Posts Tagged ‘lunar new year’

The Chinese Year of the Water Snake 2013

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Illuminant wishes all our friends a happy and prosperous year of the snake!

In this new year of the Water Snake, the Illuminant team wishes all our clients, partners, allies and friends be blessed with the luck brought by double snakes.

May you find sources of water on both your left and right, that things bend in your favor under all circumstances, that global sources of revenue flow to you, that your business connections bridge China and the west.

May you prosper in business, as well as in family, and may you thrive to such an extent that you yourself boost the feng (wind) and shui (water).

May your good luck flow gracefully and unstoppable like the winding forward of snakes and dragons.

Artwork for our Lunar New Year card this year was creative directed by Illuminant’s Simon Cousins, and designed by Gina Kim and Jarvis Fernandez. Conceptual input from Kane Gao, Michael Roach, Jiayi Qian and Nicky Ruan.

The Snake in Chinese culture

According to ancient Chinese culture, Snake is always a good omen: a snake in the house means that the family will always have plentiful food.

Of the 12 Chinse zodiac animals, Snake is the most refined and collected of the group. Snake is intuitive, graceful and exciting.

As the most materialistic animal of the Chinese zodiac, Snakes love to surround themselves with the finest life has to offer. Luxurious surroundings and furnishings help Snakes to achieve the peace they need in order to thrive.

Snake is an indicator of material wealth, as he is a reliable provider for his family, and is a good mediator. In particular, Snake has a keen mind for business. Snake is intelligent and wise and adept at husbanding resources.

Hong Kong taipans and Chinese entrepreneurs identify with Snake, as he is naturally skilful at plotting and scheming to make things turn out exactly as they wish. Snake is able to wait for his prey, perfectly still and hidden, until his deadly and effective strike gets him exactly what he had planned to get.  Snakes are possessive and often deadly when threatened.

The Water Snake (2013)

According to the 5-year elemental cycle of the 12 animal years of the Chinese zodiac, the year of the Water Snake begins on 10th February, 2013.  This is the first day of the Lunar New Year.

The last Water Snake year was 1953.

People born in a Water Snake year are said to be motivated, intellectual, determined and resolute about achievement of material success.

These Water Snakes are influential, graceful, insightful and analytical, and for these and other qualities, make good senior business managers and entrepreneurs.

Water Snakes will have what they desire, regardless of obstacles, and comport themselves through life with an expectation of material reward.

Xin nian kuai le!

Learn more about the business and culture of Chinese Spring Festival (aka Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year) at our essay about the Lunar New Year, and also at Illuminant’s Chinese Takeout Spring Festival infographic.

Spring Festival: the Chinese (Lunar) New Year (infographic)

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

January 2013′s Illuminant’s Chinese Takeout focuses on the Chinese Spring Festival (also known as the Lunar New Year or the Chinese New Year, which is somewhat of a misnomer since the new year is celebrated across Asia).

If you find this month’s infographic helpful, please consider checking our other Illuminant’s Chinese Takeouts: A Realistic Overview of ChinaUnderstanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes, and Colors to Use and Colors to Avoid in China and Gifts in China: What to Give, What to Avoid.

Scroll to the bottom to download a high-resolution version in PDF.

Illuminant infographic about the Chinese Spring FestivalClick to download a high-resolution PDF of Illuminant’s Chinese Takeout: Spring Festival

PLEASE CONSIDER THE OTHER INFOGRAPHICS OF ILLUMINANT’S CHINESE TAKEOUT “ENTER THE DRAGON” SERIES

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: A Realistic Overview of China

Enter the Dragon, Part 1 of 12, “A Realistic Overview of China”

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes

Enter the Dragon, Part 2 of 12, “Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes”

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: Colors to Use and Colors to Avoid in China

Enter the Dragon, Part 3 of 12, “Colors to Use and Colors to Avoid in China”

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: Gifts in China (What to Give, What to Avoid)

Enter the Dragon, Part 4 of 12, “Gifts in China: What to Give, What to Avoid”

Enter the Dragon, Part 5 of 12, “Spring Festival: The Lunar (or Chinese) New Year”

TRANSCRIPT OF THIS INFOGRAPHIC

ILLUMINANT’S CHINESE TAKEOUT

ENTER THE DRAGON: A REALISTIC OVERVIEW OF CHINA

A CHINA-ENTRY GUIDE·PART 5 OF 12 · JANUARY 2013

Chun Jie (Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival)

Good Mandarin Chinese phrases to use during the new year are “新年快乐”(xīn nián kuài lè, “Happy New Year”) or “元旦快乐” (yuán dàn kuài lè, “Happy Yuan Dan”).

Date: Jan-Feb (Depending on lunar calendar.

Duration: 7 Days.

Greetings: Yes.

Gifts: Recommended.

Spring Festival Travel

2012

Highway & waterway 92%

Railway 7%

Airline: 1%

Total = 3,154,000,000 trips made

2011

Highway & waterway 91%

Railway 8%

Airline: 1%

Total = 2,893,600,000 trips made

Retail sales during Spring Festival

2011: USD $61,769,870,963

2012: USD $74,194,515,920 (+15%)

The three industries with the greatest increases in sales:

Clothing (18.7%)

Jewelery (16.4%)

Food (16.2%)

Tourism during Spring Festival

2011: Total = 153,000,000 people / Total income = USD $12,529,586,928

2012: Total = 176,000,000 people / Total income USD $16,007,072,158

2012 railway income = USD $481,475,050

2012 airline income = USD $868,233,697

Top 10 domestic travel destinations during Spring Festival ranked by revenue

  1. Chongqing – 21,753,800 tourists
  2. Beijing – 8,270,000 tourists
  3. Chengdu – 8,151,000 tourists
  4. Hangzhou – 6,107,900 tourists
  5. Shenzhen – 4,562,100 tourists
  6. Tianjin – 4,000,400 tourists
  7. Nanjing – 3,160,000 tourists
  8. Shanghai – 3,142,000 tourists
  9. Harbin – 2,981,700 tourists
  10. Sanya – 484,000 tourists

Total tourists = 62,613,900 people.

Total income = USD 5,470,818,454

Top 10 international travel destinations during Spring Festival

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Phuket Island
  3. Singapore
  4. Bangkok
  5. Bali
  6. Seoul
  7. Maldives
  8. Cambodia
  9. Tokyo
  10. Kuala Lumpur

Top 4 industries that benefit the most from the holiday economy

  1. Transportation
  2. Telecommunications
  3. Tourism
  4. Gifts (Typically, alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs)

Fun facts about Spring Festival

Over 30 billion SMS text messages were sent during the 2012 Spring Festival!

Spring Festival represents the largest share of the overseas luxury market, with $7.2 billion spent in 2012.  During the period, Chinese tourists took 62% of the European luxury market, 33% of the North American market and 69% of the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese market.

Illuminant’s Chinese Takeout: Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Every day, hundreds of web users search their way to Illuminant’s website to find out more about  the “Chinese New Year”, as well as the other Chinese holidays.  This topic has become one of Illuminant’s all-time most popular topics.

To address that need, we published articles on Chinese Holidays as well as a special guide on the Spring Festival in our Illuminant’s China blog which have generated huge traffic and very positive feedback.  These Chinese holidays are not only of great significance to the Chinese people, but also have a huge impact on foreign and domestic business in China, good and bad.

There is a lot more to the annual schedule of lunar and fixed Chinese holidays: when understood well, and with the help of a skilled agency such as ours, they can be powerful methods to help your business relationships and sales successes.

To further amplify this advice we routinely provide our clients, we have created our 2nd Illuminant’s Chinese Takeout infographic of the 12-month Enter the Dragon series: Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes.

We hope that the simple guide that follows will help you to plan your business visits and marketing activities accordingly, and capitalize on these holidays as great opportunities to deepen your guānxī with your Chinese partners, regulators and customers.

Scroll to the bottom to download a high-resolution PDF.

 

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout: Enter the Dragon volume 2, "Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes"

 

Click here to download a high-resolution PDF of the infographic.

PLEASE CONSIDER THE OTHER INFOGRAPHICS OF ILLUMINANT’S CHINESE TAKEOUT “ENTER THE DRAGON” SERIES

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: A Realistic Overview of China

Enter the Dragon, Part 1 of 12, “A Realistic Overview of China”

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes

Enter the Dragon, Part 2 of 12, “Understanding Chinese Holidays for Better Business Outcomes”

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: Colors to Use and Colors to Avoid in China

Enter the Dragon, Part 3 of 12, “Colors to Use and Colors to Avoid in China”

Illuminant's Chinese Takeout, Enter the Dragon: Gifts in China (What to Give, What to Avoid)

Enter the Dragon, Part 4 of 12, “Gifts in China: What to Give, What to Avoid”

Enter the Dragon, Part 5 of 12, “Spring Festival: The Lunar (or Chinese) New Year”

TRANSCRIPT OF THIS INFOGRAPHIC

ILLUMINANT’S CHINESE TAKEOUT

China in a box

ENTER THE DRAGON: UNDERSTANDING CHINESE HOLIDAYS FOR BETTER BUSINESS OUTCOMES

A CHINA-ENTRY GUIDE·PART 2 OF 12·JULY 2012

Understanding Chinese Holidays

If you’re a company taking your first steps into the Chinese marketplace, don’t experience disruption to your business plans due to lack of planning around the Chinese mainland’s unique holiday calendar.

For new entrants to the China market, it can be quite disorienting to discover your entire in-market team away on holidays you’ve never heard of. And it’s really very irritating (and expensive) to arrive in Beijing or Shanghai to find that none of the “big potatoes” you need to meet are available due to an incomprehensible slowdown caused by an impending holiday (or one just passed!)

Due to religious differences, China doesn’t officially celebrate Christmas, Easter, or any other Judeo-Christian holiday. Rather, China has a series of traditional holidays, some derived from nationhood and others with ancient agrarian roots. Holidays dedicated to China’s nationhood and political system fall on the same date each year, while traditional holidays very according to the lunar calendar.

We encourage you to understand China’s holiday schedule and to take advantage of your new understanding: you have great opportunities to deepen your business and government guanxi relationships.

Year 年

Yuan Dan (New Year’s Day) 元旦

International New Year’s Day is officially marked in China, and has a three day vacation attached to it, however celebrations are pale and minuscule compared to the Lunar New Year a month later. Due to the short vacation of only 3 days, few mainland Chinese travel much distance during this holiday.

The New Year isn’t at all disruptive to business.

Good Mandarin Chinese phrases to use during the new year are “新年快乐” (xin nian kuai le, “Happy New Year”) or “元旦快乐” (yuan dan kuai le, “Happy Yuan Dan”).

In summary, do take advantage of the new year, but keep your powder dry for the cacophonous glory of the lunar New Year, which will soon be upon us…

Date: 1st Jan

Duration: 3 Days

Greetings: YES

Gifts: YES (Recommended)

Chun Jie (Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival) 春节

In China, the Lunar New Year is of equivalent importance as Christmas and Hanukkah in the Judeo-Christian traditions. That is to say, it’s the main holiday in the annual schedule that is celebrated and observed with the greatest gusto by all Chinese people.

The two weeks bookending the beginning and end of the Lunar New Year week is a terrible time to be doing business in China. Much like the “silly season” around the Christmas/New Year period in the west, this is a time of year during which few major decisions are made and few large purchase orders are written. It’s best to avoid time-consuming or expensive business development activities during this period.

Be sure to send greetings! “过年好!” (guo nian hao, “happy getting past the old year!”) “恭贺新春” (gong he xin chun, “sincere congratulations on the new spring”), or more generic “新年快乐” (xin nian kuai le, your typical “Happy New Year”). Avoid 恭喜发财.

Date: Jan-Feb (Depending on Lunar Calendar)

Duration: 7 DAYS

Greetings: YES

Gifts: YES (Recommended)

Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day) 清明

Since the taboo subject of death is involved, the whole business of Qing Ming is quite private and solemn. As a non-Chinese, don’t bother with special greetings or gifts, Best to leave this three day holiday alone.

The Qing Ming period is only minimally disruptive to business, Senior decision makers may be out of the office for a day or two on either side of the holiday, so plan your business activities accordingly.

Date: April

Duration: 3 DAYS

Greetings: No (Nor necessary)

Gifts: No (NOT Recommended)

Lao Dong Jie (Labor Day, aka May Day, aka International Workers’ Day) 劳动节

Labor Day is marked with a three day national vacation beginning on May 1st every year. The holiday was introduced by the post-1949 government of Chairman Mao. The holiday is a modern one: it doesn’t have any traditional cultural importance. Like most Chinese holidays, you should assume that more senior decision makers will take a few extra days on either side of the holiday, so avoid important business during the week leading up to and the week after the Labor Day period.

Date: May 1st

Duration: 3 DAYS

Greetings: No (Not necessary)

Gifts: No (Nor necessary)

Duan Wu (Dragon Boat Festival) 端午

Originally a day to honor ancient poet Qu Yuan, this day turned into a holiday in recent times. This three day holiday is the time that Chinese mainland people will eat 粽子 (zong zi), a glutinous rice package wrapped in bamboo leaves. Everyone in China eats zongzi, although few actually race dragon boats these days.

From a business timing perspective, you may find some locally engaged staff-members or business collaborators to be absent from work for a week during this period, especially if they are active participants in dragon boat teams, and are attending race in far flung cities.

Date: May (Depending on Lunar Calendar)

Duration: 3 DAYS

Greetings: Yes

Gifts: YES (Recommended)

Zhong Qiu (Mid-Autumn Festival) 中秋

This important and beloved festival marks the dead-center of autumn in the Lunar Calendar. The Mid-Autumn Festival is second only to the Lunar New Year in the year’s most important holidays.

The effect of the Mid-Autumn Festival on business availability is analogous to that of the Lunar New Year. It’s best to lower your expectations that decision makers will be of a mind to make major decisions for the fortnight leading up to and after the holiday period.

Be sure to plan well in advance to take full advantage of the Mid-Autumn Festival with gifts of mooncakes and a party for your team, their spouses, your best customers and allies.

A good greeting is 中秋佳节快乐 (zhong qiu jia jie kuai le, “Have a happy time during the pleasant Mid-Autumn Festival”).

Date: August (Depending on Lunar Calendar)

Duration: 3 Days

Greetings: Yes

Gifts: YES (Recommended)

Guo Qing Jie (China National Day) 国庆节

Every country has its day. October 1st is China’s day. This is the day that marks Chairman Mao Zedong standing on the rostrum at Tian’anmen Gate, in 1949, declaring the People’s Republic of China. China National Day is the beginning of an annual seven day vacation.

There will be a lot of fireworks exploding overhear, but people don’t celebrate it personally. There is no need or real opportunity to improve personal business relationships during this seven day vacation—however large businesses commonly take out full-page advertisements in major newspapers to congratulate China on her birthday each year.

The most common Mandarin Chinese phrase used on National Day is 欢度国庆 (huan du guo qing, “Enjoy the National Day Vacation”)

Date: Oct 1st

Duration: 7 DAYS

Greetings: NO (Nor necessary)

Gifts: NO (Not necessary)

SUMMARY

The principle of making good use of Chinese holidays in your business development and corporate communications campaign can be summarized into three main points:

·Be aware of all upcoming holidays, taking care to ascertain the actual dates each year.

·Ensure good timing on your promotional activities and events.

·Be different from everyone else. Make your greetings, cards, gifts and events stand out from an ocean of mediocrity.

It can take some time to become accustomed to Chiense holiday timing, and a solid localization effort to distill a communications style and voice that fits the Chinese cultural context and your brand identity well. The easiest solution for a fast and successful program is no engage the services of a local expert. Your local partners will be your calendar, your alarm clock, your copywriter, your design team and your event manager. If you’re still without such a partner, please do consider Illuminant’s battle proven services.

This Chinese Takeout by:

I’m passionate about embracing festive traditions

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

A selection of traditional Chinese cookies to celebrate the Lunar New Year in SingaporeChristmas is the elegant and classy holiday, but the Lunar New Year (LNY) is the holiday to embrace tackiness and gaudiness in its full glory. It is a time filled with superstitious dos and don’ts, but it is also a time where you have license to go all out with the red and gold decorations and not be ridiculed for the lack of taste.

I am hardly a traditionalist, but I do like keeping the LNY traditions from my childhood alive because they’re fun and it’s something I’ve always done. My mom still gives me 压碎钱 (yā suì qián) to put under my pillow on the eve of the Lunar New Year. The little red packet is supposed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits for the coming year. Lucky me!

This year, I went home at the right time and was able to bring back a number of LNY treats, including kueh bangkit (coconut cookies), pineapple tarts, cashew cookies and butter cookies. The plan at the moment is also to make the sweet and sticky auspicious dessert, ti kueh (甜粿) – not steamed, microwaved. The sweet tooth has no patience. 新年快乐!

This passion belongs to Melody Chia

All you need to know about the (Chinese) Lunar New Year

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The Lunar New Year festival is soon upon us, with the year of the rabbit beginning on February 3rd, 2011. The Illuminant team thought it might be interesting to get a few notes down to help our clients, partners and visitors to understand this important cultural phenomenon better.  And, for those who are developing their businesses or reputations in China, our three most important tips for foreign enterprises during the Lunar New Year appears at the end of this article.

Chinese New Year, Chun Jie, Spring Festival, Lunar New Year… oh my!

Chinese lanterns for the Lunar New Year

Chinese lunar new year lanterns shot by Simon in Beijing's Sanlitun

The Lunar New Year is actually known by several different terms in China.  In different circles, the festival is named Chinese New Year, Chun Jie, Spring Festival and Lunar New Year.  So what’s the deal?

Chinese middle school textbooks prefer the term “Spring Festival”, although those same textbooks also point out that this phrase was invented relatively recently in China. Since the introduction of these textbooks (naturally, after 1949 when Chairman Mao’s forces were victorious), hundreds of millions of kids have grown up with the term, and the Chinese New Year is widely known as Spring Festival. The direct translation from the Chinese “Chun Jie” to “Spring Festival” is now pretty well accepted by foreigners living, working and studying in China as well.

It’s also quite frequently called the “Chinese New Year”, as opposed to the “un-Chinese New Year” that happens regularly on the first day of every January. To many of China’s contemporary thought leaders, the term “Chinese New Year” is somewhat undesirable, mostly for lack of imagination. Putting a “Chinese” before a widely known noun to indicate its Chinese counterpart has been rather a cliché, like calling our 肉夹馍 “Chinese hamburger” and 土家烧饼 “Chinese pizza” (both inaccurate, and in the case of “Chinese New Year, similarly inaccurate as a “Chinese version” of the pretty much universal [solar] new year).

The term than these thought leaders tend to prefer is “Lunar New Year”, which is really quite accurate, directly pointing out what the festival is about. First it’s celebrated as a sort of New Year’s Day, and “Lunar”links the idea to the lunar calendar.

For the majority of China’s 5,000 years of recorded history, the great country has been agrarian (that is to say, agriculturally based, both in economics and in culture). The  lunar calendar has always been the dominating force in daily life because people need it to figure out what time to sow a new year’s crops. China isn’t the only country that had been using this kind of calendar, so we think that calling the festival the “Lunar New Year” avoids the cultural misunderstandings that it is a Chinese-only thing (after all, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and other countries and expatriates also mark the festival).  On this point, many Asian communities thanked President Obama for renaming it the “Asian New Year” in his first Lunar New Year address.

The Illuminant team is all about cultural diversity, so we’re sticking with Lunar New Year, but we’re not going to get upset if our friends and relatives have a different idea!

So whats the festival all about?

Chinese lunar new year decorations

Chinese lunar new year decorations, shot by Simon at Beijing's toy market

That depends on which version of the story you being told. We Illuminant folks love a good story, so we’ll relate the more interesting version:

A very, very long time ago, there was a terrible monster by the name of 年 (Nián, which means “year”) which was greatly troubling ancient China. On the last day of each year the monster Nian would go from village to village, hunting down and often eating people. The monster Nian was almost invincible, thus the proud and stout Chinese people had no choice but to hide at home and shiver. Later, by chance somebody found out that the monster Nian wasn’t all-powerful after all. It was discovered that Nian fears very loud sounds, and that it absolutely hates the colour red.

By the end of that ancient year, the Chinese people had worked as one and stocked up lots of fireworks (to produce the loud sounds), and had put up countless red banners (the display the fearful colour).  Every year henceforth (and especially so in contemporary times), great volumes of cacophony are produced for the entire Lunar New Year holiday week, with every horizontal surface bedecked in red.  And you know what?  The monster hasn’t rampaged or eaten a single person since that ancient discovery… so it must be true!

Okay, so what about the less superstitious story?

Glad you asked! A plainer version of the Lunar New Year story goes like this:

In the old times when the Chinese economy was entirely driven by agriculture, landlords would collect land rental from their tenants on the last day of each year. If someone was unfortunate to have had an ill harvest, or simply had a particularly cruel landlord, it would mean that his new year (and maybe years to come as well) would be thoroughly doomed.

This day had been regarded as a particularly significant obstacle by the vast bulk of ancient Chinese people. Surviving The Big Day was definitely something well worth celebrating! Also, like in many cultures, after a whole year among the crops and livestock, people sure could use some recreation. That’s why fireworks were set off and grand feasts laid out before getting down to a new round of struggle to beat the next year’s deadline.

May you get past the year and survive again!

Whichever version of the story you favour, the activity of celebrating the Lunar New Year in China is called “过年” (guò nián), meaning “to get past the year”, or “to survive the year”.

In Chinese life, the Lunar New Year bears an importance as great as, if not greater than, Christmas in Christian countries. The celebration happens on the last night of a lunar year, and then the celebration stretches across the following 6 or 7 days.

What do Chinese people like to do during the festival?

Temple fair hair

The ghosts have no chance with Chinese lunar new year temple fair hair! Shot by Simon in Beijing.

Life in today’s China is pretty codified.  Customs are adhered to, and familial piety is an unavoidable fact of daily life.  The main activities enjoyed to celebrate getting past the year (and beating off that old monster Nian!) are:

  • Travelling to one’s hometown, regardless of the massive crush of a billion people all travelling on the same day of the year (Lunar New Year is the largest migration of humanity on the planet).
  • Wearing one’s very best clothes.
  • Visit all the grandpas & grandmas, clean their houses and prepare grand feasts of the new year.
  • Set off lots and lots and lots of unfeasibly large and loud fireworks (pretty much from dawn to dawn for more than a week).
  • Enjoy many family get-togethers, and enjoy great food and alcohol. Chinese dumplings (or gyoza, or ravioli, etc) are a must-have.
  • Play mahjong (not all, but most families play) through the first night, accompanied by CCTV’s “Spring Festival Gala” on almost a billion television sets.
  • Revisit the grandpas & grandmas’ on the first day of the new year, and clean up all the mess (if not cleaned the previous night).
  • Visit all one’s relatives in town, delivering greetings and gifts of fruit, candy, food and alcohol. This program of visits, as well planned as a military incursion, will occupy at least several days of one’s holiday plans if his bloodline runs long and wide.
  • Meet old friends and classmates who are scattered across the country but coming back to the hometown for the celebration.
  • Go to temple fairs and enjoy the outdoor entertainment, novelties, sense of community and delicious snacks.

As a foreigner in China, what would I find most obvious during the Lunar New Year?

  • Your Chinese town gets very, VERY noisy with crackers exploding, when individual blasts can no longer be discerned, for hours on end.
  • Big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen will be like ghost towns, with very few people in the street at day time. It’s because the majority of China’s job opportunities are in these places, and people from all over the countries rush into them for a better future. During the Lunar New Year, they must go to their hometowns.
  • For this reason, for a month or so before the Lunar New Year, highway, railway and air traffic of China will be running at top capacity (read: exploding-with-people). It will be awfully hard to get a train/flight ticket, and even if you get one, the ride won’t be pleasant. It will be wise to avoid travelling around. Try to delay travel until the second or third day of the new year festival instead.
  • Friends will try to greet you on street. It’s also advisable to greet your friends if you happen to meet them. The universal greeting word is “过年好!” (guò nián hǎo, “happy getting past the old year!”). Another frequently used greeting is “恭喜发财” (gōng xǐ fā cái, which means “I hope you get big money!”, but don’t say this to government officials, police or military or public servants.  For those official folks, tell them you hope they get promoted in the new year “步步高升” (bù bù gāo shēng, “rise to higher places step by steady step”).

Australian gold coin celebrating the 1999 year of the rabbitAnd this is the year of the… rabbit? Right?

Right.  Each lunar year of China has been assigned to an animal, 生肖 (shēng xiāo), sometimes called the “Chinese Zodiac”.  This coming year, beginning on February 3rd, 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit.

There 12 totem animals in all, just like zodiac signs. In fixed sequence they are: the mouse, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the swine. The year 2010, a year of the tiger, draws its last breath on February 2nd of 2011 (Gregorian calendar), followed by a year of the rabbit.  Then, after 12 years, the cycle begins again.

Each totem animal is said to bring distinctive characteristics to people born in that year.  Rabbit people (those who were born in 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011) are said by experts in Chinese geomancy to have good financial luck, be articulate and have an even temper.

So what are the three most important things a company should do in China for the Lunar New Year?

For a company, the Lunar New Year is a great time to impress your Chinese clients and partners. For almost a decade, Illuminant has been advising and helping clients to deepen guanxi relationships and improve commercial prospects in China by behaving well during the Lunar New Year. From all the dozens of special Lunar New Year campaigns we’ve designed and implemented, here are our three most important things any foreign company or enterprise should do:

Number 1

Plan your greetings

It’s important to plan your schedule of greetings or gifts to clients (a must-have) and business partners and government stakeholders (a nice-to-have) about one month prior to the Lunar New Year night. Their team-members will start leaving for their hometowns maybe as early as half a month in prior (the more senior the personnel, the earlier they can take off). So get started with a list of all of your clients, and any prospective clients that you’ve been working hard to develop this last year.  Remember to greet or gift the most senior people in the organization — and pay special attention to avoid embarrassment by gifting someone “lower” in the hierarchy better than her or his boss.  Both parties will be embarrassed, and it could cause a loss of momentum in your relationship.

Number 2Deliver your greetings

You should send a greeting card, hand written, at minimum, or better still to send a small gift. Good gifts are quality brand foodstuffs or alcohol.  Whatever they are, they *must* be in red color, or wrapped in red if they are not. Suggested greetings include “过年好” (as aforementioned), “恭贺新春” (gōng hè xīn chūn, “sincere congratulations on the new spring”), or more generic “新年快乐” (xīn nián kuài lè, your typical “Happy New Year”). Avoid 恭喜发财 here. Although it’s quite common between friends, relatives and colleagues, it’s more polite not to approach a business in such personal fashion. Some rabbit-themed gifts would be a very good idea.

If you don’t currently have a China-based office, have a trusted local partner (such as this fine PR agency) to buy your Lunar New Year cards and send them to you for signing, before you send back for your partner to organize delivery. EMS or “kuai di” delivery is much, much better than China Post (home of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the People’s Republic of China) and these delivery services cost only a handful of Yuan per delivery.

Number 3Consider hosting a party

Lunar New Year parties are a wonderful opportunity to quickly and solidly advance your guanxi with your customers, staff, partners and stakeholders, and to sharply increase the regard they have for you and your enterprise. A decent sized party for 25 to 35 guests in a nice hotel, with a buffet, toasts (many, many toasts), entertainment, lucky-draw and take-home gifts for everyone can be surprisingly affordable, and represents a brilliant return on investment.  Illuminant is highly experienced in running every aspect of Lunar New Year parties — and by engaging Illuminant, you’ll be receiving multi-national western quality and accountability for only a small premium over often dodgy and disappointing suppliers that really don’t grasp your objectives or methods.

Article by Kane Gao, Illuminant’s head of research

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