The Year of the Rooster
"It has been reported that, in advance of the
festival, hundreds of millions of people travel to their family homes in the various provinces of China"
For 1.4 billion people on mainland China, and for roughly 19% of the world’s entire population, the fortnightlong celebration of the Chinese New Year is inarguably the biggest and most significant festival in the calendar year.
It has been reported that, in advance of the festival, hundreds of millions of people travel to their family homes in the various provinces of China, taking part in the largest mass migration on the planet. The Xinghua news agency has reported that over 2.5 billion road journeys will be taken, ahead of, and during, the celebrations, with tickets for air and rail-travel all in massive demand.
Although the population of Chinese nationals living in Ireland is relatively small (there were roughly 11,000 listed on the 2011 census), the impact of Chinese culture is strongly felt, particularly in the capital city, where Parnell Street has become a valued, albeit as yet unofficially named, Chinatown.
The internationally recognised Dublin Chinese New Year Festival was established in 2008. This year, the Chinese New Year’s Eve fell on January 27 but the festival – which in 2017 commemorates the Chinese national holiday, highlights the contribution of the Chinese community living in Ireland and celebrates the twinning of Dublin with Beijing in 2011 – runs up to February 12.
In China, the lunar calendar is used to determine the dates of most traditional festivals. It is for this reason that the Chinese New Year roams somewhat on the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. In much the same way that the date of Easter is determined by its association with the spring, or Vernal Equinox, the Chinese New Year falls on the date that marks the beginning of the lunar year.
While the Chinese use the Gregorian calendar for all official purposes, and conduct business by it, the lunar calendar is still employed in other areas. Some, for example, still use it to mark their birthdays and it is also used for Chinese zodiac horoscopes and in selecting favourable or lucky times for weddings and travel.
The Chinese New Year: What’s Happening in Dublin
The festivities for The Year of the Rooster began on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, Friday January
27, with a spectacular family–friendly evening of entertainment in Meeting House Square, in Temple Bar.
Traditional Chinese dragons, daring circus performers and drummers ushered in the Year of the Rooster in style – kicking off a fortnight of celebrations.
Over the 14 days of the festival, there is a massive list of intriguing events on offer that will appeal to inquisitive Irish folk, Chinese visitors and the large population of Chinese nationals and those of Chinese descent living all over Ireland. These events will provide a chance to explore the rich history and culture of the land of the rising sun, and to celebrate the cultural diversity of our own little island.
The Music of China
• One of the musical highlights takes place on February 6, when the traditional and folk music of China will be celebrated with a gala concert at the National Concert Hall, presented by the Hangzhou Federation of Literary & Arts Circles and the Hangzhou Musician Association.
On the final night of the festival, /he ugh
Lane Gallery will host a musical performance by the Irish/Chinese Youth Concert Organisation.
The evening will include a mix of classical and contemporary recitals from Chinese and Irish students and special performances by the awardwinning 17-year-old pianist Aidan Chan and opera singer Florence Chong.
• Food will play a big part in the celebration of the Chinese New Year, and the Lao Restaurant on Parnell Square West is sure to be a popular hub for New Year’s revellers. On February 2, you can gather with some good company for a crash-course in concocting the perfect hot pot. Considered the ultimate communal dining eÝperience, the first rule of ot *ot ight isAE
you don’t hot pot with people you don’t like! February 5 will see the popular Asian pastime of karaoke celebrated in the restaurant, with a night of English and Chinese songs available for those brave enough to jump onstage, as well as a selection of traditional Chinese snacks. Many other Chinese restaurants will be featuring special Chinese New Year menus across the fortnight, including China Sichuan in Sandyford and Mak in Ranelagh.
The National Botanic Gardens will host a traditional tea ceremony on February 9. Meanwhile, over the course of the festival many of the city’s restaurants will be featuring set menus especially to celebrate the New Year, including award winning chef Karl Whelan’s new authentic Chinese restaurant, Hang Dai, on Camden Street, and the Asia Market on Drury Street, where there will also be in-store cooking demonstrations, free samplings and tastings, and much more tasty treats throughout the festival.
For Chinese visitors, there are many opportunities to explore and learn about the capital over the course of the festival. One of the most unique is a Lazy Bike Tour conducted in Mandarin on February 11. Kitted out with some eye–catching electric bikes, knowlegeable tour guides will teach visitors about the hidden history of Dublin’s different quarters and stop off at the Teeling Distillery to sample some authentic Irish whiskey.
Art and Aesthetic Values
• Throughout the festival the Chester Beatty Library is a must–visit destination for those interested in the distinctive nature of Chinese art. From retrospectives of Chinese artists like Hong Ling, to a behind-the-scenes look at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition, China: Through the Looking
Glass (Feb 12), and lectures about the radically different aesthetic values of Chinese Art, the library will be buzzing with activity. In addition to these yagshi« evets] there Üill also Le fu for the whole family, including a chance to decorate your very own rooster and a workshop where you can learn to make your own New Year lantern.
" the wal `ay] r° Ƃu`rey 7hitty Üill host a tour of the National Museum of Ireland’s collection of objects originating from China. The tour will be bilingual, with Mandarin interpretation being provided by Vicky Yanli Wang.
Closing out the festival, the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland will welcome China’s Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble for a debut Irish performance at the Convention Centre, Dublin on February 11. Founded in 1952 by Premier Zhou Enlai, the performing troupe has grown to over 300 members and has toured in over 70 countries. Many world leaders, including the US Secretary of State, have enjoyed performances presented by the company. On the night of the Gala, more than thirty professional artists including one of China’s most famous Mongolian singers, Teng Geer, will deliver a feast of Chinese ethnic art with unique choreography and stunning costumes.
“This is the 11th Spring Festival Gala put on by the UCD Confucius Institute,” Professor Liming Wang, Director of the Institute explains. “The past ten years have seen the gala grow far beyond
Ühat Üe ha` ho«e`° The wrst gala too «laVe i the UCD Student centre. It then moved to the
"More than thirty professional artists including one of China’s most famous Mongolian singers, Teng
Geer, will deliver a feast of Chinese ethnic art"
much larger O’Reilly Hall – and now, the past few years have seen it move to the National Convention Centre.
º7i } Ì ii` Ì w` > iÛi L}}iÀ ÛiÕi Ã] >Ã Ì iÀi Ã }Ài>Ì anticipation for the gala and it sells out every year,” Professor Wang adds.
“The gala regularly features local performers and gives students from the Institute the chance to show off their Chinese. The China Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble, from Beijing – who are this year’s main performers q >Ài v>ÕÃ vÀ ÀiyiVÌ} iÌ VqÀÌÞ }ÀÕ«Ã vÀ ÜÌ >° / iÀ music and dance production highlights a variety of traditional Chinese minority cultures, from Uyghur, Tibetan, Manchu, Mongolian and Kazakh to Korean and much more.
“China is a huge country,” Professor Wang notes, “with many different provinces and cultural specialities. These performers, some of whom are household names in China, sing songs I’d never heard, and play traditional instruments I’d never even seen before!”
It promises to be a wonderful night. But that isn’t the UCD Confucious Institute’s only involvement in this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations.
“Aside from the gala,” Professor Wang explains, “our staff will be manning several booths at the Spring Festival Fair at the CHQ building, where they will also be providing tea–tastings.”
Overall, the Institute will provide a memorable example of how the Chinese performing arts celebrate and illuminate cultural diversity. Long may it continue.
The Chinese New Year Festival is one of the events of the year in Dublin city. And it is growing every year in its reach and significance. Peter McNally sets the scene…
Let’s dance: China’s Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble make their Irish debut at Dublin’s Convention Centre on February 11.
Strum as you are: China’s Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble