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Export to China, Mianyang
20th Feb 2016 - 23rd Feb 2016
Chinese New Year and Spring Festival

I was back in the UK for the Chinese New Year on the 8th of February, which wasn’t a particular loss. The New Year is all about spending time with family, and in the process, booking out every train and bus, so it isn’t the best time to be a lone foreigner in China. Even family-run restaurants are closed. I did, however, exchange many new-year messages across continents on WeChat. I arrived back in China mid-way through the fifteen-day Spring Festival which starts on New Year and ends with Lantern Festival day.

The earliest date for the New Year is the 20th of January (of the Gregorian calendar) and the latest, the 20th of February. The Chinese calendar is lunar-solar: the first day is decided by the lunar month that has its first day nearest the start of spring according to the solar calendar. The Chinese knew of course that a solar year was just over 365 days well before Julius Caesar started a 365 day calendar on the 1st of January (to fit in with the Feast of Janus). They divided the solar year into 24 periods, always starting 3rd-5th of February (3 periods after the winter solstice). The solar periods describe the year beautifully (see below). But of course the moon is an important time marker too, so the Chinese kept their lunar calendar. Each moon cycle is very close to 29.5 days, so the Chinese lunar calendar is made up of 12 lunar months of 29 or 30 days, each month starting with a new moon. The same month can be short or long (have 29 or 30 days). 12 lunar months of course only brings us to 354 days, so usually every 2-3 years there is a leap month added, coinciding with a solar month including two new moons. This brings the lunar calendar into line with the solar calendar and shifts the Chinese New Year back again.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted by the Republic of China and then the People’s Republic in the 20th Century and it’s used for the National Day (October 1st) and Labour Day (May 1st) but most other public holidays are set by the lunar calendar and so move around. The exception is Qing Ming (clear and bright) also known as Tomb Sweeping or Ancestors Day which is set by the Chinese solar calendar and is always 4th-6th April. We also have a seven day week here but it hasn’t always been so. In the Han Dynasty, officials could rest every five days, but the Tang Dynasty changed this to every 10.

At Spring Festival, Chinese cities are even brighter at night, with lanterns everywhere. There was quite a display in the Mianyang People’s Park which drew crowds, though the lights were dimmed at 10pm, which is the official closing time (though it doesn’t actually close). Here are some colourful pictures from the park and streets.   

The periods of the Chinese solar calendar: start of spring (3rd-5th February), rainwater (Feb.19th), awakening of insects (March 6th), Vernal Equinox (March 21st), clear and bright (April 5th), grain rain (April 20th), start of summer (May 6th), grains plump (May 21st), beards of grain grow (June 6th), summer height/solstice (June 21st), minor heat (July 7th), major heat (July 23rd), start of autumn (Aug. 8th), limit of heat (Aug. 23rd), white dew (Sept. 8th), autumn equinox (Sept 23rd), cold dew (Oct.8th), appearance of frost (Oct 23rd), winter start (Nov.7th), minor snow (Nov. 22nd), major snow (Dec 7th), winter solstice (Dec. 22nd), minor cold (Jan 6th), major cold (Jan 20th).

Next: Langzhong - old vinegar town
Previous: Following the Dao up Qingcheng Shan

Diary Photos

Spring Festival 2016 in the People's Park, Mianyang

Spring Festival 2016 in the People's Park in Mianyang

Spring Festival 2016 in the People's Park in Mianyang

Spring Festival 2016 in the People's Park in Mianyang

Spring Festival 2016 in the People's Park in Mianyang

Lanterns for Spring Festival 2016

Lanterns and tree lights light up Mianyang

Mianyang colourful street at Spring Festival 2016

Bishui (modern) temple, Mianyang

Evening activity in Iron Ox Square, Mianyang

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