Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Learning About Chinese Culture

Kung hei fat choy! That is the way we wish people “Happy Chinese New Year.” Chinese New Year is like our Christmas, New Year, and birthday celebrations all rolled into one. Our calendar is based on the sun whereas the Chinese calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Even though they use our western calendar, everyone in Hong Kong knows it is the Year of the Tiger, 4708! This year Chinese New Year is February 14, Valentine’s Day. They say it is a day of Double Happiness.

We always learn many interesting things when we are in Hong Kong. We stayed at the InterContinental Hotel and each morning we got up early – before daybreak and met Master William Ng by the outdoor swimming pool to do Tai Chi. We like doing Tai Chi. It is an exercise with slow-moving, ballet-like movements designed to promote good physical and mental health. First we would bow and greet Master William and then do breathing exercises followed by Tai Chi movements. The movements have names that are associated with nature like Flying Eagle, Parting the Clouds, and Rowing in the Middle of the Ocean. When the exercises were finished we meditated by closing our eyes and imaging a waterfalls slowly pouring down on our head washing away all our aches, pains, and troubled thoughts. We like Tai Chi better than exercises that leave us sweaty! When we were done with Tai Chi we felt cool, calm, refreshed and energized ready to enjoy Hong Kong, one of the most modern and tourist friendly cities in the world.

Even though the city is very modern there are many ways to learn about traditional Chinese culture. The Hong Kong Tourist Board offers free classes for visitors. We signed up for Chinese Cake-making Class. We went to the Wing Wah Cake Shop where Master Chiu and Master Fung taught us to make Wife Cakes. We thought that Wife Cakes were made by wives but we learned that is not the case. It seems that long ago a wife sold herself as a servant to get money to pay for medical treatments for her father-in-law. Her husband was sad but impressed by her sacrifice he created Wife Cakes and sold them in the market. They were very popular so he was able to earn enough money to buy back his wife. We think everyone lived happy ever after.

The skyscrapers of Hong Kong line both sides of Victoria Harbor. The harbor is one of the best in the world so it is very busy. About 10,000 boats use the harbor every day. While most of the boats are very modern we went for a sail on a traditional boat called a junk. The ride is also offered by the Hong Kong Tourist Board. Junks are wooden boats with colorful red sails that were used by Chinese fisherman. The boat named Duk Ling is the last authentic sailing junk in Hong Kong. On the junk we could see all the tall buildings of Hong Kong. The average tall building is 40 stories and each level has an average of ten apartments with each apartment averaging four occupants. Can you figure out how many people live in a typical apartment building?

There are so many interesting things to learn. We wish we had more time in Hong Kong so we could learn more about Chinese culture.