Lunar New Year Festival – 8 Feb 2023

An image of a flyer for Chinese New Year 2023, listing activities to be hosted at the festival event.

The University of Reading will host a Lunar New Year festival on 8 February 2023. This festival is open to all and we hope to see you there!

Below are some words from Dr. Cong Xia Li, who is organising the festival this year and images from previous Lunar New Year celebrations:

Having taught Chinese at the University of Reading for over 15 years, I have been keen to run the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities to allow everyone on campus to experience the rich culture and traditions involved. I was delighted to see so many students and staff  alike take part in the interactive activities such as 剪纸 (paper cutting), 书法(calligraphy), and Mahjong, which all have deep roots in Chinese culture and philosophy.

A photograph of students sat around a table filled with calligraphy as part of activities for Chinese New YearA photograph of a man bent over and doing some paper cutting on a table as part of activities for Chinese New Year

剪纸 (paper-cutting) is a folk art that appeared in the Han dynasty in the 4th century AD, originating from cutting patterns for rich Chinese embroideries. It even has a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage designation due to its long-standing 1500 years of practice.

Mahjong, a strategy-based tile game among four players, was developed in the 19th century in China and has spread throughout the world since the early 20th century. Through playing Mahjong, one can understand the relationship between chance and necessity. The philosophy behind the game is, using the American actress Julia Robert’s words, “to create orders out of randomly drawn tiles”.

This year, the annual Chinese New Year celebration is scheduled for 8 Feb 13:00 – 16:00 in the Palmer building. There will be lots of interactive activities like chopstick challenges, Chinese music and art, solving riddles, as well as aforementioned paper cutting, calligraphy, and mahjong. There will be lots of prizes to be won! I look forward to seeing you then.

A photograph of a variety of items made during activities for Chinese New Year, including paper cutting and calligraphy

Happy Lunar New Year 2023 from the University of Reading!

(As last year, this post includes Chinese traditional characters and phrases with Cantonese  jyutping and Mandarin 拼音 pinyin pronunciations respectively). 

Lunar New Year / 農曆新年 (nung lik san nin / nóng lì xīn nián) was on Sunday 22 January this year. Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit, ( – tou / tù)

My associations with Chinese New Year are that of a sense of kindness and generosity that have stayed with me since childhood. I have a vivid memory of being in primary school and one of my friends approaching me. Her mother placed a red paper pouch in her hands and, in turn, she placed it in my hands. As I looked over it, I saw a rich, gold-coloured character on the front of it. I didn’t know what it was because it was the first time I encountered it, but I was told to open it and tip the paper pouch slightly. So, I did and out slid a cool, gold shiny pound coin (yes, it was back when the pound coins were just gold!) which landed in my palm. I remember feeling surprised and taken aback at receiving money and thanked her and her family. 

Lunar New Year, though, is not just about giving money for the sake of giving money. As I learned later, the act itself of passing on these packets to another person is symbolic of passing on good fortune for the years ahead. It was many years ago, but that memory has stayed with me all this time and I cherish it as a moment of sharing – not only symbols of good fortune, but of her sharing that part of her culture with me. 

This year is the Year of the Rabbit. The previous Lunar New Year post contains information on where it is celebrated across Asia as a national holiday and the significance of the decorations, their colours and common characters you may see embellishing them, including Paper Cutting Arts, Lanterns, and the Red Packets I mentioned. You can read this post here. This year, to acknowledge Chinese New Year, we have some contributions from staff across the University who have kindly shared decorations they have made and why Lunar New Year is important to them.  

A second post will be coming at this week which will announce the upcoming Lunar New Year festival organised by Dr. Cong Xia Li, the Language Lead for Mandarin Chinese and the Language Lead for Russian in the Department of Languages and Cultures. 

Thank you, all, for your contributions.

Red paper cutting decorations affixed to the windows of the Global Recruitment (international) office.

One of Chinese New Year Traditions – Paste paper-cuts to windows (贴窗花)


In the Little New Year, old couplets and paper-cuts from the previous Spring Festival are taken down, and new window decorations, New Year’s posters, and auspicious decorations are pasted up. 

Paper-cuts, usually with auspicious patterns, give a happy and prosperous atmosphere of the Festival and express the good wishes of Chinese people looking forward to a good life. In addition to pasting paper-cuts on windows, it is common for Chinese to paste the character “fu(福)“, big and small, on walls, doors and doorposts around the houses. “Fu(福)” shows people’s yearning toward a good life. Some people even invert the character “fu(福)” to signify that blessing has arrived because “inverted” is a homonym for “arrive” in Chinese. Now many kinds of paper-cuts and “fu(福)” can be seen in the market before the Festival. 

To generate a celebratory atmosphere for the Chinese New Year, we stick this red paper cutting to our office window at Global Recruitment (international). 

 —Danhua Wu 


A Festival Spent Together

Lunar New Year is always one of my favourite festival as family and friends gathered together during this period of time. We are so busy throughout the year and difficult to have time spending together. However, during the period of Lunar New Year, we always spare some time for each other and have some celebration activities together, like playing Mahjong and hiking. We always play Mahjong as it symbolises friendship and family bonds in Chinese culture. It is also for wishing each other a prosperous year. And we usually go for hiking during the new year period for getting together and it symbolises good health and good luck.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Rabbit!

–Anthea Im 


Celebrating Lunar New Year with English friends

This is my sixth Lunar New Year in Reading. While I can’t go back to China because of work, it is also a good opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year with English friends in Reading. Many friends enjoy making Dumplings (Jiaozi, 饺子). These round dumplings signify family reunion. Because dumpling shape resembles ancient Chinese money, they also represent prosperity. Often, a coin is put inside one of the dumplings, and a lucky person will eat it.

An image of friends making dumplings (Jiaozi) together on Chinese New Year

Calligraphy is important in understanding Chinese history and traditions, particularly during the Lunar New Year. The character 福 (fú) can be found on the walls and doors in almost every home. Fu means ‘good fortune’, and posting the character upside down means they want the ‘good fortune’ to “pour out” on them.

A photograph showing a square of red paper with the character "Fu" painted on in calligraphy and inverted.

May your year 2023 of the Rabbit be full of happiness and health!

— Dr. Hong Yang


Happy Lunar New Year , 2023.