A Song of Spring and Winter

BEIJING – Even the most ambitious leaders can hardly match the talk of a Fire Rooster.

It is often overlooked that the twelve zodiac animals also rotate in five mythical outfits: earth, metal, wood, water, and fire. And while the 12-years-circle basecoat Rooster is already loud and flamboyant, its 60-years-circle fire-elemental upgrade can talk the civilized world to cinder.

In such a potentially hotheaded year, how do we even start to talk about the sudden explosion of Chinese soft power in the world?

Although Spring Festival is firmly being acknowledged globally, it still lacks far behind the boldness of the Anglo-corpo-commercial Christmas complex. “Santa Claus” and “Jesus Christ” are of course Western fabrications. In the Ancient world, the cult of Christ hijacked the Greek solar calendar. The Romans worshiped the sun god. Jesus resurrected on a Sunday. Christians assimilated into the Nordic [pageant] winter tradition. So much snow.

A calendar, just like the cycle of life, should ideally start with the first day of spring, but a solar calendar is fixed on dates, not seasons. So, they roughly had Jesus’s birth on Dec 25, ok, and calculated it year 1. In contrast, a lunar calendar is manipulated every year to meet spring. Rome famously wanted to start solar year also in spring. It was a total mess. December actually means “10th month.”

But that is not all. Having a calendar that works for one’s own geographical location is fantastic. Imposing that calendar onto the rest of the world is not so great. The Solar New Year starts in the midst of seasonal winter, Jan 1th, and puts seasonal spring 60 days into it, March 1st, while China celebrates its first day of spring this year on Jan 28th. How is that even possible? We could put it this way: Winter works for Westerners and spring works for the Chinese.

Fast forward into 21st Century and total globalism: The “Winter people” celebrate the end of the year, while the “Spring people” celebrate the beginning of a new year. In their “Winter festival,” the “Winter people” spent their salaries on mass-manufactured toy-lines and useless Xmas presents and kitsch that they play with for max 5 days. In their “Spring Festival,” the “Spring people” are looking at the moon and handing their kids hongbao –red envelopes. Cash is more shiji –practical. That’s why they are so poor and still can afford all the top schools in the world.

Spring people put a man character on their rice (you will have plenty of rice!), and they pin a shanzhehaiwei sign on their refrigerators (you will have excellent food in here!). Spring people spent lavishly, but mostly on food and family. Spring people hang a fu character –bliss– onto their walls, but “up-side-down,” which is dao and has the same pronunciation as “arrival” or “reach.”

“Winter people” live as if it was their last days while “Spring people” live as if it was their first. It is perfectly possible to unite all festivals. In difference.

Thorsten J. Pattberg is the author of ‘The East-West Dichotomy’.

The article was first published in China Daily, Feb 9, 2017