Spring Festival

Return to Beijing

Yesterday was the fifteenth day of the lunar year, and marked the end of the Spring Festival.

Like most families here, we celebrated by having tāngyuán, and watching fireworks in the evening.

For many people who had left the north capital, it was a day of return… carrying bedding in one hand, and a bag containing clothes and other belongs in the other.

Bubble in Chaoyang Park

Well, I turned 32 (hex) yesterday. Was an absolutely great day. Started with talking with my mom (via Skype), then a red envelope from the wife’s mom, followed by an iPhone 6 from the wife. Also, had some great birthday wishes on Facebook.

After breakfast, we bundled up the gang and headed out to Chaoyang Park. Strolled around most of the morning, including a trip to the petting zoo, and then headed over to the Paulaner Bräuhaus for a great meal with fantastic beer.

I’ll post more pictures of the day tomorrow.

I took the above picture soon after we arrived at the park. I saw some folks blowing big bubbles (in an effort to sell the bubble makers), and thought it might be interesting if I could catch a reflection in one. Took a few shots in quick succession, and here’s the best.

The Last Siheyuan

Yesterday, we had lunch with Nai Nai‘s side of the family. She lives in one part of the siheyuan pictured behind Shanshan and Chong Chong. The siheyuan is located inside the East Second Ring Road.

There used to be a village of such dwellings. But, over the last few years, the others have been torn down to make room for a shopping mall, and an upscale hotel complex which is under construction… you can see one of the many boom cranes in use in the background of the picture.

The families living in the siheyuan have served the government in one function or another. So, at least until they pass away (which will hopefully be a long time from now) it should be safe from demolition.

btw, we had lunch in a restaurant located in the nearby mall; the meal was primarily of Western food.

San Lun Che and Lions

Taken two days ago outside our closest traditional Beijing restaurant.

It is snowing right now. In a few minutes, we’ll be “trekking” the long block or so needed to get there. Lao Lao and Lao Zu have gone ahead to get seats.

I like it when it snows during Spring Festival… a nice juxtaposition of snowfall amidst the din of firecrackers.

Home for the Holiday

The couple that run our neighborhood bodega have gone home for the Spring Festival holiday. This is a migration that they, and perhaps half of the 20 million people who reside in Beijing, undertake each year.

There is a palpable change to the city during this time. In many respects, it slows down… becomes more like the city many older Beijing people remember from their youth. Areas which are prone to traffic congestion during the rest of the year are suddenly wide open.  Usually crowded spaces can be quite barren.

Well, with exceptions like the Temple of Earth, which I visited once during this period long ago, and vowed never to do so again.

Since most of the family lives in Beijing, we spend the holiday bustling around to lunches and dinners with them. Tonight, with the fireworks and firecrackers that mark the start of the new lunar year, is a nice lull for us. Chong Chong is asleep (at least until around midnight), and the animals are settled-in (except for Leo,  who will be my shadow tonight, as has been for every lunar new year he’s had in Beijing).

Tomorrow, our trek inside of the north capital of the middle kingdom begins…

Teddy Bear with Gas Mask

Starting before the Spring Festival, there has been a massive ant-fireworks campaign. I’ve seen posters regarding the different problems associated with fireworks (injuries, buildings catching on fire, the mess afterwards, etc) plastered throughout the city.

I think this is the most poignant one… a teddy bear, in a gas mask, holding a stick with firecrackers on it, and sitting behind an alarm clock with the (PM 2.5) Air Quality Index printed on the face of the clock.

There has been a substantial reduction in the fireworks used over the seven Spring Festival seasons I’ve been here. If fireworks are to be used, people are told to do so outside of the Fifth Ring Road. And, even though there are still shops (more like temporary metal sheds) setup inside of the Fifth Ring Road, there are fewer then I remember from previous years, and I’ve not seen any kind of queuing.

btw, whenever I see someone (something?) donning a gas mask, it brings to mind images from Edward Weston’s Civil Defense series, such as this print.

The Week Before Spring Festival Begins

I really like the week before Spring Festival begins. Hundreds of thousands (if not over a million) people have left the city on their way back to hometowns to be with family. As a result, pedestrian and car traffic seriously diminish. Sounds in the city change as well, taking on a more vacant tone.


North Fourth Ring Road

Taken from a pedestrian overpass at 7:22 pm yesterday. On an usual Friday at this time of night, it would have been packed. But, since this is Spring Festival, where millions of migrant workers and people who hail from places outside of Beijing go home to spend time with their families, the traffic in most areas of the cities becomes sparse.


Snakes. Not on a plane. M*ther f*cking or otherwise.

In preparation of the upcoming Spring Festival, which will usher in the Year of the Snake, these have been hung on the doors of our apartment complex.