New Year in Beijing

By Patrick Murphy

Letters from ChinaWe call it Chinese New Year, but they call it Spring Festival. I’ve argued with many Chinese over the years about this misnaming. I think it should be called Winter Festival, because the weather is always cold. “No, no,” they tell me. “Now it is Spring and it will soon be warm!”

One interesting thing I just learned is that until recently the Chinese did not use weeks. Weeks, with weekends, are a Western concept not used in China until the adoption of the universal calendar. The Chinese lunar calendar (also misnamed, as it doesn’t really match up with the lunar cycle– which is why the Chinese have not mere Leap Days, but entire Leap Months) simply started on chu-yi (Day One) and spun through until the end. There was no weekend of rest, just steady work or school, punctuated by the holidays.

Which may be in part why Spring Festival lasts so long. Starting with what we might call New Yearís eve, the night everyone stays up late watching special programs on CCTV and playing mah jongg, the holiday runs through until the Lantern Festival. That comes on the fifteenth day of the new year. But school kids have vacation starting about two weeks before New Year, so they really have about a month off. In Beijing, many restaurants and shops close for ten days or so, as the staff disappears to hui jia or ìreturn homeî to visit family and friends. Planes, trains, and busses are absolutely jammed with people on the move. This year, unprecedented winter storms disrupted travel for hundreds of thousands.

In Beijing, officially sanctioned fireworks stores (more like large tents) sprang up. There were about 550 of them across the city. The result was predictable. Fireworks are officially allowed only on New Year eve and New Year day (plus the fifth, the day to eat chun bing or “spring rolls” filled with sprouts, vegetables, and shredded meat, and the Lantern Festival). However fireworks were a daily, or rather nightly, barrage. Nightly there were Roman candles, firecrackers, and pyrotechnics in the sky. The mood was quite jolly: “Could you sleep last night?” I would ask. “Oh, not very well. Ha ha ha!”

[From May 2008 CAFAM Newsletter]

A Chinese-American Tragedy (1979-91)

By Gary Libby from the May 2008 CAFAM Newsletter

Portland area old timers will recall that, in 1979, a new kind of Chinese restaurant opened on Congress Street. It was called Hu Shang, and it offered a different menu from the familiar Cantonese-American fare, including Sichuan dishes that would set your mouth on fire. It quickly became one of Portland’s hottest restaurants, with customers lining up at the door.

The owners of that restaurant were two brothers, Ken and Henry Ng. While Henry worked the kitchen, handsome and personable Ken became the public face of “K & H Corp,” as their business was named. And a successful enterprise it was. By 1981, needing more space, they bought a building on Brown Street, with $75,000 cash down. They closed their Congress Street place and named the completely remodeled Brown Street restaurant “Hu Shang II.” The business continued to thrive. Two years later, in 1983, they opened Hu Shang III on Exchange Street, with a full bar and disco. The money poured in. More

Review: Authenticating Tibet

Authenticating TibetEdited by Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille (Univ. of Ca. Press 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich from May 2008 CAFAM Newsletter

For people outside China, the Tibetan situation typically appears black and white. Probably most non-Asian Americans sympathize with the Dalai Lama and the exile Tibetans. Mostly it is a question of human rights and repression of Tibetan culture and religion. They see no problem with the Tibet reporting of Western media.

They are probably unaware that, many people in the Chinese-American community are inclined to take a view closer to the Chinese government’s. It asserts China’s right to Tibet, points out China’s assistance to Tibet, and criticizes the intransigence of Tibetan separatists inside and outside of China. This view charges that Western media are almost always negative in their reporting on China. More

The Pekin Restaurant, Bangor, and Raymond Huang

By Gary Libby

Wong Jack June opened the Pekin Restaurant in Bangor, Maine in the 1920s. He and his wife, Chin Ngan Kee, had one daughter and five sons. One of those sons, Raymond Li Min Huang, is the subject of this article.

Raymond’s parents gave all of their children Chinese names. Their “American” names were selected to sound like their Chinese names. “Li Min” became “Raymond.” His sister, “Fee,” became “Fay.” His brother, “Ang,” was called “Don” and his brother “Wey” was “Wade.”

All of the children began working at the restaurant when they reached about nine years of age. Their first job was peeling vegetables. In their spare time they played with the neighborhood children, skied and sledded in the winter, picked wild berries, played sandlot baseball and fished in the summer. More

Who We Are

The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach to promote awareness of and appreciation for Chinese culture. More.


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