The Study of Chinese Nian Customs: Spring Festival Couplets/LES ÉTUDES SUR LES COUTUMES DE NIAN CHINOIS: LES COUPLETS DE LA FETE DU PRINTEMPS

By Lü, Jing-xia | Cross - Cultural Communication, June 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Study of Chinese Nian Customs: Spring Festival Couplets/LES ÉTUDES SUR LES COUTUMES DE NIAN CHINOIS: LES COUPLETS DE LA FETE DU PRINTEMPS


Lü, Jing-xia, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract:

This paper focuses on the study of the unique art form of Chinese literature - Spring Festival couplets. It probes into the origin, evolution and history of the development of this typical Chinese Nian custom. It reveals the implications of Chinese culture and the connotations of the folklore contained in Spring Festival couplets. It shows the national psychology of optimism, positive attitude of life and the pursuit of happiness of Chinese people. Based on the study of many historical and modern literatures, the author approaches the subject from different angles and gives her understanding and opinions of the couplets in this paper.

Key words: Spring Festival couplets; Customs; History; Characteristics; Connotation

Résumé: Le présent document se concentre sur l'étude de la forme d'art unique de la littérature chinoise - les couplets de la Fête du Printemps. Il sonde dans l'origine, dans l'évolution et dans l'histoire du développement de cette coutume de Nian typiquement chinois. Il révèle les implications de la culture chinoise et les connotations du folklore figurant dans les couplets de la Fête du Printemps. Il montre la psychologie nationale de l'optimisme, l'attitude positive de la vie et la poursuite du bonheur du peuple chinois. Sur la base de l'étude de nombreuses littératures modernes et historiques, l'auteur aborde le sujet sous des angles différents et donne sa propre compréhension et ses opinions des couplets dans le présent document.

Mots-Clés: couplets de la Fête du Printemps; coutumes; histoire; charactéristiques; connotation

1. INTRODUCTION

The Spring Festival falls on the first day of the first month according to Chinese lunar calendar. It is called Nian in Chinese. Nian is the beginning of a new year and the biggest and most exciting festival for Chinese people.

Like Christmas in the West, the Spring Festival is a time when all the family members get together. People living away from home would go back to have a family reunion, no matter how difficult it may be, whether you have money or not. But there is also something different.

During the Spring Festival season, a variety of particular activities are held to mark the occasion, in which traditional Chinese ethnic and folk culture are displayed and performed. There are the ceremonies to pay homage to their ancestors, usher in the new time, and pray for good luck with colorful ethnic characteristics. There are activities to celebrate the Nian with folk features, for example, holding the Spring Festival galas, doing the yangkos (a popular folk dance), playing lion(dragon in some places) dance, holding lantern festival, setting off firecrackers, etc.. It is these activities that carry forward China's civilization and maintain its long-standing tradition of culture. Among the many customs of the celebrations, pasting Spring Festival couplets is one of the most popular ones maintained today. This tradition has a long history and rich social and cultural connotations. In its way of evolution, typical Chinese ethical feelings, life consciousness and cultural pursuit are condensed.

2. THE EVOLUTIONAL HISTORY OF SPRING FESTIVAL COUPLETS

Spring Festival couplets are called Chunlian in Chinese. An early form of Spring Festival couplets is Tao Fu. According to The BookofYanjing Times2, "Chunlian is Tao Fu" (Fu Cha Dunchong, Qing dynasty).

Tao Fu refers to peach wood charms against evil, hung on the two sides of the gate on the lunar New Year's Eve. On two pieces of mahogany, the drawings or names of Gate Gods are carved or painted.

In ancient times, Chinese people believed that peach wood could ward off evil. The stories of peach branches or peach wood being used to ward off evils can be found in the early literatures, such as: The Book of Rite3, The Biography ofZuo4 , and Zhuangzi5 etc.. This belief has its origin.

According to Mountain and Sea Classics6 , a very long time ago, there was a mountain named Dusu in the East Sea. …

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