Children and the Chinese Spring Festival

Spring Festival

The Chinese Spring Festival is the most important period in the Chinese calendar. It begins on Chinese New Year with the new moon and ends 15 days later with the Lantern Festival on the next full moon.  In 2017 the Chinese New Year falls on January 28th on the Western calendar.  This is the Year of the Rooster according to the Chinese zodiac.  The Spring Festival is the longest public holiday in China.  Most employees take at least seven days off work and many students take off a whole month.  It is a time for the whole family to get together, similar to the Christmas holidays for westerners.

This is a great time to get kids involved in the spirit of the Chinese New Year celebrations by making their own crafts and wearing clothing that celebrates the event. In China children spend months making crafts for the New Year celebrations.  You can get your kids into the spirit by having them make their own Chinese dragons or their own Rooster masks to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.  Even babies can participate by wearing t-shirts, body suits and coveralls featuring the rooster.  There is a whole variety of such clothing for children and babies available in online stores such as www.amazon.com and www.zodiacals.com.

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Predicting Your Baby’s Personality

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The Chinese believe that each baby starts life with an inherited set of personality traits. Some traits are obvious almost from birth; others will become apparent by 3 or 4 months. Parents can have a tremendous influence on how a baby develops but you cannot change your baby’s inborn personality. To gain insight into what your baby will become there are a number of things you can look for. Does your baby smile at just about anyone who scoops him up or does he seem to have been born with stranger anxiety?  Does your baby typically go with the flow or does she refuse to sleep anywhere but in her own crib? Does your baby fuss at the slightest provocation or is she seldom set off by changes in her environment or routine?

Many Asians believe much of a baby’s inborn personality is based on the 2,000 year old Chinese zodiac. It is felt that babies born in certain years will have personality traits that will follow them throughout their lives.  There are many sources that provide insight into the personality traits of the different signs of the Chinese zodiac.  The infants’ wear brand Zodiacals™, for example, prints the characteristics of the three most recent signs right on their labels. Babies born in the year of the rooster tend to be trustworthy, sociable, sharp and very accomplished.  Babies born in the year of the monkey tend to be clever, curious, charismatic and extremely inventive.  Babies born in the year of the goat tend to be artistic, sensitive, sweet and charming.

Artwork by Tiffany Chang, All Rights Reservedwww.tiffanychang.us 

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Why You Should Practice Tai Chi

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If you are looking for a relaxing way to stay physically active and vital, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be the answer. I practice tai chi several times each week and find it a great way to improve my flexibility and balance.  Whether you practice tai chi at home, in a formal class or outside in a park with a group the same benefits apply.  The slow deliberate movements and breathing exercises can help your circulation, improve your balance and restore your energy.

The slow graceful movements of tai chi flow together without pause putting minimal stress on your joints and muscles. As you flow from move to move you use your entire body including your core muscles, your arms, your legs and even the muscles in your back.  These movements help improve your flexibility and even in a subtle way increase your strength. Tai chi is not intended to provide aerobic exercise and you should supplement tai chi with some type of aerobic exercise like walking.  I combine my tai chi exercise with kung fu and tae kwon do, which I find gives me the best of both worlds.

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Which Rooster Artwork Should Be Featured on Baby Clothes?

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All babies born next year (Chinese calendar) will be born in the Year of the Rooster. The Chinese believe this is a good thing because these babies will grow up to be hard working and resourceful adults. Because of this there will be many baby products available next year that will feature images of the rooster.  One of these products will be baby body suits by Zodiacals™.  The company is considering two versions of the rooster for next year’s baby body suits.  The first is a body suit with only the rooster’s head and the second is one large and several small rooster heads.  The decision as to which version to go with has not yet been made.  Which of these do you prefer?  Should the Zodiacals body suits feature one head or multiple heads?

Artwork by Tiffany Chang, All Rights Reservedwww.tiffanychang.us 

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Can Tai Chi Be Used For Self Defense?

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On Sunday mornings I usually go to a local park with friends and practice tai chi for exercise and relaxation. This peaceful healthy exercise is typically not thought of as a fighting martial art but it can be a critical skill for defending against attackers.  In reality, each movement in a tai chi form can be used as a fighting application that can be used against an opponent.

The best way to start thinking of tai chi as a martial art is to focus on one of the moves in the form you are practicing in your tai chi form. For example, I practice Chen style tai chi and one of the movements is a circular move with both hands circling around my face.  This is repeated several times in the form.  For years I thought of this as simply a stretching exercise until one day I was shown the fighting application.  It turns out each time my hands pass in front of my face I am blocking an incoming punch.  This is followed by a knife hand strike to the opponent’s neck and then a palm-heal strike to the opponents nose.  In reality this simple move is an amazing self-defense technique.

Unlike western fighting or many other types of martial arts, the strategy of tai chi is to flow around obstacles and to redirect the energy of an incoming attack back outward. Tai chi gives practitioners a way of dodging an attack and then responding to incoming punches or kicks.  Tai chi teaches us to remain grounded, balanced and calm.  The relaxed, circular approach of tai chi can be an extremely effective way to defend oneself regardless of a person’s size, sex, age or strength.  If you are willing to make a commitment to learning tai chi as a martial art you will be able to use these skills even in your senior years.

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Innovative New Products for Asian Babies

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Just in time for the current Asian American baby boom there are a number of innovative new products that are perfect for Asian babies. WubbaNub baby pacifiers, for example, have 8 baby pacifiers with animals that are related to the Chinese zodiac.  These include the Monkey, Dog, Lamb, Rabbit, Mouse, Dragon, Tiger and Bull.  The plush animals make it easy for the baby to grasp and manipulate the pacifier.  They are made with a medical grade, latex-free pacifier and are available on Amazon.com for $13.95.  See:  http://tinyurl.com/hytz5nu

Born Free has a wide selection of incredibly soft muslin and terry cloth bibs. The front of the bib is made of a soft muslin that makes it nice to wipe the baby’s face, while the other side is made of terry cloth for absorbing liquids and to help keep the baby dry. They are available on Amazon for under $12.  See: http://tinyurl.com/zdqeq3n. The swaddle blankets from Aden + Anais are something that babies will dream of. They are available in a swaddle blanket, dream blanket, sleeping bag, and a security blanket.  They are extremely soft and come in a variety of colors.  They are available on Amazon at prices ranging from $7.95.  See: http://tinyurl.com/hyg9ghf

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Baby Products and the Asian American Baby Boom

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Have you noticed all the babies that are suddenly everywhere? We are currently seeing another Baby Boom very similar to the one that occurred after the Second World War. The difference is half of the babies born during this Baby Boom are minority children.  According to Census Bureau statistics there are approximately as many non-white babies being born in the United States as white children. Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing minority groups.  Asian Americans have accounted for 25 percent of the U.S. population gain during the last decade. In the future the number of Asian-Americans is expected to increase dramatically.  This increase is expected to be even greater than the increase of the Hispanic population.  Because of this the Asian American baby boom is not expected to end anytime soon.

The Asian American baby boom is now presenting significant opportunities to companies selling baby products. There are approximately 18 million Asian Americans living in the United States and they are currently concentrated in 19 U.S. cities.  Asian Americans are expected to contribute to at least 43% of the population growth of those cities. Diapers, baby food, baby clothes, baby shoes, baby toys, and other baby products are in high demand among Asian American parents. This is a very important target market for companies selling baby products because as a group Asian Americans are at the top of the socioeconomic ladder.  Identifying and catering to the needs of this key demographic group should be a top priority for baby product companies.

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Asianification of Skin Care

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Have you even wondered how Korean women maintain seemingly ageless skin? While shopping at an H-Mart Korean supermarket this weekend I went into the beauty products boutique and had an interesting conversation with two South Korean women about skin care. I was told that there is a major difference between the Korean and the western approach to beauty. Women in the west typically follow a three-step facial regime whereas in South Korea there are 10 different steps. I was then shown all of the products that are used in this typical 10-step approach. No wonder South Korea is increasingly regarded as the holy ground of skin care innovation.

South Korean women spend more of their money on cosmetics than those in any other country and spend twice as much of their income on beauty products as do their American counterparts. Because of this South Korea is at the forefront of research into new skincare products, and its exports of skincare products are soaring. In 2015 South Korea exported more than $2.6 billion in cosmetics. Two of the products at the forefront of global skin care, for example, are Korean face masks (often made from seaweed) and Korean face cream (often made from snail slime). If western women find it too time consuming and expensive to use 10 plus beauty products a day as they do in South Korea, cherry picking these products will still result in a noticeable difference in their skin.

Shopping for Korean skincare products in retail stores can currently be difficult unless you live in a city with a large Asian population. It is great to have a knowledgeable sales person explain the benefits of all of the different products and how to fit them into a daily skin care routine. You can, however, purchase a wide range of Korean skincare products online. I found many websites that sell beauty products from South Korea. Two of the best were www.imomoko.com and www.gmarket.com. Imomoko has a huge selection of masks and Gmarket has numerous skincare pads, creams and other products. Both sites are in multiple languages.

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Din Tai Fung Was a Special Treat in Seattle

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One of the highlights of my recent trip to Seattle was dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung dumpling restaurant. I have had dinner at this world famous restaurant in Shanghai and was delighted to learn that they were also in Seattle.  With its signature xiao long bao (soup dumplings) Din Tai Fung is ranked as one of the world’s Top 10 Best Restaurants by The New York Times.  The Shanghai Soup Dumplings are wonderful.  There are 10 of these tiny dumplings in each order and they come in the traditional bamboo steamers.  We ordered several steamers and they went fast.  They are not the cheapest dumplings around but the experience is well worth the money.

Everything about Din Tai Fung is unique, which is probably why this Taiwanese-based dumpling chain is so highly praised. You cannot make a reservation but they have set up a phone-based text message notification system that makes getting in easier.  While you are waiting you can watch the showmanship of Din Tai Fung’s chefs within the open concept kitchen.  Creating these miniature dumplings is not easy but these chefs, wearing their Din Tai Fung uniforms, make them with obvious precision and skill.  It is fun to watch. I really like the way the Din Tai Fung restaurants are decorated.  It is a very modern setting decked out in earthy tones and illuminated by lighting that creates a truly enjoyable dining experience.

Photo by Sarah Ackerman – http://tinyurl.com/h9g4g67

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Richmond BC versus Flushing NY

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Last week I had my first opportunity to visit Richmond BC located on Canada’s West Coast. I was anxious to compare this famous Chinese community to that of Flushing New York, which I visit frequently.  Richmond is 20 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, and 25 minutes from the US border. As I drove into Richmond the differences between Flushing and Richmond were immediately apparent.  Both cities have a huge Chinese population, which is obvious from the Chinese characters on many buildings and businesses.  Upon entering both cities you sort of feel like you are in China.  The difference, however, is Flushing is a walking city and Richmond is not.  Where you can walk most places in Flushing in minutes, Richmond is quite spread out and most people drive from one place to another.

Richmond’s downtown and waterfront areas are quite beautiful. There is even a new monorail, Canada Line rapid transit system, which reminded me of the modern monorail in Shanghai.  One of the highlights of my trip to Richmond was my visit to Aberdeen Center.  This is a modern mall that reminded me of some of the great malls in Shanghai and Beijing.  Most of the staff in the stores in these malls spoke Chinese and much of the merchandise catered to the Asian consumer.  There are also several interesting malls in Flushing but they are much smaller.  We had lunch at Dinesty Dumpling House within Aberdeen Center, which was a real treat.  I especially liked their Xiaolongbao soup dumplings with minced pork.  They were at least as good as those in my favorite restaurant Nan Xiang Dumpling House in Flushing.

Photo by Robert Ashworth – http://tinyurl.com/zm7qst9 

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