We find that many people planning their China vacation want to know what life is like for Chinese people in China. Truthfully, it's unlikely that you'll spend much time in Chinese homes during your China tour. Like everywhere else in the world people generally want to get to know you before asking you to travel to their homes and the busy itinerary for a good China trip doesn't lend itself to that. So today we thought we'd take a look at the latest trend in Chinese housing.
Small and Possibly Not so Comfortable
You may have heard a lot about China becoming "the richest nation in the world” and whilst it's true that China's economy is in the process of becoming the world's largest – it's not entirely true that it makes China the richest nation in the world. As you'll see during your trip many Chinese people are still relatively poor in comparison to their Western counterparts. This is a fact of population size (there are 1.3 billion Chinese people sharing the wealth compared to only 300 million or so sharing America's wealth).
This means that many Chinese people never get to take a vacation apart from returning home during the Spring Festival and many more are struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.
In much of China the ordinary person has been completely priced out of the housing market. This can be confusing to visitors because if you travel round Beijing and Shanghai you'll notice that many new properties are completely vacant. That's because property has become an alternative to bank accounts for many of China's mega-rich. It's not even economic for these investments to be rented out – so they remain empty.
In the city of Xi'an they've decided to do something about this. You could, if you wanted, visit the latest fad in Chinese housing during your China tour but we'd recommend the terracotta warriors as a better option. For the truth is these may be the smallest homes of anywhere in the world. Each apartment is only 15 square meters in size. That's even smaller than the smallest apartments in Hong Kong (another China vacation destination) where space is at a critical premium. What makes them appealing to the locals though is the extremely low cost of ownership. They are only 120,000 RMB each (approx. $20,000 USD). There's a 50,000 RMB down payment required and the mortgage is likely to be 700 RMB (just over $100) a month
Believe it or not the demonstration version of these homes show each one fitted with a bathroom, a clothes closet, a desk, a double bed and a wardrobe – so they aren't totally unsuitable for single life in the big city. The rooms in your China tour hotel rooms are likely to be much bigger than these apartments though.
The Chinese media has already bestowed an affectionate nickname on these kinds of apartment and the term has already stuck in the minds of the Chinese public; "Snail homes".
A China vacation takes in an enormous number of sights and places in a short period of time. If you fancy a break from the hectic pace of a China tour why not get out and travel to one of the nicest places to be in China; a park? A trip to a park gives you a chance to connect with the real lives of China's people and to see many traditional Chinese pastimes in practice. You'll find music, singing, dancing, tai chi, kite flying and much more in almost all Chinese parks.
Our Recommendations for Five Great Parks in Beijing
Old Summer Palace
This park can be found at Yuan Ming Yuan subway station on Line 4. It's actually a set of 3 parks which were designed to serve the Summer Palace. The Palace itself is now sadly gone – it was destroyed once in 1860 by the British and then again in 1900 by a military tour of 8 allied nations which ransacked China.
However, there's still plenty to see in the park. Watch out for the zodiac water clock which is in the nearby Poly Art Museum. Otherwise just take a casual trip around the fountains, European style ruins, the maze (a hedge based labyrinth) and grab a picnic in the gardens. If you're feeling like doing something more strenuous then take a boat out on the lake. This park really is one of China's hidden gems.
You might be surprised to find a park on the side of Tiananmen Square but it's a great place to escape the tour groups and grab a little tranquility in the most hectic location in China. There are some cool ruins of an ancient temple to be found. If you're lucky you may also find members of the Beijing Choral team singing their hearts out to classical music.
The Grand View Garden
This is one of China's most famous parks. You'll have to travel out by taxi to see it but it's worth the trip to Xuanwu District. It's a replica of a park that was described in one of China's four classic novels - "Dream of Red Mansions". It has pavilions, a beautiful scenic lake and a wonderful zig-zagging bridge network to take in. It also featured in the smash Chinese TV hit based on the book. It's truly lovely and a great place to see for something different on a China vacation.
Ri Tan Park
Jump on the subway and take Line 2 to Jianguamen and find one of China's oldest parks. Ri Tan which means the Temple of the Sun was originally built to display an altar for sacrificial rites. It's ringed with lovely restaurants and is very popular with the lcoals.
Di Tan Park
Also on Line 2 though this time at Yonghegong there's a park for the Temple of the Earth; it's built in a square format to represent the earth. Once again this park was originally designed for sacrifices but today it's a popular meeting spot for the elderly. There's a fantastic temple fair to be found here most days.
Today we continue our tour of the imperial heritage of China. We’ve found that it helps travelers to enjoy their China trip when they have a better idea of Chinese history. This time we’ll be looking at the Qin Dynasty who gave China its name. They were also the first truly Imperial Chinese dynasty and you'll see plenty of artifacts on your China vacation from this period in history. So why not take 5 minutes before your China travel and discover the Qin?
The Qin Dynasty
The Qin (or Chin) took their name from the Qin State which would have spread over about ½ of what is modern China. As with many dynasties they came to power through conquest and the leadership crushed 6 other states to bring them under a single ruler.
Feizi was the first Qin ruler and he was given the rule of Qin City back in the 9th century B.C. Today there’s nothing left of the Qin City and there’s a modern city called Tianshui on the site. It would be nearly 300 years before the Qin State began its first military tour of operations in China. However, the local tribes put up a strong fight and it took until the 4th century B.C. before the Qin established themselves as the true local power.
The greatest Qin statesman was Lord Shang Yang. His military victories came at the price of abandoning the tradition of honorable fighting that had been traditional in China until that time. This tradition resulted in military leaders waiting until their opponents were ready for them instead of attacking at the point of greatest advantage. Lord Yang’s troops would not cede the advantage and his victories would travel the length and breadth of ancient China because of it.
However, Lord Yang’s head was given a permanent vacation from his body for upsetting a Qin King and it wouldn’t be until 221 BC that King Zheng of the Qin finally conquered the whole Qin state. 7 years later the Qin attempted to conquer Southern China but this was a disaster. 500,000 would travel south but over 100,000 were slaughtered when they failed to adapt to the guerilla warfare that was used in the South. However, the loss enabled the Qin to develop water borne infrastructure which would allow them to conquer during a second campaign a few years later.
The Qin could not hold onto power though. Their push into Mongolia was a disaster. Their troops could not gain sufficient purchase to conquer the Northern States. Then the inept Qin Er Shi came to power. He wasted the treasury, increased taxes, and punished messengers who delivered messages he didn’t want to hear. The dynasty would trip and fall soon after and it may not come as a surprise that this ridiculous behavior led to civil uprising all over China.
By 202 B.C. the Qin capital had been destroyed, numerous uprisings had been put down and the Qin state was fatally weakened and deeply unpopular. This set the stage for the rise of the Han Dynasty – the imperial lineage that would lend its name to the people of China. When you encounter the Qin during your China vacation you may want to think of a people who spent hundreds of years to gain their objectives and then squandered it in a small handful of years.
If your China tour is taking in Hong Kong then you can take a walk down the Avenue of Stars and stand in the footprints of Jackie Chan. In fact the Avenue of Stars allows you to take a pleasant stroll along the harbor on your China vacation and stand in the footprints of a lot of Chinese film stars though you may not have heard of many of them. However, Jackie Chan is someone you are bound to have heard of before your China trip though you may not be aware of how influential he is in Chinese society. So before you travel to China – here's a quick guide to Jackie Chan.
His Early Life
Jackie Chan's parents had to travel from mainland China to Hong Kong as refugees from the civil war. He did much of his growing up at the French Embassy in Victoria Peak as his parents worked there. In 1960 he began to study at the China Drama Academy where he would learn the Beijing Opera style as well as martial arts.
His first film role came at the age of 5 and his first starring role was in 1962 when he was only 8. When he turned 17 he began work as a stuntman for the Bruce Lee movies. Two years later he would make the only movie in which he does not carry out an action sequence; All in the Family – it is also famous for being his first nude appearance on screen (the other is in a nearly unknown work called The Shinjuku Incident).
His Acting Career
Jackie Chan made the trip from China to Hollywood in the 1980's and there he became a popular (if minor) star of action comedies. He would give up on Hollywood in the quest for Eastern superstardom in 1985 and began to make a series of lucrative martial arts movies in Hong Kong. During this period he broke the record for the most takes for a single scene in a movie – one that's likely to stand for a long time as it took 2900 attempts to get it right. He must have needed a vacation after that!
In the late 80s he returned to Hollywood from China again and this time he became a bigger success. Though he didn't achieve a blockbuster as a leading man until the 1998 comedy Rush Hour. His final action movie was the Karate Kid remake in 2011. He said that he was tired of action films and that he needed to begin looking after himself properly.
Every time you see Jackie Chan trip down some stairs or fall off a building – there's a good chance that he really did that. He is famous, not just in China but globally, for having performed almost all of his own stunts and holds the World Record for the most stunts performed by a living actor. This isn't without consequence – he has broken almost every bone in his body performing these stunts.
If you'd take a vacation in China during the mid-2000's you might have been surprised to discover Jackie Chan providing the voice over for his own animated TV series. He's also done some work as a judge on a show to find his own successor for action and stunt work.
If you're lucky then you'll hear some of Jackie's music on your China tour. He's released over 20 records and as a trained opera star – he's not bad at all. He even sung at the Beijing Olympics.
Shanghai offers a world of opportunities for sightseeing on your China vacation. It’s possibly the world’s largest city and that gives you a chance to travel around and see something unique during your China tour. There’s more to China than many people discover and today we’ll help you prepare for your China trip with a whistle stop tour of some of Shanghai’s less well known sights.
The Matchbox and Brand Museum
In Changfeng Park you’ll find a couple of museums and the better of the two is the Matchbox and Brand Museum. This is a wonderful place to while away a few hours on your China vacation. It’s a celebration of Shanghai’s business history. Here you’ll find Chinese advertising and marketing material from through the ages. One of the most intriguing parts of the exhibit is the enormous collection of vintage matchboxes. These are from all over the world and if you’re going to make the trip to the museum you’ll want to save them to last as they are absolutely spectacular. Don’t forget to take a photo of the exterior of the building either – in true China style one of the walls is designed to represent a giant matchbox.
The Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum
This museum in the heart of the Hongkou District is a lasting testament to China’s contribution to World War 2. You may not know it but over 25,000 Jews made the perilous trip from Nazi-Germany to safe haven in Shanghai. This museum tells their story. It is, as you might expect, a shocking story so be prepared. The area around the museum is also worth a break in your China tour and the street next to the museum is a great place to find locals enjoying a wide variety of sports in the streets of Shanghai.
The Imperial Examination System Museum
If you’re thinking – I’m not taking time out from my China vacation to spend it looking at examinations; we understand and the museum is a difficult one to make sense of at times given the minimal English language displays. Though the Imperial examination system was once the envy of the world; it’s not enough by itself to take a tour over to Jiading District. There are some cool displays of waxworks too. The best reason to visit is that museum is in fact in an old Confucian temple and the grounds are wonderful.
The Gallery of Antique Music Boxes
There’s something quite lovely about ancient music boxes. The craftsmanship is a wonder to behold and they can be genuinely delightful in their appearance. Don’t bother waiting to join a free tour – they’re in Mandarin only. Just head straight inside and enjoy the show. Inside you’ll find the world’s oldest example of a music box. When you’ve finished enjoying the spectacle hang around and wait for one of the tours to finish – you can then enjoy a demonstration from one of China’s moving sketch artists – which shows how these boxes are developed, it’s quite an extraordinary display and one you’re unlikely to witness anywhere else.
It's a funny world but one constant in it is procrastination. We're all good at putting off until tomorrow what we should have done today. The same can be true for vacations and if you've been thinking about booking a China tour but haven't got round to it; we've got some very good reasons you should book your trip to China today. Travel in China is an extremely exciting experience and it would be a shame if you didn't make the most of China while it's still easy to do so.
Reasons to Visit China Today
- It will be more expensive tomorrow. If the Chinese RMB ever gets revalued to the level that the world wants it to be revalued to – your China vacation would be twice as expensive. Today there are 6 RMB to the US Dollar there would only be 3 RMB to the US Dollar after revaluation. Inflation is also a real concern on the mainland and that eats into the amount you can buy for the same money.
- It will be more crowded tomorrow. This might seem like a contradiction in terms when you know that China's population is actually gradually shrinking but the truth is that most people visit Chinese cities and China is going through a rapid program of urbanization. If you'd like to enjoy your tour with the minimum of crowds – you really need to get moving before China does.
- There will be less to see tomorrow. Unfortunately as with many developing nations sometimes history takes a back seat to progress. Many Chinese historical sites are under threat from vandalism, theft and plain neglect. By taking your trip to China as early as you can – you get to see more than those who will travel after you.
- There will be less native culture tomorrow. While there's no threat to the overall Chinese culture and the Chinese are fiercely independent and proud of their identity – the multi-nationals are gradually making their mark on Chinese cities. If you travel round China today you'll start to see the globalization of high streets already and if you leave it too late – there'll be much less of a Chinese feel to the cities you visit.
- There might be more pollution tomorrow in big cities. China is making real inroads in green technology but these technologies are not yet powerful enough to counter the mass migration of people into the cities. The longer you leave your China tour the more polluted those cities will become in the short-term.
- There may be less choice of food. China's food culture is unique. However, as the Chinese people get richer many of the delicacies which stem from the hard times of the past may disappear. That means you'll lose out on the opportunity to try authentic Chinese delicacies during your travel.
- Some of the quirkiness will disappear. As globalization and Chinese business influence becomes stronger many of the strange quirks of China will disappear. That will mean no more accidentally amusing t-shirt slogans and funny Chinglish signs. These are the little things that add real charm to a visit to the country.
One of the most popular destinations on a China tour is the rice terraces of Longsheng. The natural beauty of the region has made it a firm favorite for photo opportunities and a little peace and quiet during a China vacation. It can be easy to forget during travel in China that there are many other people in the country as well as the Han Chinese. When you're in Longsheng you don't have to make too much of a trip to meet one of China's minority peoples – the Dong.
Sanjiang – A Starting Point
The best place to meet the Dong people is in the village of Sanjiang which is approximately a 30 minute taxi journey from the Longsheng terraces. It's a beautiful place in the countryside and well worth the trip just to stare out the windows and enjoy rural China. The area is famous for its drum towers which are the central feature of most Dong villages. There are roughly 150 in the area around Sanjiang. The most famous is the Mapang Drum Tower which is about 15 minutes' drive from Sanjiang. It has 9 upturned eaves and each of them is decorated in ornate carvings. You'll find floral displays, intricate grasses, wildlife and characters from Dong history and superstition. Inside the Mapang Drum Tower there are four central pillars that reach all the way to the top of the building. Then there is a smaller group of 12 pillars that each represent a month of the year and these extend to the middle floor. If you take a walk to the second floor then you'll find the drum from which the tower takes its name.
The drum is used for a warning system, so please don't be tempted to play with it during your travel; not unless you want to explain your ignorance of China's culture to a lot of angry and worried Dong.
For the most part the drum towers are used as casual meeting places and you will be allowed free reign to take a tour of the entire tower. However, occasionally they are used for private village meetings if you arrive at this time it might be politic not to intrude. Just take a trip round the rest of the village for a while and see if you can find a performance by the local Lusheng players. Lusheng is an instrument unique to China and it is a sort of reed wind instrument.
About the Dong
The Dong themselves are one of China's larger ethnic minorities and they're quite used to foreigners on vacation visiting their villages. They are a friendly people who in the main speak a Sino-Tibetan language though many have some facility with Putonghua (China's main language) as well.
They believe in spirits and gods of various forms. One of the most influential people in the village is the wizard whose job it is to scare off evil spirits when things aren't going so well.
The vast majority of Dong work in agriculture but there are some great craftspeople in their villages and if you want a souvenir from your China vacation you could do worse than the embroidery the Dong women make – it also helps support a minority people struggling in China's modern economy.
The diet in Dong villages is fairly basic and be aware of a local custom that means when you dine you will be given a 3rd chopstick. If you finish your bowl and don't return that chopstick with it – it's understood that you are still hungry and you'll be refilled, again and again.
When people take a vacation in China they're in for a wild ride of experiences; from the Great Wall to the Longsheng Rice Terraces there's so much to see. There's another intriguing side to Chinese life that you should miss out on during your China tour. The country has many forms of folk art and they're so different to Western art forms that you'll want to catch as many as you can during your trip to China. Here are some things to watch out for when you travel round China:
- Basket weaving – this is a popular form of folk art and one that keeps many a rural family fed during the winter. In the main baskets are woven from either bamboo or other robust plant materials and they tend to be very durable. They make a really nice souvenir from a China vacation and for great gifts for friends and family too.
- Kites – The kite originates from China. The first records of kites can be traced back to the Song dynasty of 960 A.D. Chinese kites come in all shapes and sizes and it's easy to find participants in sporting kite flying in every park in China. You'll find people out flying kites from the early morning and many people travel to the parks in the evening. These events are very competitive but good humored.
- Food as Art – The Chinese are very creative in the kitchen and that's not always with the ingredients themselves but also the form of those ingredients. Sugar people are created by boiling huge vats of sugar and then pouring them into figurines. You may also find figures made of colored flours at the markets on your trip.
- Paintings – Chinese traditional paintings are generally made up of long florid brushstrokes that suggest both movement and form. They are quite lovely and they're very popular with visitors for the walls back home. They often represent scenes from history and from Chinese mythology.
- Paper as Art – China has always excelled in paper as an art form. It began during the Han Dynasty and has become an extraordinary means of self-expression today. Watch out for both paper folding and paper cutting. The Chinese hand fan is one of the more popular items with folks on a China tour as it can get quite warm in some places particularly during the summer months.
- Puppetry – In China there are two forms of puppetry that are performed all over the country. The first tends to be a form of rod puppetry and occasionally wire puppetry where ornate figures from Chinese history are used to reenact exciting events from the past. Another form is shadow puppetry and this is more commonly found at Chinese opera events.
- Textiles – You may also find during your travel that you come across a form of art based on knotted thread. Chinese Knotting has been practiced since the Song Dynasty and it has just begun to emerge again as a popular art form. The pictures that are created from these knotted threads are astonishing to behold though they can be quite expensive so ask how much they are before you buy.
You should be able to see all these art forms on your China tour without having to go too far out of your way to discover them. Why not see if you can tick them all off before you come home?
We find that when people take a vacation in China that they're fascinated by the culture and want to know more before they travel to China. However, it can be difficult for Westerners to immerse themselves in Chinese culture mainly because of the lack of translated works into English from Chinese. The good news is that this may be coming to an end. In future it should be easier to read up on modern China before you embark on your tour thanks to the huge investments being made in Chinese literature by Western publishers. So before you make your trip to China here's a little low down on what's happening.
Mo Yan was the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 2012. This has spurred real interest from Western publishers in Chinese literature. They can see the interest in Chinese travel experiences and the thirst for knowledge about the enigmatic nation. The first on board with this new trend was probably Penguin China.
Penguin China took two popular novels from modern China; Northern Girls and The Civil Servant's Notebook and translated them into English. Then the London Book Fair got involved and asked several Chinese authors to take a vacation in England and join them to present about their work. This isn't to say that Chinese literature has become a run-away success in the United States yet. Last year there were only just over 450 foreign language titles translated by major publishers into English in the US. Of these only 16 works had made the trip from China.
However this year things are changing. Harper Collins just put down a $60,000 advance for a Chinese novel. That's a huge sum of money for a Chinese author. One of the difficulties that most Chinese writers face is that in China their books are more like to be copied and sold by pirates than people are to buy the original. This means that many writers have to give up their vacation time from their day jobs to write as even selling millions of novels won't pay the bills in China.
That novel; Zu Jie by the writer Xiao Bai won't be available for consumption until 2015, so until then you might want to check out some of the best of the small number of English works available before your China tour. These include Wild Swans (Jung Chang), Falling Leaves (Adeline Mah), and Shanghai Baby (Wei Hui). In fact Shanghai Baby is a particularly scandalous release and is currently unavailable for sale inside of China.
It's worth noting that in general the Chinese writing style is markedly different from a Western one. Where Western writers place great emphasis on characterization even at the expense of the story as a whole the reverse is true in China. There tend to be more characters with less developed back stories and the literature tends to focus on the overall events. It can be quite difficult to get used to this but it is worth persevering. If you want to understand China before you travel there's no better way to do it than through the eyes of its contemporary authors.
History buffs always enjoy a China vacation. With nearly 5,000 years of continuous history China offers travel that always brings you up close with its past. In fact during your China tour you'll come into contact with nearly every era of China's development and it's always nice to know something about that history before your trip. Today, we're going to look at one of the longest running dynasties in China's evolution – the Zhou dynasty.
A Dynasty of Two Halves
The Zhou were rulers of China from 1045 – 256 BC. However, there are two distinct phases to their rule the first is usually known as the Western Zhou Dynasty and the second the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
The Western Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou people are said to have begun when a consort of the Emperor Ku conceived immaculately after falling into one of God's footprints. Her son, Qi, is said to have miraculously survived being abandoned by his mother 3 times. He was then sent to travel China to improve the lives of the peasantry which he did by making advances in agricultural processes. He became known as the Lord of Millet and is said to have been worshipped at harvest festivals.
Qi's own son was disillusioned with politics. He took a trip away from court and then gave up his ties to the imperial dynasty of the day and took up the life of a nomad. His son, Duke Liu, became a respected military leader of these people and eventually won a huge battle in 1046 B.C. to establish the Zhou Dynasty on the banks of the Yellow River. The last Shang Emperor of China was slain during the battle.
A new capital for the Western Zhou was built at the city of Hao in Western China several hundred miles from modern day Beijing. The early rule of the Western Zhou was a tumultuous time for its leaders. The Shang dynasty may have been beaten in battle but their leaders were still taking major tours of China to question the legitimacy of the new government. In particular they called upon the Mandate of Heaven to demonstrate that one could only be born to rule rather than win the crown in conquest.
To combat this the Western Zhou developed a decentralized system of power where local rulers could instantly make decisions on areas of policy that might trip the balance of power. However, as with all examples of decentralized rule in China this quickly led to weakness in rule and the Marquis of Shen joined with several powerful Chinese rulers to sack the city of Hao in 771 B.C.
The Eastern Zhou
The capital of Zhou authority was quickly reestablished this time in Chengzhou. It is here that much of the philosophy and greatest art was produced in China. During your vacation a lot of the cultural references you encounter will be from this period in China's history. Unfortunately for the Zhou the next 5 centuries would oversee a gradual dismantling of their empire. Never able to exert centralized control over China, they would find as local leaders became powerful enough – they would break away and create their own mini-states.
It was during this time that Confucian bureaucracy began to dominate the Chinese way of thinking and Zhou ambassadors and tax men would tour the country lecturing the peasantry on their obligation to their masters. This system of obligation dominates thinking in China right through to the modern day.
If your China tour is stopping in beautiful Suzhou you might want to consider fitting in a truly unique China vacation experience. The real China is still rural and despite the huge rate of travel from the country to cities the majority of people still live in relatively undeveloped areas. If you’d like to experience that authentic way of life then a trip to the Suzhou Rural Tourism Carnival might be the best way to get involved with the heart of China.
The Ten Themes of the Suzhou Rural Tourism Carnival The festival runs throughout August and September and if your China vacation coincides with it then you’ll find that there are ten themes running throughout the carnival to make your trip an interesting and engaging one.
- The opening ceremony – you probably couldn’t have expected this to be on a par with the Beijing Olympics but it would be a nice diversion from a China tour anyway. The focus of this theme is on local dramatics set in splendid countryside; they’d like you to enjoy the natural beauty of the region and its people.
- The Water Side – Boat trips through the magnificent water features of the Zhouzhang Scenic Area with a finish in the local town to watch a production on the importance of water to China’s agriculture.
- Happiness – A tour of the improvements in rural life in China over the last few years and how technology is helping China’s farms become more efficient and productive.
- Modernity – A trip through the nice aspects of modern farming including a living breathing ecological home made from live trees and plants. Includes a photo exhibition from China’s micro-bloggers.
- Love – This will include a wedding (between a genuine couple in love and not a mock ceremony for tourists) and exhibits from China’s wedding industries. This could be a really nice way to add a little extra cheer to a China vacation.
- Camping – It's a pursuit shared by folks from all over the world. Come and see how the Chinese farmer takes their vacation. It’s all in an area of outstanding natural beauty too.
- Fashionable Cars – Not so much about automotive cars but the stationary cars used for rail and shipping that have been decorated with flowers and other foliage. There’s also a treasure hunt for everyone to take part in and the prizes? Umm… ducks.
- Youth – There will be an 8 day period celebrating local youth and their achievements and contributions to greater society. This will almost certainly be a lot of fun as the Chinese really dote on their children.
- Tongli Rumours – This is really the closing ceremony but involves a cooking festival in Tongli for several days too. That’s a great way of getting try local delicacies.
- The Elderly – The last theme is a private one. The carnival organizers are organizing a trip through the countryside for some of the area’s oldest residents. You can’t join in this but it’s nice to know that your support of the carnival will help some of the more vulnerable members of Chinese society have a great day out.
This year if your China vacation coincides with the 19th of September you'll be able to take in a little something extra on your China tour; the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is the second most popular festival in China after Chinese New Year but unlike Chinese New Year there's much less local travel and you won't trip over people in packed transport areas. If you've not come across this one of China's festivals before, here's a guide on what to expect.
A Long History but Recent Beginnings
There has been a celebration of the full moon's travel to the pinnacle of the sky during Autumn in China since the 10th-16th centuries B.C. However, like many other Chinese traditional holidays, the practice was abandoned during the early days following the Cultural Revolution. As time moved on it became clear that despite an official edict against these holidays, they were still celebrated and as importantly that they somehow defined China in the eyes of the rest of the world. This led to them being gradually reintroduced officially and in 2006 the Mid-Autumn Festival was recognized as an official vacation day in China.
Many Festivals in One
The Mid-Autumn Festival carries many other titles thanks to its importance and over the years some other minor festivals have been incorporated into the festival:
- Moon Festival – Given that the Mid-Autumn Festival is a tour de force celebration of the moon announcing the harvest time, this is perhaps unsurprising.
- Mooncake Festival – Travel round China during this time and you won't miss these delicacies – the whole of China goes moon cake mad!
- Lantern Festival – Not so popular on the mainland as there's another official vacation that is called the Lantern Festival but very common in Singapore and Malaysia.
- The Festival of Reunion – This is the time that a young bride would travel to meet her parents elsewhere in China. She would then return to her husband and his parents to complete the celebration.
- "Valentine's Day" – This isn't as important as the real Chinese Valentine's day or the Western one to most people in China but there is still a certain amount of matchmaking going on behind the scenes.
What Does it All Mean?
The Mid-Autumn festival has three separate messages and each is interlinked with the others:
- Togetherness; given how many Chinese people work away from their families as huge distances this is a time for those who could not go home during Spring Festival to get together with those they love.
- Thanks; to show gratitude for a bountiful harvest or a good partnership between husband and wife.
- Praise; the Chinese pray for things at the Mid-Autumn Festival and their prayers are sent up to ask the gods/spirits for the material (money, food, etc.) or spiritual (love, children, etc.) needs that are unfulfilled in their lives
Things You will See During Mid-Autumn Festival
Keep your cameras at the ready; you should be able to see lion and dragon dances, as well as lantern displays and possibly other more-modern acts of celebration.
One thing is for sure – you'll not only see a moon cake but you will have the opportunity to try it too. Be warned that the savory interior usually holds a whole boiled egg and isn't to everyone's taste. It's best to take a tiny piece and try it before making off with a whole cake…