Wednesday 29 January 2014

2014, the Year of the Horse

“Chinese New Year” or the “Lunar New Year” is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar: the date corresponds to the new moon. It is the beginning of the Spring Festival which lasts for 15 days and ends with the Lantern Festival, on the full moon date. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar (ie based on both the annual cycle of the Sun and the regular cycle of phases of the moon), the date of the Chinese New Year in the Gregorian calendar varies from one year to another and usually falls between January 21st and February 20th. This year it falls on January 31st.

Chinese New Year is officially celebrated in China (7 bank holidays), Taiwan (at least 5 days), Hong Kong and Macau (3 days), and a number of Asian countries influenced by the Chinese culture or with significant Chinese populations, such as Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Every year, two weeks before the celebration, an intense migration period starts. People converge on train stations, bus stations and airports to travel back to their native countries.

It is the most important celebration of the year in China. People gather with their families as we do in Western countries during the Christmas period. A ritual is followed to end the previous year and to prepare the beginning of the new one. The New Year’s dinner symbolises family reunion, prosperity, happiness and good health. It is a true food feast where dishes follow one another and never seem to end. On the menu, you will find the Niangao, a traditional rice cake, fish in many different guises and various types of dumplings. People also usually eat duck, chicken, crab and jellyfish among other things.

During Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, they decorate their windows and doors with poems on red paper and red strips of paper. They also give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The Lion and Dragon dances (which are also supposed to drive away evil spirits) are also part of the celebration and offer an extraordinary and colourful show to the public.

The Chinese Zodiac has 12 animal signs and each year is represented by a different animal. 2014 is the Year of the Horse. In Chinese astrology, this animal is spirited and independent. It is also regarded as a worker, which shines with its creativity and constantly needs to move forward.

In the UK, Chinatowns in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield will welcome the Year of the Horse on or near 2nd February. London is said to host the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia although the festivities only last for two days. Do not miss the parade in central London at 10 am. The dragons and lions will be snaking along the Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. In Trafalgar Square, artists from China will offer impressive performances. Of course, London's Chinatown and its almost eighty restaurants will offer succulent traditional cuisine, delightful decorations and a wide range of performances from local artists. On the Chinese New Year's Eve, the London Eye will be lit red and gold in celebration from 5.30pm. For more information about the celebrations in London, visit the London China Town website:

The Aplingo team wishes you a happy Chinese New Year! And please feel free to contact us if you need any translation services in Chinese!

Thursday 23 January 2014

The British Passion for Camellia sinensis

I am delighted to write my first ever article for our Aplingo blog. I recently joined the UK team as a Translation Executive and this is my first position as part of a British team. It’s a bit of a cultural shock and I must say, one amusing thing about the UK is its passion for tea. Drinking tea is such a British cliché and yet it is so true. According to the United Kingdom Tea Council, the British drink 165 million cups daily or 60.2 billion per year. We enjoy this delectable drink here at the Aplingo office and I wanted to find out the origin of this tradition and some interesting facts about it.

A little bit of history

Tea was first discovered in China more than 5000 years ago. According to a popular legend, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree when some of its leaves fell into his hot water. Shen Nung, who was a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that had accidentally been created. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we now call tea. A variant of this legend tells that the emperor, who had tested all the plants of the universe, ingested by mistake a toxic plant while resting under a tea tree. The emperor chewed a tea leaf and discovered its virtues (stimulating or antidote). No one knows whether those stories are true... But tea drinking certainly became established in China many centuries before it had even been heard of in the west. Tea firstly appeared in Europe in 1560 thanks to Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz. In the 1660s, Catherine of Braganza brought to the English royal court the habit of drinking tea. She was the queen of Charles II and spent her childhood in Portugal, hence her love for tea.

Which tea?

Although there are many different teas (approximately 1,500 different varieties of tea, black, green, white, flavoured or scented teas, etc.), black tea is the most popular in the UK - more specifically English Breakfast, traditionally a blend of Assam and Ceylon teas. Tea bags are far more popular than loose leaves; 96% of all cups of tea drunk daily in the UK are brewed from tea bags. According to the UK Tea Council, 98% of people take their tea with milk, but only 30% take sugar in tea.

Is tea good for you?

Tea contains less than half the amount of caffeine found in coffee. It keeps the dentist away as it is a natural source of fluoride that can help protect against tooth decay and gum disease. Tea helps you to stay hydrated and without milk it has no calories. Four cups of tea with milk provides 21% of daily calcium requirement. Tea has potential health benefits for cardiovascular disease and cancer prevention.

For more information about tea I highly recommend the UK Tea Council website. Enjoy your cuppa!