Chinese New Year celebrations

Empty Beijing

I wrote earlier about the Beijing atmosphere in the runup to CNY, “Beijing is ready for Spring Festival”. Here how I spent my Chinese New Year celebrations.
Streets empty with the sidewalks filled with lovely fake leaves. With all my friends gone to their “laojia” (hometown) and my Chinese family not having the usual Julong dinner, I was left to my own.

Groovy Schiller’s was however open as always with John taking good care of us. I had my chili con carne and a nice beer, and I was not disappointed. Then back home for CCTV.

The (in)famous Spring Festival CCTV Gala

Every year I watch the Gala on CCTV, said to be the most watched program in the world and a main component of Chinese New Year celebrations. For a foreigner who is not fluent in Chinese it is a bit of a self-inflicted pain to watch the 4 to 5 hour show, from 8 pm, to nearly 1 am. It gives a picture of the present state of mind in China. Overall it must show happiness, satisfaction with everything and how great China is. No hint of unhappiness is allowed.
So, my take is biased due to my poor Chinese.

Too many comedy skits. Too much overload, kitsch, dizzying effects, every inch of the screen has to be filled with gimmicks and heavy colors and stuff moving around. As far as I could see no foreign face at all, in the audience and performers, contrary to other years.
For the feedback of Chinese watching the show; see below. How do they evaluate the quality and content of the gala? China for the Chinese. But in Brussels it is allowed and popular to have CNY events, unlike in China where Christmas is “not welcome as it is not Chinese”.

I wonder how much the whole show cost. All the preparation and all the shooting of videos, I feel pity for all those who had to go through many hours of shooting for just a few seconds of footage shown.
After midnight some foreigners singing some weird French songs. Not impressed. Actually the after midnight show was better than the gala in my eyes.

Sample of Internet comments

Howard Zhang (LinkedIn)(Journalist, China Pundit)
This is a rather negative view:

Chinese Central Television (CCTV) 2024 Lunar New Year Gala – a yearly propaganda show normally features cheesy comedies, patriotic choirs and Pekin operas, this year featured a North Korean style “show of force” – soldiers in full combat gear marching on stage with marshal music blaring, while background screen displayed missile launching and fighters taking off from aircraft carriers for attack sorties.
Called “Decisive Victory”, the show is a marked departure from normal years and is obviously OTT (over the top) considering Lunar New Year is a time of family gathering and merry making.
This oddity can only be interpreted as a not so subtle message that Xi and his propaganda team want to send to the outside world. Dogged by a failing economy and bubbling discontent at home – even in the upper echelon of society, Xi is standing his ground and ready for battle – to achieve a “decisive victory”.

Spring Festival Gala Review by Chinese Doom Scroll
“It actually wasn’t that bad!”
Excerpts from a guest post by the excellent substack Chinese Doom Scroll.
Open the link for a detailed overview of the Gala.

“Every year, CCTV produces a Spring Festival Gala show. Originally, I was pretty pessimistic, since the last couple of years have been pretty…disappointing, to be honest. But scrolling around on weibo today, I found a lot of people saying that this year’s show is really good—at least, the best one we’ve had in the last five years.…
“I do have to say though, I did, in fact, enjoy this year’s Spring Festival Gala. There was propaganda, of course, but it wasn’t as thick and concentrated and nonstop as, say, the 2021 Spring Festival Gala. And there were genuinely a lot of high-quality, impressive performances. And I really love this trend of having lots of music and rap performed in local Chinese dialects. I’m a total slut for obscure dialects, I hope this trend continues.”

Finally friends to meet

I had a nice dinner in QMEX (Sanlitun) with a Chinese friend on 10 February and then on 11 February an unplanned get together with Belgian friends, again in Groovy Schiller’s. An evening of beer and wine, the place was fully packed.

Yeah Susan was busy creating romantic pics… see one sample here!

Old China Hands lunch 2 February 2024

Nice turnout

The Old China Hands lunch 2 February 2024 fell on one of those in-between dates, as many people started traveling again for pleasure or business. But we scored 32 attendants, better than expected!

As usual a crowd eager to chat and taste the excellent food from Morel’s Restaurant. The restaurant again scored high in Beijing, see the two accolades they received. The CHAO sign is given to only very few Westerns restaurants.

The next lunch is planned for Friday 1 March.

If you see the Dragon, say HI, he is my friend!

One OCH interviews other OCH

I already had mentioned David in the post “Old China Hands lunch 5 January”.
Oh well, he is again making noise! Jason Smith interviewed The Trains Guy aka David Feng on The Bridge Podcast to get his insights into the future of train tech in China.

As Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One shutters its operations, China is making Maglev and Hyperloop a reality.
Watch the Full One Hour Interview in the YouTube Link
and also on PlayerFM.
The interview with China Global TV Network. 51 minutes is also on CGTN.

Beijing is ready for Spring Festival

Mass migration

Beijing is ready for Spring Festival while the biggest world mass migration starts with Chinese people traveling to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families, or simply going on vacation.

I never leave Beijing during the “Golden Week” of October 1, May 1, Spring Festival (the holiday period for Chinese New Year). Railway stations and highways (certainly), and airports (sometimes) are plain chaos. Meanwhile Beijing is ready for Spring Festival for those clever people who stay and will enjoy a quiet city.

Fairs Open with Festive Shopping Experiences in Beijing

Shopping for festive goods at fairs is an essential part of this holiday. Beijing offers a variety of options, combining both modern and traditional fairs to explore.
Over 300 merchants at the Workers’ Stadium are offering a diverse array of products till 6 February. These include a wide range of traditional festive goods like bacon, dried fruits and nuts, as well as tea and even furniture. There are also specialties hailing from various regions across China, such as rice from Wuchang, oysters from Rushan, coconut powder from Hainan, beef jerky from Inner Mongolia, as well as exotic products like Russian chocolate, Ugandan coffee, Ghanaian cocoa butter, and Moldovan red wine.

Both my wife and I went exploring the market. I tasted the BBQ skewers at the stands outside of the covered market. My wife bought a full trolley of sausages, seaweed, and pressed donkey head (my daily breakfast).
Another famous fair is at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center, also until 6 February, I did not visit as I guess it is pretty similar.
The traditional “Beijing New Year Goods Fair” is a treasure trove of agricultural and other products, ranging from dried mushrooms from northeastern China to seafood delicacies from southern China, and from beef and mutton from Inner Mongolia to tonic products from Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan. And also nuts, snacks, sweets, pastries, tea, seafood, and more from various provinces and cities across China.

Festive decorations

Taikooli in Sanlitun is featuring Legoland and yes there is a Lego Dragon!

Our Worker’s Stadium Avenue has festive decoration including images of leaves projected on the sidewalks.

That is in the Chaoyang section, the Dongcheng section seems to have a smaller budget… and less lights…

Old China Hands lunch 5 January

Our members are travelling (or sick)

Our Old China Hands lunch 5 January saw a turnout of 28, not bad as many were still on holiday travel, USA, Europe, Philippines… And three were sick. Yeah I am still stuck in Beijing. Happy 2024 to all!
We had a guest of honor, our (new) Belgian ambassador who finally made it.

Together with Allan I informed our friends about the unfortunate situation of Peter Hogg who had a very bad fall and is still in intensive care. We hope he can recover, his family has arrived in Beijing to take care of him.
All pretty happy with the great lunch, well except one who shocked others with his negative comments… Oh well.
The dessert was “île flotante”, a very classic French dessert. A floating island or île flottante consists of meringue floating on crème anglaise (a vanilla custard). The meringue used is baked in a bain-marie. It may be served at room temperature or chilled.

Mr. Trains is now also Mr. Chinglish

David Feng continues with his train reporting and has started a Substack Newsletter about trains.
He has recently joined a team of experts in Beijing tasked with standardizing foreign-language (especially English) signage and drafting and implementing translation norms, as well as getting rid of Chinglish — a committee he calls tongue-in-cheek the “Chinglish committee”.
This committee of experts, part of City Hall’s Foreign Affairs office, deliberates and approves guidelines and norms regarding translation in standardized signage, and acts as a higher authority to determining “what’s right” versus “what’s wrong” when it comes to translations. The panel of experts drafted China’s first local norms on bilingual (English and Chinese) signage in 2006, and has just completed a review of these norms, updating and refining standards.
Now being transformed as a “think tank” of top language experts in Beijing, membership is exclusive to, and consists of, the best-in-class of language professionals. Well-known Mark Levine and Michael Crook are also members.
David records 20+ years of commitment to identifying and rooting out Chinglish (e.g. his Everyday Rail English campaign) and is kind of a real polyglot.

The organization: Experts from the Beijing Municipal Government’s Foreign Affairs Office’s Translation Review Expert Database. In Chinese called 北京市政府外办重点语种译审专家库专家.

Next lunch

Our next lunch is planned for 2 February, ahead of Chinese New Year. Renaat will make “Galette des Rois”. The Belgian Embassy already celebrated Galette des Rois.
Morel’s will be closed from 5 to 12 February, opening on Valentine Day 14 February.

Official holidays are from 10 to 17 February. CNY is on 10 February, starting the Year of the Dragon.

Old China Hands lunch 1 December

Nice crowd
Our Old China Hands lunch 1 December saw a nice turnout of 34 despite the last minute cancellation of some busy members.
Nothing special to report except that all were having a great time to chat and enjoy the food of Morel’s Restaurant. Renaat always prepares a special menu for our group.

It is the last lunch of 2023 and the next one is planned for 5 January 2024.
We wish all of our members great and happy Holiday season, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!
Looking forward to see all of you in the next year.