Chinese Festivals

Chengdu Blogs, Chinese Festivals, Cultural

Celebrating the Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is celebrated in China on the 15th day of the New Lunar Year. It symbolises the passing of winter and the declining of darkness, and as the lanterns are released into the sky, also symbolises a new start. It’s a chance for families to get together again before life goes back to normal after the Spring Festival. The glutinous, black sesame filled rice balls, tangyuan 汤圆, are the traditional dessert for this period.

InternChina - Lanterns
InternChina – Lanterns

In Chengdu, the InternChina team and Co. celebrated this year’s Lantern Festival with our Language partner school. There was a variety of cultural activities we could take part in, which included tangyuan-making, calligraphy workshops, Chinese paper cutting, drinking tea and quizzes. Each of the activities was fun and engaging, but I do believe that most of us got stuck in the tangyuan room!

InternChina - Tangyuan making
InternChina – Tangyuan making

The sweet, squidgy dessert is made from glutinous rice flower with a bit of water. They can be either filled or unfilled, but traditionally they will have a black sesame paste filling. Nowadays you can find them stuffed with almost anything however – peanut butter is one of my favourites. Though a fairly simple concept, it’s not actually that easy to roll the balls and make sure none of the filling spills out and ‘stains’ the snow white dough. The mixture is also prone to drying out quickly, so there was some time pressure too. It took us a couple of tries to get them right!

InternChina - Tangyuan making
InternChina – Tangyuan making

Next stop was calligraphy. Here we had the opportunity to let out our inner artists and have a go with the Chinese calligraphy brush. Unlike the ones we’re used to from home, these brushes are usually thicker and softer and the correct way to hold them is also different (and quite tricky to begin with..).

InternChina - Calligraphy
InternChina – Calligraphy

In the evening, people gathered by the river to set off paper lanterns and enjoy the last few fireworks. There’s something very calming about watching the little red and yellow light rise into the sky


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Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Travel

Chinese New Year in Yunnan – a contrast to Sichuan

Firstly – Happy New Year – it is my pleasure to be writing my first blog in the year of the Horse – I hope you enjoy it! This blog is going to be a mixture of personal reflection on Chinese New Year, rough travel guide and random ramblings. I hope you can get through my mixed style and enjoy this blog.

InternChina – Chinese New Year Celebrations in Chengdu

After setting off a few Chinese firecrackers, enjoying a wonderful dinner with one our homestay families in Chengdu and successfully not getting blown up by the 1000’s of fireworks and firecrackers exploding all around us in the middle of the street whilst cars, motorbikes and people moved around the city. I was off to spend the holidays in a different province – Yunnan, China.

China has 22 provinces which are all vastly different to each other, which is why when someone asks – “what’s it like to live in China?” the answer can be somewhat problematic and relative to the individual. The answer may vary significantly if you live in the icy Heilongjiang Province, Tropical Island, Hainan or spicy Sichuan province (which is where Chengdu is located). In summary, China has many provinces which are bigger than many European countries and with distinctively different personalities, food and landscapes. One of the joys of living and travelling here is you can experience a very different China right on your doorstep.

The capital of Yunnan – Kunming is one hour flight from Chengdu and a little over 2 hours from Zhuhai and Qingdao. Famous for being the “Spring City” with year round temperate and sunny weather as well as being one of the most ethnically diverse provinces of China (25 of China’s 56 recognised ethnic groups call Yunnan home).

Whilst in Kunming, I noticed some distinct differences to Chengdu:-

(Even) more chaos – be careful when crossing the street here!
Sun… much more sun.
Less push chairs and more babies on their mother’s back (carried in ethnic minority style carriers).
Less tall buildings/advanced development – Kunming is growing but at a slower pace than Chengdu.
More travellers/hippies/backpackers and tourists (domestic and foreign)
More street vendors and street food
More exotic fruit and vegetables (fruit that is not available in Chengdu until Spring is already readily available)
More expensive taxi’s
Cheaper water
No humidity
Red earth and Eucalyptus trees (outside the city it can look a little like the Australian bush!)
High Altitude – you may feel tired for the first few days and this is where Chinese athletes come to train – try to run / cycle here at your normal pace and you will struggle.
You can get sunburnt in January and wear a T-Shirt.

Kunming is a great gateway to some wonderful destinations (and I am forgetting it borders Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos – which all require a separate blog) – go south to the beautiful rice terraces of Yuanyang, and further still to Jinghong and Xishuangbanna where free roaming elephants, jungle and spicy food next to the Mekong river await.

InternChina – Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan

Go North and you have tourist hot spots and hippy hangout Dali and further North Lijiang and the (highly recommended) Tiger Leaping gorge where you can hike spectacular scenery and look down at the Chinese tourists taking the “safe” road below while you climb along waterfalls and negotiate the mountain pass used by tea traders in years gone by and now travellers from around the world.

As you can probably tell I have a soft spot for Yunnan – it was my home for a year and a half and my girlfriend also comes from there. It was really great to enjoy the Spring Festival with her family. We had huge, delicious dinners, played a lot of Mahjong – a lot of money exchanged hands(even I got a couple of Hong Bao’s – Chinese lucky money). We also spent the holidays relaxing, watching movies and eating chocolate and exotic fruits! It was also a good chance to visit some parks and bars in Kunming which I used to go to regularly, (try) to do my Chinese homework and have a decent Indian curry! All in all a productive time in Kunming.

After spending a few days in Kunming I also took the chance to visit Yuxi and enjoy the Hot Spring’s and food in a city voted one of China’s best (small) cities. Beautiful flowers, Spring Festival traffic jams and endless blue skies greeted us as we drove to the city which is just two hours from Kunming.

InternChina – Me and my friend

It was also a chance to meet up with some old colleagues and friends in Kunming, enjoy a few beers and catch up. Spring festival can be a strange time for a foreigner in China – not knowing quite how to embrace a festival which is not your own, but as I found both two years ago and this year Chinese hospitality knows no end and if you happen to be in China during this time I am sure your new friends / colleagues will make it an unforgettable time.

China has so much more than the Great Wall, Shanghai skyscraper’s and Terracotta worriors, in every one of our cities Chengdu, Qingdao and Zhuhai you will find wonderful treasures hidden in and around the province. So apply now! China is a gift that keeps giving and I have found the longer and closer you look the more you can find in this vast country! Happy New Year!


Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Manchester

Chinese New Year in Manchester

As you can see from the number of InternChina blog posts on the topic, Chinese New Year is the most exciting time of year for us! Like Christmas to many westerners, Chinese New Year is a time when families get together and everybody enjoys a holiday. Now that I’m back in Manchester I wanted to see what the local Chinese community did to mark the occasion and I was pleasantly surprised!
On the night of Chinese New Year we took some friends to an authentic Chinese restaurant in town – Han Dynasty. This was quite simply the most authentic Chinese food I’ve ever had outside China. We love the northern-Chinese style ‘Jia Chang Cai – 家常菜’ such as Aubergine, Pepper and Potato (地三鲜), Chinese Schnitzel (锅包肉), Egg n Tomato (西红柿炒鸡蛋) and Garlic Shoots with shredded pork (蒜薹肉丝). These were all on the menu (so we ordered all of them!), as well as a huge range of dishes, full hot pot selection and on-the-table BBQ. Our friends were amazed and we have been talking about the food there for days afterwards! The restaurant also has a nice feeling of Authentic China, with Karaoke rooms downstairs and no other westerners (老外) in sight!

On the Sunday after Chinese New Year there is a festival to mark the New Year in Chinatown, with traditional performances, street food, some random fairground attractions and fish n chip stands (not very Chinese, but who cares!) and all culminating in a spectacular firework display. It was fun to celebrate with Chinese people in Manchester and made us miss China a lot! 新年快乐!

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Chinese Festivals

Jasper’s Chinese New Year

My Chinese New Year journey started on 30th January when we finished work. That night we first went out to dinner and then spent the rest of the evening drinking with all the interns in Zhuhai. It was a very good night with some amazing fireworks to celebrate the start of the new year.

InternChina – InternDinner

The next day I woke up quite early (with a slight hangover) to take the ferry to Shenzhen which is actually very close to Zhuhai. A friend of mine was there on holiday so we decided to meet up. When I arrived in Shenzhen I first met my friend and we then rushed to take the bus to Hong Kong. The bus ticket to Hong Kong was quite cheap and on a quiet day the journey only takes around 50 minutes, which thankfully for us, it was!

Once we arrived in Hong Kong we walked around the city and got lost. I didn’t mind as I actually find this the best way to explore a new city. Later that evening when we managed to find our bearings we returned to Shenzhen and spent the next two days there. My time in Shenzhen was very relaxed, we spent the days walking around, eating and chilling in the sun., which is my ideal holiday!

Because my first trip to Hong Kong was such a short trip I decided to go there again but this time all on my own and then return to Zhuhai the same day by ferry. But this time round the bus to Hong Kong was terrible, it was slow and overcrowded.

Once again when I arrived in Hong Kong, I spent the day walking around and sightseeing. I didn’t keep track of time and didn’t feel like rushing to take the ferry to Zhuhai, so I decided to find a hostel and stay in Hong Kong for the night. Easier said than done. Because it was Chinese New Year it was extremely busy time in Hong Kong and every hostel/hotel I came across was full!

After 2 hours of searching, I finally found a hostel with the one bed available. At the hostel I met some nice people who I then I went to dinner with. I was also able to discover the Hong Kong night life with them.

I had initially planned to wake up early to do some last minute sightseeing and allow myself plenty of time to get the ferry to Zhuhai. But as I overslept, I had to rush anyway. When I finally arrived to the port I heard the ferries to Zhuhai were full for that day. But it wasn’t a problem as there were other ways to get back to Zhuhai, this was to take the ferry to Macau and then cross the border. After hours of waiting, taking the ferry ride and a bus ride through Macau, I finally made it home! The remaining 2 days of the holiday, I did what every teenager loves to do, just sit back and relax.

There are plenty of cultural and fun activities to do in China during Chinese New Year. And more places to travel to than you can dream of. Do an internship in China and be here for the next Chinese New Year, apply now!

Chinese Festivals, Cultural

A wedding during Chinese New Year

This has been my second time spending the Spring Festival in China. And just the same as last time, I was heading to my Chinese friend’s hometown, only this time it was to attend her wedding. When I first came to China I met a very nice Chinese girl in my University, who helped me to settle into China and became a really good friend. Therefore, I was very happy to be able to attend her wedding as we hadn’t seen each other for around a year. I was even so lucky to meet my friend from Belgium, who had also been studying with us at that time. She had extended her travel through China just to be able to attend the wedding. The three of us had a lot to catch up with and it was nice to see each other together again and that we still had such a close bond.
First of all, it is a very unusual thing to get married during Chinese New Year in China, as it is their most important festival for the family and many people would not have time for a wedding. However as my friend’s now husband is from France and he works in another country, they had to get married during a time where he could get off work and would be able to come to China. Although the groom is from France, it was still a very Chinese wedding and the only foreigners were two of his former colleagues, my friend from Belgium and me. We were seated on the main table with the parents and the couple, which is a great honour. This was my first time at a Chinese wedding, so there were a few things very amusing for me.

InternChina – Chinese wedding

To me it was more like a show than a ceremony. At first they showed an informational video (which seemed to be taken from a TV documentary) about France and the region where the groom comes from,  this was then followed by a picture slide show of his family and friends. Later, they also had a small video of his parents giving their blessings to the couple, which was really nice, considering his family was not able to attend.

The ceremony started with a drumming performance by four girls in red glittery dresses on the stage, which made me feel more in a circus than at a wedding.

InternChina – Angel cherub

Finally the groom marched down the aisle to the Star Wars main theme, which was framed by blue lit angel cherubs. The bride then entered with her father taking her to the middle of the aisle to angel like music. The groom then had to come and fetch her by bowing to the father and kneeling to his beloved. The two of them proceeded to the stage where they stood behind the ‘altar of love’ lighting a candle together and pouring champagne into a pyramid of glasses. After that, they stepped on a small round platform to perform the exchange of the rings. All of this was accompanied by the host talking non-stop and two camera men following their every move.

That’s for the ‘classic’ part, because what followed then was an alternation of singing and dancing performances by the group of girls who changed into a variety of costumes, or the couple being called to the stage for small games. A tradition for Chinese weddings is the groom and bride have to go around every table to toast the people, the couple was involved in so many activities, they were hardly able to sit down and eat of the masses of food that kept coming. And even when they got the chance to sit at the table, the camera men asked them to feed each other or kiss. There were also people coming over to the table to toast again which happened throughout the whole evening. My Belgian friend and me just sat in the middle of all of this and tried to grasp what was going on.

One of the games on stage showed a Chinese wedding custom, the bride had to sit down in a red carriage and the groom and his friend had to carry her through the hall. Traditionally the bride would be carried to her wedding like this by servants in a closed carriage, so she would be shielded from the eyes of the people.

InternChina – red carriage

At some point a cook entered the stage with a huge fish on a plate to majestic music. With a magnified voice he stated into the microphone: The fish has arrived! He then received a red envelope from my friend’s mother. Later my friend explained to me, that during the whole meal there had been no fish (which they would usually have during New Year). This fish was only for her family to take home and eat later to bring them luck, especially for the New Year.

Then all of a sudden people started leaving, as the main event seemed to be over. Within 5 minutes the hall was empty and people started cleaning up already. No party until dawn, no dancing, no cake. This wedding left me a little surprised and confused, but it was definitely an interesting experience. I would say it was a Chinese wedding with a touch of western culture. My friend was wearing a white western wedding dress at first, then later changed into a red 旗袍 qípáo, and finally changed into a more comfortable black dress in the end, which I heard is very common for Chinese weddings.

I have never been to another Chinese wedding, so I cannot say in which aspects this one differed from typical Chinese weddings, but it was very special for me and different from anything I experienced before. If you have the chance to attend a wedding here, I am sure you will enjoy it and learn more about Chinese culture.

Want to experience a crazy Chinese wedding party? Then apply now. Come to China  and find Chinese friends, who might get married soon 😉  

Chengdu Blogs, Chinese Festivals, Things To Do in Chengdu, Travel, Weekend Trips

Spring Festival – Emei Mountain 2012

Back in 2012 when I was first in Chengdu, I had the chance to experience my first Spring Festival in China. After the first semester of my studies finished, I had a long period of time to travel around but as my friend was coming to visit me, I decided to stay put in Chengdu.
The Spring Festival was approaching and you could see quite a lot the people leaving Chengdu to go back to their hometown to celebrate the festival.  As the streets of Chengdu were emptying we came to the conclusion that there would be no reason to spend Spring Festival in the city, so we decided to spend it elsewhere. We wanted something different but somewhere that wasn’t too far, something that would be an unforgettable experience for all of us. My friend suggested Emei Mountain because she heard that the sunrise was amazing. So that was it, the decision was made, we would spend Spring Festival at the top of a mountain!

Two nights were booked and we were excited about our adventure to Emei Mountain. To prepare for our travels we bought snacks, fruit, water and some instant noodles. We also bought some heated pads that help keep you warm. If your feet are prone to the cold like mine, the heated pads that are made to fit nicely inside your shoes will do wonders for your toes!

InternChina – Waiting for the bus with our instant noodles

Our first day was spent travelling and trekking up Emei. When we arrived at the bottom of Emei, we purchased a bamboo stick and some ice grips each to help us with the trek. We then took another bus up to take us part way up the mountain. On the way we could see the weather changing drastically, snow started to appear on the roads and we felt like our life was in danger because the roads were so narrow and close to the edge of the mountain. Nevertheless, we made it safely and arrived at our destination to a completely white covered mountain. We then made our own way up to our hotel and trekked for what felt like eternity.

InternChina – Emei Mountain

Our second day started early as the main reason for going to Emei was to see the sunrise, but to our disappointment as we were making our way to the top, we could see the skies were not clear enough that day. But whilst we were there we did manage to take some great photos including the Golden Buddha. That morning we had also decided to shorten our visit for several different reasons. But before making our way home we had to make a detour to a different part of the mountain to do some skiing!

InternChina – Elephant

Although we were unable to see the sunrise, the trip to Emei was still unforgettable in so many different ways. Just to name a few, the scenery was of course amazing but also funny memories that we were able to take home with us such as the management of the hotel refusing to give us extra blankets and shutting the door in angrily our faces, and the time when we asked the ski instructor for advice on skiing (it was our first time), his response was ‘Go with your guts!’.

So apply for an internship in China now. In your free time you can travel to many different places and have your own memorable experiences!

Cantonese, Chinese Festivals, Cultural

Celebrating the Spring Festival

A few of our Chinese colleagues across our three offices in China are sharing how they usually spend the most important festival of the year.  🙂
ZhuhaiSunny Sui
The Spring Festival is approaching and all the people are starting their preparations for the most important festival. I grew up in the North of China and have only been living in Canton for just over 12 years. Although the Spring Festival has the same meaning for all Chinese, the customs are really different. Today, I am going to talk about the Cantonese’s customs for Chinese New Year. For Cantonese, the most important thing to do for Spring Festival is to stroll around at the flower markets. The flower markets open a week before Chinese New Year. During that time the long streets are full of flowers, and sometimes you can even find stadiums filled with them. People believe strolling around flower markets will bring them luck for the new year, for this reason they will also buy some flowers to decorate their houses. The most popular flowers are orchids, orange trees, solanum mammosum, peach blossom trees and narcissus. So, Cantonese are the most romantic Chinese!

InternChina – At the flower market

I went to the Chinese New Year flower market last Saturday and bought some orchids to decorate my home. For me, this is one of the most important activities for Spring Festival. I like flowers very much and I can’t wait to go to Guangzhou on Wednesday to see some of the biggest flower markets. Last Chinese New Year we spent the Spring Festival in Guangzhou with my family and my sister-in-law’s family. We had lots of dinners together, we went shopping and went for several trips around Guangzhou.

InternChina – Orchids

Qingdao Shona Shi
As tradition, my parents and I would celebrate the Chinese New Year with my grandparents and uncle’s family. In the morning of New Year’s Eve, we would start the busy day with breakfast together, we would usually eat steamed buns called 包子, bāozi. After that we would put the character 福, and the couplet on the front door, which represents our hope and wishes for the coming year. For lunch, we would usually have a variety of dishes with rice.

InternChina – Decoration shopping

In the afternoon, we would sweep the graves of our ancestors, and burn some fake money to express how much we miss them and “provide” them with money in their afterlife. This is also believed to be a way to invite them back home and celebrate the new year with us, although I do find this concept kind of scary! In the evening, we would have a feast and watch the spring festival gala together. The feast consists of seafood, meat, vegetables and most important dumplings. On the first day of new year, we would greet our relatives and friends and give them our best wishes.

ChengduKenny Qing
Nowadays there are more and more people from outside of Chengdu moving here to work or live, therefore making Chengdu really crowded. But during the Spring Festival the usual crowded transportation and streets will become deserted, you will find only a few people walking on the street as most of these people will go back to their home town and spend the Spring Festival with their family. For the locals, most of them will stay at home or visit their relatives or friends. I’m also a local and since I can remember, during this time my family will prepare lots of different kinds of food for Spring Festival such as sausages, spicy chicken, soup and several small snacks. When the day comes we invite all of our relatives to have lunch together.

InternChina - Sichuan Chinese sausage
InternChina – Sichuan Chinese sausage

After lunch, sometimes we will go to the temple to make a wish to the Buddha. We usual ask for good health for the family for the coming year, but others will also ask for wealth, which I think the Buddha will not agree with. After this, we will return home and my grandma will suggest to the other adults that they play mahjong together, which they will do for the rest of the day. As for the kids, we will all go outside to play and watch the fireworks. Over the years, I have found that the fireworks don’t interest me as much as before, for me I think that the most happy thing about this time is receiving the lucky money, 红包, hóngbāo, from the older relatives. Here, I have to mention one other thing, never believe your mum when she says that she will help you save it in the bank and give it to you later when you grow up!

Come to China and learn more about the Spring Festival! Apply now!

Chinese Festivals, Cultural

Year of the Horse

As the Chinese say, “A good horse never turns its head to eat the grass behind.” So look ahead, not back.
According to the Chinese Zodiac 2014 is the year of the horse. It starts from January 31 ,2014 until February 18, 2015. Also people born in the year 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002 are horses. People born in these years are smart, cheerful, popular, fun and loving.

InternChina - Happy New Year
InternChina – Happy New Year

Strengths that come with being an horse are cleverness, kindness and talent. Although they are stubborn and sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive and earthy people. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely.

Horses just as all the animals in the zodiac have their weaknesses as well. Their interest may be superficial and lacking real substance. In all other aspects than their daily work they are usually impatient and hot headed. They are independent and rarely listen to advice. Although flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful due to their lack of finance knowledge and budgetary efficiency. They tend to interfere in many things but frequently fail to finish projects of their own.

For the ones who believe in fortune foretelling, read carefully:

In 2014, their fortune will fluctuate in all aspects, so it will require great care. Stress might become a bigger issue, in which case they are advised to talk about it with close friend or councilors, and take part in group activities. If they treat people around them friendly and behave righteously, they will get through the year smoothly.

Career wise they will not seem to keep a harmonious relationship with colleagues, and are easily offended this year. Sometimes they doubt themselves too much, leading to a slow but steady loss of confidence. They will seek confirmation again and again from people around them, in this case be confident and talk about it with family than complaining to colleagues. Keep a low profile and get along with your boss, then your achievement will come.

Their financial fortune will be unstable in 2014. It seems that there will be a much unexpected cost. Consider accepting others suggestions when managing money matters.

The love life of horse people will be so-so, mama huhu like the Chinese say. Singles will meet several people they have feeling for, but none of them will be the right one. If faced with a dilemma, they’d better refer to the idea or suggestion of their relatives and friends. Husband and wife will argue a lot this year, this can be avoided through focussing on communication and mutual understanding. For all lovers, mutual trust is the secret for an everlasting relationship

This year horses might suffer some discomforts health wise. Unexpected injuries might arise by knives and other sharp objects, so be careful! Females should pay attention to problem in urinary system and males need to care more about their stomach. Travelling will help their health. Also remember not to eat too much for each meal.

If you want to learn more about Chinese Culture, apply now!