Learn a Chinese New Year Song!

Chinese New year ImageIn 2014, January 31st marks the first day of the Chinese New Year and we welcome in the year of the horse.

The Chinese New Year is a feast for all the senses! It brings delicious foods, parades, firecrackers, red envelopes and family gatherings.  And, of course, the popular song: Gong Xi Gong Xi.

Lyrics to this song are simple and easy to learn.  Here is a version in pinyin and English as well as two video versions to help you sing or share this song with children at this exciting time of year.

Gong Xi Gong Xi

Měi tiáo dà jiē xiǎo xiàng (Every big street little alley)

Měi gè rén de zuǐ lǐ (In everyone’s mouth)

Jiàn miàn dì yī jù huà (The first sentence (we) say when (we) see each other)

Jiù shì gong xǐ gong xǐ (Must be” “Congratulations! Congratulations!”)

Gōng xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ ya, (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)

Gong xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)

Videos

Ni Hao Kai Lan Gong Xi Gong Xi

 

“Gong Xi! Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

In 2014, Chinese New Year celebrations begin on January 31st and we welcome in the Year of the Horse.  We’re republished this popular post by writer and teacher, Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett, who shares her New Year experiences, memories, photos and songs with us. 

“Gong Xi!  Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

The fragrance of Mom’s special stew and the “Ten Vegetarian Delights” fills the kitchen just before Chinese New Year arrives. That’s the first memory that floods into my mind each time someone asks me about the Chinese New Year celebration. In my opinion it’s the best of all Chinese festivals and has been my favorite since I was a little girl.

Growing up with Chinese New Year
Links of sausage, strips of bacon, and cured fish hung to dry on bamboo rods (back then the equivalent of clothes lines in the West) in almost every yard. We would run around with friends from one yard to another to check out how soon these goodies would be ready to eat. The smell of all the cured meat was another one of the indicators to me that Chinese New Year was just around the corner. Vendors with all kinds of Chinese New Year decorations, such as large gold-nugget-shaped candy containers, cut-paper artwork, and spring scrolls with lucky words are everywhere in the open market and in the stores. For a small fee professional calligraphers will even write your spring scrolls for you with their big Chinese calligraphy brushes. Big and small rolls of firecrackers are being sold and traditional Chinese New Year music fills the air of the open market as you walk through the crowd.

The Fifteen Days of the Chinese New Year Celebration:

Preparations kick off – The preparations for Chinese New Year start on the 23rd day of the last month on the Chinese lunar calendar. On this day, the tradition is to send the “kitchen god” (the protector of the family and the most important of Chinese domestic gods in Chinese mythology) back to the sky to report to the Jade Emperor (the supreme ruler of all heaven and earth) about how the family has been doing the whole year. The portrait of the kitchen god is posted on the wall in the kitchen. Families might spread melted sweets on the mouth of the kitchen god’s picture so that he would go and say only sweet and good things about the family.

Out with the Old and In with the New – The next few days see a major cleaning of the house. All clutter should be removed, the house dusted from ceiling to floor and the bedding in each room thoroughly washed. “Chu jiu bu xin” (remove the old and decorate the new) is the concept behind this major clean up. We are also welcoming the new year by posting lucky, red paper spring scrolls on the front door. Phrases or words like “xin nian kaui le” (Happy New Year); “gong xi fa cai” (congratulations and prosperity) and “ fu” (good fortune) and “chun” (spring) can be been seen on doors everywhere.

The Chinese New Year’s Eve Family Feast – Chinese New Year’s eve dinner marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration. This is a family reunion feast bringing together grandparents, or even great grandparents, down to newborn babies. It is a celebration of the togetherness of the family. It is very important to have the Chinese New Year’s eve dinner with the family. People make every effort to be back in their hometown as soon as the festival holidays begin. For those who cannot make it for the dinner because of work or being overseas, parents will prepare a seat and set up everything for him or her to represent the reunion of every member of the family.

My mother always prepares ten dishes for the New Year Eve’s dinner and every dish is a special treat. Fish is a must-have dish. The word for fish in Mandarin Chinese is “yu” and it has the same sound as the Chinese word for “remaining” or “surplus.“ We never finish the fish dish because we want to save one big piece of the fish to symbolize a surplus of wealth and all things good in the new year. The Chinese New Year saying that goes with this practice is “nian nian you yu” – “every year (we) have leftover/surplus (wealth).”

Red Envelopes – Hong bao – 紅包
After the family meal, it is time to say lucky words to grandparents and parents and it is time for the Red Envelope. In my family we use the traditional Chinese style, we kneel down in front of Mom and Dad, and bow to say auspicious phrases like:
Xīn nián kuài lè     新年快樂        Happy New Year
Shēn tǐ jiàn kāng    身體健康         Good health
Wàn shì rú yì         萬事如意         May everything go as you wish
Gong xǐ fā cái         恭喜發財         Congratulations and prosperity
Then Mom and Dad give each of us a red envelope with cash in it. Instead of spending the cash right away the tradition is to put the red envelope under your pillow and so that it will keep you young and healthy. When the children are grown up and independent then it becomes their turn to give red envelopes to their parents. I remember how proud I was when I gave my parents red envelopes when I first started working.

Taboos
For the first few days of the new year, some families do not use knives or scissors in order to lessen the risk for cuts and accidents, which would signify bad luck for the year. Some families do not sweep the floor to avoid symbolically sweeping away their wealth. If something is broken like a glass or a bowl you will hear people immediately say “sui sui ping an”, which means every year is safe and peaceful.  Why?  It is a play on words, as the Chinese word for “broken” has the same sound of the word “year”. The rule of the thumb during this time is to say good and sweet things in order to bring on a good and sweet year.

Firecracker Fun
On the New Year’s Eve families stay up late to enjoy family time and catch up with the visiting brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The most exciting time of the evening for me was when we set off firecrackers. There are all kinds of firecrackers, some spin, some fly, some hop, some shoot high and some have beautiful showers of sparks with a huge explosion at the end. We play hard and stay up past midnight. The tradition of staying up late on New Year’s Eve is good luck and is said to give parents long life!  At midnight we set off the long strings of firecrackers to welcome in the new year!

The 15th day of the Chinese New Year – Lantern Festival
Lantern festival marks the completion and the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.  On this day, children carry lanterns around in the park or in the neighborhood. When I was a little girl my brother and other neighborhood boys would help me make a lantern out of a tin milk can. We used nail and hammer to poke holes on the bottom of the tin can and then placed a candle inside. An iron wire will be attached to the top to make a handle and then a wooden stick will be attached to the wire to carry the lantern. The older boys would use bamboo sticks to make torches. As soon as it got dark, you would see the torches and lanterns everywhere. Now, we don’t see torches or tin lanterns anymore. Instead, you see beautifully designed paper lanterns with battery-operated lights for children. It is always a fascinating scene when you walk in the park and see hundreds of children carrying their flashing lanterns around.

Music
Music is an important part of the Chinese New Year just like Christmas carols are an important part of that celebration in the West. We hear traditional New Year’s tunes on the radio, on TV, on the street, in the stores and in the markets. The one you will hear over and over again is the “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” song. It is a fun and easy one. Below is a short version of it for you in pinyin along with the English translation. You can listen to it here. I hope you enjoy it.

Měi tiáo dà jiē xiǎo xiàng (Every big street little alley)
Měi gè rén de zuǐ lǐ (In everyone’s mouth)
Jiàn miàn dì yī jù huà (The first sentence (we) say when (we) see each other)
Jiù shì gong xǐ gong xǐ (Must be” “Congratulations! Congratulations!”)
Gōng xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ ya, (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)
Gong xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)

Celebrating away from “home”
Now I am far and away from Taiwan where I grew up. What I always do when the Chinese New Year is approaching is call my Mom and ask her what she is doing She tells me she is preparing the “Ten Vegetarian Delights” and that she has started the stew. I tell her that I can smell it already. She chuckles and replies “How is that possible?” Then my Dad takes over and tells me it indeed smells incredible and that he will mail the dish to me by international express carrier to ensure its freshness. We all end up laughing about the idea and sharing the great memories we have for the festival. This is what I love the most about the Chinese New Year – the celebration of the family!

Happy Chinese New Year!  Have a fantastic year of the snake!

About The Author – Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett (whose Chinese last name literally means “bear”) is the mother of two young bilingual children and the author of the “Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda!” audio CD, a Chinese learning series for young children. She homeschools her children in Mandarin Chinese and is a native Mandarin Chinese speaker who is passionate about teaching and learning – and having fun while doing both!  For more information about “Miss Panda” visit her at on the web at misspandachinese.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Gongs, Handbells and Singing Bowls: Three Great Instruments For Exploring the Culture of China, Tibet, Nepal and Asia

Although the cultures and traditions in these regions are immensely diverse, they do have one thing in common.  About 4,000 years ago, craftspeople in this area of the world discovered how to work with bronze and similar metals.  They began creating useful and decorative objects and soon discovered that the perfect mixture of copper, tin and other available metals created amazing-sounding musical instruments as well.  Through a process of metal-smithing and working with molds, they learned to create gongs, bells, hand cymbals and even bowls that can “sing”.  Some master craftspeople even claim to use secret ingredients that give their creations unusually beautiful or “perfect” tone!

Here are some posts that can help you explore these unique musical instruments and use them as a part of your music-making, meditation (quiet time), cultural studies, homeschool or classroom fun.

——————————–

During the month of February 2013, we’re giving away a beautiful set of Tibetan handbells.  You can find that Rafflecopter give-away here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Resources

Free One page download on a Handbell craft

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Detailed pdf on Tibetan Handbells, Plus a Make-Your-Own Handbell Craft

From Teachers Pay Teachers

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Explore-Tibetan-Handbells-Plus-a-Make-Your-Own-Handbell-Craft

Make Your Own Tibetan Handbells – Blog Post

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/make-your-own-tingsha-handbells/

Make Your Own Chinese Gong Craft

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Can A Bowl Really Sing?  Tibetan Singing Bowl Post

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/tibetan-singing-bowls-can-a-bowl-really-sing/

Related Resources

“Gong Xi! Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/gong-xi-gong-xi-the-excitement-of-chinese-new-year/

Sing, Play and Speak With Your Children In Chinese !

http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/sing-play-and-speak-with-your-children-in-chinese/

 

Make Your Own Tingsha Handbells

Most historians believe that about 4,000 years ago, craftspeople in the region around China began experimenting with metal and bronze. Although the region around China, Tibet, Nepal and Southern Asia is quite diverse, these countries share a common history of discovering and creating unique musical instruments made from metal such as gongs, bells, singing bowls and handbells known as tinghsa. Tingsha (also, ting-sha) are two small, rather heavy cymbals that are attached to a rope or piece of rawhide. They are usually about 2.5 to 4 inches in diameter and can be plain or have decorative images on them. Some have symbols such as dragons that are considered lucky or they may have mantras or other words or phrases that are a part of prayer or devotional practices.

Tingsha can be played in two different ways. Either the string is held and the two bells are allowed to strike each other or both cymbals are held and tapped together to make them ring out. Because the sound of tingsha bells is so beautiful and relaxing, they are often heard in the United States as part of

yoga or meditation practices.

MAKE YOUR OWN TINGSHA BELLS

Want to make your own version? Here is an easy project to create your own tingsha bells out of recycled materials.

SUPPLIES

Two matching bottle caps – “Snapple” caps work perfectly

String or yarn

Paint, textured paint or glitter and glue for decorating the handbells.

To make the hole in the bottlecaps:

A piece of wood (as a work area)

Hammer and nail or hammer and awl

Start by creating a hole in the center of each of the bottlecaps. You can do this by putting the bottlecap; outer side up, on a work surface (such as a spare piece of wood) and tapping it gently with a hammer and nail or use a hammer and awl.

Once you’ve created the hole, it’s a good idea to turn the cap over and tap it with a hammer to flatten the sharp edges around the hole. This makes it safer to handle when adding the string.

To decorate your two “cymbals”, you can paint or add textured fabric paint. You can also apply glue and glitter. When you’re done and they are dry, you are ready to string them together.

Thread the strong or yarn through each side and make a knot to hold it into place. Check that you like the length of your tinghsa and adjust the knots accordingly.

Play and have fun!

Make Your Own Gong!

A gong is a hanging percussion instrument that is struck by a special stick or mallet or beater.  When someone bangs a gong – everyone pays attention.  In fact, some legends tell of gongs from ancient China that were rumored to call farmers in from their fields from 50 miles away!

Most historians believe that the art of making these instruments dates back almost 4,000 years ago and some gongs have the most amazing tones when struck.  Others are etched with beautiful designs or patterns that are considered lucky, sacred or special.

Can you make your own homemade version?  Yes!  With a little creativity and some recycled materials, you can make a nice sounding gong to use in your home, neighborhood or classroom!

SUPPLIES

A metal roasting pan  (the larger the better – you can also use a metal pie tin or disposable cake pan )

Pipecleaners or yarn

Cardboard Tube From Wrapping Paper

Paint, stickers, glitter, glue or textured paint for decorating the gong.

For the beater:

Wooden dowel, stick, chopstick or wooden spoon

Electrical tape

DIRECTIONS FOR THE GONG

Start by allowing an adult to poke two holes in the top area of the metal roasting pan – about 2 – 3 inches apart.  Slip a pipecleaner through each hole and then twist the ends together to form a circle.

Now you can insert the wrapping paper tube (or a broomstick or large stick) into the pipecleaner circle and the gong will hang down.  To give your gong a nice sturdy stand, you can use several more pipecleaners to fasten the wrapping paper tube to two chairs that are placed a few feet apart facing outward.

Now that you see how your gong will hang on it’s stand, you may wish to take it down and decorate it.  Add stickers, paint, or glitter and glue. Perhaps you can look up the year you were born in terms of Chinese astrology and put that symbol on your gong.  Maybe you were born in the year of the rat or the pig or the ram or the fish.  It’s great fun to find out.

 

MAKE YOUR OWN BEATER OR MALLET

Lastly, you’ll need a beater to strike the gong. Take a small stick or wooden dowel and wrap one side with electrical tape to form a head.  That’s the side that will strike the gong to create it’s unique and wonderful sound.  If you don’t have a wooden dowel, you can substitute a wooden spoon, a chopstick or an unsharpened pencil, just wrap the head the same way on the end that will strike the gong.

 

Resources

You can find instructions, coloring pages and pdf’s to make almost two dozen unique musical instruments from around the world on DARIA’s website at:

http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Welcome The Year Of The Dragon!

On January 23rd, it’s Chinese New Year and we welcome in the year of the dragon.  Becky Morales from Kid World Citizen shares some great insights and fantastic pictures to help us enjoy this beautiful and exciting holiday!


Chinese dragons (龙 lóng): kids, teens, and adults love them and they appear everywhere from books to tattoos to Chinese New Year Parades. Unlike European dragons, who breathe fire and must be defeated, Chinese dragons are well-meaning mystical beasts who breathe clouds, often appear in human form, and are frequent characters in ancient stories. Dragons symbolize importance, power and strength, and were the symbol of the Emperor of China.  Dragons are also essential in agricultural life, since they are seen to control the seasons and the weather.  

Chinese Dragons appear at Chinese New Year time, during parades and celebrations. The holiday begins with a dragon dance, performed in public with men holding sections of the Golden Dragon, made of bamboo, paper and linen. Store owners near the procession let off fireworks (invented in China long ago) to attract the dragon’s attention and hopefully have a prosperous business in the new year.

According to the Chinese Zodiac (astrology), every 12 years is the year of the dragon. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon! Many consider that years of the dragon are especially prosperous and dynamic years. If you’d like to learn more about Chinese dragons, visit kidworldcitizen.org, an educational web site with multicultural activities that increase global awareness among kids and families.

Check out other related Kid World Citizen posts with fun and crafty ways to share the excitement of Chinese New Year:

Kid World Citizen  – Post on Chinese New Year Crafts
http://kidworldcitizen.org/2012/01/11/chinese-new-year-crafts/

Kid World Citizen – Chinese New Year With Props and Stories
http://kidworldcitizen.org/2012/01/11/a-lesson-plan-for-chinese-new-year-w-props-and-stories/