China's young buy Chinese New Year couplets in English to have a 'good, good year'

On China's biggest consumer online shopping platform Taobao, there are dozens of shops selling several kinds of couplets in English PHOTO: CHINA DAILY / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - English language couplets have become a new and stylish way among Chinese young people to celebrate the upcoming Spring Festival.

On China's biggest consumer online shopping platform Taobao, there are dozens of shops selling several kinds of couplets in English. A typical set reads: "Eat well, sleep well, have fun day by day" and "Study good, work good, make money more and more".

Mr Yu Runrun, who owns a shop in Beijing, expects to sell about 600 sets of English couplets during the holiday season.

"I began selling English couplets four years ago, when I saw a friend from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region hanging couplets handwritten in the Mongolian language during Spring Festival," said Mr Yu.

A set of English couplets in his shop costs 25 yuan (S$5), almost double the price of the Chinese couplets.

"Most of our buyers are young people who want to look cool and are willing to pay extra for fashionable things," Mr Yu said, adding that some send the couplets to foreign friends as gifts.

"Foreigners living in China also buy the English couplets to celebrate the festival, but my English is not good enough to talk with them," said the 33-year-old Beijinger.

Spring Festival couplets - two complementary poetic lines adhering to certain rules - are one of the most common and important customs to celebrate Chinese New Year. They are often used to decorate doors and walls to express hope and happiness for the coming year.

Mr Mo Hao, who teaches English at the South China Business College at Guangdong University of Foreign Study, bought two sets of such couplets from Taobao - one for himself and the other for his colleague Benjamin Wolken, who is from the United States.

"It is very special and actually quite good-looking, which will certainly stand out," Mr Mo said.

Said Mr Wolken: "I would consider buying the couplets for myself, or even make my own set in English, so I can talk more with the people around me, to learn Chinese culture and language.

"I like being a part of the Chinese community, so I enjoy being a part of the traditions."

The key to selling more English couplets is that they should consist of really simple words, so that people can easily understand the meaning, said Mr Yu, the shopkeeper.

"Grammar is not important and 'Chinglish' is also acceptable. If the sentence is grammatically incorrect, people will like it even more, just like the well-known and popular Chinglish proverb 'Good good study, day day up'," he said.

After all, Spring Festival should be a happy reunion, Mr Yu added.

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