Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival in China and earns the greatest expectation from each Chinese. People will do a lot of things to pray happiness, health and safety for the next year. There is great quantity of folk stories regarding Spring Festival spreading among Chinese, which has posed mythological color to this special festival.
Story One: The ancient Spring Festival Cards
The greeting cards for New Year and Spring Festival popular in today had been prevalent in the ancient time. It was in the Song Dynasty, the royal and noble families had been sent their best wishes for each other by the special greeting cards which named “Ming Ci” or “Ming Tie”. The card was cut into a card with 2-inch wide and 3-wide long, on which the senders would write their name and address. There is a red paper bag named “Men Bu” with the host’s name on it, used to receive the “Ming Ci” or “Ming Tie”. The visitors would give their “Ming Tie” to the “Men Bu” and that means their New Year’s greetings. It bears the same meaning with the today’s Spring Festival Cards and New Year Cards. China Xian Tour would like to send you a traditional Spring Festival Card before this important day to wish you a good, healthy and happy new year.
Story Two: Sticking “Fu” Words
福, whose Pinyin is “Fu”, means “fortune” and “goodness” in Chinese. The Emperor Taizu of Ming Dynasty named Zhu Yuanzhang had made the “Fu” word as a mark for killing, which was found by his kind Queen Ma who issued an order that all families in the city need to post a “Fu” on their doors before dawn to avoid this disaster. People surely dare not to disobey the Queen’s order and put “Fu” on their doors. Among them, a family who were illiteracy posted an upside-down “Fu”.
On that day, the emperor let some soldiers to check the “Fu” marks and only found that there were “Fu” words on each door and even an upside-down “Fu” word on one door. That annoyed the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang greatly who just issued an order to kill that family who posted the upside-down “Fu”. The Queen Ma hurried to persuade the Emperor: that family knew you would come to their house and have posted the upside-down “Fu” on purpose (upside-down “Fu” has the totally same sounds with “Fu Dao” 福到, which means that fortune comes.) Zhu Yuanzhang thought his wife was right and decided to remove the death hovering the head of that family. From then on, people post the upside-down “Fu” for both pray for fortune and also memory the kind Queen Ma.
Apart from writing “Fu” on the red paper to pray goodness in Spring Festival, you could also see it from Chinese folk paper-cut which could be found in the some local folk tours, such as Huxian County a Xian local county where supply you a traditional cultural tour including paper cutting, local food and peasant paintings.
Story Three: Welcome the God of Wealth
It is said that the fifth day of the first lunar month is the birthday of the God of Wealth and people need to welcome the God after the Spring Festival Day. On the night before birthday of God of Wealth, every family would purchase banquet to celebrate for the God. About the God of Wealth, there are some interesting stories regarding it.
There was a rich man who named Cai Jing in Song Dynasty. Right born on the fifth day of the first lunar month, he was regarded as the Wealth God among the folks. Later Cai Jing was banished and the God of Wealth was changed to another one. The Second name of the Royal Family in Song Dynasty was Zhao and then the new God was given the name Zhao Xuantan. This new God of Wealth had a black face and looked strong and powerful, with a sharp whip in his hand and a strong black tiger as his mount.
Story Four: Stay-up All Night on New Year’s Eve
In the ancient times, there was a fierce monster living in the thick forest wildly and called “Nian” by people. Looking ugly, this monster was very crude and liked to take all lively creatures as his meal. He changed his taste every day which meant he would kill a sort of animals each day to full his stomach. Finally, tasted up all animals, he started to eat human, scaring all human seriously. Gradually, people learned about the rule of his activities: he usually comes to the people’s living place each other 365 days and he only appeared in the night, comes back to the forest when the cooks cry and dawn occurs.
Knowing the date of Nian’s massacre, people regarded that night as an important and fearful threshold and named it “threshold of Nian” and thought over a systematic method to go through this night: in each night on that day, every family would prepare dinner in advance and lair their poultry into the pens, and then stay in the house to have the “Nian Ye Fan”—the dinner of Nian’s night”. As it might be the last meal in the life, the dinner was quite hearty and rich. Except for the whole family having supper together and staying up to avoid attack from Nian, ancestor worship for bless is another things to help. Gradually, all these things had been keeping and become a traditional customs among Chinese.
Nowadays, more and more foreign people would like to taste the Nian Ye Fan when they see the delicious food and good family atmosphere from media, there are some local food tours and theme tours in China Xian Tour to help the dream come true if you can’t visit Xian in Spring Festival time.
Story Five: New Year’s Eve on the Last Day of Twelfth Lunar Month
As we know “Nian” is a very crude and fierce monster who would attack human on New Year’s Eve, people would avoid his massacre on that night with all kinds of ways, which was called “Guo Nian”.
On a New Year’s Eve, there was an old beggar from the outside village when all were hurried to seek asylum. No one cared about this old man except for an old woman who invited him for dumpling dinner and told him going onto the mountain to avoid Nian. As return, the beggar told the woman that Nian feard red color, fire and blasting noise, and she’d better wear in red, post red paper on the door, light the red candles and fire the bamboos to make loud noise.
In the midnight, Nian rushed into the village and found all were portholes lighted. With eyes dazzled with the red things and scared by the loud noise, Nian shuddered and escaped soon. From then on, people got the essential way to drive Nian out. They pasted red spring couplets and set off firecrackers; made all lights on and stayed up the whole night of New Year’s Eve. On the morning of the next morning, they would visit friends and relatives to congratulate going through the disaster from Nian. Gradually, these customs has been kept and grown into the most important Chinese traditional festival.
Story Six Spring Couplets and Door-God
In the Chinese mythology, there is a ghost world, where a huge peach tree grows on a mountain, covering almost three thousand square mile of this mountain. A golden cock standing on the top of the tree always cries in the morning and the ghosts who hanged out in the night must come back to the ghost world when they heard the crying. The gate of the ghost world is in the northeast of the peach tree where two guarding Gods named Shen Tu and Yu Lei standing here. If the ghosts did something bad in the night, Shen Tu and Yu Lei would bundle them up and make tigers eat them up, thus all ghosts fear these two Gods seriously. Then people in the human world sculpted their faces on pecan and put it at their doorway to protect against evil. Later, people thought the name of Shen Tu and Yu Lei would also be at work so they sculpt their name on the pecan which was called “Tao Fu” in the later time.
In the Song dynasty, people started writing couplets on the pecan wood due to three reasons: first one is it will still keep evils away, second one is to express the good wishes; third one is that the couplets would function as decorations. They would also write couplets on the red papers to pray fortune and goodness. Some people still kept the customs to post the pictures of Door-Gods on the door. It is said that the door-Gods posted on the door would scare the all evils and monsters. The Door-Gods are the symbols of uprightness and power. In the eyes of ancient people, people with special appearances had supernatural or uncommon abilities. Those ones were kind and warm-hearted, taking surrendering devils and demons as their duty and responsibility. Zhong Kui, the master in hunting ghosts and devils, are the type of ugly and special appearance. Thus all the folk door-gods look ugly, angry and hold different Chinese traditional weapons, preparing for the fighting against with devils and ghosts anytime.
Most of Chinese folk house has two-leaf door, leading to two Door-Gods. After the Tang Dynasty, people had taken two famous Tang General Qin Shubao and Wei Chigong as the Door-Gods apart from Shen Tu and Yu Lei. According to the legend, Emperor Tai Zong of Tang Dynasty was ill and suffered from the noisy crying of devils and demons. He ordered the General Qin Shubao and Yu Chigong to take weapons and guard at his door and found there was no disturbance anymore. After that, Emperor Tai Zong made the two General’s pictures posted on the doors, which later spread in the folks.
There are so many Chinese ceremonies regarding Spring Festival in China, such as temple fairs, “Shehuo” and Lantern Festival shows. China Xian Tour are supplying some local traditional tours or tailor made tours regarding these, allowing people who are interested in that have opportunities to touch Chinese culture closely.