Happy Chinese New Year!


新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Wooden Horse or the Year of the Green Horse. Why a wooden or green horse? The Horse is one of twelve animals representing a twelve-year cycle in the Chinese lunar calendar. Combined with the five elements in the Chinese Zodiac, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, the calendar goes through a 60-year cycle where each animal is associated with a different element every 12 years. Visit HanBan for a great summary of the Year of the (Wooden) Horse. Click here for more information about the elements.

This year may bode well for those born in the Year of the Horse with some promising personality traits such as being outgoing, energetic, active, friendly, trustworthy, and popular with friends, family, and acquaintances. The same may hold true for all of us during the Year of the Horse if the Green Horse appears this year and proves auspicious. However, as Wood can burn Red with flame, 2014 may also bring turmoil and crises. Who’s to say which Horse will cross the chronological plain this year. 没关系 (méi guānxi). No problem. Party on! It’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year!

How do the Chinese celebrate the New Year? Well, it starts with days of shopping for and buying any and all things red, gold, and (this year) green to make the holiday more festive. Shoppers stock up on food, drink and treats for Chinese New Year dinners, fireworks to blow off at stroke of midnight, and hongbao (红包 or red envelopes) to fill with money for the children.

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Chinese New Year is a time for families to celebrate the holiday together. Families who stay home and host festoon their houses with New Year decorations and prepare huge meals for extended family who join them for an evening…or often longer. It’s a time to enjoy great food and holiday delicacies, to catch up with family you might not have seen for a while, and to give hongbao to the children. If you’re lucky, your child will bow before you and promise to be behave as they ask for their red envelope.

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Going home to visit family by train, plane, or bus is a holiday tradition not often mentioned. The week-long lunar celebration triggers the world’s largest annual mass migration with an estimated 3.6 billion trips made, including 225 million Chinese who traveled overseas for Chinese New Year.

After dinner, many Chinese families relax and watch the annual New Year Show on Chinese Central Television (CCTV). Part variety show, part music concert, the event is watched by an estimated 750 million people.

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Just before midnight, millions of Chinese take to the streets, rooftops, or any open window to blow off fireworks to usher in the New Year. The spectacle is unbelievably loud and beautiful. The fireworks during the 2012 Year of the Dragon celebration in Shanghai were incredible! Click on the video below to watch.

2012 Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China

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The next day, many Chinese families venture out to enjoy local public festivities. They may go shopping, watch New Year parades, or tour old, familiar places. The Lunar New Year is a time to remember family, friends, and ancestors, and many visit places that have been an important part of their families’ lives. These photos were taken in 2012, at the Temple of the Town Gods in Shanghai.

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新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy New Year to you and yours!

Map of China

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mge-kili-cover-front-thumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant, and Zoe the Zebra, three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, and a 3-in-1 collection featuring all three. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2014 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

You’re the Adventurer–No Chinese Visa


Welcome to an experiment. You’ve been a spectator reading my travelogues about life overseas from Korea to Zambia, but now it’s your turn to go on your own adventure! Immerse yourself in the story and make key decisions by choosing from among several options. Your selections could make the difference between a great trip or a travel disaster! Read and make your choice, and stay tuned as your story unfolds.

If you haven’t read the story from the beginning, stop reading this post! Click here to begin your journey.

You’re all set for your journey to China. You can’t wait to experience the Far East with more than one billion people and 5,000 years of history. It’s going to be a great trip!

airport

You arrive at the airport and check in with the airline. Presenting your travel documents, the agent flips through your passport and asks, “Where is your Chinese visa?”

“What do you mean?” you ask, perplexed.

“You need a valid visa to travel to China,” they explain. The realization dawns on you that you should have applied for a Chinese visa before your departure. You assumed that you either didn’t need one or could get it when you arrived in the country, recalling that many countries let visitors apply at the port of entry. You respond sheepishly, “I didn’t realize that I needed to get a visa before I traveled.”

“I’m sorry, but you must have a valid visa before I can issue your ticket,” the agent informs you with a dismissive look and cool voice.

“How do I get one?” you ask, starting to worry that you can’t proceed as planned.

“You have to download the application online and apply through the Chinese Embassy.”

“What?” you exclaim, surprised. “I can’t do that! My flight is in less than two hours.”

“I’m sorry, but you can’t fly until you have a valid Chinese visa,” they insist. They’ve obviously confronted this situation before. “If you entered China without a visa, you would be turned around immediately and sent home.”

“Isn’t there any way I can get one on short notice, like here at the airport?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I’m sorry, but you have to apply through the Chinese Embassy. Good day,” they tell you and hand back your passport and ticket before you can protest.

man

You stand dumbfounded with your bag and travel documents as the agent helps another customer.

You’re going to miss your flight and will have to wait for a few days until the Chinese Embassy processes your visa. What a disastrous start to what could have been a great trip!

THE END

airplane

Images courtesy of Microsoft.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories calledReal Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. All characters and events appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons or events is purely coincidental. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the final installment of a five-part series about Ayutthaya, Thailand. This article features Wat Mahathat, the ruin of Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). Previous posts discussed the historic City of Ayutthaya; the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram; Buddhist monastery Wat Phu Khao Thong, and temple ruins of Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

Wat Mahathat, or the “Monastery of the Great Relic” according to the website History of Ayutthaya, is a former Buddhist temple located in the heart of historic Ayutthaya not far from the old royal palace. It is one of the most famous sites in the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

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Wat Mahathat is best known for the photogenic Buddha’s head embedded in the trunk of a banyan tree. The well-preserved face with a serene look leaves a lasting impression. Experts believe that the sandstone head either fell from a statue and landed in the tree or was left there by a thief who could not haul it away.

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Although most visitors come to see the famous head, the temple itself is just as interesting.

Wat Mahathat was one of the largest and most important temple complexes in the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Historical records indicate that it was either built by King Uthong (Ramathibodhi I, 1350-69), King Borommaracha I (1370-88), or King Ramesuan (1388-95). The site fell into disrepair in the 1630s and 1730s before the Burmese razed it in 1767. Many of the prang and stupa or chedi (spires) collapsed after years of decay. Efforts have been underway since 1956 to preserve the site.

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The temple served as the religious center of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and was the seat of the supreme Buddhist patriarch of Siam (early Thailand). It once housed relics captured during military campaigns in Cambodia and elsewhere. During the annual Kathin (royal barge) ceremony, the Ayutthaya kings sailed in a procession of barges down a canal from the palace to the temple, where they would disembark, pray, and make offerings to the gods.

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Like Wat Chaiwattanaram, the Khmer-style Wat Mahathat was built in the shape of five-pointed structure (quincunx) with a large central prang (tower) more than 50 meters (165 feet) high representing the legendary Buddhist mountain Meru (Phra Men). Four smaller prang on the corners formed a cross symbolizing four continents facing the sea (a large, grassy courtyard). An ordination hall lay nearby. Records indicate that the temple’s architectural style, artwork, and relics grew more ornate during subsequent renovations as befitted a place of religious significance.

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Although efforts have been made to restore or add Buddha statues, most remain headless after being decapitated by the Burmese in 1767.

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Some preserved prang, chedi, and a few murals amid a discombobulated maze of rubble are all that’s left of this once-magnificent place. While not as visually stunning as Wat Chaiwattanaram, Wat Mahathat has a larger footprint and an openness that lets you explore up close monuments of the former kingdom.

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If you plan to visit Ayutthaya and the historical park, make a stop at Wat Mahathat. It’s one site you don’t want to miss!
Video clip of Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Thailand
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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

buythumb42M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.