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Sunday, January 25, 2004
By Paul Ford
Dragons and Jesuits for Chinese New Years.
This is either 4641, or 4701 depending on how you count.
It is the spring festival.
On Chinese New Year, you are not to wash your hair, or you will wash out good luck.
Nor should you use knives or scissors, for that may cut off fortune.
You might eat jai, which contains lotus seed, ginko nut, black moss seaweed, and bamboo shoots, along with other things. The lotus seed will bring many male offspring. No tofu: the color white means death.
The Chinese calendar was improved by Jesuit missionaries in the 1600s, under official request by the emperor, most notably Father Johann Schall. He picked up on the work of Father John Schreck, who wrote to Galileo from China, asking advice on eclipses.
I took a year of Chinese in high school, but remember very little. My teacher was named Madame Deng. I was 15 and having a difficult time, and learned no pinyin. Wo benjuhli means “I am very stupid.” Because I was also a poor student of German, I mix up the two. 'Tag! Wie geht's? Hen hao, ni ne? Sehr gut, zaijian. Wo ist die tong xing lia'n? We watched many videotapes, and compared to the red brick of West Chester, PA, everything in China seemed very to be industrial gray and falling apart. I planned to become a writer, so I took the cultural revolution personally.
It is the year of the monkey. Last year was the goat. Next year, the rooster.