Episode 11 Companion – Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Happy Year of the Horse!



Lanterns are nice and all… but everyone’s really in it for the BenjaMaos.  Here they are in a typical hongbao Red Envelope.




The lion dance features pairs of performers acrobatically dancing to the beat of drums and cymbals.




Likewise the Dragon Dance can involve a half-dozen or more performers making the dragon chase its golden ball around the arena.



Door blessings, or fu, are typically hung upside-down (倒) in all parts of China to ensure that luck will “arrive” (到) … except the southern Cantonese-speaking regions, where doing so would only “pour” (倒) the luck away.



Finally, a look at the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches system that gives rise to the names of the years.  Note that the Stems repeat at the end, since there are only 10 of them (5 elements, and the Yang [light color] and Yin [dark color] of each), versus the 12 zodiac branches…





2 thoughts on “Episode 11 Companion – Xin Nian Kuai Le!

  1. I discovered your podcast a week or so ago, and I am enjoying it greatly. I am a super-beginner at Chinese history. You bring a great sense of humor and an enjoyable listening experience to a brand new topic. Thank you for your hard work!
    Because I am so new I do not know how much information is available on these early periods. The pacing seems to be a bit quick. This could just be because there is not a ton of information about Bronze Age anywhere. Will there be more focused material in later periods? What is the whole scope of the podcast? How can we support your venture?

    Thanks again. I am looking forward to your next episode.

    1. Hi Shane,

      So glad you’re enjoying the podcast! The pacing is definitely fast these first several episodes…and you’re right in guessing that the reason is because there is so little information on the periods in question… The Xia and the Shang are more story than fact… and even then those stories are fragmented and largely bit reconstructed centuries or millennia after the fact, and then those tellings sieved those the intervening millennia and purges and fires and wars… what we have today is just the smallest fraction of the data… or even stories… as they were initially laid down. Heck, the only reason we know the Shang Dynasty is more real than the Xia is because we lucked into the Ruins of Yin in the early 20th century, and they were in the practice of carving their oracle bones rather than painting them. Lucky, lucky us.

      Do not fear… I can already feel the waves of historical data lapping around my shoulders, where once they were only ankle-deep. With the Spring and Autumn Period and beyond, we’re not going to be looking at centuries and millennia, but years and decades… there is an informational event horizon in Chinese history, and it is the Gonghe Regency… the point at which Sima Qian was able to backtrack every event to, year by year. Prior to that, it’s more speculation and storytelling than history. This is, of course, not to say that Sima’s Shiji is the be-all-end-all of pre-Han Dynasty history… but it does give us a real point at which we can proceed in a more yearly fashion, rather than “King X reigned for 43 years, we know nothing else, moving on”.

      In terms of scope, the goal is to bring us into the 20th century, hopefully capping off with the overthrow of the Republic by the Communists and the establishment of the People’s Republic (though in all honesty, I could probably stop at the Republic period, since that is the “end” of classical Chinese history with the permanent dismantling of the Imperial system… still it’s too interesting in the 20h century not to proceed at least into Mao’s era). I honestly have no idea when I might actually reach that point… as I said, I feel the waves of information lapping around my shoulders 10 episodes in… and think by episode 12 I might be totally submerged.

      I’m so grateful that you’d even consider supporting this podcast! Many, many thanks. As of yet, I have both the in-episode ads I’m still trying to become comfortable with, and the PayPal donation account I’ve set up to defray costs, located at: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=66QEUAJ63H4P4

      Again, so very glad you are liking what you hear… I hope I can continue to keep you informed and entertained in the episodes to come!

      Cheers, and Happy Year of the Horse!

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