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                      Suzhou Gardens
                      Learn Chinese - History and Culture
                      Suzhou is China's well-known "city of gardens", which tops all gardens in both the number and the artistry. Suzhou's art of gardening has undergone a history of 1,500 years. According to chorography, there were once over 200 gardens in the city, and 69 of them are still in good preservation today.

                      Suzhou gardens seek the return to Nature and the cultivation of temperament, with hills and waters, flowers and trees, pavilion, terraces, towers and halls composing the basic garden elements.
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                      Five Yue
                      Learn Chinese - History and Culture

                          
                      "Five Yue" refers to the five famous and big mountains in China, which are respectively located in the east, south, west, north and south of the country.

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                      Winter Solstice
                      Learn Chinese - History and Culture
                      Winter SolsticeAs early as 2,500 years ago, about the Spring and Autumn Period (chūn qiū shí qī 春秋時期, 770-476 BC), China had determined the point of Winter Solstice (dōng zhì 冬至) by observing movements of the sun with a sundial. It is the earliest of the 24 seasonal division points. The time will be each December 22 or 23 according to the Gregorian calendar.

                      The Northern hemisphere on this day experiences the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After the Winter Solstice, days will become longer and longer. As ancient Chinese thought, the yang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after this day, so it should be celebrated.
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                      The 24 Solar Terms
                      Learn Chinese - History and Culture

                      ?? The 24 Solar Terms
                      The 24 solar terms (èr shí sì jié qì 二十四節氣) originated from the Reaches of Yellow River (huáng hé liú yù 黃河流域). As early as in the Spring and Autumn Period (chūn qiū shí qī 春秋時期), four solar terms were?established by our ancestors, which are Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Based on the practical needs of agriculture, Chinese people initiated the 24 solar terms towards the end of the Warring States Period (zhàn guó shí qī 戰國時期, 475 B.C. --- 221 B. C.) However, the names for these solar terms did not appear until the Western Han Dynasy (xī hàn 西漢, 206 B.C. – 24 A.D.)

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                      Laba Festival
                      Learn Chinese - History and Culture

                      Laba FestivalLaba Festival (là bā jié 臘八) is celebrated on the eighth day of the last lunar month, referring to the traditional start of celebrations for the Chinese New Year. "臘"(là) in Chinese means the 12th lunar month and "八"(bā)  means eight.

                      The majority Han Chinese have long followed the tradition of eating Laba rice porridge on the Laba Festival. The date usually falls in mid-January.

                      Legend
                      Laba rice porridge (là bā zhōu 臘八粥) was first introduced to China in the Song Dynasty (sòng cháo 宋朝) about 900 years ago.

                      Buddhism was well accepted in the areas inhabited by the Han Chinese, who believed that Sakyamuni (shì jiā móu ní 釋迦牟尼), the first Buddha and founder of the religion, attained enlightenment on the eighth day of the twelfth month. Sutras (fó jīng 佛經) were chanted in the temples and rice porridge with beans, nuts and dried fruit was prepared for the Buddha. With the passing of time the custom extended, especially in rural areas where peasants would pray for a plentiful harvest in this way.

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                      Double Ninth Festival
                      Learn Chinese - History and Culture

                      Double Ninth FestivalThe 9th day of the 9th lunar month is the traditional Chongyang Festival (chóng yáng jié 重陽節), or Double Ninth Festival.

                      It usually falls in October in the Gregorian calendar. In an ancient and mysterious book Yi Jing (yì jīng 易經), or The Book of Changes, number "6" was thought to be of Yin (yīn 陰)?character, meaning feminine or negative, while number "9" was thought to be Yang (yáng 陽), meaning masculine or positive. So the number nine in both month and day create the Double Ninth Festival, or Chongyang Festival. Chong in Chinese means "double." Also, as double ninth was pronounced the same as the word to signify "forever", both are "Jiu Jiu" (jiǔ jiǔ 九九), the Chinese ancestors considered it an auspicious day worth celebration. That's why ancient Chinese began to celebrate this festival long time ago.

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