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Year of the Dragon brings celebrations, reflections

Monday, January 30, 2012

LAWRENCE — Gov. Brownback proclaimed this week to be Chinese New Year Week in Kansas. Jan. 23 marked the official beginning of the Chinese New Year, the year of the dragon.

Instead of being a solar new year, measured by one revolution of the Earth around the Sun, the Chinese New Year is a lunar new year, measured by 12 revolutions of the moon around the Earth. Since the moon orbits the Earth in roughly 29 and one-half days, a solar year and a lunar year will almost never fall on the same day.

"The Chinese New Year is like combining this countries Christmas and New Year's," said Tailan Chi, a professor in the School of Business who spent about half of his life in China. "People go to visit their families and everything stops. China is a big factory for the world, but during this period you can't get in touch with anyone."

Prof. Chi spoke at a China forum titled, "Descendants of the Dragon, All Over the World." The forum was part of the Greater Kansas Chinese New Year Gala on Jan. 22 that started in the Kansas Union and ended in the Lied Center with musical performances, dance routines and a Kung Fu demonstration.

"Dragon years are lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it's earned, borrowed or received as a gift," according to Chinese New Year 2012.

"The emperor is associated with the dragon," Chi said. "A lot of people in China hold this belief that people born in the year of the dragon have better prospects to become powerful, so people try to conceive before the year of the dragon."

Jane Zhao assistant professor in the School of Business is also from China. "There are beliefs that if this is your year, you should put on a red belt to avoid any bad luck. Some people will go even further and wear red underpants."

Last year Zhao hosted a party at her house to welcome the new doctoral students and celebrate the new year. About 60 people attended and they made dumplings, she said. This year's celebration was very different.

"I got my parents here from Beijing just before New Year's. They are in their 70s and were both hospitalized last spring," Zhao said. "I'm an only child, so I rushed home and took care of them." They both recovered and she says she is very grateful for that, but felt that the time was coming. She knew she had to make a decision. Should she go home or bring them here? "It's just so special; it's like a second chance. It was like a dream that they got to come and spend the new year with me. The experience gave more depth to the meaning of New Year's."

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