” said a sign on the door of a bar in the historic alley.

In the building housing HT’s Beijing bureau, office-goers in business suits are seen walking with the stuffed toy with horns.

A struggling new bank branch has propped a life-size cutout of a trendy couple with ox and cow faces.

The flagging US coffee chain Starbucks hopes for prosperity with its latest China product: a stuffed ox priced at over Rs 1,100.

–Hundustan Times

China’s Annual New Year Migration “Biggest Ever” Due To Economy

January 22, 2009

The largest annual migration on earth is now in progress as China prepares for the Lunar or Asian New Year.

China has a migrant population of several million workers who mostly leave rural homes for industrial and manufacturing areas to work in places like  Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.

The migrant workers are among 188 million people heading home for the holidays.  To be in one’s family home at New Years makes for a “lucky” year, according to Chinese culture and belief.

This year the migration started weeks earlier than normal as China closes shop due to the troubled economy.  Many workers ill not return to work this year for the same reason: the economy is grinding downward.

Most experts say this is the largest migration ever in China because of the global economic downturn.  Railroads are overwhelmed by the number of travelers.

“Last year, I went back home five or six days before the holiday started. This year, I’m going back about 20 days earlier,” said migrant Huang Mingren as he waited for his train, three weeks ago.

Now many travelers are saying they have no jobs to return to.

“‘I’ll go home and stay for the first time in more than 20 years,” said Le Hong. “No jobs in city any more.”

China fears that social unrest and dissent will grow due to the economic troubles and several important anniversaries.  Thirty years ago, Chinese students started a pro-democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square in 1989.

By John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia


China’s jobless migrants go home early for holiday
 Economic Slowdown Already Sees 600,000 Chinese Migrants Relocate
 China’s Slowing Growth, Unemployment Leads Toward Social Unrest
Shortage of trains strains China’s holiday rush, simmering unrest problem

A migrant worker nears the train station in Guangzhou, southern ... 
A migrant worker nears the train station in Guangzhou, southern China’s Guangdong province.  Some 188 million Chinese are expected to squeeze onto China’s train network to return home for the Chinese Lunar New Year.(AP Photo/William Foreman)

Shortage of trains strains China’s holiday rush, simmering unrest problem

January 21, 2009

Every year at this time, China’s rail system groans under a huge surge of holiday traffic. Travelers endure waits of hours — even days — in the winter chill to buy tickets. Once aboard trains, they overcrowd seats. Some sit in aisles. Others are forced to stand for trips of a day or longer.

Veteran travelers such as Wang Ping plan ahead for the arduous trips, knowing that the trains are so crowded that even getting to the bathroom can be a heroic feat.

“You eat very little. You drink very little,” she said. “There are too many people sitting in the aisle, so it’s very difficult to go to the toilet.”

The travails of travel around the week-long Lunar New Year festival, China‘s most important annual holiday, are more than a passing irritant to the 188 million Chinese who’ll board trains during the 40-day peak period. They’re also of concern to China’s leaders, who worry that holiday emotions could turn ugly and trigger social unrest at railway stations.

Severe snowstorms a year ago stranded tens of millions of passengers.

So it was little surprise that even President Hu Jintao weighed in with some sharp words for railway authorities before the holiday, which is also known as the Spring Festival.

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers

” The Ministry of Railways must use its brains to work out many measures to help the people,” Hu said on Jan. 15 . “They should make these measures known to the public in order to lessen social tension and ensure the Spring Festival mission is completed in a smooth manner.”

As in past years during the holiday, complaints have mounted this year of under-the-table sales by rail employees to scalpers. One angry traveler took a video on his cell phone of a railway employee refusing to sell him a ticket. The video clip, which spread rapidly around Chinese Web sites, shows the stone-faced railway employee ignoring angry travelers outside the window as he prints out tickets. Postings with the video accused the employee of intending to sell tickets on the black market.

Sensitivities are so high that the Railway Ministry called a news conference and apologized for “hurting the feelings” of passengers. It vowed to probe illegal ticket sales.

Deputy Railways Minister Wang Zhiguo said 30,000 police officers were keeping order at railway stations, and that they had detained 2,390 scalpers and confiscated 78,200 tickets.

Wang said ticket vendors are barred from carrying mobile phones to their windows to prevent them from colluding with scalpers.

Read the rest: