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.
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.
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.
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 😉
InternChina planned another fun trip for their interns during the Dragon Boat Festival, this time going to Xiamen! The city is a mere 12 hour bus ride away, which only costs 300 RMB (36.5 €). Having left at 8:00pm Sunday night, we arrived at 8:00am Monday morning, and straight away started our sight-seeing.
First stop: Xiamen University, said to be the most beautiful university in all of China. Across the street was a beautiful temple, with a mountain to climb to see the city views.
Xiamen’s beach is very beautiful and has a lot of fun activities, one of which is to rent a 3-person bicycle and ride down the coast. So after visiting the university and temple, we all had fun jumping into the water (most jumped in with all their clothes on!) and enjoying a cool-down in the summer heat.
After lunch, we took the bus and ferry to Gulangyu Island to experience the romantic beauty of the island at night. Gulangyu Island is a car-free island and is home to around 20,000 people. Having been a treaty port after the First Opium War, the island is filled with Victorian-era style architecture and British influence. There is a great international culture of pub drinking and relaxing in the evening with friends. We all enjoyed walking around the island, having a local dinner and relaxing in the main square with a couple of beers.
There was an abundance of street BBQ everywhere, selling delicious-smelling sea-food.
The last ferry leaves Gulangyu Island at 12:00am. Xiamen has many Bar-streets, so if you’re not spending the night on the island there are plenty of other places in the city to have a good night!
The following morning, we checked out of our hotel and set out for our journey to the Tea Villages of Fujian, a five hour bus ride away from Xiamen. Although everyone was exhausted from the night before, the scenery viewed from the bus was too stunning to miss; beautiful mountains with tea farms, rice terraces and banana plantations.
We arrived at the World Cultural Heritage – NaJing Yun Shui Yao, where we would spend the next two days. Fujian is important to China, as it produces black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea and scented tea, of which only the green tea was not pioneered in Fujian. This tea is sold all over China. For all tea-lovers, this is the place to stock up! Yana (a Russian intern) and I bought two 1-kg bags of tea for as little as 65 RMB (8 €)! The Chinese that came on the trip of course left with bags and bags of tea to bring home.
We ate lunch in a local restaurant that was situated in a vegetable garden. All the food that we ate was grown in that vegetable garden, which made the meal very special.
Afterwards, we went to the famous Round Houses of Fujian. These were built by families around 700 years ago to protect themselves against brigands. The houses only consist of one entrance and small windows on the outside walls and do not have walls on the ground level. The center holds a courtyard and a small temple. The external walls are typically 1 meter thick, and are three- to four-stories high. Each Round House could house up to 100 people, the typical size of one family during the period. The architectural style of the Round Houses are very unique in China, as most houses usually only consist of one- or two-stories. The houses are set in a landscape of flowing hills covered with Tea plantations.
We were able to go into the houses and see how they look and are set up. Most of the houses still have families living in them, and they were very kind to us. There were little shops set up inside, and Ruary (a British intern) had the benefit of learning how to play the Chinese flute!
There were also many tea-stalls, where they gave us some tea-samples and did the traditional tea-pouring ceremony.
The lovely hotel we were staying in on the river made us dinner and sat us in the hotel courtyard where we enjoyed a cozy and delicious dinner, and afterwards an abundance of beer and games. Because of the traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival, we were setting off fire-crackers and fireworks all night, as was everyone else in Fujian!
The next morning was one of leisure. Having been playing games and listening to music, some of us only got to bed at 4:00am in the morning, and were really excited to sleep in. Fire-crackers were going off all night and morning, so I was awoken to what I thought was a bomb. We had a couple of hours to kill before the bus would leave for Zhuhai at 1:00pm, so we all set out to find some local lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the tea village.
Today, I want to tell you a little about how we get to know our host families.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked our Qingdao Customer Relations Manager Rita Jin, if she could take me with her when she goes to meet a new host family next time. She said yes, and I was quite excited to go a couple of days later.
After a 20minutes bus ride from the city centre, we arrived at the living compound and started searching for the apartment where we were to meet our new host family. The area was really nice and people were helpful. I have seen many living compounds in China already, but this one was bigger than the ones I normally visited. While searching for the right building we found a big frozen lake in the middle and thought that this place would be great in summer for our interns and a really nice place to live while being in Qingdao for an internship or language classes.
After we found the right building, we were warmly welcomed into the family’s home. They seemed to be really nice and had just moved in, so they were apologizing a hundred times about their ‘chaos’ (seriously, it was very clean and comfy and not chaotic or dirty at all). Rita talked to them for quite a while, and it was interesting to see how many questions have to be asked and how long it takes to make sure that the family really wants foreign students in their life. Rita was really great at her job in explaining everything that is important for the family to know about foreign students, what problems might occur, what is expected of the family etc. The host mum also had a lot of questions, especially about the general language level of our interns and if the bedroom they had to offer would be ok. I must say: The bedroom was really, really nice and I would immediately go and live with that family!
I am sure everybody who’s coming to China with InternChina and wants to live in a host family will have a really good time and many great experiences. You will be able to learn a lot about Chinese culture and traditions but at the same time also find out what modern Chinese life is like. Of course you have to restrain yourself a little with going out and partying while you live with a family, especially if they have a young son or daughter, but what you will get in return will definitely be worth it!
If you are still not convinced, watch some of our video references here.
Last sunday, Amber’s parents invited Hanna, Lisa, Jack and me to their place to celebrate the Chinese New Year, it was a very nice and relaxed day.
In the Chinese tradition you don’t need to finish dishes, and it’s a sign of respect for your host if you leave some food in your plate. So Amber’s mother cooked us many excellent dishes and the starters would already have been enough, we spent most part of the afternoon eating (and drinking!).
In the late afternoon, Amber’s father taught us how to make our own Jiaozi (Chinese Raviolis), with meat and vegetables. We all had to try to do at least one, I am of course a natural, Hanna and Lisa were not bad as well but Jack somehow managed to elope this tricky task. After making them we ate them (again eating…), so that evening we were not hungry at all!
In the evening we met most of our interns, and we went to the 4th May square to light fireworks together. Since not everyone is staying in a host family and lighting fireworks is part of the tradition when celebrating New Year, we thought that it would be fun to make everyone at least buy something and light it up together. The Chinese people around us had a lot of fun as well watching foreigners lighting little tanks and rainbow fireworks, as well as big fat firecrackers.
For me it was the first time that I celebrate Chinese New Year, when I arrived I thought that there will be some parade or things like this in the streets.
But not at all, it’s the exact opposite, it’s a familial celebration, Chinese people are visiting their relatives and Qingdao was very calm during the whole week, most shops and restaurants were closed and almost no-one was on the streets…Except for millions of fireworks which seemed to be exploding everywhere all day and night!
The beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year is known as Spring Festival春节 [chūn jié] . It is one of the most ceremonious traditional festivals of the Chinese people, and also a symbol of unity, prosperity and new hope for the future. The Chinese New Year has 4000 years of history!
Chun Jie is coming and all people are starting their preparations for this most important festival. I have been growing up in the North of China but not I’ve already been living in Canton for 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 strolling on the flower markets. The flower markets always open a week before Chinese New Year. In that time, usually long streets are full of flowers, and sometimes you can even find stadiums filled with flowers. People believe strolling around flower markets will bring them luck for the new year and so 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! 😉
Another important thing for Cantonese is shopping! We will buy lots of nuts, candies, fruits and lots of traditional snacks, such as sweet white gourd, sweet lotus root and so on…
Yes, all sweets and chocolate!
You find something interesting? Yes, red colour. During Chinese new year time, if you go to the market or supermarket, you will find most of things packed in red – it’s China’s lucky colour.
Next important thing is Spring festival decoration! Yes, also all red and gold colours!
Finally, I want to say Happy Spring Festival to all of you!
You want to accompany Sunny on her next Spring Festival shopping trip? Send us you application now!
Jenny und Ich sind immer für euch unterwegs, um neue Dinge zu lernen und auszuprobieren, die tollsten Plätze Qingdaos zu finden und natürlich alle nur möglichen Restaurants zu testen.
Letzte Woche dachten wir uns das man diese Sachen doch am besten einmal verbinden sollte, also haben wir uns mit zwei chinesischen Freunden beim Carrefour getroffen, die uns beibringen wollten Jiaozi zu machen (ausprobieren, lernen und essen in einem…besser als ein Überraschungsei!)
Jiaozi – das sind diese kleinen Teig-Dinger mit Füllung die man bei uns meistens nur als Dumplings oder chinesische Ravioli kennt – sehen auf den ersten Blick ziemlich einfach aus, aber unsere beiden Lehrer haben es sich zum Auftrag gemacht, uns tatsächlich jeden einzelnen Schritt dieses traditionellen chinesischen Gerichts beizubringen.
Hier ist also InternChinas ultimative Anleitung zum Jiaozi selbst machen:
1. Als erstes braucht man Chinesen. Am besten zwei, falls einer nicht so gut kochen kann, wie er/sie behauptet.
2. Treffen bei einem großen Supermarkt wie Carrefour. Dort hineingehen, davon ausgehen das man alles findet was man braucht und nach einer Stunde orientierungslosem Herumspazieren endlich begreifen, dass die grundlegenden Zutaten schon ausverkauft sind.
3. Auf einen Markt fahren, fehlende Zutaten besorgen und noch ein bisschen Backup-Essen kaufen, falls die Jiaozi nichts werden. Außerdem: Bier kaufen nicht vergessen!
4. Jetzt fängt der wichtige Teil erst an! Ab geht’s nach Hause, Lebensmittel auspacken, erstmal ausruhen und ein Bier aufmachen, sich selbst dazu gratulieren Etappe 1 überstanden zu haben (wer schonmal in einem chinesischen Supermarkt war, weiß was ich meine).
5. Nachdem du nun schön entspannt auf dem Sofa sitzt und darauf wartest, dass sich deine Jiaozi irgendwie von selbst machen, kommt einer deiner Freunde und drückt dir ein riesiges Bündel Jiucai (ein bisschen ähnlich wie Bärlauch) in die Hand, leider macht sich der Jiucai nicht von selbst sauber.
6. Zum Reinigen des Jiucais wirst du wahrscheinlich ziemlich lange brauchen. Nicht so einfach mit den Jiaozi wie du dir das gedacht hast? Ging uns genauso! Nach einer wiederholten Verschnaufpause nimmst du auf einmal einen leckeren Duft aus der Küche wahr, Schlussfolgerung: Besser mal nachschaun was da passiert!
7. Schritt 7 ist einfach: Schau blöd aus der Wäsche! Deine Freunde haben die ganze Jiaozi-Füllung innerhalb deiner 2 Sekunden Ausruhen zubereitet, naja schaut eh ganz einfach aus: Bisschen Ei braten, Jiucai hacken, irgendwelche Soßen dazugeben…ähm ja, nächstes mal vielleicht doch lieber nicht so viel Faulenzen, als guter Praktikant darf man sich das ja schließlich auch nicht erlauben. 😉
8. Im nächsten Schritt sollten wir lernen wie man den Teig zubereitet. Eigentlich schauts ganz einfach aus. Ein bisschen Jiaozi Mehl mit lauwarmen Wasser mischen (dafür werden natürlich Stäbchen benutzt) und dann kneten, Mehl dazu, Wasser dazu, kneten. Das ganze wiederholt man so oft bis man einen riesen Klumpen Teig hat.
9. Da wir jetzt wissen, wie das mit dem Teig geht, benutzen wir vorgefertigte, auf dem Markt gekaufte Teigstücke, um die Jiaozi zu machen. Man nimmt ein Jiaozipir (das Teigstück) in die Hand, tut ein bisschen von der Füllung rein, folgt den Handgriffen der chinesischen Freunde, hat dabei keine Ahnung was man eigentlich tut und: Voilà! Du hast dein erstes selbstgemachtes Jiaozi!
Geheimtipp: Möglichst professionell gucken, auch wenn du keine Ahnung hast was du tust!
10. Nachdem wir diesen Vorgang ein paar gefühlte 100mal wiederholt haben, hatten wir eine recht ansehnliche Menge Jiaozi fabriziert. Der Rest war einfach: Wasser aufkochen, sobald es kocht Jiaozi dazugeben, sobald das Wasser wieder kocht einen Becher Wasser dazugeben. Das ganze dreimal wiederholen, dann Jiaozi abschöpfen.
11. Jiaozi in eine Schüssel geben, ein wenig Essig und Sojasauce dazu: Guten Appetit! 🙂
Natürlich gibt es noch viele andere Möglichkeiten Jiaozi zuzubereiten. Man braucht auch nicht zwingend Freunde die es selbst können. Wenn du zum Beispiel in einer chinesischen Gastfamilie wohnst, gibt es sicher Familienmitglieder die dir 包饺子 (bao1jiao3zi – Jiaozi ‘rollen’) beibringen können und sich freuen ihr Wissen mit dir zu teilen. Schau doch einfach mal auf unserer Webseite nach, wir haben viele tolle Gastfamilien! Du kannst uns auch eine Email schreiben: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you know the Winter Solstice? Have you heard of solar term?
The Winter Solstice in China
There are 24 solar terms in a year in Chinese calendar, such as Spring begins, Great heat – The Winter Solstice is the 22nd solar term in a year, most times it’s on 22nd Dec (sometimes on 21st or 23rd) and it is the day that the sun radiates the earth on the tropic of Capricorn directly, so the daytime is shortest and the night is the longest in the Northern Hemisphere during the whole year. In ancient China, people thought the day was important, it was worth being celebrated.
The way to celebrate
The history of celebrating the Winter Solstice can be tracked back to Han Dynasty, but the way to celebrate is different from today, it was more grand in ancient times. Almost all the emperors paid attention to the Winter Solstice, even the emperors in Qing Dynasty attended the ceremony every year to celebrate.
Nowadays in northern China, people always make and eat dumplings with the family to celebrate. Why do people eat dumplings on the Winter Solstice? Because there is a story: if you don’t eat dumplings on the Winter Solstice, your ears will be frozen off in winter! Of course it’s fake. People made up the story to let all people eat dumplings and drink the soup of dumplings to keep warm in cold winter and to keep the memory of Chinese Medicine holy.
People in southern China eat glue pudding and something else instead of dumplings to celebrate, such as red bean rice in Jiangnan area, rice balls in some other areas in southern China.
Is there any tradition in your country to celebrate the Winter Solstice? Please share with us! Come to China, live in a host family and learn more about Chinese culture: email@example.com or check out our website www.internchina.com