Also known as ‘Spring Festival’ (春节), and ‘Lunar New Year’, Chinese New Year is celebrated each year at the turn of the lunisolar calendar, the traditional Chinese calendar calculated by astronomical phenomena.

This year, Chinese New Years Eve (除夕) falls on January 27th, with New Years Day (初) falling on January 28th.

Throughout China, customs and traditions for Chinese New Year can be vastly different, but typically most families will settle down for a family reunion dinner, where fish is often served. If you’re in Northern China, delicious dumplings are the specialty. Eating these ‘lucky’ foods will bring you different types of good fortune; fish will increase your prosperity, dumplings and spring rolls will bring you wealth, and longevity noodles will give you…you guessed it, longevity (and happiness).

Decorating your house is another important part of the celebrations; you are probably familiar with the red Chinese lanterns, upside down  福 (a Chinese character meaning ‘fortune’) and papercutting that adorn houses or restaurants during Chinese New Year.

Ms Kao, together with Ms Liu, Ms Bookluck and Mr Lucas, has selected a famous classical Chinese poem that reflects the spirit of Chinese New Year. Below is her translation of the poem and an explanation.


宋   王安石   Song Dynasty, Wang Anshi ( 1021-1086 )

《元日》The poem titled ” the first day of a new year “

爆竹声中一岁除,Along with the sound of firecrackers, a year has come to its end.

春风送暖入屠苏。The spring breeze seemingly also warms up the specially- made wine.

千门万户曈曈日,Every household is eagerly waiting for the sun to rise.

总把新桃换旧符。So that old couplets can be replaced by the new ones.

In these 28 characters, the poet used Chinese commoners’ typical activities to showcase the happy mood and atmosphere. Launching of the firecrackers, drinking the custom-made festive wine, waiting for the dawn with family members and changing the scrolls and couplets not only express the happiness, the contentment, but also signify new hopes and positivity.

It is worth noting that this short poem miraculously applies to all five human sense I.e. hearing, smell, taste, sight and touch. Delicately it implies that to celebrate Chinese New Year, one must enjoy the time unreservedly.  Furthermore, it rhymes at the final characters of Line 1,2 and 4.

For this type of brief, classical poetry, the rule is to rhyme at the end of Line 2 and 4.  Rhyming of Line 1 is a beautiful bonus to readers.

-Ms Kao

Bonus! Can you spot the rooster among the chickens?



And from all of the Languages department and the Library team:


Other sources:

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