The Chinese New year – the Year of the Horse!   2 comments

I had the wonderful fortune (no cookie pun intended) of visiting the University of Nottingham this Sunday, for their celebration of the Chinese New Year – which is the year of the Horse by the way.

We parked up in the University grounds nice and early yesterday afternoon and ambled down to the University lake where a stage had been set up. I say ‘we’ as one of my ‘photography course’ students was with me. It had been her that had dropped me a text asking if I wanted to go. I’d been unaware previously that the University was holding the event, I later discovers that they have a University in China! The University’s strong links with China resulted in an invitation to become the first foreign university to establish an independent campus, under new legislation passed in China in 2003. The campus is located in Ningbo, a historic city on China’s eastern coast close to Shanghai. You can find out more here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/about/campuses/chinacampus.aspx

Anyhoo… the stage was set for an entertaining evening and we smuggled ourselves down at the front of it, quite literally. When the show open at 4:30pm there were only a few people looking on, but by the time the light had faded and the Dragon entered (is that the right way around?) it had swelled and would eventually become more than a thousand strong. So, armed with just a humble 50mm f1.8 lens and no flash we clicked away at the Chinese feast set before our eyes.

I hope you enjoy the pictures:

 

Chinese New Year little fan girls

The talented spinners demonstrating varying degrees of concentration – my focus was on the cherub center stage who had mastered the art whilst staring out at the growing crowd.

 

Chinese New Year Dragon

Enter the Dragon (see, I got that in there in the end) and people banging and bashing instruments.

The Dragon Dance originated in China during the Han Dynasty(180-230AD) as part of the farming culture. The Dragon is an amphibian, able to move on land, able to fly in the sky and able to swim in the sea. As the dragon gives people a feeling of great respect, it is often called the Sacred Dragon. The emperors of ancient China considered themselves as the dragon. The Dragon is also the emblem of Imperial Authority. The appearance of dragon is frightening but it has a benevolent disposition. It symbolises supernatural power, goodness, fertility, vigilance and dignity. Although the dragon looks so fierce, it resembles various animals such as the horns of a stag, the head of a camel, the ears of a cow, the eyes of a rabbit and the scales of a carp.

 

Chinese New Year Dragon roars

Good dental care is taught in all Dragon universities.

 

Chinese New Year Dragon sits

Our friendly Dragon takes a breather!

 

Chinese New Year Cloth fan girl

Peek-a-boo! We were treated to a beautiful display of fan dancing from a beautiful practitioner of the art.

The traditional Chinese fan dance has been a part of China’s heritage for over two thousand years. Considered to be an ancient form of folk dance, the fan dance serves various purposes and is highly regarded by the Chinese. First, it is used to help pass down stories and traditions of Chinese culture. Chinese generations learn classic tales and lore of China’s past through the fan dance. They can often be seen at festivals, theater performances, and other exhibition-style events where the performers are able to promote their rich roots in history. Fan dancing also serves as entertainment. Fans are used as props, complimenting brightly-colored costumes for an eye-catching spectacle of movement. Finally, Chinese fan dancing serves as exercise, as well as an exercise in discipline for its participants.

 

Chinese New Year Cloth fan girl fan high

 

Chinese New Year male dancer 01

Some traditional Chinese break dancing followed.

 

Chinese New Year female tai chi

Then some rather tranquil Tai Chi.

The Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan can be translated as the ‘Supreme Ultimate Force’. The notion of ‘supreme ultimate’ is often associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, the notion that one can see a dynamic duality (male/female, active/passive, dark/light, forceful/yielding, etc.) in all things. ‘Force’ (or, more literally, ‘fist’) can be thought of here as the means or way of achieving this ying-yang, or ‘supreme-ultimate’ discipline.

Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can perhaps best be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. There are a number of so- called forms (sometimes also called ‘sets’) which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts (and perhaps even more ancestrally than that, from the natural movements of animals and birds) although the way they are performed in Tai Chi is slowly, softly and gracefully with smooth and even transitions between them.

 

Chinese New Year male tai chi

Then some rather more energetic Tai Chi.

 

Chinese New Year nun-chuck

Then some classical nunchakus (Tabak-Toyok) (I had to Google the spelling on that one). The poor chap did part company with them at one stage – they flew across the stage – but at least they never struck any of his soft dangley bits.

 

Chinese New Year musical duo

 

Things mellowed for a while with a rendition of traditional Chinese music from two of the worlds greatest exponents. Traditional Chinese music can be traced back 7,000 – 8,000 years based on the discovery of a bone flute made in the Neolithic Age. In the Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties, only royal families and dignitary officials enjoyed music, which was made on chimes and bells. During the Tang Dynasty, dancing and singing entered the mainstream, spreading from the royal court to the common people.

Guzheng, or zheng, is a plucked-string musical instrument with over 2500 years of history. As the traditional Chinese musical instruments, guzheng has beautiful sounds and retains great popularity worldwide. The guzheng has a long and proud history, which is believed to have been invented during the Qin Dynasty (897-221 BC). In the first century AD, the guzheng is described as a plucked half-tube wood zither with movable bridges, over which a number of strings are stretched, and in the 2nd century BC the guzheng was described as having twelve silken strings and high narrow jade bridges.

The Erhu, also called ‘Huqin’, was introduced from the western region during the Tang Dynasty. During the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), it was refined and improved and new variations appeared. It was also an important instrument for playing the melody of Beijing Opera. When playing, the player usually stands the Erhu on his lap, and moves the bow across the vertical strings. The well-known music ‘Two Springs Reflect the Moon’ was created by the blind folk artist Liu Yanjun, also named A Bing by the people. Though he could not see anything of the world, he played his Erhu using his heart and imagination. This melody conjures up a poetic night scene under the moonlight and expresses the composer’s desolation and hope.

 

Chinese New Year pan pipes

And this chap playing the Flute
The earliest flute was made from bone over 7,000 years ago. In the times since then, most flutes were made of bamboo, which allowed even common people to play it. By covering the holes and blowing through the side hole while moving the fingers flexibly between the six holes, a sound will be produced that is leisurely and mellifluous like sound from far away. This always reminds people of a pastoral picture of a farmer riding on a bull while playing a flute.

 

Chinese New Year pink dancer 01

 

Then we were given a mesmerizing display by this beautiful young lady. There is a a long recorded history of various forms of dance in China. Some Chinese dances today such as dancing with long sleeves have been recorded since the very early periods, dating from the at least as early as the Zhou Dynasty. The art of dance reached a peak in the Tang Dynasty, but declined in later dynasties. In more recent times, the art of dance has enjoyed a resurgence and modern developments in Chinese dances are continuing apace.

 

Chinese New Year ear Defenders

 

Ear Defenders ON! To finish the evening off there was a fireworks display over the lake. Unfortunately by this time we were trapped in the middle of the thousand + throng and we were unable to move. So we ‘oooh’d’ and ‘aaahh’d’ with the rest from where we stood. In front of me was this young lady, atop somebody’s shoulders but obviously not so keep on the loud noises.

 

 

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2 responses to “The Chinese New year – the Year of the Horse!

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  1. Beautiful! I enjoyed the images as well as your stories! Thanks for sharing this, Paul (fotopfw from MM)

    Like

  2. Wonderful site. Plenty of helpful info here. I am
    sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious.

    And obviously, thank you in your sweat!

    Like

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