Happy Chinese New Year

Welcome the Year of the Monkey…

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with contributor Haiyin Lin.

As a photographer living in NYC, it takes 15 hours to reach my hometown of Fuzhou. But, it’s a small price to pay for spending quality time with my loved ones to celebrate Chinese New Year. My hometown is a very tranquil and small city in southern China, where people still embrace and uphold the tradition of Chinese festivals.

Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is our culture’s most important holiday, a time for people to visit and reunite with family to celebrate the first day of the year on the lunisolar Chinese calendar.

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Unlike the four distinct seasons in New York, every season in my hometown feels like spring.

The street layout and architectures are more traditional in nature than they are modern. And every chance I have to come back home is nothing short of a great getaway.

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When I was wandering around the streets with my parents, we came across a small calligraphy store. Chinese calligraphy, or “shufa” as it’s called locally, is an art form very distinct from other types of writing due to its emphasis on motion and dynamics. Chinese characters can be retraced to 4000 BC and, when considering it in this way, one realizes the sheer length and strength of its evolution. During the Spring Festival, people write on red paper to create Spring Festival Couplets.

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People paste their Spring Festival Couplets on both sides of a door (left and right, separately), which adds an indispensable joyous atmosphere to the festival. The custom of pasting couplets can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty over two thousand years ago, its symmetry and commentary representative of the Ying and Yang, the fundamental elements that comprise the universe. Although the culture that is the Spring Festival Couplet has developed into something all its own, I find its origins really cool!

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The couplet is composed of two parts, a first and second line. Their tonal pattern is meant to be poetic, musical and rhythmic, with subjects ranging from the blessing of family, to a look-back on the past year and best wishes for the coming new year.

The above three lines of calligraphy (from left to right) can be translated to read “a festival of new spring and new year”, “sunshine of the spring brings a fortunate new year” and “true happiness can be sought in Buddhism.” One of my favorites (which I purchased on my trip) reads “ring in the spring, landscape is splendid. Ring out the past, everything is glorious.”

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Chinese New Year equals the color red, a color representing pure happiness. Men and women alike, everyone dons red clothes, scarves and/or hats during the holiday. Households and stores also display posters or hang red lanterns of various sizes bearing the Chinese character “Fu”(meaning “good fortune”) on doors and walls, in hopes of attracting wealth, health and good luck in the coming year. Having a good sign at the start of the year is very important for us.

There is a Chinese saying  — “spring starts from fragrant peach and plum blossom.” Seeing this beautiful little flower on my way back home, I am reminded that, although it’s still winter time, the spring is not too far away!

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Wishing you a happy Chinese New Year!

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