Category Archives: Chinese Culture

Holidays – The Passover And Spring Festival

The Passover And Spring Festival

The Passover and Spring Festival are both the biggest holidays of the year among their people, and they have many similarities, but only one can change your life today!

A Quick History Of Both Festivals

  • Passover has its origins in the Bible. According to the Bible, the Israelites had become slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh. God promised that He would deliver them. Pharaoh refused to let them go, and God brought ten plagues upon the Egyptian people. The last plague was the first Passover. God warned the Egyptians that if they didn’t let His people go, He would kill all of their firstborn children. He also told Israel to kill a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts and lintels. Then when the time came, He would “pass over” all the houses that had the blood and spared their firstborn from death. The Israelites obeyed God and were saved their firstborns spared. The Egyptians didn’t, and their firstborns died. Pharaoh finally released the Israelites. The Israelites were to have a feast every year so they and future generations would remember God’s deliverance.
    Exodus 6:6; 8:1; 12:8, 21–29
  • Spring Festival has its origins in Chinese mythology. According to the tales, there was a mythical beast called “Nian.” Nian lived in the mountains or under the sea. Every spring Nian would come to the villages in China and eat the animals or villagers, especially the children. A “god” revealed to one of the villagers that he should put red paper on his house and use firecrackers to protect themselves against the Nian. This resulted in using the color red and things that make large sounds to scare away the Nian. It worked, and it never came back. As a result and over time the red spring scrolls, red lanterns, red robes, firecrackers, putting food outside, lion dances and drums all became traditions.

The Similarities Of Both Festivals

  • The Passover and Spring Festival are both celebrated in the first month of the year according to the Lunar calendar. Passover is on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month Nisan and goes for seven days. Spring Festival is the last day of the month of the Chinese lunar calendar and goes until the fifteenth day of the first month.
    Exodus 12:2
  • During the Passover, each family unit (and sometimes neighbors) would take a male lamb of the first year without blemish and kill it the evening of Passover. During Spring Festival, some families would also kill a pig, chicken or fish without a blemish on New Year’s Eve.
Exodus 12:3-5
  • At Passover, when they killed the Passover lamb they would put the blood in a basin and then take a bunch of hyssops, dip it in the blood and strike the lintel and the two side-posts. Then they would stay in the house until morning. This was done so that God would not kill their firstborn child. At Spring Festival, they take red paper and past it on the lintel and the two side-posts. Then they would stay in the house until morning. This was done so that the Nian (mythical beasts) wouldn’t eat their children and to bring good luck for the new year. The Spring Festival is also referred to as “Guo Nian” which literally means to “pass over” the Nian.
    Exodus 12:12, 21–22, 46
  • At Passover, they would have a feast at night with their families and possibly their neighbors. They would eat the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. During Chinese New Year, they have a reunion feast with their family. They would also eat meat and similar foods such as flat sweet cakes that were unleavened and bitter vegetables.
    Exodus 12:8
  • The first day and the last day (seventh day) of the Passover was considered a “holy convocation” and they were not to work on those days and could only prepare what they would eat. Spring festival also has many days off of work, especially the first day.
    Exodus 12:16
  • On the first day of the Passover, they were to clean their house of or put away any leaven (if they didn’t and ate leavened bread their soul shall be cut off from Israel). The days before Spring Festival are spent thoroughly cleaning the house with the belief that you are sweeping away the bad luck and preparing for good luck in the new year.
    Exodus 12:15
  • Other similarities in both traditions including not breaking any bones of the animal being eaten at the feast, giving of gifts or asking neighbors for them, having to eat in a special way and prayer or remembrance before the feasts.
    Exodus11:2-3; 12:11, 14, 35-36, 46

The Truth Of Both Festivals

  • The Spring Festival myth is an evolved imaginary story traced back thousands of years. The Passover record is an unchanged story of true events also traced back thousands of years. Although the exact date of both stories is unknown, they both can be traced back about 3,400 years ago. The myth could be a retelling of the true events although this can’t be confirmed, the similarities could be considered as small hints of God inserted into Chinese history, no matter how they got there, and a greater truth can be understood when compared to the Passover.
  • God saved the Israelites because of their act of faith in the Passover lamb. The Passover represents God’s deliverance and points to Jesus as our Passover Lamb. If we by faith believe in Jesus, who was killed like a lamb at Passover, then God will “pass over” you because the blood of Jesus will be applied to your account—you will be saved!
    John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Luke 22:7–8; Revelation 5:9–12
  • Finding the gospel in the Spring Festival myth: (1) Death—the villagers were scared of death, specifically the death of their children. They were looking for a way to escape the one who brought death. Every person will face death one day, is there a way of escape? (2) Salvation—the villagers realized they could use red paper on their doors to scare away the one who brought death. Red paper can’t save you, but the blood of Jesus can. The blood in the Passover story pointed to the death of Jesus on the cross, where He died to pay the price for our sins. (3) Celebration—the villagers celebrated that they had the victory. Jesus didn’t stay dead, but He rose from the dead, proving He has the victory and giving us the ultimate reason to celebrate.

Review Questions

  • What is the origin of Passover?
  • What is the origin of Spring Festival?
  • What are some of the similarities of both?
  • What is the greater truth that the Passover points to?
  • Can the gospel be seen in the Spring Festival myth when compared to the Passover?

A Chinese Hospital Visit

The Chinese hospital can be a very complicated place to go. Doctor’s offices like we have in the States don’t really exist here and so everyone goes to the hospital for everything. There are smaller clinics and hospitals and some do specialize in certain things.

I was just at the hospital with our youngest daughter (2 years old) and I thought I would write about the process that we went through. We have been to the hospital before, but this was the first time that I went by myself. Because of the complicated process (see below) we usually always took a Chinese friend with us. It was 1 in the morning and there was no one to call. It was Chinese New Year, so who knew if the hospital would be well staffed (that is like going at 1 AM on Christmas morning). Our daughter was having a hard time breathing and we couldn’t keep her temperature down. So I decided to take her to the hospital by myself.

Here is the process:

  • Arrived at the the hospital, get a card for parking and go in.

  • Tell registration we are here to see a doctor and pay the fee upfront.

  • Go find the room number they told me to go to. Found the room number, but no one is there. Ask a nearby doctor what to do. He told me to find a nurse and the nurse will find the doctor. I found a nurse and the nurse went into a nearby room and woke up the doctor. I was told to wait in the room.

  • The doctor comes in I hand her the book and receipt of payment. She ask what the problems are and examines my daughter. As this is going on another family walks in with their sick child in the same room as us. The Doctor concludes what the problem is and says that she needs a shot. She told me what to do and then come back after she got the shot.

  • We leaved the room and go pay for the shot at registration. Then we take the receipt to the pharmacy and pick up the medication. Now we have to find another room where they will give her the shot. We find the room and there is no one there and there is no nurse close by. There are some people dealing with problems in the hallway and a random guy sleeping on a chair. The family with the other sick child arrives to the same room and we wait together. Finally, the doctor comes and realizes no one is there and calls the nurse. The nurse gives her the shot. We return to the doctor’s office.

  • When we arrive back at the doctor’s office she tells us that she thinks we should get some blood test. I agree and we leave the office to go to registration and pay for the blood test. Then we start searching for the place to get the blood test. This time it was harder to find. We asked a couple people and found our way there. We gave the receipt and papers to the nurse and after a few minutes she took the blood. (It was basically a walk up window and you put your arm in the window and she pricks your finger.) Now we had to wait for 20 minutes until we got the results. She handed me the results and we went back to the doctor’s office.

  • The doctor looked at the blood test and made her conclusions and prescribed us some medicine to take home. I took the prescription to registration and paid for it. Then took the receipt to the pharmacy and picked it up and returned to the doctor’s office. There was some confusion between me, the pharmacist and the doctor, so the doctor had to go and fix it. Finally, she explained how and when to give my daughter the medicine and sent us home. We thanked her and left.

  • We got int he car and went to leave. I had to honk the car horn to wake up the person that takes the money, give them the card, paid the parking fee and drove home.

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p>As you probably see from the above process, it can be a little complicate. You also have to pay for everything upfront. (Not to mention my 2-year-old doesn’t like needles and so I am dealing with a crying toddler.) Now image this process in the daytime when there are tons of people there. It actually went really smooth for us because there was only one other person there seeing the same doctor.

The conditions of the hospital are not very nice especially if you compare them to those in the States. But after being in China for a long time, it because normal.

So what was my response to all this? I can honestly say it was “thankfulness.” After seeing my daughter be sick and struggle to breath and didn’t want to do anything but lay on my chest, I was thankful there was a Chinese hospital that was nearby and could help. The doctors were kind and they gave the right treatment to my daughter and helped make her well. Yes, the conditions and process have to be adapted to, but in the end they accomplished the same thing that I want went I go to an American hospital.

May I not be so vain to be upset over a dirty floor or a wall that needs a new coat of paint, but be thankful for what truly matters.

Christmas in China?

How is Christmas celebrated in China? It’s not.

Okay, well it is not celebrated on the same level that it is celebrated in America.

Or should I say, it is starting to be celebrated commercially but not socially (or individually).

For example, it is now common for a store to put up a generic Christmas tree and have certain promotions etc. during Christmas time. But I have never met a Chinese family that had a Christmas tree in their home (I am sure there is an exception out there somewhere).

So, if you walk into any mega mall or a western restaurant (Starbucks, Pizza Hut) you will be greeted with Christmas decorations and music for the entire month of December (and maybe many months after)! But when you go outside or go to a friends house, there is no sign of Christmas

Christmas is not an official holiday in China, so it is just another work day. Most people I have met have never “celebrated” Christmas.

The true meaning of Christmas is even more vague. The American-commericalized version of Christmas is making it’s entrance into China as things become more westernized, but the true meaning of Christmas is still left out.

Even with all the decorations, you don’t see any reference to Jesus anywhere.

Honestly, I don’t care if a Chinese child believes in Santa Clause and gets presents on Christmas day. But I do care that they know that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Salvation has come! It is being freely offered!

In Chinese, Christmas is literally “Holy Birth Festival”! I want to continue to point the Chinese people to that Holy Child who died for their sins, and not their sins only but the sins of the whole world!

Thank you, for your support this Christmas! May we continue to preach Christ!

Note: On Christmas Eve (called Peace Eve or Silent Night) they give each other apples as a symbol of peace!

Hukou (户口 hùkǒu)

China has a registration system for its residence referred to as the Hukou (户口 hùkǒu).

Basically, this is a residence permit that controls where a Chinese resident can and can’t legally live in China.

Originally, it was used to control people from moving out of the country side and into the urban cities. If you were born in one area, that is the area you were deemed to live. If you decided to move outside of your registered area, you (1) wouldn’t be allowed, (2) you wouldn’t qualify for any government benefits in the new area you lived, or (3) you could get jailed or sent back to your registered area. (It kind of sounds like being an illegal resident in your own country.)

Today, China still has this system in place but it is not enforced like it used to be. From what I understand, a Chinese resident can freely move around in China but still may not get all the benefits of a local area without a local hukou. So the system is not being enforced with “force” but it is being enforced by the availability of benefits, such as healthcare, attending public school, or graduating highschool and taking the college entrance exam.

For example, a farmer and his family move to larger city to find work with better pay. Their child can’t attend the local school, so they have to attend a private school for other kids like them. When it comes time for his senior year, the student must return to the “land of his hukou” so he can graduate and take the college entrance exam, even though his parents work in and live in another city. So here are the problems: Do you send the kid back for a year? Do you move your family back? Do you not send the kid back and not give him a chance to go to college?

As China continues to modernize and sees the need to allow its’ citizens to freely “move around” without penalty, there have been discussions of a reform of this system. We will see what China will do in the future with its’ new leadership and booming economy.

Loosing a Husband, Father and Son

I was watching the news the other day and there was a story about a man who recently died in an accident. It seemed as if he worked for an excavating company and worked hard to provide for his family. They were clearing out the side of a mountain when a tree fell on the bulldozer he was in. Needless to say, he passed away.

Then the news showed his wife. He was newly married. You could feel the pain she was feeling.

He had a very cute little son that wasn’t very old. Now the son wouldn’t know his father.

It showed the man’s mother and father. His mother was in bed crying at the loss of her son.

That day a wife lost her only husband, a son lost his only father, and a set of parents lost their only son.

As I watched this on TV and was trying to make out everything that was going on, I could see and feel the pain of their loss.

I realized they are just people like you and me.

They hurt like you and I hurt.

Loss of any type is painful but how much worse when you don’t know the Comforter.

Moving in China: Our Experience

We have only moved houses once in China and as with most things in China, everything didn’t go so “smoothly”. This makes for interesting life and blog post!

We lived in the same house for almost two years and then we decided we were going to move. But we weren’t going to just move houses but also cities. When we rented our first place, we also remodeled it and bought all of our furniture and appliances. Therefore, we had a lot of stuff to move and/or sell.

After a three-day trip to our new city (read about it here) we rented a house and planned the move (July 2012). We put things up for sale that we didn’t need to take and then start packing up everything else.

The first thing we had to do was find a moving company (or a way to get our stuff from point A to point B). One afternoon as I was coming back home, there was a moving truck parked right in front of our building. They were moving someone into our building. I stopped to talk with them and we discussed the possibility of moving us 10 hours away. After some bargaining we came to an agreement.

The plan was they would come the day before the move, prepare everything to be packed into a truck and then the next day they would pack up the truck and start driving down to our new apartment. We would fly out that evening so we could arrive there before they did and get the keys from the landlord and pay the rent.

(Note: To make the trip more interesting… I took medicine that I had a major allergic reaction to the week before the move. So the two days before the move I was in bed all day sick fighting the reaction to the medicine. To say the least, I wasn’t feeling in tip-top shape. The week happened so quick, that we didn’t even get to say goodbye to everyone we wanted to.)

Everything was going according to plan until they couldn’t fit everything into one truck. We were in a bind and had to rent a second truck and it wasn’t cheap but we bargained some more and worked out a deal.

Everything was packed up and the two trucks took off. We finished cleaning the house and then headed to the airport. We got to the airport and our flight was delayed. Then it was delayed and then delayed again! It is not a good sign when the airline serves you dinner while you are still sitting at the gate! I don’t think we got on the plane until after the moving truck already arrived in the new city! Finally, we arrived in the new city after midnight.

We took a taxi to the hotel we had reserved to let my wife and kids rest. When we got to the hotel the trunk on the taxi was broken. It simply would not open and all our luggage was in there. So I checked the family into the hotel and then went with the taxi driver to find a mechanic at 1 AM in the morning. I don’t know how he did, but we found one and he was able to fix the problem. We returned to the hotel to find everyone awake because it was so hot and stuffy in the room. The air conditioner was broken. We had to change rooms.

I then went to the house to meet the movers because they wanted to unload the stuff and head back to the other city. I went over there and met the home owner and paid him the rent and he gave me the keys. The movers started to move everything into our new house and put all the furniture back together. Well, almost back together. When the took everything apart, they put all the pieces and screws etc. in one box and then guessed where everything went when they put it back together.

At about 3 or 4 AM they finally got done and I was able to return to the hotel and crash. Then we moved into our home later that day.

We thank God for a safe move and to have a wonderful new apartment!

A Thought About City Life

I wonder if living in the city makes it easier to believe in humanism.

Humanism is described as “an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” [1]

You are surrounded by the accomplishments of man, all that man created.

Is it easier to see and focus on the surface level and declare that God doesn’t exist because you see the great things mankind has done.

Is it easier to forget to ask the deeper questions: “Where did that material come from to build these great things?” or “Where did man who made this stuff come from?”

China (and many other parts of the world) are moving into cities. A study of the demographics will show you that people are moving into the cities and leaving the villages and townships.

I wonder if the cement jungle made by man clouds the questions that nature provokes.

Just a thought.

The ATM!

People often wonder how our support gets to us. How does it get from the mission board to me, all the way over here in China.

It is a simple but complicated process…the ATM!

Using the ATM has become a way of life. Most places here you can’t use your credit or debit card. Therefore, our everyday spending and paying the bills is done in cash. Cash truly is king.

When we get our support, we start the process of getting out all the money we will need for that month using the ATM. Sounds easy enough, right?

It is simple. All you have to do is be the guy who makes everyone behind you mad because of the million withdraws that you are making.

Every ATM and bank has different limits. If you live overseas and use ATM’s you will find yourself starting to remembering where the ATMs are, how much can be withdrawn out of each one and which ones are too busy to even attempt using.

The exchange rate now is about RMB 6.2 to $1.00. So if you are wanted to withdraw $1,000 you really need to withdraw RMB 6,200. If you use the ATM by our house that would take seven withdrawals but on the sixth withdrawal the ATM ant-theft-locking system blocks your card from being used.

In the end you learn to acquire multiple ATM cards, ask your home bank to raise your daily withdraw limit and find the ATM’s with the highest limits and you can get your money out in a reasonable amount of time…but you will still be “the guy that takes forever.”

Chinese “Family Style”

In Chinese culture, when eating a meal together, usually you eat “family style”. At a normal meal there are several dishes in the middle of the table. Each person will usually have a bowl of rice or noodles. Everyone just uses their chopsticks and takes whatever they like.

Now when I say “family style” it is still different from the way we do family style in America.

In America, everyone takes their plate and fills it up from the dishes in the middle of the table. Or we pass the dishes and everyone takes some and puts it on their plate.

In China, you take from the dishes per bite. You don’t fill up your plate and then eat. You take one bit from this dish and then one bit from that dish.

You guessed it! The same chopsticks you use to eat with are also the same chopsticks that you take the food out the dish with. Everyone at the table is doing this.

It is also common to take some of the food and put it on top of your rice and then eat that together.

This way of eating has become habit for us when eating Chinese food. But when we eat American food, we eat like we normally did in America. The funny thing is, Chinese people usually will still eat “western” food Chinese family style.

For example, you can experience this at Pizza Hut in China. Pizza Hut in China is fine dining. They are really nice and serve a lot more than pizza. So you will see a family that ordered one dish of pasta, one small pizza, one salad and some more side dishes. The dishes are all in the middle of the table and they are eating them Chinese family style, one bite at a time. Everyone sharing the salad, pasta, etc.

Next time you are going to eat at a fine dining restaurant, maybe you should bring your chopsticks and try this culture clash and share a few dishes “Chinese Family Style”!

Chinese BBQ

I am a bit of a foodie. I like food. I like trying new foods. So living in a place like China, I get to constantly do just that.

Some of the best food in China is Chinese BBQ. Basically, it is meat (lamb, pork, beef, chicken) on a skewer cook over hot coals.

The seasoning can take some time to get used to since they cover it with tons of seasoning. Sorry, no American BBQ sauce.

Another thing they do is put chunks of fat between the meat.

They usually cook these on the sidewalk, so the smell draws you in.

There are two ways that you usually see people enjoying this. The first way is they simply go to a restaurant and order it. The restaurants cooks it and then brings it to you or they bring it raw and you can cook it at the table yourself.

The second way is to have a “cookout”. This is popular in the summer. You see people huddled in circles off to the side somewhere, around a small grill made to cook these skewers. They usually sit on the ground or these really small chairs. I mean really small.

BBQ is a cheap, unhealthy and delicious way to enjoy Chinese food!

If you are really out going you can also order a fish, silk worms or one of the live birds in the cage to be put on the grill.

I’ll stick with the skewers of meat (and silk worms).

One tip they give you, though not all say or do this, is to eat raw garlic with it. Why? To kill the little bugs in the meat!

I learned to like garlic when eating Chinese BBQ!