ST Scroll Back: China supermodel’s Chinese New Year message sparks breaking of taboo

China supermodel Liu Wen’s “Happy Lunar New Year” Instagram greeting triggered angry online messages, and she was accused of pandering to other Asian countries.
China supermodel Liu Wen’s “Happy Lunar New Year” Instagram greeting triggered angry online messages, and she was accused of pandering to other Asian countries. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Chinese New Year festival stretches over a couple of weeks, so some of the taboos are still being observed, such as not saying nasty things to one another. 

But perhaps the online world is a whole different place. To some netizens, typing angry messages scolding one another doesn’t count as breaking a Chinese New Year taboo since they don’t have to face the recipient or cyberbullying victim in real life.

Good luck tradition: No scolding

Don’t scold people during Chinese New Year. It is believed that whatever you do during the festive season will signal what the rest of the year will be like for you. So chiding people, swearing, and mentioning death are not welcome. 

Pushing your luck
Lots of people pushed their luck when they scolded supermodel Liu Wen during Chinese New Year. 

When the model from China posted a “Happy Lunar New Year” Instagram greeting, her account was bombarded with thousands of messages from social media users who accused her of pandering to other Asian countries.

The phrase “Lunar New Year” is often used instead of “Chinese New Year” because the festival, which is determined by the lunar calendar, is celebrated in China but also in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and other parts of South-east Asia. 

The supermodel has since changed her message to “Happy Chinese New Year”.

“If even Chinese people don’t respect their own culture, how can you expect others to respect you?”- Instagram user baijingting999, criticising supermodel Liu Wen.


A viral photo of Chinese boy Wang Fuman whose hair was encrusted with ice after his walk in freezing temperatures stirred debate about of poverty in rural regions. PHOTO: AFP

Trying his luck

Photos of eight-year-old Wang Fuman’s ice-flecked hair and eyebrows went viral in January. It showed him after a minus 9 deg C, hour-long trek to school.

The boy from Zhuanshanbao in China’s Yunnan province received an outpouring of gifts and sympathy. 

In February, what he wanted for Chinese New Year was decidedly non-traditional and very moving.

“Mum, I don’t want to wait any longer only to be disappointed again... Can you please come back? Mum, I want you to beat me and scold me for my mistakes - the way other mothers do to their children. At least, then, you would be by my side. Please come back.” - Wang Fuman, whose mother left the family in 2016 to escape a life of poverty.

Good luck tradition: Zodiac attack


The Chinese New Year light-up ceremony in January at Chinatown. PHOTO: ST FILE

It’s Chinese New Year, so bring on the zodiac-themed decorations. 

The animal of 2018 is the dog, so pooches appeared on social media wearing festive gear, in lantern form in Chinatown, and on hongbao packets. Some people think it’s a good idea to get real dogs in the house for auspicious reasons.

Pushing your luck

People buy pets on impulse just because they’re the zodiac animal of the year. 

They later decide to get rid of the poor furry friends. Lame reasons include thinking the puppies are no longer cute since they’ve grown up. 

Be careful. They’re pushing their luck because… karma. 

Even if you don’t believe in karma, “spring cleaning” older dogs is just a plainly bad thing to do.

“Following the last Year of the Dog in 2006, there was an increase in the number of dogs taken in by SPCA, and in suspected abandonment cases.” - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“We’ll only really know for sure how the situation is in one or two years’ time because by then a puppy will no longer be as cute and people may want to give them up for adoption. This is what we noticed the last Year of the Dog, with quite a number of dogs being given up from 2008 to 2010.” - Purely Adoptions president Patrick Cher. 

3,002 
Number of dogs taken in by SPCA in 2007

2,727
Number of dogs taken in by SPCA in 2006

Good luck tradition: Going for gold 


The giving of mandarin oranges signifies wishing prosperity upon the recipient. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

There are mountains of mandarin oranges everywhere during the festive season. 

This began as a southern Chinese custom. The Cantonese pronunciation of giving mandarin oranges - “song gam” - sounds the same as the one for “giving gold”, so it signifies wishing prosperity upon the recipient.

Trying your luck
There are traditional routes to modest riches via studying hard (say “jin bang ti ming”, meaning “success in the examination”), and working hard (say “shiye youcheng”, meaning “success in your career”). Some people, however, are hoping to score winning lottery tickets

Yell, “huat ah!”, meaning “prosper”.

But betting all your time and money on gambling is not a wise plan. 

 

Mr Wang Chengzhou lived under a Chongqing bridge for 10 years hoping to to crack the code behind winning lottery numbers, reported South China Morning Post. Despite his 76-year-old mother begging him to return home for Chinese New Year, Mr Wang rejected her, saying he would not return until he had “made his mark in lottery research”.

Here’s one way to get a grip on an addiction to gambling, and changing one’s fortunes for the better.

“I have mastered the algorithms of lotteries.” - Mr Wang Chengzhou

“Lottery numbers are randomly generated.” - Sichuan University maths professor Zhou De, who told the Chengdu Commercial Daily that it is “almost impossible” to predict winning lottery numbers.

Good luck tradition: Loud and proud


Celebrating Chinese New Year with a bang in Hancheng, Shaanxi province. PHOTO: AFP

The noise from firecrackers is believed to scare off evil spirits - something you wouldn’t want drifting around your home. The drumming for dragon and lion dances, combined with the noise from fireworks, make the festival a really loud one.

Improving your luck

The sound of fireworks usually echoes across towns and cities in China, but government efforts to curb pollution have led to bans on fireworks in 444 cities across the country since 2017.

In the lead up to 2018’s Chinese New Year, the authorities have extended the bans further, including Beijing, neighbouring Tianjin, and the provincial capitals Hefei and Changsha.

According to Xinhua, Beijing saw fewer fires and injuries caused by fireworks during the holiday as the city enforced the ban. From Feb 15 to 20, fireworks caused 17 fires and injured 30 people, down 73 per cent and 62 per cent respectively from last Chinese New Year, the city's fireworks control office said in a statement in February.