• Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is the most important and longest holiday in China. The Chinese New Year is on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, so it is also called the Lunar New Year. And it is also referred to as the Spring Festival since it marks the beginning of the Spring term, which is the first term of the 24 terms on the lunar calendar. Chinese will begin celebrating on the New Year's Eve and the celebrations will last for 15 days.
• New Year' Eve
The New Year's Eve is the time for families. The New Year Eve's dinner is the biggest dinner of the year, much like the Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner is full of symbolic meanings, such as Chinese dumplings implying wealth since they have the shape of ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots. Everyone, even kids, drinks a little "Jiu" (usually hard liquor), which symbolizes longevity since Jiu has the same pronunciation as longevity in Chinese. Then the family chats while watching the national TV shows or listening to radio together until the coming of the new year. In China, the national TV shows have been prepared for a few months by a group of famous entertainers.
• Water Sprinkling Day
On April 12 each year, the Dai people in South China celebrate the beginning of their New Year in a unique way. They sprinkle barrels of water at each other freely to convey their best wishes. This custom originates from a sentimental legendary story. Long long ago, there lived a devil near where the Dai people lived. The devil committed all kinds of evil deeds to the residents. Every year he would come to the villages and force a girl to be his woman. All people were angry with him. Yet, no one could do anything to him, for the devil was very well self-protected. One year, however, the girl who had been taken as the devil's seventh woman was so clever that she had an idea to prevent the evils. One night, she managed to please the devil and made him drunk. Then she succeeded in discovering his weakness when he was in a drowsy condition. She found out that the devil could only be subdued by twining his long hair round his neck. She called in the other six girls. They stealthily cut down some hair from the devil's head and bound his neck tightly with it. In a rush, the head fell onto the ground. But unexpectedly, the head began to emit fire so wildly that it seemed that the fire would soon become uncontrollable. The girls tried to put out the fire by sprinkling water at the head but it was useless. Then a girl accidentally touched the head. To their surprise, the fire was out. But when it was released, it started to burn again. To stop the devil from doing any harm, the girls had to hold the head in turn all the time. The holder was changed once a year on April 12. They all felt the devil's head was filthy. So when one girl was holding it, the others sprinkled water at her body, trying to wash away the filth.
To commemorate the seven brave and kindhearted girls, April 12 was set as Water Sprinkling Day by their clansmen. The festival has been celebrated by generations of people and is now becoming more popular than ever.
• Hutong and Siheyuan
The word "hutong," means "water well," in Mongolian. The Mongolians keep the nomadic tradition of settling down around springs or wells.
A hutong is the passage formed by lines of siheyuan (four-side enclosed courtyards). Strictly, hutong alleys are less than nine meters wide. Most hutongs in Beijing run in an east-west or north-south direction, with most houses facing south to take in as much sunshine as possible.
A standard siheyuan usually consists of houses on its four sides with a yard in the center. The gates are usually painted red and have large copper door rings. Usually, a whole family lives in compound. The elder generation lives in the main house standing at the north end, the younger generations live in the side houses, and the south house is usually the family sitting room or study.
Hutong joins hutong, and siheyuan meets siheyuan to form a block. Blocks join with blocks to form the whole residential constructions.
• Chinese Stone Lion
Lion is a special animal to Chinese people. A pair of stone lions, a male and a female, can often be seen in front of the gates of traditional buildings. The male lion is on the left with his right paw resting on a ball, and the female on the right with her left paw fondling a cub.
The lion was regarded as the king in the animal world so its imagines represented power and prestige. The ball played by the male lion symbolized the unity of the empire, and the cub with the female thriving offspring.
The stone lions were also used to indicate the ranks of officials by the number of lumps representing the curly hair on the head of the lion. The houses of first grade officials had lions with 13 lumps and the number of lumps decreased by one as the rank of the official went down each grade. Officials below the seventh grade were not allowed to have stone lions in front of their houses.
• China Tea
Tea tasting has cultural meaning. Tea and tea wares should match surrounding elements such as breeze, bright moon, pines, bamboo, plums and snow. All these show the ultimate goal of Chinese culture: the harmonious unity of human beings with nature.
Tea is compared to personal character. The fragrance of tea is not aggressive; it is pleasant, low-keyed and lasting. A friendship between gentlemen is also like a cup of tea. With a cup of tea in hand, enjoying the green leaves in a white porcelain cup, you will feel peace. Fame, wealth and other earthly concerns are far away. Tea is the symbol of elegance.
Tea is regarded as the most Zen-like drink. As early as the Tang Dynasty, a reputed Zen master answered three monks of different status with "Go and have your cup of tea!' This same answer was meant to clear up the perceived inequality among monks. After all, we all are born equal.
• Great Wall
The Great Wall is a symbol of the ancient Chinese civilization. Stretching 3,950 miles, The Great Wall was built as a defensive structure. It is listed in the United Nation's Education, Science and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1987. The best preserved and most imposing section of the wall is at Badaling, 50 miles north of Beijing and over 2,625 feet above sea level, but the magnitude and beauty of the wall can also be seen at Jinshanling, Mutianyu, and Simatai.
The Construction of the Great Wall first began during the warring period of 476 - 221 B.C. In the beginning walls were built at some strategic points by different kingdoms to protect their own territories. After the first Emperor Qin Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty unified China in 221 B.C., he decided to have the individual walls joined together creating one Great Wall. It took more than 1 million people and more than 10 years to finish the work.
• Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is also known as the Palace Museum. It is the largest and most well preserved imperial residence in China today. Located in the center of Beijing, The Forbidden City was built between 1406 and 1420 under Ming Emperor Yongle, and served as the imperial palace for the Ming and Qing dynasties. Ming Emperor Zhudi was the first emperor to live there. It is 3,150 feet long from north to south and 2,460 feet wide from east to west. It has 9,900 rooms and halls containing many precious relics. A 170-foot wide moat encircles the Forbidden City along with 32-foot high walls. There are four entrances, the Meridian Gate to the south, the Shenwu Gate (Gate of Military Prowess) to the north, the Xihua Gate (Western Flowery Gate) to the west, and the Donghua Gate (Eastern Flowery Gate) to the east.
The word "forbidden" is quite literal, as the imperial palace was heavily guarded and off-limits to ordinary people. As the residence for emperors and their families, most of the walls of the imperial palace were painted red and roofs were covered with yellow glazed tiles. The red and yellow combination forms a strong color contrast, representing the absolute authority, supremacy, and richness of feudal emperors. In 1987, UNESCO also listed the Forbidden City in the World Heritage List. It is the largest palace in the world.
• Yulong Mountains
The Yulong Mountains are located where the Qinghai-Tibet and Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus interlock, and together they form the peak of the Yunling Mountains, the southern-most section of the Himalayan Mountain range. Harboring a string of marine glaciers, the Yunlong mountain range, extends unbroken for 21 miles, forming a "Jade Dragon" dancing in clouds. Its silvery scales shining bright, the dragon's head faces towards to the north, while its body rolls south. The southernmost peak Shanzidou is 18 thousand feet in altitude and is also known as the "jade pillar that props up the sky."
Dunhuang used to be called Shazhou and is at the western end of the Hexi Corridor. Dunhuang adjoins Anxi to the east, and borders Aksay all the way to the neighboring Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest. There are many tourist attractions in Dunhuang, which is listed as a state historic and cultural city.
• Mogao Grottoes
The Mogao Grottoes, also known as "1000 Buddha Cave", are located 15.5 miles southeast of Dunhuang City. With a total length of 1 mile, the Grottoes wind their way through the broken cliff at the eastern foot of Mingsba Hill. There are five layers of caves built into the mountain. According to historical records, the Mogao Grottoes were constructed in 366 BC. Today there are 492 caves in which murals and sculptures representing different dynasties have been well preserved. The Mogao Grottoes are listed in the World Cultural Heritage and are rated as key relics under state protection.