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Export to China, Mianyang
9th Mar 2016 - 27th Mar 2016
Flexible birthdays and other Chinese flexibility

It was my birthday this week. Last year a student friend sent me a text message: ‘happy birthday to us and it’s also my birthday today”. So this year I remembered to wish her a happy birthday. The reply came back: “Really”. Then “I don’t know”. Then “I mean I don’t know today is my birthday”. Then: “it’s a complex thing.” It is, and I had been caught out. The Gregorian calendar is used for official purposes and by some with an international outlook. But many people calculate birthdays according to the Chinese lunar-solar calendar. My friend’s birthday, the 4th day of the second lunar month, moves around on the Gregorian calendar. Last year the Chinese new year began on the 19th of February per the Gregorian Calendar and the first lunar month had 29 days. Twenty-nine plus four days on from the 19th of February last year was indeed the 23rd of March. If you’re confused you may want to reread my New Year blog! This year her birthday was on the 12th of March. The students, add additional confusion by saying such as, ‘my birthday is February 4th in oldest calendar.’ I say no it’s in the 2nd lunar month, which doesn’t have a special name and it isn’t February. After that rocky start I took her advice: “You should eat an egg today. That means you can get through the year smoothly!”

One disadvantage of measurement in accordance with traditional Chinese custom would be that not only would my birthday shift around each year, but I would be one year older: from birth to the end of the Chinese year is year one and then a year of age is added at each new year. Another way of computing age in China is by animal year. When a Chinese person asks what animal year you were born in, it’s a sure bet that what they’re really interested in is your age and they’ve calculated it as soon as you’ve said Dragon or Monkey or any of the twelve.


Our spring term got underway with a week of beautiful sunshine, blue sky and spring warmth, but it’s been mostly overcast and cool ever since. Four new foreign teachers have arrived in dribs and drabs as visas have been sorted out: another American, a fellow Brit from Newcastle, an Austrian business teacher and just arrived, Mary from Kenya. Unlike Eastern Chinese cities or the mega-city of Xian, there are hardly any Africans in Chengdu let alone Mianyang. But I don’t think she will have any trouble winning the students over – her accent is crystal clear and she has an advantage over most of us: one of the other three languages she speaks is Chinese, the result of doing a degree at a Chinese University including a pre-year of learning Chinese. She is also a runner. I might just be motivated to get back to doing a bit more running as well as cycling and playing frisbee. Competition is often not a bad thing.

Talking of running, I read this on get-top-news.com this morning: ‘In 1986, Chengdu people held the first international horse race to become one of the first Chinese cities to carry out marathon. After a lapse of 30 years, the level of people's marathon reproduce Chengdu. Chengdu double left Marathon 2016 3 May 27 start running. this will add dual left marathon trace movement color and cultural city, Chengdu, will also become a runner hearts 'marathon landmark.' and 'double-left' not only witnessed the heritage of human history and culture more people will witness for healthier, greener, more sustainable future lifestyles pursuit.’

The 2nd consecutive running of the Chengdu Marathon, actually from Dujiangyan, is today. Another website tells us that most runners coming simply to participate will ‘run light-heartedly along a route steeped in history, passing alongside the clear sparkling waters of mountain streams, and with every stride fill their lungs with clean cold fresh mountain air.’ I think the course does get out of the city and go near Qingcheng Mountain, but Chinese tourist boards are the equal of any others when it comes to hyperbole. I don’t recall being too light-hearted or feeling light in any way toward the end of any marathons.

No marathons for me these days, but the Tianfu Ultimate Frisbee players are getting better and keeping me on my toes.



Next: Decoding English and Chinese literature
Previous: Langzhong - old vinegar town


Diary Photos

Selfie No 1. with tianfu frisbee players

The last words on civilization (in tianfu college)

Tianfu frisbee players

Action from Ultimate Frisbee at Tianfu

Action from Ultimate Frisbee at Tianfu

Action from Ultimate Frisbee at Tianfu

Leading my Tianfu Ultimate Frisbee Team

Ancient (tea) culture becomes Modern culture

Verges come alive with flowers (poppies) in the spring

Birthday photo

Noodles from Yunnan Province

Making egg-fried rice


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