Chronicles from Nanyang – Happy Chinese New Year
This article series is from a Hills Learning student, Loraine, who took our intensive course over the summer of 2012. She writes about living in China and her experiences learning about the Chinese language and culture.
I hope the year 2013 is off to a great start. Here in China, we’re getting ready for yet another new year, this one according to the lunar calendar. The coming year will be the year of the snake, and it will begin on February 10th. What most Chinese look forward to during this period, called Spring Festival, is time to spend with family, time to relax, and time to eat, especially dumplings.
My semester was over in mid-January, and I decided to get my travels in before the rush that usually happens at this special time of year. In a country of 1.3 billion people, peak travel season is definitely to be taken seriously. I started out in Beijing, where I visited friends as well as sites I had missed when I first arrived in China just prior to the school year, in August 2012. I headed straight for the Forbidden City, a vast area of ceremonial halls and museums that can hardly be visited in one day. The highlight of my visit was the clock museum, which features elaborately decorated clocks from all over the world. I happened to be there at precisely the right moment, when some of the old timepieces were demonstrated in action. In addition to keeping time, these clocks also provide a bit of entertainment, complete with music and small moving figures.
The next stop in my winter break travels was Taiwan. After the chilly temperatures of Nanyang, I was looking forward to some milder weather as well as island scenery. I got exactly that and more. I enjoyed the beautiful museums, especially the Palace Museum, which is located high above the city in a lush natural setting. I also visited the observatory in Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Because Taiwan is in an earthquake zone, the building is specially equipped with a giant ball called a damper to stabilize the building and provide a measure of safety for the people inside. Taipei is also known for its lively night markets, and although I’m not much of a shopper, I went to two of them just to see what the locals do for fun.
I then went north to Shanghai, a city with a fascinating past and promising future. I especially enjoyed the scenic areas of the city, including the Bund, People’s Square, the Yuyuan Garden, and the Huangpu River. As in Taipei, I couldn’t resist a bit of shopping on Nanjing Road, a pedestrian mall lined with stores and cafes, all shouting at you to spend, spend, spend. In fact, whatever one does in Shanghai, the operative word is spend. Just as an example, a bowl of noodle soup that costs just 5 yuan in Nanyang was 35 in Shanghai.
I’m now back in Nanyang, where the area I live in is virtually closed down, now that the students have gone home to celebrate Spring Festival. Most of the cafes and vendors depend on the students for their livelihood, so without them, there is hardly a reason to stay open. The area supermarkets, however, are quite crowded as people get ready for the new year, and all are featuring special foods and traditional decorations such as red lanterns.
Wherever you are, please join me in wishing the Chinese people all over the world a very happy and prosperous new year.
Best wishes from Nanyang,