Today is the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, which mean something very significant in China: it’s time for 端午节 (Duān Wǔ Jié), the Dragon Boat Festival!
The Dragon Boat Festival is one of China’s oldest and most celebrated holidays, dating back over 2000 years. There are many stories surrounding its origin, but the most popular ones all revolve around an individual named Qu Yuan (屈原).
The core story goes something like this:
During Ancient China’s Warring States Period, Qu Yuan was a loyal and wise minister to the King of the state of Chu (楚). Another state, Qin (秦), was rapidly growing and gaining power; Qu Yuan advocated that Chu join other states in opposition, but not everyone agreed. Eventually (some say it was the other disgruntled ministers, while others say it was a corrupt prince or prime minister), Qu Yuan was defamed, accused of treason, and exiled.
He lived out the rest of his days south of the Yangtze River, in the region that is now China’s Hunan province (湖南) – and he never forgot what had happened, spending his days writing poems about his political and moral ideals and satirizing the corruption plighting his beloved state.
These works, including the autobiographical Lí Sāo (离骚, “Encountering Lament”), Tiān Wèn (天问, “Questions to Heaven”), and Jiǔ Gē (九歌, “Nine Songs”). These, along with other pieces attributed to Qu Yuan, are included in Chǔ Cí (楚辞, “Verses of Chu”), one of the two major historical anthologies of classical Chinese authors. Qu Yuan is considered the first poet in China to have his name associated with his verse; today, his work is highly regarded for its moving language and its patriotism.
In 278 BC, Qu Yuan received news that the state of Chu had been captured by the Qin. Perhaps out of grief, or in despair that he’d been unable to adequately serve his nation, he went to the Miluo River (汨羅江) on the fifth day of the fifth month and committed suicide by throwing himself in, using a large rock to weigh his body down.
The local people, who had greatly admired Qu Yuan, went out in their boats to try to save him, or at least salvage his body. Though they were too late for either, they continued paddling the boats around, throwing things into the water: balls of glutinous rice (to distract the fish from eating the body or to feed Qu Yuan’s spirit) and realgar wine (to anesthetize the fish or to appease the water dragon in the river).
All of these elements have been incorporated into the Dragon Boat Festival we know today. Boat races are held throughout China, and people eat zongzi (粽子) – sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, often with bean curd, egg, or pork centers – as well as drink realgar wine (雄黄酒).
Dragon Boat Races
Since 2008, the Dragon Boat Festival has been recognized as a public holiday, although many Chinese take Monday through Wednesday off.
We’re so excited! The festivities await!
WildChina’s Beijing offices will be closed for the Dragon Boat Festival on Wednesday, June 12th. In the meantime, if you have questions about China’s festivals or traveling in China, send us an email at email@example.com!
Photos credited to Cultural-China.com and Go Love China.
WildChina Beijing offices are closed on Friday, April 5th for Qingming Festival! Read on to learn more about this unusual Chinese holiday…
Iridescent-hued kites shaped like characters from popular Chinese Opera plays adorn the clear skies.
Willow branches hang from the windows of your favorite local jiaozi eatery.
With origins dating back more than 2,500 years to the Tang Dynasty, Tomb Sweeping Day, also known as the Qingming Festival, is China’s version of Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
A traditional Chinese festival held on the 104th day after the winter solstice, this national holiday is dedicated to taking time off from one’s busy schedules to remember and honor the dead. Families clean the graves of fallen loved ones, pray, and offer flowers, food, and light incense.
Not only is the Qingming Festival a day to honor the dead, but it is also one to celebrate life. Take the day to indulge in life itself – perhaps a serene and picturesque walk along the clear Houhai Lake.
The green is greener, the blue bluer, and the aromatic scent of newly blossoming flowers fill the air. Keep your ears open for the music created by the cool breeze that flows through the willow trees. Reward your stomach with endless amounts of delectable “momo”, or steamed bread as multicolored kites and magical lanterns light up the dark night sky.
We’ll be back in the office as usual on Monday, April 8th. In the meantime, if you have questions about China’s festivals or traveling in China, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Depending on what city you are in, New Year’s Eve can take on a lot of different shapes. You can watch the ball drop in New York City, join the New Year’s day parade in London, or watch a Tostito chip drop if you are in Tempe, Arizona. While all of these may be impressive, if not amusing, they are nothing like being in Hong Kong to ring in the New Year.
It is no coincidence that the city we recommend for popping champagne and watching fireworks is the same one The Economist recognized this year as the best city in the world. Not only will fireworks never be the same (Hong Kong goes notoriously overboard when planning its celebratory explosive light shows) but Hong Kong truly has something for everyone.
For those who have come from the blustery cold of northern Europe and North America, Asia’s World City offers a relatively warm January 1st, with temperatures between 8-15ºC (46 to 59ºF). Hong Kong ‘s sun stay hot and tropical so this is perfect weather for families to explore hikes around the territory and take the tram up to Hong Kong’s Peak for a beautiful view of the metropolis below. If you are staying on the Island, the Dragon’s Back Hike is a 15-minute cab ride away, while for those staying in Kowloon, Sai Kung Country Park–a true escape from the bustling crowds–can be reached in under half an hour.
When evening rolls around there are many locations from which to enjoy the night’s festivities. Reserve a table for yourselves at one of the city’s many restaurants to stage your own party complete with Christmas crackers, confetti, and plenty of Moët & Chandon. An excellent venue for this is The Pawn, and one of our favorites. If you go, trust us on this one and try their fresh seafood–it’s fantastic. Celebrating New Year’s Eve with the entire family? Rent out a junk to float around Victoria Harbour for a truly singular view when the fireworks burst over head. It will be a reunion to remember. Of course there are those who celebrate the New Year by traipsing around until the wee hours of the morning, and in this regard Hong Kong never fails to disappoint. Unlike the rest of the year, the buses and subway will run all night long on New Year’s Eve. The vibrant bar scenes of both Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai offer places galore–bumping clubs, relaxed lounges, and comfy pubs–just be sure to get there early as lines can build as you close in on midnight.
Make a mid-year resolution to plan a trip to the fragrant harbor this December to start 2013 off right in the shimmering streets of Hong Kong.
If you have questions about travel in Hong Kong, send us an email at email@example.com and we will be happy to assist you.
Photo of fireworks over northern Hong Kong Island by Voice of America. Photo of Tailongwan (Big Wave Bay, Sai Kung) by WildChina.
WildChina’s Beijing office will be closed October 1st through 5th for China’s National Holiday. During this time the U.S. offices will remain open to answer any of your travel questions. If you are thinking about travel this winter now is the time to start planning.
Unless you are an expert on Asian anthropology, you probably are not aware of the various ethnic communities living in China. Below is a brief introduction to the history, culture, and most importantly, the major festivals of the Miao people, the second-largest population of ethnic communities residing in Guizhou:
Known throughout the rest of Southeast Asia, the Miao people are able to trace their Chinese roots back more than four-thousand years. Though initially, they were located in the western part of Henan province and the eastern edge of Guizhou, both migration and being taken captive have resulted in the scattering of the Miao people to various parts of China’s southwest, including the Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces.
The formation of distinct “pockets” throughout the mainland has led to subtle variations within the Miao culture itself. The disparities between the Miao people of different provinces is most clearly visible in the variation of traditional dress for both men and women. For example, the woolen cloaks and linen jackets that distinguish the Miao men of one province may not even be donned by those of another. Though the differences in male fashion are quite noticeable, they are unsurprisingly out done by the innumerable variations in the overall style and extravagance found amongst female Miao fashion. Even though a skirt is seemingly simple, within the Miao wardrobe, there is a wide selection in terms of pleating, length, hues, and patterns.
Though major festivals are in essence a time for celebration, the fashionable Miao women see these festivities as somewhat similar to New York Fashion Week. In order to stand out in the crowd, every woman must pull out all of the stops to look her best. Not only do skirts become even more vividly hued and floral patterns even more captivating, the Miao women keenly add an extra element to finish off their already vogue-worthy attire. Whether one lives on the Upper East Side or in a small Guizhou village, every girl knows that no outfit is complete without the perfect amount of sparkle to catch the attention of every pair of male eyes in the room. With their impeccable accessories, ranging from show-stopping head dresses that shimmer in the sunlight to an uncountable assortment of well-crafted silver jewelry, the Miao women are able to give even the most avid collector of Tiffany and Co. a run for her money.
Even though tastes in fashion may differ depending on province, something that remains consistent regardless of location is the overarching love that the Miao people have for both singing and dancing. At no time is this fondness for celebration more clearly evident than during their major festivals, the two most important being the Lusheng and the Sister’s Meal Festivals.
The Lusheng Festival, which takes place during the Fall, is a time of coming together. Miao groups from all over the mainland converge in Guiyang for a wild celebration consisting of energy-filled horse racing, exhilarating bull fighting, and most importantly, entrancing performances of the Lusheng, a traditional wood wind instrument.
The Sister’s Meal Festival, which takes place in early Spring, highlights the undying passion that the Miao people have for singing, specifically through the lively songs that are sung back and forth between Miao men and women. In addition to these beautiful exchanges of verse, lovebirds may also share tokens of love as acknowledgements of their affection for each other. For the younger Miao people, all you really need is love.
Although they may be hidden in the southwest corner of China, the colorful dress, multifaceted culture, and riveting festivals of the Miao people are hands down, some of the most memorable throughout China and definitely not ones to be missed.
If you have any questions about either the Miao people or travel to Guizhou feel free to send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
In China’s fall, picking the right time to travel is essential. Thinking about traveling to Guizhou November 9-12th? Get ready for eye-opening adventure. Thinking about traveling October 1-7th? Get ready to wait in line. Timing your visit to China for early November will put you there for the Lusheng Festival, a time of rich celebration for a culture that is thousands of years old. Planning your visit during China’s National Holiday in October will get you closer to great crowds than the Great Wall.
During early November, those lucky enough to find themselves with WildChina in Guizhou are in for a real treat: The Lusheng Festival of the Miao people. This annual event is a festival that celebrates the courtship between the young men and women of the local villages. Taking its name from the Lusheng instrument played by the men during ceremonies, the festival is marked by a host of activities. In addition to singing by the women in their traditional bright colors and shimmering head dresses, buffalo fighting and horse racing are also a part of the celebration. If you choose to explore this event along the Damochong Valley with us, we will take you into the homes of the Paika villagers for dinner and give you a chance to try the Lusheng instrument for yourself. As Catherine Meng, one of WildChina’s travel consultants explains, “The Lusheng festival is unique because outside of the Sisters’ Meal Festival in the spring, it is the only festival where all the different Miao minorities come together for a single event.” China’s Lusheng festival truly has something for everyone to enjoy.
Now on to something no one enjoys. Have you ever tried booking a last minute ticket home for Thanksgiving? Now imagine trying to book that ticket in a country where the population is 1.5 billion. This is the reality of China’s two Golden Weeks, times during which it is virtually impossible to move about the country. While the first Golden Week which celebrated the Chinese New Year passed in January, the second Golden Week will take place October 1-7. During this time, WildChina would recommend you avoid visiting the country because not only will transportation be jammed, but national parks and monuments will be flooded with people.
Though travel during China’s Golden Weeks is certainly something to be avoided, a journey to Guizhou during the fall festivals can be life changing. WildChina traveler Anthony Garrett described the trip he and his wife had in Guizhou as something they “will treasure the rest of their lives.” Pick the right time to come to China and you stand a good chance of leaving feeling the same way.
No landscape in China is as timeless as that of Guizhou. The hills, covered in stripes of green created by the tiers of rice paddies, look the same today as they have for over six centuries. Above the valleys, mist slowly rises, obscuring your view of the houses that have settled sentient into the top of the mountains. Unlike the rapid evolution that is presently shaping urban China, much of Guizhou remains unchanged. WildChina’s rustic journey through Guizhou and Guangxi, recognized as one of National Geographic Traveler’s “Tours of a Lifetime,” will make you feel like you have strolled into an old Chinese watercolor.
A trip to the countryside does not mean sacrificing culture, as Guizhou is the home of the Miao minority people. Plan your visit during the Miao festivals and you are in for a real treat. This year, a trip on either Nov. 9-11th or Nov. 10-12th will land you in the middle of the celebrations. During this time, you will see women in black tunics patterned with bright reds and blues, and atop their brows will rest shimmering silver head-dresses. They will laugh smile and dance, and will even offer you a sip of their powerful rice wine.
Guizhou’s remoteness makes it an ideal location for service trips for those who are interested. Only recently, WildChina led a group of Harvard Business School alumni to Guizhou to help in the in the construction of irrigation channels for rice paddies. Opportunities are also available for students on summer break and anyone looking to lend a hand in China during their next vacation. Thinking back on her student’s experience in Guizhou, Adrian Gan, a teacher at the Hong Kong Discovery College noted “Our students have all consistently described their few days living in the Miao Village as one which has completely changed their ideas of what it means to be in community.”
If you have seen China’s cities, or are simply looking for a trip that is on the road less traveled, Guizhou is the perfect answer. When your trip is over, you won’t feel like you are exiting a foreign museum, but like you are leaving a foreign world.
If you have questions about traveling to Guizhou, feel free to contact us at email@example.com
Every year in July, the crescendo of boastful taunts between Mongolian men only means one thing – Naadam Festival has arrived! The national holiday not only commemorates the 1921 revolution & the Mongol state’s declaration of freedom, but it’s also a Herculean display of athleticism and traditional song and dance.
Dubbed the “Three Games of Men”, celebrations and competitions were traditionally tests of a man’s skill, strength and daring. Today, the games have evolved. While man-to-man wrestling still remains just that, long-distance horse-racing and archery competitions are open to participants of all ages and for women as well.
If you’d like to join in on these activities, we recommend traveling with WildChina partner Nomadic Expeditions. You can spend the holiday with nomadic families from a small town away from the crowds in the capital and relax in the open plains surrounding the Three Camels Lodge.
Walking along Queen’s Road Central in downtown Hong Kong this past Monday morning, there were a lot of hoarse voices and rueful smiles. Overheard more than once was the teasing comment, “I see you survived the Sevens.” For non-ruggers out there (or loyal rugby league fans), the Sevens refers to the HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens: a 3-day frenzy of international 7-a-side rugby, hilarious costumes, socializing, networking, and of course, inevitable hoarse voices.
The jam-packed Hong Kong Stadium
The first thing to know about the Sevens is the reason behind the name. Standard rugby, known as rugby union, has 15 players per team and 40 minutes halves; sevens rugby has—you guessed it—7 players per team and 7 minute halves. Although the rules are essentially the same, sevens rugby is a lot more exciting: it’s faster-paced, with more scoring, and is ultimately unpredictable. If this is the first you’ve heard of sevens rugby, keep your eyes peeled. Just last year the sport was entered into the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, a HUGE victory for sevens fans and sponsors. We’ll be hearing a lot more about this exciting sport in years to come.
Involving the local Hong Kong rugby clubs in the Sunday March-Past
Favorites to win the Hong Kong Sevens this year were Fiji and New Zealand (who beat England in the Cup finals last year) and sure enough, the nail-biting final had these two teams pitched against each other as the crowd rose to its feet, some climbing on top of the seats in nervous expectation. Although there were plenty of New Zealanders among the fans (and many more hoping for a Kiwi win to see the infamous Haka), the teeny tiny island nation of Fiji rallied many more to its cause as the underdog and the promise of a new reigning champion. With a roaring crowd behind them, the Fijians went on to beat New Zealand by a single try, with a final score of 35-28.
Check out the videos below for the 7 best plays of the tournament (including a Fiji try against the All Blacks [NZ]) and the New Zealand Haka from last year’s victory.
Held at the end of March every year, fans of all ages and from all over the world descend upon Hong Kong just for the Sevens (two WildChina staff included) and the 40,000 seat Hong Kong Stadium sells out within hours–tickets go on sale in January. There are more teams competing than at other International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens Series events (24 instead of 16), and this year, victory for some teams at the Hong Kong Sevens will enter them into the core 15 countries competing on the international circuit. All this, in addition to it’s party-like carnival reputation, means the Hong Kong Sevens is by far the most popular rugby event in Asia with tickets notoriously hard to get.
Dragon dances - Saturday mid-day show
Drummers - Saturday mid-day show
Hong Kong Police Band - Sunday March-Past
Over the weekend, WildChina took a break from the rugby to speak with anthropologist Joseph Bosco at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has been doing research into rugby culture and the Hong Kong Sevens, to better understand how a sports event held in Hong Kong became so immensely popular (because, let’s face it, rugby is not usually what springs to mind when you think of the Chinese urban metropolis).
Bosco says the sport itself, the nature of sevens rugby is “ideal for socializing, since it has spans of intense action and excitement along with half-time breaks (two minutes), and pauses between games (about five minutes). The Sevens game fits the Hong Kong pace of life and attention span. In Hong Kong [time] is scarce; while everyone else in the rugby world enjoys an 80-minute game, the city has shortened it to just 14 minutes.”
England wins line-out against Kenya
“Sevens is also easier to understand…it’s a more open game. Spectators can see the ball almost all the time, and they can see players form lines of defense, and though they may not understand how the gap was created, they can easily see the player spurt through a hole in the line to break away into open field, do a side-step on the hapless halfback, and score. Even someone who has never before seen rugby can understand the basics of sevens rugby.”
Finally, he says, “the Hong Kong Sevens means different things to different people, but the different meanings complement each other and have synergy. Spectators who come for the party also learn to enjoy the rugby. Rugby fans who come for the athletic contest also enjoy the festive atmosphere. And the businesspeople who come for branding and networking can do their work more effectively and pleasantly thanks to the party and the rugby.”
Waldos enjoying a corporate box
As you can see above, at the Hong Kong Sevens this “festive atmosphere” and “party” translates into one thing: costumes. The more hilarious and outrageous, the better and we definitely have our favorites from this weekend:
Bananas in Pyjamas
Mail Order Brides
Miss Piggy & Kermit
With 24 countries competing, the chance that you have a personal stake in every game is next to zero, which means that fans usually pick a team for that game to support, lending a friendly air to the event. The one exception is when Hong Kong plays—the stadium as a whole pitches itself behind Hong Kong. This year Hong Kong fielded one of the best teams in years, emerging from their pool undefeated (beating Uruguay, Tonga, and China). Hong Kong was competing to enter the core 15 international sevens teams which would have made them the first professional sevens team Hong Kong has seen. The majority of the boys on the Hong Kong team came out of the Hong Kong youth rugby programs, making their eventual loss to Japan even more devastating for them and local Hong Kong fans.
WildChina got in touch with former Hong Kong sevens and fifteens (union) player, and poster boy for Hong Kong rugby, Andy Yuen, to hear his thoughts on the Hong Kong Sevens. Yuen is currently the assistant coach to the Hong Kong Women 7s team, and much like the current Hong Kong team, he came up through the local rugby program. “Playing for the Hong Kong team in the Hong Kong Sevens was my dream, and I made the dream come true. I started watching the Sevens when I was a little boy playing mini rugby and to step on the pitch in front of the home crowd was a really special moment. I also think Hong Kong Sevens is the best Sevens tournament in the world. Players put on their best performance here…[and] for the crowd, it’s not only a rugby match to watch, it is also a 3 day party.”
Andy Yuen, former Hong Kong rugby player
This next weekend Hong Kong is heading to the first ever Tokyo Sevens and Yuen thinks, “Hong Kong has a good chance to do well and build on what they achieved in the Hong Kong Sevens. They had a good tournament here and it was unfortunate to go out they way they did and I am sure that will be extra motivation for them to try and beat some of the ‘big teams’ in the tournament to stake their claim.”
Young rugby fans getting autographs from Hong Kong team
Finally, whether you are already an avid fan or not, these last statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board will really pique your interest in the Sevens phenomenon: A Hong Kong Tourism Board survey of the 2011 Hong Kong Sevens found that 73 percent of spectators were previous attendees, 97 percent of them said they would recommend the event to relatives and friends, and 90 percent of them planned to return this year for the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens. Says Bosco, “The event is such a social event that “See you at the Sevens” is widely heard in March.”
With that many loyal and returning fans, we can only hope that the Hong Kong Sevens will continue to grow. If you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, March is most definitely the time to do it. With or without Sevens tickets, the weather is perfect—winter is over and the humid monsoon season is about a month away—and the city is alive with an almost overwhelming energy of excitement, camaraderie, and expectation.
Maybe you’ll be saying it to us next year: “See you at the Sevens!”
Interested in traveling to Hong Kong for the Sevens in 2013? Do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup 2012 was hosted at China’s coastal city of Tianjin from 4 -12 February. The final, won by Hong Kong (China) against South Africa was played at the luxury resort Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club. Twelve of the best teams in the world took part, including England, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil.
With this year’s Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz being cancelled due to thin ice on the lake, this World Cup in Tianjin acquires even more importance. And, as the organisers stated: no sport can enjoy comprehensive development without the participation of China. As we all know, the lack of natural snow in Tianjin is no impediment for the tournament to go ahead, the Chinese will guarantee an abundance of it by making a total of 4,000 cubic metres of snow over the arena, a process that started in late December.
Regular services by bullet train from Beijing South Station take you to Tianjin in under 30 mins, and from there a 25 min taxi drive to the luxurious Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, the largest polo club in China.
The emerging sport of snow polo was first introduced in 1985 at the resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, by a handful of men attracted by the passion and excitement of polo and the extremity of the conditions. Since then it has grown from strength to strength into a recognised winter sport enjoyed among the elites worldwide.
Snow polo is very similar to traditional polo: but games are played on a snow-covered arena. The teams are made up of three players and each game consists of four six-minute chukkas (periods). The horses wear special cleated shoes to provide better traction. The ball is larger and lighter than in grass polo, and bright orange, to make it easier to see against the snow.
Polo has always been synonymous with the finer things in life, attracting affluent, sophisticated high-achievers. Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club provides an exquisite location for impeccable wine dinners through its close relationships with world famous winemakers and chateaux: Chateau Latour, Mouton Rothschild and others. The resort boasts indoor and outdoor training facilities for both the young and adults and comes with a dazzling Clubhouse, spa and leisure facilities on par with any top international resort. Staffed by well-known names in the equestrian and polo world, the Club offers a luxurious venue to relax and entertain.