Let's Call it a Year - Discover the Original Meaning of Chinese New Year

Chinese wisdom of the four seasons: 春生(spring sowing)|夏长(summer growing)|秋收(fall harvesting)|冬藏(winter conserving)

Chinese Wisdom about the Four Seasons

It’s that time of the year when the sun moves to the other hemisphere of the globe, leaving us with a three months season of low solar energy.

The days are short and nights are long.

Snow covers the frozen earth. Trees lay bare in the bleak sky. Icicles glimmer faintly under the street lights.

Fortunately, amidst the lifelessness, there are two significant and festive events in the world that both the East and the West look forward to.

It is no small wonder, nor any coincidence in the long history of human civilization, that people around the world choose to celebrate the end of the year and to welcome in the arrival of a new year, in an otherwise stark landscape.

In the prehistory time, ie before recorded history of human events with written language, knot recordings were a reliable way to record numbers and events by tying knots on strings.

Archaeological studies have shown that many civilization, such as prehistoric China and the Inca Empire in Peru, practised knot recording.

The character 冬(dōnɡ, winter) has its origins in the practice of tying a knot at the end of the year - to tie both ends of an even rope to conclude the year.

The compound character 终(zhōnɡ) , with the thread radical(纟) means “to end, the end”, while the single radical 冬(dōnɡ) means “winter”.

The character 年(nián, year) comes from two characters: 千 and 禾.

The original meaning comes from the practice of moving(千) harvested crops(禾) back home to call it a year, and to celebrate a year’s hard work.

Indeed, from 春生(spring sowing)— plowing the fields and sowing the seeds in the spring, to 夏长(summer growing)— abundant growth in the summer, to 秋收(fall harvesting) — harvesting crops in the fall, winter is the season to store away surplus, and to enjoy the harvest of labor for the entire year during the low season, known as 冬藏(winter conserving) .

Here is the expertly curated list of Chinese characters related to the YEAR END and the NEW YEAR.

Over to you

What’s your story about Chinese New Year? How do people celebrate CNY in your part of world? Do you have any favorite memory of winter? I’d like to hear from your story.