Fireworks for God of Fortune

There are great fireworks on the 180 degree view of my window right now. According to the Chinese tradition, the 5th of the New Year is the day the God of Fortune will arrive at your home. People need to fire great fireworks to welcome him to arrive.

I paid attention to this tradition only after I am in Shanghai, since I noticed the fireworks in Shanghai on the night of the 4th of the New Year is even more intensive than the New Year Eve!

This special night is also the best time for many housewives to start to review the balance sheet, cash flow or whatever financial metrics they have for the family.

Spring Festival 2009

This is the holiday schedule for China:

Holiday starts from: February 13

ends at: February 19

February 20 (Saturday), and 21 (Sunday) are working days!

P.S. Started to exercise in the gym downstairs. My food IS recovered.

11:04 PM

Nice Weather this Holiday

During the national holiday of 2009, I took some photos when we drove along the Nanpu Bridge, and along the Bund.

I had never seen so many policeman on the Bund before – every street corner is like this. It seems this was the most dangerous national holiday.

As always, the buildings built by capitalists and bankers were decorated with communism and socialism banners:

The river front of the Bund area is completed closed. Visitors must be very disappointed to visit the Bund without seeing the Huangpu River.

With massive destruction along the water front of the Bund, they are building a new Bund to enable people to be closer to the water.

On the Nanpu Bridge, you see the two tallest buildings – always nice to see when the weather is good.

After few years, I hope the photos can help me to remember the feeling of Shanghai during this holiday. My mood was very like the clear sky – no rush, and no hurry – just peacefully stayed at home for 8 days.

2009 National Holiday Schedule

In China, it has formed a tradition that every national holiday from now on will be from Oct 1 to Oct 7 – 7 days. This year, since there is a Middle Moon Festival during that period, the holiday is extended to 8 days.

So, the quick schedule is: Oct 1 to Oct 8 = holiday.

The complicated schedule is about the date before and after it. Since the holiday is just 3 days, and they tried to leverage the 4 weekends before and after the 3 holiday to make it up to 7 days, the national wide schedule is very wired:

Sept 25 Friday Weekday

Sept 26 Saturday Weekend

Sept 27 Sunday Weekday

Sept 28 Monday Weekday

Sept 29 Tuesday Weekday

Sept 30 Wednesday Weekday

Oct 1 Thursday Holiday

Oct 2 Friday Holiday

Oct 3 Saturday Holiday

Oct 4 Sunday Holiday

Oct 5 Monday Holiday

Oct 6 Tuesday Holiday

Oct 7 Wednesday Holiday

Oct 8 Thursday Holiday

Oct 9 Friday Weekday

Oct 10 Saturday Weekday

Oct 11 Sunday Weekend

Oct 12 Monday Weekday

Please note the two days marked as bold – people need to come to work on Saturday or Sunday.

THE Parade

The Parade will happen on 10:00 AM, October 1, 2009. I doubt any other media besides CCTV 4 will broadcast it outside China. Putting all the controversial discussion aside, the parade itself should be nice to watch.

Happy Dragon Boat Festival

Happy Dragon Boat Festival to everyone. It is now a Chinese national holiday.

I tend to call it Zongzi festival. Zongzi is the food that everyone eats (well, not everyone, at least not in my family) on this day. It is a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves.

The holiday continues tomorrow (Friday), and ends on Saturday. The cost of the three day holiday is, people get back to work on Sunday.

Fireworks and Yifan

Today is the Latten Festival – the festival for the family to get together and have Tangyuan together. Our office closes at 5:30 PM, so people has the extra 30 minutes to get back home to have a great dinner with their family.

Today is also the last chance, maybe, to fire some fireworks. I have kept our fireworks, and crackers to today, and we sent the beautiful fireworks to the sky to celebrate the finally end of the Spring Festival, and the arrival of the year of Ox.

Fireworks

The most amazing thing in China for many of my foreign friends is the experience of Chinese New Year. The fireworks of thousands of households in the new year eve is not weaker than a small scale war – imagine most of the families in the high-density residential area all go out and fire something big.

In Shanghai, the order of the fireworks is interesting. Although there is no strict rules about when you should fire some, here are the general rules.

There are three major events (all according to lunar calendar):

1. New Year Eve, that is on the last day of the last year. This is the tradition of fireworks across China. In most places, this is the time when most fireworks appear.

2. Welcoming the God of Fortune, which is the mid-night before the 5th day of the new year. This is pretty special in southern China, especially in Shanghai. The fireworks of that night is even much bigger than the New Year Eve. This seems strange to me and many other people in China, but this is the tradition in Shanghai. It seems there is only one God of Fortune, and he will only arrives to those who makes the biggest noise. At that night, the sound of fireworks started from 8:00 PM and never stops until passing mid-night.

3. Latten Festival, which is the 15th day of the New Year. This is typically the significant mark of end of the Spring Festival. Most people come back from their home town. For me, I observed significant increase in traffic this morning. I would assume more than 30% of cars on the road.

Yifan

Yifan is only 20 months old, and he is obviously very afraid of the huge sound of the fireworks. At the very beginning, whenever there are some large sounds, he cries, and jumps into Wendy’s arm. At the New Year Eve, the little poor boy cried for several hours. It IS horrible to see the whole sky is lit up by fire, and the sounds are so loud that Yifan could not even hear what his mom says to him. After few days, he started to get used to the "terrible" sound, and even dare to look up from Wendy’s shoulder, and carefully examine what happened. He is much more calm than the starting of this Spring Festival. Yifan grows up with the arrival of the new year.

End of Long Spring Festival Holiday

22:17

This is the end of the long 7-day Spring Festival Holiday, the longest one in the entire year. Relaxed time always flies fast enough. When you take the time to look back, it already pasted away.

To avoid the situation that after many years, I will completely forget what I did during the Spring Festival of 2009, let me create a small memo to summarize the holiday.

Note: I surely know that each paragraph of this article deservers a separate article to provide more information. Let me just summarize at the highest level, and then find a chance to write more. Leave me a comment to tell me which part you love me to write first.

Visiting Museums

The most meaningful thing I did was to bring the whole family (Wendy, Yifan, and the extended family) to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. As Wendy put it after the day long visit: "I found out it makes sense for a city to have a science and technology museum." I do agree. It redirect our attention from our daily life to much more broader scope, from mathematics, to space technology, from IT, to human, from animals, to rain forest. It is a  space that will bring happiness to people. From the daily life point of view, everything inside seems meaningless ("I know how electricity works, so what? Salary increase?"), but from the insider point of view, e=mc2 is much more meaningful than daily routines. :-)

Yifan obviously enjoyed walking on the winding paths in the rain forest, and chasing the pattern the spotlights projected on the floor than anything else. I have decided to get an annual card (it is said to be 240 RMB per year) for me, so I can bring Yifan more often to this museum – it seems it is a more interesting and educational place than the Hymall shopping center. :-)

Today, while others visited the Carrefour in Zhendai Thumb Plaza in Pudong, we brought Yifan to the Zhendai Museum of Modern Art. Wendy commented again: "It is useful to have an art museum." I agreed too. It was about "Intrude: Art & Life 366". I love the art exhibition a lot. If you have a chance, visit there. It is free whole day on Wednesday, and cost 20 RMB per adult.

Short Trip

The 3rd, and 4th day of the holiday (according to Lunar Calendar) were spent in the Silver Pearl Garden in Qingpu. It is a resort built by the ICBC (Industry and Commercial Bank of China). It is a common practice for state-owned companies to build their own resorts for internal use. Several of our friends stayed there for one night in a pretty big villa – Again, Yifan enjoys the trip a lot, which is what I care most. He obviously gets used to outing like this. One year ago, he just cannot stop crying at nights in hotels.

The hotel is located near the Daguanyuan of Shanghai, along the G318 – almost at the boundary of Shanghai and Suzhou, and not far from water town Zhouzhuang. The Diansha Lake surround the area, and makes it a perfect place for short trips – much nearer than Suzhou and Hangzhou but provides similar feeling of escaping from the city and daily life.

My Car – Goudaner – Broke Down on the Road

At about 5 years in age (I cannot believe it that we have already had Goudaner for almost 5 years), my cute car finally broke down on the road for the first time. It is because of the problem with the electricity generator. It just stops providing electricity to the battery, and without battery, the ABS system, and the Air Bag system stopped working. To maximize the safety for the passenger, the central computer shutdown the whole car – pretty reasonable design, since as long as the car moves, people will ignore whatever happened with the car. I tend to do it, at least.

I spent one day calling many different towing companies, to finally tow my car to the 4S service center of FIAT (the only one left in Shanghai after FIAT pulled out from China), and had the electricity generator replaces. Pretty expensive (1100 RMB). It is also a signal that Goudaner is no longer young. Many parts need to be replaced one by one in the next few years.

Other Time?

For the rest of the time, I did some programming. Let me quote Wendy for the third time, she said "Are you feel relaxed when you code?" I said yes.

I spent some time to replace the old http://user.wangjianshuo.com code, so all the pages are static pages, instead of PHP powered pages. This greatly improved performance of the site, so you won’t see whose (hopefully) CPU Exceeded Errors. However, give me some time to rebuild the individual blog entry pages. Currently, if you click your name under each comment, chances are, you will see 404 Page Not Found error. I promise it will only last for one week.

The other great thing I found was "Rsync over SSH". I will stop here to avoid annoy my reader with too many technical details.

I also had great conversation with Alexandra Harney, YLF fellow, and author of book "China Price". We talked a lot about the recent situation of Chinese economy, and tried to predict the future in some way. I also attended a 5G Gathering among the core team just now – a very different organization than it was started 3 years ago.

That’s it. Hope you also have a great Spring Festival holiday (if you have one), and again, let’s share the energy of the new year of Ox (or Bull in stock market terms).

22:42

Chinese Zodiac

Here is the list of the Chinese Zodiac:

  1. Rat
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Ram
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11. Dog
  12. Pig

When people first know each other, they typically ask for which Zodiac Animal they belong to.

Examples

For example, I am a Snake, Wendy is a Horse, and Yifan is a Pig. :-)

Since there are 12 years in between of two same animal, it is pretty easy to calculate how old is someone. The age is not as a secret as in western world, anyway.

We just said goodbye to the year of Rat, and stepping into the year of Ox.

Happy Niu Year

You read it right, I mean Happy "Niu" Year, not "New" Year.

About 12 hours later, the Chinese Lunar New Year is coming. The year of Ox is coming to us.

Ox is written in Chinese characters as ?, or Niu. Since the pronunciation of Niu is exactly New, and there is a trend to use Niu and New interchangeably among my friends.

So, Happy Niu Year and Happy New Year to all my readers, my friends and family!

For more information about the Chinese Zodiac, check here.

My Wishes

This blog is trying to be a bridge between the western world, and the eastern world, the two distinctly different worlds, and I am trying so hard to help people outside China to understand what is happening here, and what is in people’s mind. I hope the greeting brings the happiness and hope of the Chinese New Year to people who do not celebrate this holiday.

From today, the whole China is in a 7 day holiday – the longest holiday in China (of cause accompanied by the largest human migration in the world every year for returning to hometown). I hope my friends who are in holiday enjoy their holiday and relax, and prepare for the new year, and for my friends who don’t know the Chinese New Year to also celebrate one more holiday – that is the meaning of holiday: to have people collectively celebrate for the past accomplishment and looking forward to the better future.

I’d like the take the chance for my loyal readers who have been with me for many years (some for as long as 7 years). There are not too many 7 years in life, and daily accompany is a huge accomplishment. I would love to thank everyone who have commented on my blog. You made the blog much more meaningful than just my post, and contributed the majority of the content on this blog. Your continuous feedback, compliment, supplementary, and even challenge helped me so much to understand this world better. It is much more than what I have expected when I started this daily blog 7 years go.

Last, but not least, I would love to say thank you to my close friends and family who we live in the same physical daily world (v.s. the online world). I may devote more time online than offline sometimes these years, and spent the time I may have otherwise spent on coffee or tea time with others. Thanks especially for Yifan and Wendy’s support. They have a much less devoted father or husband than others. Thanks.

Wish everyone has a great year of Ox.

Lantern (Yuanxiao) Festival

Today is the Lantern Festival. I bought fireworks and fire it tonight.

For my readers who didn’t see the fireworks box – where the splendid fireworks come from, here is the photo:

DSC03748 

There is a green thread at the side, and you can use match to light it.

Here you go!

DSC03751

DSC03750

From under it, it does not look very beautiful, but it IS very nice.

Fireworks outside my Office Window

From farther locations, fireworks looks better. Look at these photos I took after work in my office.

DSC03734

DSC03736

I like this one most:

DSC03739

DSC03740

DSC03741

DSC03743

5 Billion SMS Sent Yesterday

The number I got from CCTV today is, 5 billion SMS (Short Message) were sent yesterday. With the adoption of SMS, this is not surprising any more.

The Spring Festival of last two years were already full of SMS:

This year, I am not as passionate as before, since all kind of group send tool has made greeting as part of automatic process. When I receive a SMS, I am not sure about whether this person send it to me, or just to confirm that my mobile phone number is in his/her address book.

As always, my mobile phone doesn’t have any signal in my bedroom – I need to complain to China Mobile when they uninstalled a station nearby. When I bring my mobile phone to my garden, and get back in a few minutes, I "harvested" 97 unread SMS. Thanks for my friends who still remember me, no matter it is intentionally New Year’s Greeting, or the result of auto-sender.

DSC03474 

In the morning, the result of the fireworks is everywhere.

DSC03485

After days of snow storm, it is sunny today. Yifan and the family went to Super Brand Mall in Lujiazui.

DSC03524 

The family – Wendy, me, and Yifan are together!

DSC03336

Yifan had a wonderful bath today – the white cotton in his ear is to prevent water from running into his ears.

DSC03556

Many Events in Shanghai

Today, the Torch for Special Olympics arrives in Shanghai. I saw the real time broadcast on TV.

The Women’s World Cup is final today in Shanghai. German wins.

The National Holiday celebration started from tonight, and traffic control was put in place. Cars are not allowed in many major locations.

There are fireworks in Century Park. “People Mountain People Sea” there.

Happy Moon Cake Festival

I am naughty. I do mean the Mid-August Festival. It is funny to hear more and more people refer it as Moon Cake Festival since we eat Moon Cake, and I found good taste food is always an enjoyable thing for people no matter young or old. (Heard about the introduction of Wii? “It is designed for children from 3 to 90 in age”).

Let me post a picture of moon cake. Sorry for the error in light schema, so it does not look very delicious.

© Jian Shuo Wang

This is a Starbucks Moon Cake.

Moom Cake is a huge business, and normal moon cakes now sells at 200-300 RMB, and I doubt the margin is at least 80% (even including the cost of luxurious packaging). That is the reason why Starbucks and Haggen Daze and all five star hotels all jumped into the Moon Cake business.

OK. Enough about business. Let me say some wishes.

I wish my readers and friends a happy Mid-Autumn Festival, if you celebrate it. For many readers who don’t celebrate this holiday, let me tell you a little bit more about this festival.

Mid-Autumn Festival is About Family

It is a holiday to celebrate togetherness of the family. You may be surprised if I tell you this festival has been celebrated for more than 3000 years in China.

By its name, it is in the middle of Autumn, and by date, it is exactly the 15th day of the 8th month in Lunar Calendar. I would say the Lunar Calendar is a miracle that in the last one thousand years after Lunar Calendar was established, it always preciously describe the movement of moon. 15th of the month is always full moon, and at Mid-Autumn Festival, if you look up into the sky, you can always see (if the sky is clear) a full and bright round moon.

To eat Moon Cake (which is always round), and to observe the round moon is the tradition in China. Round means togetherness in Chinese culture, which we will do together as a family – Yifan, Wendy, and my parents.

So, again, happy mid-autumn festival!

The Year of Pig Comes

The year of 2007 is the year of pig according to the lunar calendar.

Let me use Keso’s Google style Piggie Year Greeting Card to send my new year wishes to you.

Image created by Keso

May you have a fruitful new year!

P.S. I just lit up the firecrackers. It is the biggest firecrackers I have ever had – 3000+ of them. Wendy and I were so happy to watch the fireworks in my garden, and I am as happy as a child. It is so good to have a New Year!

Happy New Year via SMS

With technology, people can send more greeting faster, and easier. However, I do doubt about the message it get crossed. If I can send 1000 new year greeting using the time I do it for sending just one card, the value of the card to recipient maybe is only 1/1000 of it, or even less.

SMS was a fashionable way to send New Year greeting. I checked each SMS I got, and I appreciate the card, and will send out a reply personally. However, I feel disappointed when I see so many SMS on my mobile.

In the last two hours, I put my mobile in the bedroom, and when I check it, I saw this:

There are 52 New SMS (in the last two hours). When I took the picture, upload it to flickr, and start to write, it went up to 60.

Well. Among them, like 50% of them does not show up with a name in my mobile – only the telephone number. That means, their telephone number is not on my mobile. Some didn’t put a name, so I totally have no idea about who they are. How sad. The even more sad SMS are, they have a name and a company name, but I still don’t know who they are.

I am pretty sure about how they did it – find a SMS people send to them, change the signiture, and have the mobile to send it to everyone in his contact list. I don’t know how much name card I distributed – maybe 1000 in my last year (I used up several boxes). In a Donews meeting, I may send out 100 name cards, and get about 100. That is the reason I received those SMS. My Nokia 6670 had really slow CPU, so it takes long time to open all those SMS…

When technology helps people to get things done easier and faster, it still cannot replace the human. Just as photography helps to capture image easier, the understanding of beauty was still as hard. When Social Network Software, and all kinds of software helps to make communication easier, human’s feeling like love and hate still works exactly the same way as 1000 years ago. I agree technology helps, but cannot replace what human has to do.

Anyway, Happy New Year!

Two Year Ends

There are two year ends in China.

One is Dec 31, the last day of the western calendar.

The other is today, the last day of the 12th month in lunar calendar. (I don’t think I should also call it December).

This year end seems to be more like the last day since it allows more time (7 days) to take a break. Many business also shutdown, and so do my friends, so it provides a better environment to really take a rest, and do some reflection.

This is THE moment for people to return home and reunion with their families. The peak of transportation for returning people will sharply goes down, and be ready for the next return peak 7 days later.

Reading Books

Today, I start to read some books, like The Importance of Living (1937) By Lin Yutang. It is a great book. It expresses simliar philosophy toward life as Alan De Botton in The Art of Travel. To be more exactly, it is the wisdom of living from long time ago in the history. I’d like everyone who are interested in Chinese culture to read this book. It explains a lot of interesting things in China and compare it with the western culture.

The book was written in 1937. So many things changed after 70 years. It seems current Shanghai is more like New York and Boston in terms of culture, and is completely from the values of traditional Chinese culture. For example, the “cult of idle life” disappeared from daily life in Shanghai. A idle afternoon is nothing compared to 10 dollors of business for many people.

I feel like a Lin when I try to bridge the western and eastern culture, however, I don’t have the wisdom to see through the true difference, and how to brigde it culturely. So let me just start by introducting some handy information first…

So, have a great Chinese New Year (if you celebrate it in your country/area/region).

It is Approaching to the Year End

Tomorrow is the last day of the Chinese lunar year. After that, is 7 days of Spring Festival Vacation, from Feb 18 to Feb 24.

P.S. Yesterday, I got an email asking me about my suggestions of how to get to the Great Wall during his one week of Shanghai business trip. I know he will be surprised if I tell him that it is in another city (Beijing) which is two hours of flight away. The Great Wall is still about one or two hours’ drive from the airport.

The similar questions I received from email were:

1. How much does it cost to hire a taxi to go from Shanghai to Chengdu.

2. Does Shanghai has electricity supply. …

I am used to questions like this. Sometimes, people just need some basic information about a completely new city. I happen to be willing to help.

Long Vacation of Spring Festival Comes

The Chinese New Year is coming.

There will be 7 day holiday in China, from Jan 29 to Feb 4. Offices will be closed and reopened on Feb 5.

Strange Calendar

Just now, when I want to check my calenar, I double click on the time display on the right of Windows taskbar, I saw this interface for the first time:

screen-lunar.calendar.png

I don’t know what happened. I didn’t install anything, but why it changes to this view?

P.S. Other entries related to holidays in China.

65 SMS in One Day on Jan 2

Yesterday, Jan 2, 2006, I left my mobile phone at home.

This morning, I was on the road. I brought out my Nokia 6670. I wanted to know how many phone call or SMS I missed in the second day of the holiday. I expect there must be many holiday greetings.

The text on the homepage (or should I call it desktop, depending on whether I am in Internet age or PC age?) was: 65 New SMS Messages.

What are the 65 Messages?

Most of them are new year greetings. The other two or three bank activity notification from my favorite bank – China Merchant Bank.

65 SMS – that is a lot. That is not the peak of the new year greeting. I think I got more on Dec 31 or Jan 1. There are even more on the Christmas Eve.

Thanks to Most Friends

Thanks for sending me the SMS. I appreciate every SMS I receive.

However, there are clearly some unique SMS that contained my name in it, or very short message (like Happy New Year), I know the user at least spent a small effort to type in something or bothered to send specific SMS to me.

The others were some common terms – very long – used all the 70 characters possible of SMS, and it was a routine. I received many exact same SMS from different friends. I am afraid I didn’t feel as much warmth as the really hand-inputed SMS. A little bit more than 1/3 of the SMS – more strangely, I totally have no idea about who they are. They either didn’t put a name and their mobile numbers were not in the address book of my mobile, or they put a name but I really had a hard time to figure out when we met.

Again, I appreciate every single SMS. I just feel I am more moved by some SMS – no matter how short it is. That is the spirit of holiday, isn’t it?