Cock-a-doodle-doo

It’s been over a month since the start of the Lunar New Year. The year of the rooster began on January 28. For us Chinese (and several other Asian ethnicities), it’s the chance for a sense of rebirth on the heels of the Gregorian New Year, just shortly after the French stop saying “Bonne Année.” Not only that, but the celebration goes on for two weeks.

I follow the superstitions surrounding the Lunar New Year, just in case. Clean the house the day before but not the day of. Eat three good meals. Eat long noodles. Don’t get your hair cut. Wear red.

Did I mention eat well?

On New Year’s Day this year, a group of friends and I had lunch in New York Chinatown. Our ringleader was my friend who is Chinese-born. Then there was me, who is Chinese American, and seven non-Chinese Frenchies, several of whom had spent a few years in Beijing.

Perhaps you know how it goes in Chinese restaurants. Rather than ordering our own entrées, we ordered dishes to share (though this place lacked a lazy susan, which would have made second helpings easier). After a meal of fish (presented in complete form), lobster, meat, eggplant, noodles, rice, and more, we wandered out into the streets to watch the dragon dance, in which several dragons accompanied by loud drums went from door to door. Businesses put money in their mouths for good fortune. Sidewalk vendors sold long cylinders that when snapped in half, popped and shot confetti into the air. Kids threw fake firecrackers on the ground that made a loud noise upon impact.DSC00187DSC00188DSC00189DSC00190

About a week later, I came across these fierce dragons near Times Square. Though they’ve apparently been there since last fall, I hadn’t noticed them up close, and they seemed particularly appropriate to take a walk around and greet for the New Year.

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They made me smile. How could they look so ferocious and joyful at the same time? It must have been the heart and happy faces on their noses.

I am still finding confetti. Today I was sitting outside and saw a piece of shiny pink confetti on my pants. It must have fallen out of my purse. That’s how you know you celebrated New Year’s well.

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Le Centre Culturel de Chine

Yesterday I visited two exhibits at the Chinese Cultural Center, which is open and free to the public.

Red lanterns flanking a grand staircase made a striking entrance.  Exhibits in Paris are as much about the artwork as the interior architecture that houses them.  In this case, I appreciated the coming together of two very old cultures, the Chinese and the French.

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One of the exhibits, called “La Belle Chine,” displayed photos illustrating recent developments in China meant to improve the lives of its people.  Photos included the new high-speed train in Beijing and an aerial view of hundreds of children sitting on a beach to form the shape of a dolphin and the environmental message “Protect.”

The other exhibit, only up for a week, showcased calligraphy scrolls by Wen Huaisha, paintings by Tsui Yanting, and sculpture by Zhi Min.

5.chineseculturalcenter.2013cMy favorite calligraphy scroll had this quote:

5.chineseculturalcenter.2013dOn the label above, the French translation provided for the Chinese characters is:

Comparer longévité avec le ciel et la terre, rivaliser de lumière avec le soleil et la lune, ceci une préoccupation.

Ne pas rivaliser avec les hommes, ne pas se battre avec le ciel, ceci est dit harmonie.

My English translation is:

Compare longevity with the earth and the sky, compete with the light of the sun and the moon, and you will be tormented.

Do not compete with people, do not fight the sky, and you will find harmony.

If you read Chinese or French and have a slightly different translation, feel free to share!