Chinese New Year 2019 – Year of the Pig

Guest post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) Diversity Officer 2018/19

(This article includes Chinese words and phrases with Cantonese and Mandarin pronunciations respectively)

When is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year as it follows a traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar whose dates indicate both the phase of the moon and the time of the solar year. This coming Chinese New Year is on Tuesday 05 February 2019.

Why is 2019 the “Year of the Pig”?

Each year is represented by one of 12 Chinese Zodiac animals. 2019 is the year of the pig.

Chinese Zodiac: https://banner2.kisspng.com/20180328/fxw/kisspng-chinese-zodiac-chinese-calendar-chinese-new-year-zodiac-5abc0167b80006.4694013715222705677537.jpg

The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2,000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other zodiacs. This is the order they are in: rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ) ox (牛 – ngau / niú) tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ) rabbit (兔 – tou / tù) dragon (龙 – lung / lóng) snake (蛇 – se / shé) horse (马 – maa / mǎ) goat (羊 – yeung / yang) monkey (猴 – hau / hóu) rooster (鸡 – gai / jī) dog (狗 – gau / gǒu) pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

How do people celebrate?

Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. The celebrations are not limited to China. Hong Kong, Laos, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and many Asian countries celebrate Chinese New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Chinese New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

Before celebrations kick off, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean. Chinese New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

What do the decorations mean?

Decorations for Chinese New Year are predominantly red, as the colour red represents happiness and good fortune. Here are some popular decorations used for Chinese New Year:

Fortune ( – fuk / fú)

Fortune pin badge, Photo credit Nozomi Tolworthy

Certain words are displayed during Chinese New Year. The most common is 福 meaning happiness and good fortune. It is often displayed on square red paper and put up on doors, windows and walls around homes and commercial buildings. Many like to put 福 upside down. The word for ‘upside down’ (倒 – dou / dào) is a homophone of the word for ‘here’ (到). This pun represents that good fortune is coming, or is already here.

Paper Cutting Arts (窗花 – coeng faa / chuāng huā)

福 is often incorporated into other decorations such as paper cutting arts. This is a folk craft that is usually seen on windows with the literal translation meaning ‘window flower’. The images on these decorations often include fish (a pun for blessings), grains (representing hope for a good harvest) as well as dragons and peaches (symbols from folktales and legends). The zodiac for the year is often the image on these decorations too.

Lanterns ( – dang lung / dēng lóng)

There are often different activities for each day of the Chinese New Year holidays, often including the lantern festival. Some places still release lanterns for the festival, but for environmental reasons, many people choose to simply display their lanterns at home. There are many different styles of lanterns that are displayed ranging from red spheres to dragons!

Red Packets

https://marketingweek.imgix.net/content/uploads/2018/02/15170414/chinese-new-year-750.jpg?auto=compress,format,&crop=faces,entropy,edges&fit=crop&q=60&w=750&h=400

Red packets / red pocket / red envelope… There are many names for these little red gifts! But all of these 红包 (hung bau / hóng bāo) contain money. The money inside is known as 压岁钱 (aat seoi cin / yā suì qián). This translated means ‘money to anchor the year(s)’ hence it’s known as ‘lucky money’. It is tradition for elders to give them to children in hope of passing on good fortune and blessings for the year to come. Younger generations also commonly give their elders red packets as a sign of gratitude and as a blessing of longevity.

New Year’s Visits

Red packets, fruit, candy and cakes are often gifted when you go on a New Year’s visit 拜年 (bai nin / bài nián) to see friends and family. Upon giving and receiving red packets, of course one will say 新年快乐 (san nin faai lok / xīn nián kuài lè) meaning Happy New Year and another very common phrase is 恭喜发财 (kung hei fat choi / gong xǐ fā cái) meaning to ‘wish you wealth and prosperity’.

Food

With family being at the heart of Chinese New Year, family feasts are extremely important. Families often have a large reunion for a New Year’s Eve dinner. Although every region and household will have different customs, there are often some common dishes seen on every dinner table: Spring Rolls (春卷 – ceon gyun / chūn juǎn) These are eaten to celebrate the coming of the first day of spring. They are a wish for prosperity and wealth because they look like bars of gold!

Dumplings (饺子 – gaau zi / jiǎo zi)

Photo credit Nozomi Tolworthy

The word for dumplings in Chinese sound like 交子. 交 means ‘exchange’ and 子 is the midnight hours. Placed together, 交子 means the exchange between the old and the new year. By eating dumplings, you are therefore sending away the old and welcoming in the new. Dumplings are also shaped like ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots and as such, symbolise good fortune. There are steamed as well as pan-fried dumplings that are eaten during Chinese New Year.

Noodles (面 – min / miàn)

For Chinese New Year, people like to eat long noodles, also called 长寿面 (zoeng sau min / cháng shòu miàn) which means ‘longevity noodles’. The longer the noodle, the longer your life will be so you shouldn’t cut them nor bite them. Needless to say, this calls for lots of slurping!

Parades & Performances

Each holiday has its own set of activities and traditions. During Chinese New Year, there may be the releasing of lanterns for the lantern festival, firework displays and often parades that include a dragon dance or lion dance. Fireworks are set off as it is thought that the noise and lights will scare away any evil sprits. The dragon is a symbol of China, and is an important part of Chinese culture. Chinese dragons symbolise wisdom, power and wealth, and they are believed to bring good luck to people. As such, dragon dances are an important cultural activity during Chinese New Year as well as Mid-Autumn Festival.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/iqremix/12025364133/

Similarly, lion dances can be seen at many festive events from Chinese New Year to weddings. The lion is meticulously designed, with movable eyes and mouth. Each lion is operated by 2 performers, one as the head and one as the body. Lion dances often involve crowd interaction where the lion may open its mouth asking for food and the crowd are given cabbage leave to throw to the lion.

How will we celebrate at RUSU & UoR?

This year we are hoping to make Chinese New Year a campus-wide celebration. As such, we have created pin badges with 福 (fuk / fú) meaning happiness and good fortune printed on them. These will be given out to staff and students around campus in the first week of February to be worn on lanyards, jackets and backpacks alike to show your support for the celebrations and participation in the festivities on campus.

For any enquiries regarding the Chinese New Year celebrations, please feel free to contact: Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望 RUSU Diversity Officer 2018/19 diversityofficer@rusu.co.uk  or Ellie Highwood, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (e.j.highwood@reading.ac.uk)

What is cultural competency?

The University of Reading is a global university, with a global engagement strategy. Increasingly, understanding and appreciating different cultures is necessary at work in the University and in our broader lives. In some HE institutions, health care and prison services, there is a recognised “thing” called “cultural competency”. The Cultural Diversity Group (open to anyone at the University interested in how race or ethnicity might affect staff or student experiences at Reading) on 6th September was an animated discussion on what “cultural competency” actually means, whether it is relevant to us as individuals, the University of Reading as an organisation or to our students as global citizens.

A quick wander around the internet suggests that cultural competency is variously defined as…

  • The ability to appreciate and interpret accurately other cultures.
  • The ability to successfully teach students who come from cultures other than their own.
  • The ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients (much of the cultural competency framework has its origin in healthcare).

Other terms are sometimes used, including cultural awareness or intercultural awareness. Employers and commercial organisations often use the term to refer to very practical matters such as how to greet people of other cultures, understanding the laws when working in other countries. Many Universities interpret cultural competency as applying only to international students coming to study here – who undoubtedly do need support in getting the maximum benefit from their time here, but this seems rather narrow!

I will now attempt to summarise our discussions.

Theme 1: Meaning, relevance and terminology

“Culturally Competent” vs “Culturally Aware”

There was quite a lot of resistance to the term “culturally competent”, at least initially, because:

  • Felt to be challenging for people to admit they weren’t competent.
  • Implies it is something that can easily be measured?

However, it is a term recognised by employers who want “employees who can demonstrate that they can adapt and work with people from other countries, ethnicities and religions

“Culturally aware” felt like a “softer” term which more people might sign up to, but actually on discussion we realised that you can be aware of something but not engage with or d  anything about it. Is this term therefore too passive?

Does “Competence” equate to skills, whilst “awareness” equates to knowledge?

 

CONCLUSION 1: We prefer the term “Intercultural” as opposed to “Cultural” because what we would like to improve is communication between, understanding of and learning across cultures. We felt that “Cultural” could be interpreted as knowing about only one culture.

CONCLUSION 2: Intercultural skills (or whatever the term that is used) is entirely consistent with the University’s espoused position as being a university with global reach and a “thriving community”. From a student point of view, Employers definition of cultural competency is a strong driver, particularly for students associated with Business and professional degree programmes.

CONCLUSION 3: We can imagine that there is a spectrum of positive engagement with intercultural issues beginning with “Awareness” at the lowest end. We thought therefore that a framework whereby individuals and the organisation moved from “Awareness” to “Competent” to “Confident” might be a more useful way of thinking. We recognised that there are other levels of engagement described as “Unaware”, “Ignorant”, “Uninterested” and “Opposed”.

CONCLUSION 4: Intercultural awareness is NOT just for international students and staff. It is something that is relevant to, and reflection on would be beneficial to ALL students and staff.

Theme 2: Current situation

Discussion here was wide-ranging. As with many Diversity and Inclusion issues, we recognised that there are already lots of good practice examples in many parts of the University, but that finding out about them and adopting them is difficult. For example, we already have employers who visit through the careers service to give presentations on Cultural Competency – these tend to be attended mostly by HBS students although they are open to everyone. IoE have had discussions with student groups about cultural diversity in order to prepare their trainee teachers for posts in Schools. Resources from RISC on cultural diversity were recommended.

We also recognised:

  • The tendency for cultural segregation amongst students and the challenges of persuading students to work in culturally mixed groups (associated with students dislike of group work in general)
  • The lack of confidence felt by some members of staff in terms of interacting with culturally diverse students and colleagues. In the latter case, people were particularly worried about “saying something wrong / offensive”.
  • The difficulty in involving home / English as a first language students in working with international students, particularly in terms of language development and support.
  • The multiple demands on staff and students.

Theme 3 Moving forward

Assuming that we can convince the rest of the University (or even if we can’t!) that there is a need (driven by competition for students, increasing numbers of students on campus for part of their degrees and changing expectations of students and employers), to move staff, students and the organisation from a state of (partial) awareness towards competency and confidence, we came up with some suggestions as to how to move forward in the short term.

  1. Complete a more systematic audit of existing initiatives and good practice across the University.
  2. Look to maximise benefits of opportunities that already exist – e.g. encouraging / incentivising involvement of home / native English speakers in language conversation sessions run in ISLI (developing skills to work with those from other ethnicities and countries etc as well as providing much needed conversation practice for non-English speakers); advertising Employers interest and talks more widely?

In the longer term, it was strongly felt that development of Intercultural Awareness and confidence should be mostly embedded within existing modules and development programmes (e.g. through Curriculum development and review and via careers and RED award?). However this approach relies on confident, competent and motivated teachers and staff – how would we get to this point? Many people thought that the best way to do this would be to bring different groups of people together more, and that ways of doing that could be the topic of discussion at a future meeting. Ideas and views should also be solicited from the wider staff body (through the Race Equality Survey or the subsequent action plan?)

It was acknowledged that there may be a place for specific staff training to be available but this might be more relevant for specific practical situations (e.g. staff heading overseas etc). Some colleagues had trialled using a team development day for this type of training, using free resources from culturewise.ltd to select exercises and make them relevant to their three main overseas groups. Georgia Riches-Jago shared with the wider group how useful they had found the exercises and the opportunity to reflect on the practical side of intercultural awareness in their own context.

What next? 

  • This blog!
  • Solicit wider views via staff portal article linking to blog, Race Equality survey and other methods during Autumn 2017.
  • Incorporation of proposed actions into draft Race Equality Charter Mark action plan, and discussion at UEB in November 2017.
  • Discussion of “bringing together” events at a future CDG meeting

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

By Ellie Highwood

Equality, diversion and inclusion are three terms used frequently and often interchangeably, but are importantly different. Diversity and inclusion can be thought of in terms of cooking. Most recipes require a many different (diverse) ingredients, but the quality of the end dish depends on all the ingredients being mixed together in the right way so that each one contributes to make something better than the sum of the parts (inclusion).

salad

Or, as coined by Verna Myers, “diversity is being invited to the party – inclusion is being asked to dance”.

In terms of our, or other organisations, diversity can be measured in terms of numbers, for example number of women professors, or black senior staff. It is relatively straightforward to set targets to improve diversity. Inclusion is more difficult to measure and manifests itself as “feeling included”, “being part of the team”, “feeling valued”. Also note that a diverse team does not necessarily behave more inclusively.

Equality is the term that has been used for the longest in this area. But what is equality? Equality of treatment? Equality of opportunity? Equality of treatment can be misleading. Yes we want everyone to be treated fairly, but this does not mean treating everyone the same. Equality of opportunity is the most popular term – this recognises that in order to give everyone the same opportunities, we might need to treat different groups differently because of past experiences (i.e. lack of access to information about university) or processes and structures that put a particular group at a disadvantage.

The potential confusion surrounding “equality” is the reason we are a “Diversity and Inclusion” team. However, by focussing on recognising and celebrating diversity, and encouraging and facilitating inclusion, we aim to provide equality of opportunity for all our staff and students.