China National Day

October 1


By population, it’s the biggest National Day in the world. On this day (October 1) in 1949 Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China declared victory against the National army of Chiang Kai Shek and announced the birth of a new nation. A grand ceremony was held in Tiananmen Square celebrating the new People’s Republic of China.

Over sixty years later the Chinese continue to celebrate the country’s National Day with three full days of festivities. The holiday runs from October 1 to October 3 each year, but the whole week is referred to as a “Golden Week”. The other “Golden Week” is during Chinese New Year.

Parades, fireworks, and music concerts are some of the key features of the holiday, especially in larger cities like Shanghai. In the past, approximately 800,000 volunteers have helped out around the country to ensure the festivities go smoothly. (Guardian 9/30/09)

The main parade in Beijing can involve hundreds of thousands of people. The parade is an opportunity to show national spirit, and also for the government to strut its military stuff in peacetime.

Of course not all spectators are equally enthralled.

“This is basically a live action Powerpoint presentation, except more painful because the slides actually have to slowly walk by.”

Chen Xi, 10/1/09

But most see a great deal of symbolism and take pride in the ceremonies:

” Amid 60 gun salutes, 200 national flag guards in olive green uniforms walked down the platform of the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the center of Tian’anmen Square, marching northward on ared carpet toward the national flag post.

“The guards walked a total of 169 steps, which symbolized 169 years since 1840, a watershed in China’s history when the country lost the Opium War with Britain. That eventually led to the scramble of Western powers in China.

“The founding of the People’s Republic ended China’s history of being humiliated by outside forces. The country now is emerging as a major political and economic power on the international stage…

“…The 440,000-square-meter Tian’anmen Square is believed to be the largest city square in the world. Six decades ago, the founding ceremony of the PRC was held on the square and late Chairman Mao Zedong announced the birth of New China. Mao himself pressed the button to hoist the first national flag of the PRC.”

Flag-raising Ceremony Held for China’s National Day Celebration

Confucius’s Birthday – Teachers’ Day

September 28


Before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.



Today is the (observed) birthday of the man whom many believe to be the greatest teacher ever, Master Kung, K’ung Fu Tzu. Or as he’s known in English: Confucius.

Compared to his legacy, the circumstances of his life were somewhat underwhelming.

He was born in 551 BC in Lu, China, into a poor, once noble family. His father died when he was three. According to the Chinese philosopher Mencius, Confucius worked as a storekeeper, and also tended to oxen and sheep in the public fields.

A large chunk of Confucius’ life is missing from the record, as can be expected from a non-royal figure who lived 2500 years ago. But these gaps have been filled in by millennia of legends. We do know that by his early fifties, Confucius was in the employ of the Duke of Lu, Ding, as Minister of Public Works and as Minister of Crime. But Confucius left Lu and the court of the Duke at age 52. Whether it was because of some moral ambiguity on the part of the Duke’s, because of a social snub toward Confucius, or because of animosity from those vying for the Duke’s power, we can’t be sure.

Confucius spent the next several years traveling through China, to the states of Wei, Song, Chen, Cai, and Chu.

He returned to Lu in 484 BC where he lived out his remaining years. By the time of his death he had amassed a sizable following of students, who would formalize and carry on his teachings.

Like I said, underwhelming. But by the next century, Mencius would write, “Ever since man came into this world, never has there been one greater than Confucius.” Confucius was remembered as a sage who should have been king, in a world too shortsighted to see that.

Confucius once said he was not a “maker” of knowledge, but a “transmitter” of it. “I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.” (Analects)

Though his teachings and philosophy were based on studies of history, they were vastly different from those that came before.

He taught that rulers who governed by example and by virtue would have more loyal subjects than those who governed by force alone. That the society governed by the former system, and the people within it, would eventually lean toward goodness. And that humans are similar by nature, but their habits and practices “carry them far apart.” (Analects)

He defined the practices of virtue as Gravity, Generosity of Soul, Sincerity, Earnestness, and Kindness.

He condoned strong attachment to family and respect toward elders and ancestors.

And he put into words the Golden Rule of reciprocity: Don’t impose upon other what you would not want for yourself.

Ancient scholars studied for their own improvement. Modern scholars study to impress others.

There are an estimated 6 million followers of Confucianism around the world today, but these are a small minority of those who follow the teachings laid out by Confucius over 2500 years ago. Confucianism remains a dominant philosophical system in Chinese life. His philosophy and teachings fundamentally influenced Eastern thought since his lifetime, as well as Western thought following Confucianism’s introduction into Europe by Jesuit Matteo Ricci in the 16th century.

Since the 1990s, birthday ceremonies in honor of the Great Teacher have flourished in China, after decades of repression.

The nation of Taiwan celebrates this day as Teacher Day.

Confucius Temple Ceremony in honor of Confucius’s birthday.

Meanings of Confucianism

Confucianism Overview @

Mid-Autumn Festival

September 12, 2011

The Mid-Autumn Festival is known as Eighth Moon because it falls of the full moon of the eighth month. It’s also known as Mooncake Day, because billions of mooncakes are prepared for this holiday. (Though billions aren’t necessarily eaten. It’s more like the Chinese holiday fruitcake.)

For generations, moon cakes have been made with sweet fillings of nuts, mashed red beans, lotus-seed paste or Chinese dates, wrapped in a pastry. Sometimes a cooked egg yolk can be found in the middle of the rich tasting dessert. – Mid-Autumn Festival

One story of the popularity of mooncakes dates from the 1300’s AD. China was ruled by the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty, that overthrew the Chinese Sung Dynasty. To coordinate a secret attack on the ruling power, Han Chinese rebels hid secret messages inside mooncakes, which were then distributed throughout the kingdom. The revolution was a success.

Joyce Hor-Chung theorizes that had mooncakes been more tasty, there would have been no revolution, and the Yuan might still be in power today.

The importance of Eighth Moon in China goes back to the third millennium B.C. The traditional origin story of the holiday revolves around a beautiful young woman of unsurpassed beauty, and a rabbit.

Okay, not what I had in mind.

Getting colder.

No, the woman in question was Ch’ang-O, wife of Hou Yi. Hou Yi, you’ll remember from your textbooks, was the greatest archer in the land, famous for shooting down nine of the ten suns that scorched the earth, back in the Great Deci-Solar Debacle of 2170 BC.

Hou Yi had an elixir, a pill for attaining immortality, but he was told he would have to pray and fast for a year before taking it. His wife Ch’ang-O was as curious as she was beautiful. Finding the pill hidden in the rafters, she swallowed it and immediately began floating toward the moon. She landed on the great white orb, where she’s been stranded ever since. Instead of a “Man in the Moon”, the Chinese refer to Ch’ang-O, the Woman on the Moon.

There on the moon lives the immortal Ch’ang-O, with only a Jade Rabbit to keep her company (and, we can assume, an occasional astronaut). The Jade Rabbit on the moon is an important character in Chinese folklore. His sworn duty is to continually make the elixir of immortality for the Gods.

Origin stories vary, but they say Hou Yi eventually built a house on the sun, (Yang) and visits Ch’ang-O on the moon (Yin) once a year on the full moon of the eighth month, which is why the moon is so full and bright on this night.

Today families and friends gather to share mooncakes, pomelo, stories, and good times. Lanterns are lit, Mid-Autumn trees are planted, dandelions are plucked, and incense is burned in honor of the goddess on the moon, Ch’ang-O, who will increasingly watch over the earth as temperatures drop and summer makes way for fall.

Google Moon

Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival

Enjoying the Wind and Moon Together

Teachers’ Day – China

September 10

Teacher: I thought I told you to stand at the back of the line!
Pupil: I tried, someone was already there.

Mother: What did you learn in school today?
Student: Not enough, I have to go back tomorrow.


Created by a group of China’s most esteemed professors, Teachers’ Day was celebrated in June in the 1930s. The Manifesto on Teachers’ Day explained the professors’ hope that the holiday would inspire the nation to:

  • create better living conditions for teachers
  • safeguard teacher’s work
  • improve teacher’s qualities. (Chinese Festivals, 2005)

In 1939, the Ministry of Education moved the holiday to August 27, the birthday’s of China’s great teacher Confucius. (Taiwan still celebrates Teachers’ Day on Confucius’s birthday, which is now observed September 28.)

In 1951 the new Communist Chinese government bumped Teachers’ Day to May 1, Labor Day, but as you can imagine, the event was overshadowed by one of China’s biggest holidays.

In December of 1984 the Beijing Evening Paper published an article citing a suggestion by Professor Wang Zikun who proposed that teachers be given their own day once again. The idea quickly gained support and a September 10th Teachers’ Day was put into law the following year. Why September 10th?

According to

The reason to choose this day is because when the fall semester begins, a fine studious atmosphere will be created if activities of respecting teachers and valuing education are held.

Students unfurl a 100-meter banner on Teachers Day (Now, class, how many inches is that?)
Students unfurl a 100-meter banner on Teachers Day (Now, class, how many inches is that?)

China has two other holidays dedicated to specific professions: Nurses (May 12) and Journalists (November 8).

Just for fun:

Say and write “Happy Teachers’ Day” in Chinese at

Qixi – Night of Sevens

7th night of the 7th month, Chinese Lunar
August 6, 2011
August 23, 2012

According to Chinese tradition, when a man proposes on The Night of Sevens, his bride to be is blessed by seven fairies from the heavens that brings luck in uniting their love forever.

How To Propose on the Night of Sevens


It’s Valentine’s Day in China. But it’s not named for a 3rd century Roman saint. Today’s “Qixi” Festival (Night of Sevens) has its roots in the legend of the Weaver Princess and the Cowherd.

There are many versions of the story. In one, a Weaver Princess comes down from the heavens to do a little skinny dipping. A Cowherd happens across her and—urged on by his mischievous ox—steals the Princess’s clothes. When the Princess finally comes out of the water to retrieve them, she has to agree to his proposal of marriage, as he had seen her in the buff (’cause them’s the rules.)

The Princess grows to love the Cowherd and together they have two kids; however, when the Princess’s grandfather, the Jade Emperor (some sources say her mother) hears about the match, he is not happy. He forces the Princess back to the Heavens, where her job is to weave the clouds. The Princess is the star known as Vega.

When the Cowherd, through some misadventures of his own, finally makes it up to the heavens to see her with their two kids, the Emperor separates them, placing a great river in the sky between them. The river is the Milky Way, and the Cowherd is the star Altair. Their two children are the smaller stars beside him.

It’s said that the two lovers are allowed to meet only once a year, in mid-summer, on the 7th evening of the 7th moon in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Qixi means “Night of Sevens” but it’s also called “Daughter’s Day.” In Japan, it is known as Tanabata and is also celebrated on July 7th. (7/7)

The traditions and rituals related to the festival have gone through several incarnations over the past 2000 years. These days Qixi is a day of romance for lovers and can be compared in many ways to Valentine’s Day in the West.

Dragon Boat Festival

5th day of 5th lunar month
June 23, 2012
June 6, 2011
June 16, 2010;

Dragon Boats

Duanwu is often called Double Fifth, because it falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, but it’s more commonly referred to as the Dragon Boat Festival, after its most famous annual event.

Almost as famous are the delicious special foods prepared for this date. The traditional dish, zongzi, is a triangular rice ball stuffed with sweet or savory fillings, and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The Duanwu beverage of choice is a special realgar yellow rice wine.


The inspiration for the holiday comes from the death of one of China’s first great poets, Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a political advisor in the late forth century BC who urged his king to unite with other kingdoms against the rising state Qin. However, jealous and corrupt political opponents counseled the king against the advice of Qu Yuan, who was accused of treason and forced into exile. It was during this exile that Qu Yuan traveled the country gathering and recording local folklore and legends.  When Qin did eventually attack and capture the capital city of Ying, Qu Yuan composed one of his greatest works, “Lament for Ying”. He then committed suicide by tying himself to a rock and jumping into a river.

The local fishermen tried to keep the fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body by throwing food into the water. Over time this became a tradition. Later a legend gained credence that Qu Yuan was killed by a great underwater dragon.


Qu Yuan

The Maoist government banned celebrations of Duanwu in 1949. It wasn’t until only a few years ago that the Chinese government officially reinstated three of the country’s most popular holidays: Tomb Sweeping Day, Mid-Autumn Festival and Duanwu.

Qing Ming Festival

April 5, 2010
April 5, 2011
April 4, 2012

Two weeks after the spring equinox (usually April 5) the Chinese spend this day with their beloved departed. Qing Ming, or Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few Chinese holidays to follow the solar calendar rather than the lunar.

On this day families travel together to the grave’s of their loved ones to honor their memory. It’s believed that the spirits of family members who have passed on continue to watch over the family.

The holiday has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, originating with a Chinese Emperor who honored the memory of a royal official who sacrificed his life to save the Emperor.

Qingming Festival

Today relatives try to ensure their ancestors’ happiness in many different ways. Some sweep away the underbrush and dirt that has accumulated, and decorate their graves with flowers. Others cook the favorite dish of the departed. It’s traditional to burn ‘fake’ money or paper models of other goods, but this year Chinese officials are concerned about dry conditions conducive to fires, and are encouraging other methods of honoring the dead, such as planting trees.

The cemeteries are swamped with visitors this day. Officials estimate 100,000 people will visit the Babaoshan cemetery in Beijing today.

Meanwhile a new tradition is developing online where relatives can light virtual candles and carry on the traditions of Qing Ming in cyberspace.

The 2008 Tomb Sweeping Day is an historic event in that it has been declared a national public holiday for the first time.