Today is the Chinese Lunar New Year!
Observant families have spent days preparing for the celebration with intensive house cleaning to rid the home of the proverbial cobwebs and clear the way for new luck. Many decorated their homes and businesses with paper cutouts. Some even gave their doors and window frames a fresh coat of red paint. (Chinese interior decorators get more business before the New Year than at any other time.) Others went on a shopping spree buying new clothes and shoes and getting haircuts to make a fresh start. By the same token, all debts (including those of gratitude) had to be paid.
Yesterday, families gathered for the New Years Eve Reunion Dinner. At midnight, long after the feast, in northern China, people ate dumplings, and in southern China, people ate new year cake. Then off went the fireworks and crackers to scare away evil spirits. People will continue celebrating with parades, firecrackers, family visiting, and gifts of money in auspicious red envelopes for the next fifteen days in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Chinatowns around the world.
From one of my biggest fans, an American friend who was living in Beijing.
Jinshanling is the best preserved stretch of The Great Wall. The six mile long section was built around 1570 in the Ming Dynasty. The astoundingly steep and snaking five passes are dotted with 67 watchtowers! Doesn’t it look like a painting?
July 18, 2005 “…The Great Wall was so unreal in its great leng[t]h. It took so long to actually get up to the wall. There were so many stairs! Getting down was so much more worthwhile–there’s a big slide that winds its way down a mountain…”
I know, it’s hard to read–Akha Hilltribe North Maehongson, Thailand
I’d never heard of the Akha, so when I received this postcard, I did a bit of research. Turns out, this tribe, with its own language and religion, is relatively new to Thailand. They originated in China, where some still live in the southwestern province of Yunnan. Scientists tend to believe the Akha are in fact from Yunnan, but the people themselves generally hold that they hail from the Chinese-Tibetan borderlands. In any case, many Akha migrated to the high mountains of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand in the early 1900′s. Thailand received further influx of Akha people as they fled civil war in Laos and former-Burma (now Myanmar). Today, 80,000 Akha live in Northern Thailand, and are known for their dazzling clothing. I for one wondered how bland they might find common dress here in the U.S. compared to the vibrant colors in this postcard.
From my friend who was living in Beijing, China
It’s Chinatown: The Central Plaza of Los Angeles’ Chinatown still looks like it does in this 1940’s (probably) linen-type postcard.
Chinese immigrants first settled in Los Angeles in the 1850′s, establishing laundries and green grocers. By the 1870′s, these businesses had clearly formed a Chinatown. Then in the 1930′s, the building of Union Station–the city’s monumental railway hub–got underway in Chinatown, displacing the business community. But a mile away in Little Italy, second-generation Italian-Americans were relocating to other reaches of the city. As Italians moved out, Chinese moved in, establishing New Chinatown which the governor of California officially dedicated in 1938.
In San Francisco’s Financial District, this stretch of California Street is just West of SF’s Chinatown, the largest Chinese community outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. I was walking up this hill last summer when a friend and I wanted to go to Chinatown. We only knew roughly how to get there, and we knew we were close when that pavilion appeared. I took a picture of it, and a picture of nearly the same view of the street as in this postcard! (Just further down.)
And there was Chinatown:
Good luck to you in the year of the snake!