Sharing Chinese New Year’s with the neighbours

Today we partied with the neighbours! It’s chū wǔ (初五), and that means people are finished the obligatory visits to relatives, so they start visiting and bringing gifts to friends. It seemed like almost everyone we saw this morning was buying or carrying gifts on their way to their friends’ homes (we were out doing the same thing). It’s also another special day for jiǎo zi (饺子) and firecrackers (but not like New Year’s Eve). So, we made jiǎo zi and ate lunch with Mr. Sòng and Mrs. Lǐ, and then had dinner with Shine Far’s family. Here are some photos, descriptions below each one (click for full size):


I love this photo. They were 29 years old (now they’re in their 60’s).


Mrs. Lǐ takes Jessica through family photos. She wanted to be a painter, and in 1961 she passed the university entrance exams into an art school, but was denied because one of her older brothers and several brothers-in-law had bad political histories (they were secretaries for the pre-Liberation city government). She says she went crazy for a while and cried a lot, but finally accepted a regular job in a state-owned garment factory making clothes. The walls of their apartment are covered in her paintings, but she never got to study art formally.


Making boiled dumplings (bāo jiǎo zi; 包饺子), the Chinese equivalent of pirogies. You’re supposed to eat jiǎo zi on this day in the lunar calendar.


They’d prepared a huge lunch and we were stuffed. A childhood friend of their son also came to visit. The dog’s name is Hǔ zi (虎子).


In addition to saying “hello,” “nǐ hǎo (你好),” and “gōng xǐ fā cái (恭喜发财),” their bird growls and barks like the dog and beeps like the microwave. They told us the more they can say, or the more they are able to learn, the more expensive they are. If they learn “dirty speech” (脏话; zāng huà) it lowers their value (so those people who told us about birds learning bad words weren’t kidding after all!)

After getting totally stuffed and chatting for a while, we returned home to rest our brains for a bit before heading downstairs at 6pm for a huge hotpot feast with “Shine Far’s” family (I really ought to stop calling him that, but he doesn’t have an English name yet; his Chinese name is 光远; Guāng Yuǎn). Around 10pm we had the obligatory jiǎo zi and finally headed home at 11:30. Guāng Yuǎn is our language exchange partner from the summer. He just got accepted into some American universities, so they’re all really happy. We had a great time. I forgot to take a photo during the meal, but took one during the jiǎo zi.

We’re so stuffed. We just ate and talked all day. It’s time for bed!

12 thoughts on “Sharing Chinese New Year’s with the neighbours”

  1. Curtis, is always sending me links of your site. So, I thought I’d visit and say, hi.
    AND Nice, photo’s Joel! Did you scan those into your computer or take pictures of the photo’s with a digicam?

  2. 99.9% of the photos on here are ours, taken with an older digital point-&-shoot. Two of the rotating square photos at the top I stole off the internet, and occasionally a friend’s photo makes it on here. I just took a picture of their old black and white photo – that’s why it’s a little fuzzy.

    Thanks for stopping in! It’s good to hear from you. How long have you been in Japan?

    (btw – we can access your blog through anonymouse.org, but we can’t leave comments).

  3. Hi Joel,

    To answer your question; I have been living in Japan since end of May 2001.
    And those are still really nice photos for a point and shot digicam I’m impressed.

    Okay…
    I just reset my account to:
    ‘Anyone – includes Anonymous Users’
    So, you should be able to leave comments, now.

    Before, it had been set as:
    Registered Users – includes OpenID

  4. The problem isn’t your account. Blogspot is blocked in China 99.9% of the time, and the free version of anonymouse.org that lets me read your blog won’t support blogspot comment links (they want me to pay). I just tried anyway, and it says only with their V.I.P. version.

  5. Now that we have visited Mr. Song and Mrs. Li in person I can recognize the little round folding table you are making dumplings on….squished in their bedroom that doubles as their “living room. They were so sweet. I love that wedding photo too….like something right out of “To Live”

  6. Well, they are that generation in the movie. Mrs. Li was barred from art college (after she tested in) because of her family’s bad political background. They gave her spot to someone with a lower score and she had to work in a factory.

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