Saturday, February 9, 2008

Happy New Year! (again)

This past week saw the beginning of the Chinese New Year. I admit that it is not a holiday that I normally celebrate. However, for the Chinese, the New Year seems to be as big a deal as the Christmas holiday is for many people in the U.S. (especially with regards to families getting together). If you're curious, you can find more information about the Chinese New Year here.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is Chinese about the New Year's holiday. We were talking about all sorts of things, about the way it is celebrated, about the Chinese zodiac, and about the horrendous weather China was experiencing a couple of weeks back and how that might impact people's travel plans (at the very least).

It wasn't until I talked to her and read the weather reports that I started to understand how important the holiday is for people. I also realized that the New Year is practically a nonevent in the states. So, I decided I wanted to do a little something for my friend since she is so far from family this year. For some reason, despite the serious potential for unintended cultural insensitivy, I decided I'd make her a card.

My friend has given me permission to post a scan of the card here so I could share it with you guys. I thought you might enjoy seeing it and gaining whatever minimal cultural insight I can provide. The gold ink loses a little luster in the scanning, but what can you do?

The red paper was chosen because red is used liberally during the New Year. So, I went with it for purposes of the festivities.

The Chinese symbol means "good fortune". I am unclear as to whether the symbol itself represents good fortune or rendering it in gold confers "good" to the meaning of the symbol. I wasn't sure. The internet makes a terrible resource for learning about certain things. So, I went with the gold just to be on the safe side. Also, gold appears to be a festive color as well.

The next part was the less than traditional part. It was also the part fraught with potential misunderstanding since (as far as I know) it was my own invention and not backed up by anything I read about. It was more of my idea of what a Chinese version of the whole old man/baby new year thing might look like. An attempt at light hearted humor.

The pig represents the year that is passing. Last year was the year of the pig (the golden pig to be more precise). Apparently it was the end of the sixty year cycle. The new year is the year of the rat and the beginning of a whole new sixty cycles. So, the rat is chasing the pig off as part of his cleaning for the New Year (that's why he's chasing the pig with a broom). He's taking charge now, baby!

That's a lot of words to explain a single symbol and a couple of scampering cartoon animals. Fortunately for me, my friend appeared to understand the intent immediately and appreciated it (*phew*). So, the card appears to have been successful and caused no international, interpersonal disasters.


P.S. I did all this stuff with brush and ink. The smudge you see at the bottom of the rat's leading foot was partially corrected prior to giving the card. That's the risks you take when you work with ink on paper (and haven't done so in years). When I slipped up, I felt a deep despair that I think anybody who has worked with pen/brush and ink can understand. I almost scrapped the whole card in a fit of disgust to start over. I would have done that in the past, but age has apparently mellowed me. I managed to salvage the card with a light use of an X-acto blade. A sort of poor man's electric eraser.


Anonymous said...

Ahh!! You make your mama proud!!

love, mom

Unknown said...


That card is beautiful!!!

You really must post more of your art work!


Charles said...

I'm glad you like it. I think the trick is to keep things simple. ;)