Tag Archive for Chinese dragon

Chinese New Year: Year of the Snake

Charity Challenge veteran team leader, Trevor Gibbs gives us his personal slant on the Chinese New…

A time for feasting, families and fun, the Chinese New Year is the longest and most important of China’s traditional holidays. Also known as the ‘Spring Festival’, the 15 day celebration ends on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which this year falls on the 10 February 2013. Celebrated in Chinese communities throughout the world, the new year festivities can trace their origins back to the legend of a voracious beast called the Nian, which once devoured livestock, crops and villagers across mainland China. In reality though, it is more likely that these colourful (and loud) celebrations evolved as a means of heralding the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

In Chinese communities across the world pigs, ducks, chickens and sweet delicacies are sacrificed  to a celebration of family, thanksgiving and reunion. The spirits of the ancestors, along with the living, are believed to come together as one great community on New Year’s Eve, to honour the past and the present. The Chinese probably consume more food during these New Year celebrations than at any other time of the year, with huge quantities of fish, dumplings, rice and vegetable cakes joining the feast. The abundance of food, the obligatory firecrackers and the fiery red lanterns that adorn every house are all believed to trace their origins back to the mythical legend of the ferocious Nian.

As you might expect with a people as traditional and superstitious as the Chinese, New Year brings with it many customs and taboos. Chinese houses should be cleaned before New Year’s Day, as it is believed that to clean or dust on the day itself could sweep good fortune away. All debts should be paid and nothing should be lent, and everyone is discouraged from using foul language or ‘unlucky’ words. Even crying is discouraged, as it is believed that if you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry throughout the year. This is particularly good news for unruly children, who tend to be tolerated by their long suffering parents for fear of burdening themselves with a snivelling offspring for the coming year. It is also believed that appearance and attitude during New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. Red is considered a particularly auspicious colour to wear and red envelopes, often filled with money, are given out to young and old alike.

Visually, Chinese New Year is a blaze of colour, with lanterns, flowers and decorations joining the exuberant displays of dragon dances, drums and clashing cymbals across the globe. It is also a time of hope for many Chinese, with the deafening pops of thousands of firecrackers driving away the evil spirits for another year. As the Chinese themselves say…迎春接福 (Yíngchúnjiēfú)

…“Greet the New Year and encounter happiness”

China is one of our most popular destinations and we have three fantastic challenges in which you can see the country. You can now trek, cycle and now even run and see China at its very best. Our challenges in China are:

Great Wall Discovery
Great Wall Cycle
Great Wall Run

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For more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:

http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

<Images taken from Google>

Welcome to the Chinese Year of the Dragon!

Just when you thought the hubbub of Christmas and New Year party season was over. Here we go again with yet another celebration! But this one has a slightly more oriental feel, as today sees in the first day of the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year, also known as ‘Spring Festival’, follows the lunar calendar. The origin of the festival can be traced back thousands of years through an evolving series of legends and traditions. One of the most famous legends is that of Nien, an extremely cruel and ferocious beast, which the Chinese believe, eats people on New Year’s Eve. To keep Nien away, red-paper couplets are pasted on doors, torches are lit, and firecrackers are set off throughout the night. Early the next morning, as feelings of triumph and renewal fill the air at successfully keeping Nien away for another year, the most popular greeting heard is kung-hsi, or “congratulations.”

Celebrations for this year’s Chinese New Year are particularly special, as we are entering the Year of the Dragon, which is a mighty and significantly symbolic creature in Chinese culture. Quite the opposite to the Nien and Western Dragon, the Chinese Dragon is a loving and benevolent creature. In ancient China, the celestial Dragon represented the emperor and power. Today, it is the ultimate auspicious symbol signifying success and happiness. It is even said that the mighty Dragon sent down his nine sons to help the first emperor of Ming Dynasty conquer China. These Dragons were invaluable to the emperor as they each had different attributes and appearances. For example, the second sons has large wings and is a strong warrior, and the seventh son has tusk-like teeth and seeks to uphold justice.  However, it is said that the Emperor found the nine sons such powerful allies that he decided to prevent their journey back to the skies by tricking them into spending eternity in China. Enraged by this, the nine sons decided to no longer to serve the emperor and instead turned evil!

Despite this rather unfortunate ending to the story, it seems China is still in awe of the nine sons, and they each play an important role in Chinese culture and architecture. For example, the image of the music loving first son can be found as a decoration for musical instrument, such as two-stringed bowed violin, and the image of the 5th son (who loves quiet and tranquillity) can often be seen on and around temples.

On our Great Wall Discovery and Cycle Challenges you have the opportunity to experience Chinese culture, and see the influence of the dragon and his nine sons first hand! The famous Forbidden City (which you have plenty of time to explore on both these challenges) is a whole world of dragons!  There are 19 dragons painted in gold on the throne, 79 carved in the folding screen behind the throne. Plus dragons carved in the golden table and other furniture, making a total of 590 dragons in the hall alone. Add on to that the 6 golden pillars swirled by dragons and the ceilings painted with golden dragons all around, and there are 40 doors in the hall and 5 wooden dragons on each door, which equal a massive 3, 504 dragons in total, which is only the tip of the iceberg  in regards to the Dragon’s influence and embodiment in China!

So if you’re interested in combining dragon hunting and exploring Chinese culture with exercising, raising money for charity, and frankly doing something incredible! Then click here to check out all available departure dates for our Great Wall Discovery and Great Wall Cycle challenges. For a taster of the spectacular Great Wall Discovery Challenge, click here to watch a video of the trek, filmed by China Operations Manager Jo last year.

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