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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy New Year!

Yes, today is Chinese New Year and we are now in the Year of the Rat. To the right, you will see the Nu household and its virtual doorway that is flanked by a pair of "fai chun." Fai chun are couplets that are written especially for the New Year. They are "spring couplets," because Chinese New Year always happens in the spring time. I don't know where you go to get your fai chun, but I got mine here. It reads: "May your body be healthy. May what your heart desires come to fruition."

Chinese people are very serious about these fai chun. Nowadays, they are mass produced but, traditionally, people skilled in the art of calligraphy would write these. In Hong Kong, there's a very old politician (the counterpart to our Senator Bird) named Sze-to Wah who is also a master calligrapher. Every Chinese New Year, he sets up a rickety card table on the street and writes fai chun for his constituents.* He doesn't just write them, he also makes them up using the constituent's name. Here he is a few days ago writing a fai chun, and here's his schedule. For those of you who don't read Chinese, this 77 year old politician has been sitting for at least two hours (and sometimes five hours) on the street in the cold practically each day since January 1 to write fai chun. Isn't that cute?

* I wasn't aware of this, but the fai chun writing gig has become some sort of political campaigning activity in Hong Kong. This young whippersnapper doesn't seem to be "rolling up his sleeves" the way Mr. Sze-to Wah is doing, though (check out the barebones approach that STW takes and all the frills around TYW).

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