2021 Year of the Ox

Chinese zodiac

Learn here some details and background about 2021 Year of the Ox.
This overview is a compilation from multiple sources.
The name ‘Spring Festival’ (春节 Chūnjié)  is actually quite modern: it’s from 1912, when the Republic of China adopted the Gregorian calendar. The old name for the lunar new year (Yuan Dan 元旦 Yuándàn) was re-appropriated for January 1st and Sun Yatsen came up with the term Spring Festival for the Lunar New Year.

The 12-year Chinese zodiac determines which dates and years are auspicious or unlucky. Each lunar cycle has 60 years divided into 12 smaller cycles, each of which is represented by one of the following animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
The Year of Your Animal Sign Is Not Your Lucky Year.
See here my “wishes” for 2021:


2021 is the Year of the Ox according to Chinese zodiac. This is a Year of Metal Ox, starting from Feb. 12, 2021 (Chinese New Year) and lasting to Jan. 31, 2022. Ox is the second in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac sign. Years of the Ox include 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033…

And Oxen are…

Oxen used to be capable farming tools in an agricultural society, which attach to the symbol of diligence, persistence, and honesty. In Chinese culture, Ox is a faithful friend that made great contributions to the development of the society. Like the ox, people born in the Year of the Ox are industrious, cautious, hold their faith firmly, and always glad to offer help.

It is said that Ox ranks the second among the Chinese zodiacs because it helped the Rat but was later tricked by it. The myth goes that the Jade Emperor declared the order of zodiac signs would be based on the arrival orders of 12 animals. Ox could have arrived the first but it kindly gave a ride to Rat. However, when arriving, Rat just jumped to the terminus ahead of Ox, and thus Ox lost the first place.

With the dwindling birth rate in China, the Year of the Ox could be worse… See below why!
The 2021 Ox is also associated with the Earthly Branch (地支 / dì zhī) Chǒu (丑). In the terms of yin and yang (阴阳 / yīn yáng), the Ox is Yang.

  • Earthly Branch of Birth Year: Chou
  • Wu Xing (The Five Elements): Tu (Earth)
  • Yin Yang: Yin

Is it ox, cow, bull, buffalo or…

Ox (牛  Niú)
The main difference between Bull and Ox is that the Bull is a male individual of cattle and Ox is a common bovine draft animal. A bull is a not castrated adult male. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals easier to control. Bad for birth rate!!!
In Chinese the character for cow and ox are the same.

Water buffalo (水牛 Shuǐniú)
The buffalo is the second animal symbol in the 12-year cycle of the Vietnamese zodiac, taking the place of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac. Water buffalo are industrious and patient.
The water buffalo, also called domestic water buffalo or Asian water buffalo is a large bovid originating in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and China.
The domesticated water buffalo is the “living tractor of the East”. There are two types, river and swamp, each considered a subspecies. The breed was selected mainly for its milk, which contains 8 percent butterfat. Swamp buffalo more closely resemble wild water buffalo and are used as draft animals in rice paddies throughout Southeast Asia. Children ride them to their wallows after their labours and clean their faces and ears.

Spotlight on Mark Levine

Who is Mark Levine?

A spotlight on Mark Levine, whom I have known for years.
In his own words:
I am an American sociologist who has lived in China since 2005. Since arriving I have taught at a number of different universities but my main teaching job since 2007 has been at Minzu University of China in Beijing. I currently teach Public Speaking, American Culture and Oral English.
I am a guitarist/songwriter/singer. I have written more than 60 (English-language) songs about life in China and have performed the and many Chinese songs in 10 Chinese Provinces. I have performed before several audiences of more than 50,000 people, sung at The National Center for the Performing Arts and Beijing’s MasterCard Center as well as in bars, factories, fields and 20 Chinese weddings. My performances have been seen on more than a dozen different Chinese TV stations.
In Side Out is a musical duo that I have formed with Chinese folk musician Fu Han. Ms. Fu performs on her er-hu (a two-string, bowed Chinese instrument) and I play guitar. Singing both Chinese and English-language songs, we share the vocals.
My book, Stories from My Chinese Journey, was published in China by New World Press in April 2014.
See: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markhlevine/

Hilton Hotel with FCGroup

On 23 December 2014, one of the many events with a spotlight on Mark Levine. The FCGroup has been the leading networking event group in Beijing. That event was again in the Zeta Bar of the Hilton Hotel.

Beijing Foreign Studies University

On 22 April 2016, at BFS, the evening “East meets West” featured a program by Mark Levine and Fu Han, attended by some well-know Chinese and foreign guests.
Among the foreign guests several winners of the China Friendship award, and also the famous Isabel Crook, our CCTV host Edwin Maher, Michael Crook and many others. See also the picture with Ms. Huang Huanbi, the wife of late Israel Epstein.
Mark also presented his book “Stories from My Chinese Journey”.

Chongyang Festival

I have invited Mark afew times at the official Chongyang Festival celebration. I still hope I can have him at the next celebration so he can sing his Chongyangjie song.
See here the clip he made about the Festival:

See here one of the celebrations:

The 6th Chongyang Festival in Diaoyutai State Guesthouse

Private concert by Peter Ritzen

At the home of Peter Ritzen

Another private concert by Peter Ritzen in his Shunyi residence, for a small circle of friends.
This time a selection of Chopin, Bach, Liszt and more.
And the candles? Well, part of the storytelling by Peter, one piece was performed with candlelight only!
After the concert, a nice buffet was served.

A glimpse of his new symphony

Peter has composed a new symphony that he will publicly perform in Vienna (Musikverein) on 5 August, with a large orchestra, choir and organ. Title: Die Wildrose. Includes a German version of the Flemish song “Daar is maar één Land” from Anton van Wilderode.
Here a small sample, with Stella singing the German version.

The Wiener Musikverein, commonly shortened to Musikverein, is a concert hall in the Innere Stadt borough of Vienna, Austria. It is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. The “Great Hall” (Großer Saal), due to its highly regarded acoustics, is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world.
“Daar is maar één land dat mijn land kan zijn” (1983) is from Cyriel Paul Coupé (28 June 1918 – 15 June 1998), a Belgian writer and poet, also known by the pseudonym Anton van Wilderode.

Some Chinese understand humor

Jokes are not universal

Some Chinese understand humor that matches our Western norms. Agreed, the guy is an overseas Chinese and I am not sure Mainland Chinese would get the jokes. Reason why there is an important tip for foreigners in China: avoid telling jokes as it can lead to serious misunderstandings.

Thanks to WeChat

On one of the WeChat groups I found this video, hilarious: “Don’t Skip the Sex Talk”, by Jinx Yeo. The video: https://www.facebook.com/pg/JinxYeoComedy/videos/?ref=page_internal

And see his Facebook page, where you find more videos: https://www.facebook.com/JinxYeoComedy/

For those without VPN, see here the video:

A little secret

This year I hope I can finish and publish my book about … jokes. It will not be for a Chinese readership as the jokes are basically Anglo-Saxon.

Edwin Maher in Internations Book Club

Edwin Maher, a CCTV celebrity

On Sunday 25 September we had to honor to welcome Edwin Maher in our Internations Beijing Book Reading group, to discuss his latest book “Caught on CCTV”.
I remember one of my Old China Hands lunches (Edwin is a regular), when some of our Chinese clients were having a lunch at Morel’s at the same time. We told them some ambassadors were in our lunch and if they wanted to greet them – and take a picture. Good idea till they spotted Edwin sitting there, they did not want to know about whatever ambassador: they only wanted to see Edwin and take a picture.
It says a lot about Edwin who has an impressive career in CCTV as the host for the English news.
So, happy he took some time on his Sunday before another CCTV appearance.

Edwin Maher, the author

I am fortunate to have his two books, all a present from Edwin and signed by him. His first “My China Daily” was very well received, my wife said “You see this is what and how you should write”. Yes boss.
The book we discussed was his recent Caught on CCTV.

A history of CCTV: Caught on CCTV

When I started reading the book, I was immediately shocked. He dedicated the book to Yan Yinan, a CRI reporter with whom I worked for over a year, nearly every week, for interviews on the 2008 Olympics. She was a superb girl and when she left us, many like me were shocked.

As a writer myself I was amazed on how Edwin managed to keep track of all the little details on what happened in CCTV. Did he run the HR department? Bribe the HR director? Well, he did it the Chinese way (as I learned soon after landing here myself): he always carried a notebook writing down everything. But he beats me by far by his incredible detail.
So, the book might be at times a bit heavy, like a sort of Encyclopedia, reminding me of my own book. It is however an important historical document, it will be a legacy for all later to have the insights on how CCTV became what is is today.
I found back a number of CCTV hosts who interviewed me over the years…

Edwin writes with a healthy sense of humor but carefully navigates all “sensitive” topics one might look for.

As I understood he wrote the book on his MacBook Air, much like I often do. And he was clever to use a text software instead of the usual MS Word (it is more appropriate for publishing).

All love Edwin Maher

Our discussion was very lively and most wanted an autograph in his book, and the picture of course. Edwin was as usual so patient and friendly to satisfy everybody.
The pictures talk for themselves…

(Note: this post also appears on www.damulu.com)