PRAVDA.Ru correspondent Andrei Krushinski reports from Beijing. 36 years ago, the year of fire horse initiated “cultural revolution” in China, in the year of water horse (1978), the plenary session of Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, leaded by Deng Xiao Ping, returned China to the way of reforms. This year of horse is connected with China’s “jump” into globalisation. The bagman who sells fruits every day on the same place was surprised to know that I was not intending to go to Russia for the Spring Feast, as they call it in China. “And what about your family? It will long for you during the feast,” – he said. The same question was asked by librarian in Beijing translation office for which I am working, and he also was surprised to hear that Russians do not celebrate the Spring Feast. To be objective, their surprise is now without reason: even a small arithmetical calculation would show that the Spring Feast is as popular on our planet as Christmas, because it is celebrated by about 1.5 billion people – by the Chinese, the Vietnamese, Koreans (first call it “Tet”, while others “Sol”), and a part of Japanese population. Most of this 1.5 billion come into movement the day before the feast, because it is traditionally celebrated with the family, together with its oldest members. In old times, it was not such a big problem, because people usually lived not far from their native places. Though everything changed, when in China impetuous migration processes started. A year ago, I wanted to change a computer detail and went to the local Silicon Valley – to Junguantsun, where electronics service and trade are concentrated. The district that is the most busy in usual days was empty. Many-storied computer palace Hailun Dasha was closed: servicemen and sellers had gone to their families. The day before the feast, most of mini-bakeries are closed, where wheaten, corn and sesame patties with meat or vegetables are baked. Improvised bicycle workshops disappear from the streets. Numerous building sites die down for a couple of weeks. It becomes more quiet, though capital citizens feel uncomfortable without hundreds of newcomers. Namely in these days you could understand how much energy and talents the main city of the country absorbs and how dependent it is on newly arrived builders, sellers, tailors, barbers, electronic engineers… Though who works most intensively these days that are transport workers. According to statistics, within recent 40 days, 600 million people have used different transport means in China, while 1.75 billion more of passengers are being expected. Spring Feast – Chun-Tse – is quite a new title introduced in 1911: after monarchy was dethroned in China, the Chinese turned to international system of chronology and started to fix a new year’s coming together with other countries – on January 1, while their New Year Feast traditionally celebrated according to lunar calendar was renamed Spring Feast. Though the Chinese are still faithful to their calendar: on the Spring Feast they mainly say to each other, like 2,000 years ago: “Happy New Year!” Calculation of seasons is being carried out according to lunar calendar: a new year’s first day comes at midnight of second new moon after winter solstice day (December 22). Thanks to this connection with solar cycles, the Chinese traditional calendar does not so seriously differ from Gregorian calendar, though it does not fully coincides with it: in different years, the Spring Feast falls on different days – from the end of January to the second half of February. Therefore, the year has different duration. For example, the year before last, was lasting only 353 days, while last year – 383 days, which had 13 months instead of 12, as usually. The Chinese consider their calendar to be sacred and they still build their life according to it, while determining for example some kinds of agricultural work. And, of course, they compose horoscopes. As in that ones composed by Europeans, here there are 12 signs with names of really existing and myth animals. There is a legend that Buddah before his leaving the earth charged different animals with responsibilities for different years in this order: Rat, Buffalo, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. Multiplying 12 up 5 (the number of “basic elements” – water, earth, wood, metal, fire), we get 60-year cycle. According to habits of every animal, character and fate of a person born in this year is formed. Earlier, the Chinese did not contract any marriage without astrologer, either businessmen, or military leaders could not get without him. Now, these traditions are being revived: instruction calendars are being edited telling in detail what one should do. During many centuries, the Spring Feast was connected with many ceremonies and customs, from a midnight family meal (with ravioli) to pyrotechnic amusements. The Chinese are real masters as for petards – they create multicolour light effects, not worse than European fireworks. According to some historians, gun powder’s initial destination was not war, but fireworks. Firework at New Year night is a preventive measure against evil spirits. These pop-guns probably really frighten away evil spirits, but in addition they also cause serious injuries to people who are not careful with them, especially to children. This was why, in 1994 New Year petards were prohibited by the capital’s city administration. I remember very well that explosions: “strategic reserves” were being annihilated. Though the power of traditions cannot be conquered: now many Chinese go to celebrate New Year to remote areas of the country, where recently many comfortable hotels with restaurants, swimming-pools, skittle-alleys have appeared in mountains and where petards are not prohibited. Yesterday, when my wife and I came out to have a breath of fresh air, the main Beijing avenue was empty. Though somewhere on a distance cannonade was heard as if an army was intending to storm the city. The lunar 13-month year of snake ended on February 11, which was the year of realized wishes for China. According to Sinhua agency, among main events mentioned by Beijing citizens there were China’s membership in WTO, the right China was awarded with to organize the 2008 Olympic Games and to carry out in Shanghai an unofficial summit of member countries of PACE. 80th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party was also mentioned as an important event of the year. Though the authoritative media did not noticed the fact of signing Russian-Chinese Treaty about Neighbourly Relations, Friendship and Cooperation. Russia is mentioned only once in connexion with Mir space station’s submersion. Though, all these ratings are usually subjective, here there is the question about the level of our diplomacy and about our place in the world. According to Hong Kong journalist Michel Yan-su who published in South China Morning Post results of his poll, Chinese people ignored such events like 1-April incident with US reconnaissance aircraft that had caused the death of the Chinese pilot and capture of the US aircraft’s crew, as well as arrests and executions of high corrupt functionaries. The journalist concluded that the Chinese are inclined to pay attention to positive events. And they are right, because the year really was successful, taking into account the over-7-percent economical growth. China got to the 8th place in the world as for its gross domestic product. Though, are these victories not dangerous for the future of the country? Having burst into WTO, China will get into touch with issues of economical globalisation, while some economists see in it serious threats for China. On the other hand, all these pre-New-Year polls seem to support a many-century tradition: not to speak about the bad, not to pronounce words that could court disaster. The Chinese still feel inertia of the last year’s successes and speak optimistically about the coming year. Though, there are serious troubles connected with future invasion of foreign goods into the country and possible bankruptcy of many native manufacturers. It is interesting to listen to what amateur astrologers say about this suggestion. According to them, for China horse is traditionally connected with “big races”, therefore, this year with the sign of wood is connected with China’s jump into globalisation. Well, the Chinese should realize (as well as Russians) that the “civilized society” they want so much to get to is fraught with serious threats for their civilization (and for preservation of their nation). They are similar to Russians not only because it their love to ravioli, but due to menace of NATO expansion and of Japanese militarism and due to common interests in fight for self-preservation. It would be stupid in this situation to neglect each other. The 21st century’s troubles should be met acting hand in hand. Andrei Krushinski PRAVDA.Ru Beijing
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/12/36968.html
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