Chinese New Year 2017: Enter the Rooster

2017 is about to arrive, and bears the hope of economic growth. Technically, the year of the rooster doesn’t start until the first day of the lunar calendar, which falls on January 28th this year. However, since no one really uses the lunar calendar in China anymore, the turning of zodiac has been moved to January 1st.

What can we expect from the year of the rooster?

We will see an increase in the number of babies being born. The reason for this is quite simple: Roosters. Sound. Cool. People tend to relate many desirable qualities to babies born in years of the rooster, and would even try to hold back the birth (I don’t know how one would do that), or rush it (with C-section) just so they can have a rooster baby. Roosters symbolize character traits that include dominance and ambition, and are said to be blessed with luck and strength. According to a survey done by the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, 85% of sampled parents (mainland and Hong Kong Chinese) tend to believe that rooster babies are smarter than others. Although there is no scientific or mythical proof about these babies being smarter, this “baby rush” does means a number of things: A) babies born in 2017 will face a lot more competition in school and their careers; B) if you are thinking about starting some baby-oriented service such as babysitting or early childhood education, 2017 might be an especially good year to start.

Chinese brands generally tend to employ the current year’s zodiac as a key element in their advertising and straplines. They do that every year rotating through the Chinese zodiac cycle. In 2016 there were plenty of monkey adverts, a massive gang of goats  in 2015, and mobs of horses in 2014. As we’ve already established, the rooster is the mightiest creature of all the zodiac, and chances are that they will be abused for marketing purposes with an extra dose of passion. Staying away from these grand fowls or using them less explicitly will make your marketing efforts stand out from others.

Face Culture in China

If you are a newly arrived expat, you will most certainly be confronted with culture shocks with Chinese people, and one of them is the ‘’face’’ (Mianzi面子).

A quick example: after a business meeting, your Chinese colleague kindly offers you a lift and you turn his offer down just as kindly. If this happened in the West, nobody would think twice about it, but in China, declining a colleague’s thoughtful gesture may cause him/her to lose face.

What is face in China?

Some say that Chinese face is pure vanity. Others say it is a mask that makes things appear better than they really are. In fact, Chinese face has a much broader meaning. It represents a person’s reputation and dignity within multiple spheres, including the workplace, the family, personal friends, and society at large.

Doing business with face

Inevitably, giving face and saving face is crucial when it comes to do business in China. One of the most obvious ways in which this plays out is the avoidance of public criticism in all but the most dire of circumstances. In this way, you give people face in public. Where in a Western business meeting a boss might criticize an employee’s proposal, for example, direct criticism would be uncommon in a Chinese business meeting because it would cause the person being criticized to lose face. Since much of China’s business culture is based on personal relationships (Guanxi 关系), giving face is also a tool that is frequently used in making inroads into new social circles. If you can get the endorsement of one particular person of high social standing, that person’s approval and standing within their peer group can “give” you the “face” that you need to be more broadly welcomed in your business in China.

Here are some short sentences about face:

Having face(有面子)[ Yǒu Miàn Zi ]
To have gained pride or prestige through some kind of achievement
Giving face(给面子)[ Gěi Miàn Zi ]
To praise or give deference to someone else to improve/uphold their reputation
Losing face(丢脸)[ Diū Liǎn ]
To be humiliated or to suffer the loss of social standing

What about you? Have you ever made someone lose face in China? We’d love to hear about your experience of the Face. Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Colors in China: What do they mean?

China is one of the world’s largest countries with one of the world’s oldest and deepest culture. Their ethnicity even has been spread among countries in the world through what is known as the Chinese diaspora. They are in Europe, America and even in Africa. Besides, it has strong power on the economy; it also has a big influence on cultures, especially in South East Asia, Japan and Korea. They share spiritual beliefs, architecture and culinary knowledge along with other traditional customs that often go beyond the strict limits of the Chinese territory. One of the most powerful example might be the Lunar New Year, sometimes named the Chinese New Year which is celebrated is many Asian countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and South Korea. In their calendar, the Chinese have symbolized each year with an animal; 2017 being the Year of the Rooster. In Chinese cosmology, things are often linked to symbolic elements that have unique characteristics. In today’s post, we will see how colors are used in China’s symbolism and what are their meanings.

The colors allow the Chinese to describe the world around them. Each color has a particular meaning that might be different from one culture to another. In China, there are five “traditional” colors (五 颜, wǔ yán), arranged according to a specific order, which is directly related to the philosophy of the five elements. Some colors in Chinese are considered inauspicious, others are auspicious. They usually consider color as emotion or color in the face, but now color in Chinese can mean many things. To make sure that you understand, here are the little explanations of each color in Chinese culture.

The Five elements

There is a popular theory about color in China. China’s emperor has a theory of the five elements to select a color. The color green stands for wood, red  stands for fire, yellow for earth, white for metal and black for water.

Black

The Chinese character for “Black”

Black represents water. In China, as elsewhere in the world, black 黑 symbolizes something serious, very formal. It was the color wore by the imperial dignitaries,  much like the outfits of our lawyers back in the West. Black also expresses the secret in Chinese, something that is happening in the shadow. This is why the mafia is translated as “black society” (黑社会, hēi shèhuì), dirty money by black money (黑钱 hēiqián) and clandestine workers by black workers (黑 工 hēigōng). Black is also considered as a neutral color. Thus, in modern China, people usually wear black clothes in their daily life and white is usually for funerals.

Red

Red symbolized luck and happiness

The second color is red. It represents fire. Chinese people usually believe that red can be a sign of joy and fortune. It has been common color in Chinese New Year and other official or traditional holidays. That is why many older people or people that have been married usually give red envelope as red is a sign of good luck. Red in Chinese culture is not usual for an event like a funeral because it  represents happiness. Thus, it can be pretty offensive to wear red clothes to the funeral ceremony.

Green

“Wearing a green hat” means “being cuckolded” in Chinese

In China, green color usually carries a negative meaning. The Chinese think that someone who does not feel good has a green face. “Having a green face” also means to be angry. Another popular meaning is to cheat on someone. “Wearing a green cap” means being unfaithful to your husband. Generally this term is used for a woman who had a relationship with another man and therefore dishonored her husband.

White

People wearing white shirts at a funeral in China

The fourth color is white. It strongly symbolized the purity and brightness of the metal. It is the official color of clothes in a funeral ceremony. The Chinese are also obsessed with the white skin, as it is usually related to your position in the society.

Yellow

A Chinese emperor wearing yellow clothes

The last color is yellow as a symbol of earth. This color, very important in Chinese symbolism, represents glory, wisdom, harmony, happiness, culture. Yellow is reserved for the Emperor, it is the color of royalty.Later, it took very different meaning as yellow is also the color of sex and pornography.