Posts Tagged ‘China’

Déjeuner of the Dragon

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

I hope you have paid your debts, hung your lucky couplets on the door, swept your house clean of ill-fortune, and decked it and yourself in red, because today is the first day of Chinese New Year celebrations, and you have fifteen days of festivities ahead of you. Our own culinary interpretation of this holiday: tonight I will make crispy tofu and stir-fried broccoli and ginger but will order spicy eggplant and vegetarian dumplings from Mr. Chen’s Organic Chinese Restaurant around the corner. We’ve already prepared our New Year fortunes—more on that later.

DragonDejeuner

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, and if you were born in a Dragon year, you are (according to Mr. Chen’s placemats) eccentric, and your life complex. You have a very passionate nature and abundant health. Marry a Monkey or Rat late in life, and avoid the Dog!

Today is also the birthday of painter Édouard Manet (1832-1883), who was himself born in the Year of the Dragon. I hope that, in addition to his other qualities, he had a sense of humor.

A Stately Pleasure Dome

Friday, October 21st, 2011

If the word “Xanadu” happens to come up at our dinner table (and doesn’t it come up from time to time at yours?) we can count on our son’s launching into Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” which he memorized at some point due to sheer fascination with the language.

Today is the birthday of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and in his honor I post the opening lines of that poem. Along with it I post my daughter’s drawing, from our homeschooling Middle Ages block, of the rooftops of Xanadu, the summer residence of Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan), who ruled China during the years of Marco Polo’s visit and subsequent years of service to the Khan.

MarcoPolo

Cambalu, the winter capital, grew quite hot in summer, so Kublai had a northern marshy river valley drained and transformed into a vast park of gardens, teahouses, terraces, and winding waterways for pleasure boats and wild birds. (Here is Marco surveying the scene from a rooftop.) At its center was the palace of polished bamboo painted with vermilion and gold and elaborate murals.

Xanadu was destroyed in the 14th century, but Marco Polo’s descriptions were familiar and inspirational to later writers, one of whose works (Samuel Purchas’ 1613 Purchas His Pilgrimage) Coleridge had been reading one summer day in 1797 before falling into a deep, some say drug-induced, sleep. While he slept, Coleridge “dreamed” the poem as a series of vivid and haunting images and phrases, which he instantly wrote down upon awakening.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery…

For the rest, please see Poetry Out Loud. You will want to memorize it, too.

For another Coleridge poem, and a painting, please see Thou shalt wander like a breeze.

 

SetsuBunny

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

SetsuBunnyTwo celebrations fall on February 3rd in 2011: Setsubun, the Japanese demon-expelling festival; and Chinese New Year, the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Today’s title was suggested by my brilliant husband.

The Rabbit is supposed to be the luckiest of all the signs. If you were born in the Year of the Rabbit, you are gentle, sensitive, modest, sincere, and affectionate yet shy. Rabbits enjoy being at home, surrounded by family and friends. They seek peace throughout their lives, and are sometimes seen as pushovers because they like to avoid conflict. Although the Rabbit above looks like a pretty tough character, he is, after all, defending his peaceful home from demons.

We have decided to celebrate the two events simultaneously, which will be a challenge. Setsubun involves eating as many beans as you are years old for luck, and hanging garlic or a fish head on your door and throwing beans while chanting the verse above (“Demons Out! Happiness In!”)—both useful practices for repelling demons. Chinese New Year means plenty of red decorations, writing good-fortune verses, and shooting off fireworks. For both events there is special clothing (kimonos, or anything red, or a bunny hat are all acceptable in our house) and of course special foods (like friend Mary’s world-famous Bunny Cake). And, although it’s not traditional, we are including Chinese horoscopes, fortune cookies, origami bunny-folding, and an impressive gathering in the dining room of all our children’s stuffed rabbits.

BTW, for our door we are choosing garlic instead of a fish head.

For another sketch of Setsubun, please see Demons Out! Happiness In!

For another sketch of Chinese New Year, please see Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright.

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

TigerValentine3

How often does Chinese New Year fall on Valentines Day? So I had to celebrate both.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger (as were 1998, 1986, 1974, and so on backward every twelve years). If you were born in the Year of the Tiger, you are lively, engaging, sociable, and affectionate. Friends are always welcome in your home. You are impulsive, which can express itself in outbursts of generosity or hot temper. You are stubborn, a bit vain, and sensitive to criticism. Know anyone like this? Maybe you can guess which of your friends are Tigers without even knowing their birth years.

Tigers are supposed to be compatible with Dogs and Horses, and incompatible with Goats and Oxen. A Tiger/Tiger match is not recommended because both like to be in charge. Uh-oh. Well, Happy Chinese New Year, all you Valentines!