Your sample Chinese New Year 2014 horsey text message [Updates!]

Chinese will send billions (literally!) of New Year’s greeting text messages today and tomorrow. And since the Year of the Horse begins tonight at midnight, this year there are lots of horsey word-plays (in addition to a proliferation of auspicious horse panties), just like the rabbit word-plays in 2011.

Here’s a real life example that we receivedearlier today, because these kinds of things are great for language learners, and you gotta have something with which to spam your address book.

“At once / right away / immediately” in Chinese is literally, “on a horse” (as in, you know, faster than walking). If you’re a first-year language student and your teacher sends you a text asking if you’ve arrived yet, you can reply in English “on a horse!” and they’ll think you’re really clever (if they’re clever enough to figure it out). Or roll their eyes.

Anyway, in this text “” does double-duty meaning “immediately” and “on the (year of the) horse.” So without further ado, mouseover the text for pronunciation and translation:

,[your name(s) here]家人祝福

[Update 1] So lazy of me not to write out the English. Here it is:

The Horse Year has arrived. [so-and-so’s]family sends blessings!
Wishing you and your family right away have money, right away have a house, right away have a car.*
Right away have good fortune, right away have good luck, right away have a vacation!
In short, good luck and everything as it should be in the horse year, immediate success! From the start prospering to the year’s end.

[*Remember: “right away” is a word-play on “on the horse”.]

[Update 2] That Despicable Me minions Year of the Horse song video that’s been floating around? You can watch it and read a translation and explanation right here: On the Horse

More Chinese New Year text message fun:

More Chinese New Year 2014 fun:

[Photo Gallery:] It’s Fú Time! Get ready for Chinese New Year 2014!


Qingdao’s canal bed Licun Daji traditional market is epic on a normal day (see photos here). But on the last market day before Chinese New Year, it’s “here a , there a , everywhere a ” — like a ginormous red, yellow and black ant colony that some kid has just poked with a stick, all charged up and buzzing with Chinese New Year colour, food and traditions.

Have a fu.

On locals’ advice, a coworker and I squeezed around back and forth through it during xiūxi time (aka after lunch siesta), when the crowds weren’t as lethal as in the morning. We weren’t aiming to document the whole thing, just look around and chat and take pictures of whatever caught our eye, and ended up with a lots of red and religious stuff (in which Chairman Mao makes an expected strong appearance), along with the usual things that make foreigners stop and take pictures.

财神,the money god, for sale.

(Aside from one pile of pig heads, there aren’t any other photos of piles of animal parts, though it was interesting to see shoppers inspect piles of cold, shiny intestines the same way you would check over tomatoes — i.e. with your bare hands.)

Apples grown with stickers to make the sun shine “riches” , “respect” , and “advance” into the peels.

Anyway, here you go!

More photos from this market: Licunji – Qingdao’s most epic market

Chinese New Year photo galleries:

Chinese New Year songs to learn:

Lucky Panties & Fu:

New Photo Gallery: Ditan Park Temple Fair

My folks came to see us during Spring Festival and we spent a couple days in Beijing. Ditan Park has Beijing’s biggest Spring Festival Temple Fair and it barely contains an unbelievable amount of people, noise and colour. We had a blast, though I wouldn’t recommend it for those who easily suffer from sensory overload! Click the link or the photos below to go to the photo gallery.

Beijing’s Ditan Park Temple Fair 地坛庙会 – 2010 Feb. 20

Enjoying 福 (fú) and the inner circle of Chinese life

The only thing more amazing than the fireworks on our street last night (Chinese New Year’s Eve) — I won’t even try to describe them, you’d have to see, hear, and feel it to believe it — is the fact that our eight month old daughter slept right through them.

Last night and today are the most special time of the year for Chinese. Last night families crowded the streets in our area to set off an unbelievable amount of fireworks in between family meals, and today (Chinese New Year’s Day) they’ll eat in or out in great Spring Festival family banquets — the restaurants are all packed full. It’s the annual family reunion, which in its ideal form embodies , or blessing/good fortune. I’ll let someone more qualified than me explain.

In The Chinese Have a Word For It, Boyé Lafayette De Mente spends most of his chapter on talking about Chinese food and banquets:

There is a famous Chinese saying that shíwù (食物) or food is heaven to a peasant, a stark reminder that throughout most of Chinas history the specter of starvation was a constant companion to the majority of the people.

So compelling was the threat of hunger that the Chinese used the symbols of a cultivated field and a mouth integrated with heaven, representing a full stomach, to mean (福), or happiness.

Today the ideogram for happiness is one of the most popular “good luck charms” in the country, and is familiar to patrons of Chinese restaurants around the world.

The role that food plays in Chinese life is one fo the most conspicuous and important aspects of their culture, and one that can be fully enjoyed by outsiders as well after only a few minutes of orientation.

A Chinese meal served and eaten Chinese style is a tableau of the culture in action, graphically depicting the hierarchical order within the family or the group, the etiquette that controls their behavior, and the substance of their relationships.

The typical Chinese meal eaten in a restaurant — and the Chinese love to eat out — is an even more dramatic representation of Chinese culture. Evening meals in particular are typically banquet style, a thanksgiving for the food and a celebration of family ties and the bonds of friendship.

Unlike some Western cultures that require people to eat quietly and quickly, when a typical Chines family or group eats out it is a noisy, lengthy affair, brimming with the hubbub of humor and ribaldry.

To the Chinese, the banquet table is more than just a convenient meeting place for a meal. It is the place where they confirm their cultural identity and just as important if not more so, enjoy and their Chineseness to the fullest.

It is around the informal banquet table that the Chinese let their formal hair down, nurture the bonds of old relationships, and make new ones. The informal banquet table is thus a doorway — the only easily accessible doorway — to the inner circle of Chinese life.

Outsiders wanting to establish close relationships with Chinese … must eventually enter this “doorway to happiness.”

(If anyone of consequence has a problem with me quoting this much text, just let me know and I’ll remove it.)

We had our own little -fest last night with friends and family:

Other stuff about celebrating Chinese New Year’s:


Pronounced: chūn​ yùn​
Literally: spring move
Means: the Chinese New Year travel season, a.k.a. the largest human migration on earth, when millions upon millions of Chinese overload China’s transport systems as they travel home for the traditional Spring Festival family reunion. (More photos here.)

‘Tis the season for… RED PANTIES!

That outta get some attention.

Right inside our front gate and on the corner of the nearest intersection there are people hawking red panties. With tigers on them. They’re piled up right next to all the other Chinese New Year decorations: lucky hanging lamps, lucky window hangings, lucky door hangings, lucky underwear… Mountains of fireworks are piled on the opposite corner (also lucky). They’ve been on sale for about two weeks now because Spring Festival is coming, and if it’s your animal’s year in the Chinese zodiac (your “life origin year” 本命年), you’d best be wearing your lucky red underwear. And lucky red long-johns (also for sale). And lucky red every other article of clothing including your belt. Red helps people avoid evil spirits (避邪), especially the Nian monster (more Nian monster here and here).

Not everyone follows this tradition. Even if everyone did you’d only wear all red once every twelve Spring Festivals (people turning 12, 24, 36, etc. after the start of Spring Festival). Those that do aren’t hard to spot, obviously. And the stores are all conspicuously abundantly stocked with lucky red underwear. There’s lots of variety in the supermarkets, but these designs are for sale on the sidewalk right outside our building next to the vegetable, bean, and fried noodle vendors:

The tiger on the left is on a character (福 — good fortune, happiness, auspiciousness), and the tiger on the right says “Year of the tiger good luck!” (虎年好运)。 I told you it was lucky red underwear.

And let’s clear up some confusion about what animal you are. Forget those calendars that say, “If you’re born in [whatever year], then you’re a [hippo, or whatever].” They’re wrong. The animal changes at Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), not January 1st. Spring Festival can fall pretty much any time in January or February, so if you were born after January 1st but before Spring Festival you’re still in the old year with the old year’s animal. Jessica’s a horse and I’m a goat (nice!). L’s a cow (thanks for nothing, China!). Wikipedia has a handy chart so you can accurately find out if you’re a monkey or hippo.

Other stuff about celebrating Chinese New Year’s: