Category Archives: History

天灯

This last week was a national holiday in China celebrating the national day (October 1st). So I’ve had a week off school (and to make up for that week I had school today – Saturday..) and Isaac came to visit me. We went to Hangzhou together, which I’ll tell you about later. But before that we had a few days in Nanjing. One evening we went to Xuanwu Lake and we saw this guy sending up a sky lantern:

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About the Sky Lanterns, from this page:

Hundreds of years ago, Flying Lanterns, traditionally called Khoom Fay, were launched alongside fireworks during festivals to offer the people a feeling of tranquility and to appease their worries. It was a way for them to send their dreams to the heavens. Armies would take advantage of their high altitude and long burning period as a signaling method.

Traditionally, Khoom Fay or Sky Lanterns were made of oiled rice paper with a bamboo frame carrying a small candle in order to provide the heat to warm up the air. Their invention is credited to Zhuge Liang, a brilliant strategist from the Three Kingdoms era in China. It was one of his most useful and innovative inventions, using the concept of hot air rising over cooler air, which was a novel idea at the time. This concept was not reproduced in Western countries until the 17th century.

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Spring Festival

新年快樂! (Happy New Year)

February 14th this year was the Chinese New Year‘s Day, the peak of the Spring Festival which is the most important Chinese holiday. As all traditional Chinese festivals, it is based on the Lunar Calendar and we’re now at the start of the year of the Tiger. It is practically impossible to travel inside China right before the festival as it is usually spent with the family and this means that people travel to their hometowns from the place they study or work.

In many ways, Spring Festival is to the Chinese what Christmas is to many Norwegians; a time for family, good food and traditions. These traditions differ depending on where in China you are. Most of the traditions are based on Chinese folk religion and include elements of ancestor worship, symbols that bring luck and prosperity and rituals to scare evil spirits from following them into the new year.

One tradition I’ve seen a lot of is fireworks. These days there are fireworks everywhere, all the time. It started Saturday at about 11 a.m. and I’ve been more or less able to hear it every hour after that, either distant or close by. Traditionally, the fireworks were to scare away evil spirits. I don’t know whether this is still in people’s minds when they use them, but it sure is the most visible (and audible) sign that celebrations are taking place.

Tasha and I got to see some of the preparations for Spring Festival up close last week when we visited Cuty, one of our Chinese friends. We made dumplings! This is the traditional “Spring Festival-food” in Northern China; so many families make them before the celebrations start. Dumplings are basically meat and vegetables wrapped in dough and then either boiled, steamed or fried. It’s easy to get hold of dumplings in Nanjing any time of the year, but they are mostly mentioned in connection with Spring Festival.

According to tradition, we put a coin in one of the dumplings we made. The one who gets the coin will have a year filled with luck and prosperity. We cheated and put a coin each in the dumplings, so we all ended up with lucky coins ^^,

Another tradition is to put up paper decorations on the door. These usually have characters like “luck” on them and are supposed to protect the home in the year to come. And they are not removed from the doors until next Spring Festival when new ones are put up. So we have seen them on doors from we came to China, but now they are all new and shiny. Tasha and I decided to put two tigers on our door too, for decoration purposes only.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve (13th) by going with Kala to the old town of Nanjing (Fuzi Miao) where there were lots of lanterns and lights. Pictures say more than words, so I’ll leave you with some photos from my Chinese New Year.

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The Rape of Nanjing

Last Saturday, we went to the Massacre Museum in Nanjing. December 1937, Japanese soldiers came to Nanjing, raping and killing innocent people. The museum is built in memory of the more than 300 000* victims and tells a story of destruction, murder and suffering.

Inside the museum, there was a life size model of a house with a family inside. Half of the family lay dead on the floor, the women with ripped clothes (from rape). The rest of the family was trying to run away…

In another part of the museum, sound was used as an effect. The sound of a clock ticking, and every 12th second, the sound of a drop of water. For each drop the light behind a portrait was lit. Every drop symbolized a life that slipped away.. Standing there, waiting for the next drop to sound and a new portrait to be lit, made me shiver with horror.

The third part of the museum that made a deep impression on me was a mass grave. A museum building had been built over the excavations of a mass grave. There were piles on piles of buried skeletons.. Real human skeletons from bodies the Japanese soldiers had dropped in a pond. Skeletons of children and babies that had been shot dead! Words can not describe the horror of this..

I was tearing up at times inside this museum, and still I’m not able to grasp the depth of it all. What makes people capable of doing this?

Museums like the Massacre Memorial in Nanjing are important because no matter how uncomfortable it may be to hear about and talk about such tragedies, it is important not to forget. By remembering, we can prevent history from repeating itself. Yet, these museums may also create a lot of hate. This was quoted on one of the walls in the museum, and I think it sums it up very well:

It was forgivable, but not forgettable. (John Rabe)

The museum’s web-page: http://www.nj1937.org/english/default.asp

*300 000 victims, according to China’s official estimate.

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