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Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Lunar New Year in Taiwan: 2011

In Taiwan, you can even call it "Taiwanese New Year"!
I'm back from a long break in blogging with a slight variation of the "traditional" New Year post. To kick things off this time around, here's a musical video wishing you a Happy Taiwanese New Year (brought to my attention on Twitter by cyrixhero):

3:58 YouTube video: "快樂台灣年 Happy Taiwanese new year "

Thursday, February 3, 2011 (That's tomorrow!) is New Year's Day as celebrated by the citizens of several Asian countries as well as by many other people around the world. Too many English-speaking people use the term "Chinese New Year" to describe the holiday, despite the fact that the direct back-translation "中國新年" is rarely used by Mandarin speakers. Chinese people usually call the holiday "Lunar New Year" (農曆新年) or "Spring Festival" (春節).

Furthermore, the holiday doesn't belong solely to the Chinese.

Start with the person in the mirror
Why should you change the way you speak? Here's an example for your consideration.

Have you ever heard of the 228 Massacre? Like many others, I used to refer to it as the "228 Incident," but when someone reminded me about how that diminishes the fact that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) killed countless Taiwanese in that "incident," I immediately made the change in my speech and writing. What I don't get is how some people who I am certain are pro-Taiwan somehow cling to the phrase "Chinese New Year."

Are you that kind of person? If so, I hope you can ask yourself why you do that and if you can change.

Here's a clear and simple list of reasons to help you decide to make that change:
1. Lunar New Year is not exclusively Chinese.

2. Even Chinese people call the holiday "Lunar New Year," so you won't be hurting the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese by using that name.

3. Since you're reading this blog, there's a good chance that you are in Taiwan or that you are Taiwanese. (Maybe neither of those things applies to you -- you might just be interested in doing something to help Taiwan.)

4. Way too many people already do things which confuse others into believing that Taiwan's culture is a subset of China's.

5. You don't have to do things just because others do them or because they're habits.
Language is a virus (from outer space)
For some more background (you'll have to follow the links and do some more reading), here's a recap (with some spelling changes) of a couple of my earlier posts related to why many people prefer to call this holiday "Lunar New Year" (Taiwanese: Lông-li̍k sin-nî; Hanzi: 農曆新年; Hanyu pinyin: Nónglì xīnnián):
It doesn't just belong to the Chinese

Nor is it just "politically correct." Read about it in English and/or Chinese.

Happy Lunar New Year! 萬事如意! [bān-sū jû-ì! / wànshì rúyì!]

Being in a bit of a rush to begin my vacation, I missed these links (all are presented in both English and Mandarin):* How the people of Vietnam celebrate Lunar New Year* How the people of South Korea celebrate Lunar New Year* How the people of Singapore celebrate Lunar New Year* How the people of Malaysia celebrate Lunar New Year
And here's an update on the Taiwanese Romanization which I derived by using a dictionary on the web site of Taiwan's Ministry of Education (MOE):
Lông-li̍k sin-nî khuài-lo̍k! (農曆新年快樂!) Bān-sū jû-ì! (萬事如意!)
If you're Taiwanese, stop inadvertently diluting your own culture. Remember (Ē -kì-tit/Ōe-kì-tit [要記得]): Every time you say "Lunar New Year," you're saying "No!" to those who want to promote China while diminishing Taiwan.

Related reading:
* Check out the Twitter search results for "Lunar New Year." I'm seeing Tweets there by people from Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other countries around the globe!

* See what Taiwan's Government Information Office (GIO) says about Lunar New Year.

Distinguishables: , , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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At 9:09 AM, Blogger Adam said...

Calling the '228 Incident' 'The 228 Massacre' seems to imply the true seriousness of the event, but not imply responsibility to the KMT.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I think I'm going to continue calling it Chinese New Year, thanks. And that's got nothing to do with diluting Taiwanese culture, promoting a pro-China agenda, or anything else. I think this change is a total non-issue and a waste of time.

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Steve, would you care to enlighten readers as to the reasons for your insistence on using "Chinese" to describe the Lunar New Year? If it's a "non-issue and a waste of time," why bother to read this post and leave a comment?

Tim Maddog

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Hi Tim,

I use Chinese as a descriptive term for the New Year event as held in Taiwan, in the same way as I use Chinese as an adjective to describe the characters and script commonly used in Taiwan. It has nothing to do with political ideology; it is an adjective to describe items and events shared by the inheritors of Chinese culture (and I don't believe that makes Taiwan a "subset" of Chinese culture).

It's a non-issue because there are more important things to deal with, like the fact that Ma is busy selling this country to China and avoiding serious issues like the deportation of Taiwanese nationals to China, or Taiwanese military officers spying for China.

Why bother reading the blog? Because this year more than any other, I've had English speakers trying to ram "Lunar New Year" down my throat and I'm more than a little tired of it. Sort of like how there's been a big movement away from Merry Christmas toward Happy Holidays in the west. I'm not a Christian, but I think it's pretty clear that December 25 is Christmas and renaming it to avoid offending some people's sensibilities is pretty much the same thing as not allowing people to fly the ROC flag when Chinese "dignitaries" come to visit...

Why waste my time? Because I seem to have the time to waste... :)

I've never heard ANYONE in Taiwan say 農曆新年快樂 and it sounds bizarre. The only reason to call it 農曆新年 is to differentiate it from January 1st, but many Taiwanese call it simply 過年 (as opposed to 跨年).

Since your blog was actually aimed at people like me ("What I don't get is how some people who I am certain are pro-Taiwan somehow cling to the phrase "Chinese New Year.""), I hope that this comment brings some enlightenment, as requested.


At 5:44 AM, Blogger gpjma said...

My friends and colleagues in Taiwan where I spend a hell of a lot of time on business refer to this festival as Lunar New Year. Only Chinese supporters (in my experience)Use Chinese New Year


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