Spring Festival Special 2008
Photo taken on Feb. 4, 2008 shows the festive lantern decoration in the Ditan Park of Beijing, capital of China. The Chinese people throughout the country are celebrating the traditional Spring Festival with various forms of folk arts and activities. (Xinhua Photo)
BEIJING, Feb. 6 -- While winter storms have pounded many parts of China, the capital has avoided the harsh weather. Now Beijing residents are preparing for the biggest national holiday of the year in the traditional way.
Unlike in the country's central and southern areas which have suffered from heavy snow and freezing temperatures, winter in Beijing has been a lot of fun for the residents. Many families have come to parks to enjoy some ice skating.
Others are crowding the shops to buy New Year decorations full of wishes for good luck and prosperity. Markets are full of bright, shiny, red and gold decorations. And as the coming year in the Chinese calendar is the Year of Rat, images of rats are proving to be the most popular.
A Beijing resident said, "I'm buying some decorations with the words 'good fortune' on, and of course some images of rats, just to help build up the New Year atmosphere."
Behind the commercialism, there remains a tradition of artwork that supplies many of the decorations that support the festivities. At some of the capital's art studios, folk artists are working to meet the demand of traditional gifts and souvenirs that go with the new year beliefs. Miniature gourds with images of rats are one example of this.
Artist Xu Qing from Baigongfang Art Studio said, "Since ancient times, the gourd has been regarded as something that brings people wealth, happiness and good luck."
Another traditional decoration which can be seen in many Chinese households during the festival is paper cuttings. Craftsmen in studios are busy producing images of rats.
Paper cut artist Chao Caixuan from Baigongfang Art Studio said, "People consider the rat to be like a god of wealth, so they'd like to put up images of rats in their homes, especially in the Year of Rat."
The Chinese calendar rotates on a 12-year cycle, with an animal for each year. The country will welcome its Year of the Rat on Thursday February 7th.