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    Chinese Corner: Preparing for the Year of the Dog


    09 Feb, 2018

    10 : 00

    • Fresh off the amazing activities and student performances during the Christmas season, it’s now time to celebrate another important holiday at Yew Chung International School of Beijing – the Chinese New Year! As the two biggest events on the academic calendar, YCIS Beijing’s commitment to a bicultural environment is on full display during these two special winter holidays.

      For the past month, as a part of both their Chinese language and culture classes, students have been engaged in lessons about the history and customs of the Chinese New Year – providing them greater context for the celebrations soon to take place around the world.

      What better way to learn about Chinese culture than through the study of its most important holiday? Nikki Liu, Chinese Teacher at YCIS Beijing, explains more about the foods, the symbols, and the traditions of this 5,000 year old event, as well as the ways in which students learned about and prepared for the upcoming Year of the Dog.

      Delicious Traditions

      When thinking of the Chinese New Year, one of the first topics on everyone’s mind is the food! Food is one of the things that Chinese are most proud of, and as family is the basis of Chinese society, great significance is placed upon meal times and sharing in delicious Spring Festival cuisine with one’s family.

      Here in northern China, dumplings are one of the staples of the Spring Festival dinner table. In Chinese, the word for dumpling is jiǎo zi, which sounds very similar to jiāo zi, which can be translated as an exchange between the old and new year. So, by eating dumplings, families are bidding farewell to the year that’s past and welcoming the new.

      In the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year holiday, teachers taught students about the significance of this and other Chinese foods, filling their minds with cultural knowledge so that they can soon fill their bellies with the perfect Spring Festival dishes!

      Beautiful Wishes

      Spring Festival Couplets, or chunlian 春联 in Chinese, are another one of the most common and important customs during Chinese New Year. Becoming popular during the Ming Dynasty, households throughout China, both urban and rural, write inspiring poetry lines in black or golden characters on red paper and hang them around the doorways of their homes.

      Though in modern times couplets can be purchased at local stores, we wanted our students to have the experience of writing and creating their own, traditional style couplets – practicing their calligraphy and language skills while also having a hands-on experience with traditional Chinese culture and sending good wishes to their loved ones.  After brainstorming and personalizing the messages they wished to convey, students took great care in painting their couplets before hanging them on classrooms doors.

      Dramatic Dancing

      Finally, the Dragon Dance is an activity that is famous around the world for its celebration of Chinese culture.  Symbolizing wisdom, power, and wealth, the dragon has long been a powerful symbol in China believed to bring people good luck.

      The Dragon Dance itself is performed by a skilled team who, after extensive training, work together to bring the dragon’s motionless body to life. Requiring tremendous concentration and teamwork, proper timing and coordinated movement are essential to make a successful dance – without which the entire performance could be spoiled. 

      In order to experience this part of Chinese culture firsthand, a professional Dragon Dance troupe was invited to campus to work with our Secondary students in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year holiday. After weeks of practice and long hours repeating movements and timing, a group of students put on YCIS Beijing’s own Dragon Dance at last Tuesday’s Temple Fair. 

      Through activities such as these, students have been able to taste, touch, and move to the traditions of the Spring Festival. Through the knowledge they’ve gained, they’ll be able to find more richness in their experiences of both the pending, and future, Chinese New Year celebrations!