02/05/2013 - 02/05/2013 82 °F
Guangzhou, with its subtropical climate, is known as the flower city of China. Every year right before the Chinese New Year, there are flower fairs of various sizes throughout the city. We went to a good sized one nearest to Zhexiong's apartment.
It felt like a beautiful summer day in Michigan, temperature in the low 80's and sunny. After a few days feeling inappropriately dressed and sweating, I finally broke down and opened the suitcase of summer clothes that I thought I would not need for at least a few more months. In our T-shirts and shorts, we were finally comfortable. The interesting thing is that you can spot my kids so easily in a crowd from how little they were wearing in comparison to the local population. Chinese really like to bundle their kids. The typical Chinese reaction to a sick kid is that s/he must have caught a cold. The word "cold" here really refers to the child being cold, either by not being sufficiently dressed or by not being sufficiently covered at night for the temperature. I can understand one's immune system can be weakened if the body temperature is particularly low, but still, 3 layers in 80 degree weather?
The flower fair we went to was set up on this giant piece of empty concrete land. Both the front and back entrance had huge popups that are red and gold, which are the colors for the New Year. In Chinese culture, red symbolizes happiness and is the classic color for weddings; gold symbolizes prosperity and wealth. The Chinese characters over the front gate read "Bai Yun (white cloud) Hua Shi(flower fair), 2013".
Two happy looking fake animals with gold YuanBo (one type of old currency of China before paper currency was introduced) on their tails guard the front entrance. As I looked at the kids posing under it, it dawned on me that they were supposed to be two snakes. 2013 is the year of the snake! Do they look like snakes to you?
Inside the gate, there is a traditional style lantern in the shape of a hexagon with Chinese style painting on the sides and strings of fake firecrackers hanging at the corners. Chinese New Year is not officially over until the 15th of January of the Lunar calendar. The 15th of January is the first holiday after the New Year's Day and it is called "Yuan Xiao". On this day, the traditional activity is to light the lanterns and appreciate them; the traditional food is called "Tang Yuan". "Tang Yuan" are small balls made of sweet rice flower with fillings such as sesame paste. Its round shape symbolizes "Tuan Yuan", which means family gather together.
The entrance would not be complete without live plants. We saw rows of mums line the big sign. As a matter of fact, mums of various sizes and colors are the flower for the new year in Guangzhou, as well as tangerine trees of various varieties. You can see them sold on the street everywhere in the city. The reason is that in Cantonese, the local dialect of Guangzhou, Mums and tangerines are both pronounced "Jv", which is also the pronounciation for the word that meant "good fortune". At least half of the fair was covered by mums and tangerine trees. People making purchases will hire a cart to send the plants home.
There are various live and fake flowers and plants being sold at the fair. The overriding theme is good fortune, good luck, smooth sail, all the wonderful things one can use in the new year.
Besides flowers, there are also New Year's decorations being sold at the fair as well as kids' play things. The decorations are just red, red and red. It is so much red clustered at one spot I actually felt discomfort in my eyes looking at them. Skyler and Ellie each got a big wind wheel, spinning and spinning in the wind that could also cause a headache if I stared at them too long.
As we leave the fair at the back entrance, we saw a guy dressed in the costume of "Cai Shen" (a god that brings money). Believe it or not, he was hired by a french wine shop to hand out red envelops to kids in the effort to attract attention to the shop. You have to admire the things people come up to promote their business! Each red envelop has one gold chocolate coin inside. Ellie was happy as she got two of them!
The day ended with us having dinner in the nearby shopping mall. The kids' fascination with escalators continued. They rode it up and down, up and down with their wind wheels in hand. It looked like a dangerous operation. The dinner at the restaurant on the third floor of the mall was so so. It is a restaurant called "ninety nine cents". Every dish in the restaurant has a price that ends with ninety nine cents. Smart, isn't it? The food featured are Shanxi style, which is a lot of flour based entries such as noodles and dumplings. The northern parts of China are known for eating a lot of flour based foods. Maybe I am from the south and is used to eating rice instead, I found the food not so exciting. What impressed me was the open kitchen just inside the entrance of the restaurant, watching the chief cutting noodles out from a giant piece of flour dough.