1、怎样对中国节日进行分类? How can we classify Chinese festivals?
Chinese festivals may be classified into the following four categories:
a. Those commemorating an historical event or an historical figure. These include the Dragon Boat Festival (龙舟节) and the Clear and Bright Festival (清明节).
b. Those connected with a myth and legend. These include the Spring Dragon Festival (春龙节) and the Double Seventh Night (七夕).
c. Those handed down year after year and developed from rites to worship ancestors and deities. These include the La Ba Festival (腊八节) on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month.
d. Those taking place at the end of the year to say good-bye to the old year or at the beginning of a year to greet the new. These include the New Year’s Eve (除夕) and the Spring Festival (春节).
2、少数民族有自己的节日吗? Do the ethnic Chinese peoples have their festivals?
The minority peoples in China have their unique festivals. These are festivities seeking or celebrating a good harvest, such as the Wangguo Festival (望果节) of the Tibetans, the Duan Festival (端节) of the Shui people (水族) in Guizhou and the Torch Festival of the Yi people. There are festivities during which people buy and sell at a fair which includes entertainment and amusements, such as the Mongolian people’s Nadam Fair (那达慕) and the Third Month Fair (三月街) of the Bai people (白族). There are also festivities with a religious background, such as the Lesser Bairam (开斋节, the Festival of Fast-Breaking) of the Hui people (回族) and the Firecrackers Festival of the Dong people.
3、什么是阳历和阴历? What is the solar calendar and lunar calendar?
Since ancient times, Chinese people have adopted over a hundred kinds of calendars. The most widely observed are the yang li and yin li. The former is the solar or Gregorian calendar (公历) that is now in use of various countries, including China. In English, yin li means “the lunar or agricultural calendar.” It has been used in China since the Xia Dynasty about three or four thousand years. Yinli actually contain a mixture of solar and lunar elements. The length o time of the rotation (循环) of the moon is counted as a month. There are 12 months in a year of 354 days, 13 months in a leap year (闰年) of 384 days. In ancient China, the year was divided into 24 solar periods (24 节气), each of which is marked by three climatic signs (症候). Those periods are directly related to farming and have been observed for several thousand years. In China, many traditional festivities in a year are usually calculated according to the lunar calendar.
4、什么是春节? What is the Spring Festival?
The Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year, is the most important traditional national festival in China. It is called nian (年) or xinnian (新年, New Year) in Chinese. As originally writer, the Chinese character nian means “harvest.” The Spring Festival always falls sometime before or after lichun (立春, the beginning of Spring).
The celebration of the Spring Festival is more or less similar across the country. People set off firecrackers, which enliven (使活跃) the festival and bring great joy to people, especially to children. Chunlian (春联) are spring couplets posted on gates during the Spring Festival. They contain auspicious (吉利的) words such as: “The Best of Things and the Treasures of Heaven”; “Days of Peace, Year In, Year Out”; “A Spring of good Fortune, This Year, and Every Year.”
In addition, New Year pictures are a unique part of the New Year celebrations. Today, farmers and citizens in small towns still keep the customs of posting these on their doors or on the walls inside their rooms.
During the Spring Festival, the Chinese people eat a lot of good food. In North China, the most popular food is jiaozi (饺子), or dumplings. In South China, for breakfast on New Year’s Day, round rice glutinous dumplings are served to signify family reunion.
On the eve of the Spring Festival, it is a folk custom to stay up late or all night and pray for peace in the coming year. That night every house is brightly lit in the hope that anything that might bring people bad fortune will disappear under the dazzling (耀眼的) light. New year is ushered in at midnight, 12 o’clock sharp, On that day, everybody, men and women, old and young, put on new clothes. When the younger generation extend their New Year greetings to their seniors (年长的), the latter give them money wrapped in red paper that is called yasuiqian (压岁钱, money to keep for the year). On the second day, after breakfast, there are exchanges of visits between friends and relatives who bring each other New Year cakes, oranges, tangerines (橘子), and crunchy (易啐的) candy as gifts. Al in all, everyday from New Year’s Eve to the fifteenth day of the first month, there are various entertainments. Lion dances and drum and gong contests are grand events in the New Year celebrations, especially in the countryside in the South. Wedding ceremonies also abound in cities and villages throughout the land at this time. 5、放鞭炮的由来是什么?What is the origin of setting off firecrackers?
Setting off firecrackers is a practice handed down from the remote past, when burning bamboo stems were burnt. Bamboo stems (茎) have joints and are hollow (空的) inside. When they are burnt, the air inside expands after being heated, and the stems themselves burst open and make a loud cracking (爆裂的) sound. Later on, people placed gunpowder in the bamboo stems and thus invented firecrackers. Still later, paper rolls replaced bamboo stems. By the close of the Qing dynasty, there were already special workshops in China making all kinds of firecrackers.
At first, people set off firecrackers for the purpose of keeping away evil spirits and seeking happiness. A legend has it that there was a strange savage (凶狠的) beast whose body looked like a human being and who hid itself in remote mountains. Toward the end of every year, it would come out to kill people and animals. However, it was afraid of light and noise. Whenever it heard the noise of firecrackers, it was so scared that it ran away. Therefore, at the beginning and end of every year, people set off firecrackers in order not to be disturbed by the beast.
Recently local regulations have been issued that forbid setting off firecrackers in cities, for they can cause fire accidents and hurt people. Despite these regulations, however, many citizens go out into the countryside to light firecrackers for the New Year celebration.
6、春联是怎样产生的? What is the origin of spring couplets?
Chun lian (春联) are couplets posted on gates during the Spring Festival. These originated from the “peach-wood charms (桃符)” in the ancient times, which were meant to send off the old and usher in the new. These charms were tiny rectangular plates and made of peach-wood. In the Song Dynasty, paper came to be used instead of wood plates for writing spring couplets; and in the Ming Dynasty, encouraged by Emperor Tai Zu (太祖), spring couplets came to be greatly vogue (流行). On one New Year after he made Nanjing as his capital, Taizu issued an imperial decree (命令) requiring all officials, scholars and common people to paste a pair of couplets on their gates. As he traveled around, he was pleased to see these colorful spring couplets.
The time-honored (确立已久的) practice of pasting spring couplets is still being followed to this day. However, the current couplets are quite different from those of the past as far as their meaning is concerned. They now either describe the flourishing national progress or wonderful sights of the land. They also give expression to people’s wishes for a still better future.
7、元宵节是怎样产生的? What is the origin of the Lantern Festival?
The Fifteenth day of the first lunar month is an important traditional festival in China. Members of a family get together to mark the occasion. This festival dated back to the Warring States Period (战国), when people observed the custom of watching lanterns under moonlight. At first, they did this on the day for offering sacrifices to the Sun God, who was known as the Lord of the East. It is said that people began to mark the Lantern Festival in the Han Dynasty. According to ancient Chinese history, after the death of Liu Ying (刘盈, Han Emperor Hui, 汉惠帝), his consort Queen Lu (吕后) monopolized (垄断) the power of the state, and placed Lu’s family persons in key governmental positions. However, after her death, Zhou Bo (周勃), Chen Ping (陈平) and others then jointly got rid of (摆脱)Queen Lu’s powers and made Liu Heng (刘恒) the new emperor of the Han Dynasty. Because Zhou Bo and Chen Ping drove the Lu’s relatives and officials out of power on the fifteenth day of the fist month, the emperor would leave his palace in civilian (平民) dress that night every year to celebrate the festival with the people on the streets. In ancient times, the word ye (夜, night) and xiao (宵, evening) were synonyms (同义字), and the first month of a year was called the yuan (元,primary) month. Therefore, Emperor Wen (汉文帝) named the fifteenth day of the first month the Lantern festival.
8、什么是清明节? What is the Clear and Bright Festival?
The Qingming Festival (清明节, Clear and Bright Festival) has been one of the most popular festivals in China for thousands of years. On the day, people go and pay respects to ancestors at their tombs. The festival takes place in early spring, when all life beings to renew (使更新). It is a good time for outings (远古).
The festival originates in the Spring and Autumn Period. At that time, Duke Wen of the State of Jin (晋文公) was forced to live in exile (流放) for 19 years, but later he became king of the state with the help of Duke Mu of the State of Qin (秦穆公). Duke Wen rewarded those who followed him in his exile according to their merits. One of these, Jie Zitui (介子推), decided not to accept wealth and a high position. He preferred to live a secluded life with his mother on Mountain Mianshan (绵山). The duke personally went to look for Jie Zitui there; but even after several days, he couldn’t find him. He knew that Jie Zitui loved his mother if he set the mountain on fire. This he did; and for three days and nights, the fire kept burning, until it finally reduced the whole area to ashes. Unfortunately, however, Jie and his mother were found burnt to death. It turned out that he would rather die than accept a reward. The duke was very sad. He had Jie and his mother buried on the mountain; and he gave an order that every year on the anniversary of Jie’s death, all the citizens of his state should put out their kitchen fire and eat cold food prepared beforehand. Later, this became a day o which people customarily swept and cleaned the tombs of their ancestors and mourn the dead. This custom continues until today.
9、端午节是怎样产生的? What is the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival?
The Dragon Boat Festival or Duanwu Festival (端午节) commemorates (纪念) Qu Yuan (屈原), a patriotic poet from the State of Chu during the Warring States Period. There Qu Yuan proposed a series of progressive (进步的) reforms, including domestic political reforms and a legal system set-up; but forces of corruption (堕落), represented by Jin Shang (靳尚) who opposed Qu Yuan, led the king not to trust him. Qu Yuan had to leave the capital and began a wandering (徘徊的) life. With patriotic (爱国的) fervor (热情), Qu Yuan produced many odes to display his concern for the fate of his state and people. In 278 B.C., when the Qin troops stormed the capital, and the downfall of Chu was expected at any moment, he took a rock in his arms and drowned himself in the Miluo River (汨罗江) near the present-day Changsha. He chose not to live and see that his state to be vanquished (征服) by the enemy. When the news of his death came, the local people rushed to the scene and rowed boats along the river in an attempt to find his remains; but they were never recovered. The people of Chu mourned his death, and every year afterwards they threw bamboo tubes filled with rice into the river as a sacrifice to him. This is supposed to be the origin of the custom of rowing dragon boats and eating zongzi (粽子) on the Dragon Boat Festival. 10、粽子是怎样产生的? What is the origin of zong zi?
Zong zi (粽子) is glutinous rice wrapped in reed (芦苇) leaves. One story tells about why rice is wrapped this way. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, there lived in Changsha a man named Ou Hui (欧回), who one day chanced to meet a man who called himself the Minister in Charge of the Affairs of Three Aristocratic Families (闾大夫). This man told Ou Hui, “It is very good of you to offer me gifts of rice, but most of them are stolen and devoured by the river dragon. In the future, please wrap them up in chinaberry (楝树) leaves and tie them up with color threads. The leaves and threads will scare away the dragon, and he will never touch them again.” People did as they were told, and this is why zong zi is made the way as it is.