BEIJING, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) — The ongoing Spring Festival holiday is offering a great chance for overseas students in Beijing to taste China’s traditional culture.
Greg McCarthy from the United States, a second-year international politics master with Beijing Language and Culture University, has just returned to the capital from the annual ice and snow festival in Harbin.
He said in Chinese that the ice lanterns there were amazing. “I really admire the people who spent a long time in the freezing cold to make such exquisite works of art.”
With its outdoor temperature reaching minus 20 degrees Celsius, Harbin, the capital of northwest China’s Heilongjiang Province, is one of China’s coldest cities and the cradle of Chinese ice lanterns.
More than 2,000 ice sculptures are on display this year in Harbin’s Zhaolin Park, where visitors can also entertain themselves with skating and tasting traditional Chinese snacks such as sugar-coated haw.
For the majority of the university’s 300 foreign students who didn’t make it to Harbin, an excursion to Longqing Gorge in Yanqing, a suburb of Beijing, also shed light on China’s ice lantern culture.
Invented by farmers and fishermen across the freezing Songnen Plain in northwest China, ice lanterns represent the spartan life of ancient Chinese. By chiseling out a hole in an ice block, Chinese hid oil lamps in ice cubes to shield the flame from the windy night.
These days, the folk art has been developed into a lavish cultural event which attracts tens of millions of visitors to Harbin each year.
On the Eve of Lunar New Year, Jan. 30, McCarthy hung out with his Chinese friends to wrap dumplings and set off firecrackers.
“Chinese New Year is very interesting. Christmas is the most important holiday in the United States. But it is only one day. Here, the Spring Festival is longer and we have a lot of fun,” he said.
At Beijing Jiaotong University, nearly 50 foreign students from more than 20 countries celebrated the Year of Horse with their teachers by not only having dumplings together, but also singing Peking opera.
They also tried out Chinese calligraphy, using brushes to write Chinese couplets on red paper, a typical New Year decoration.
Ghanem Osman from Syria and Humberto Brito Santana from Cuba both said they missed their families back home and wished for an early reunion while wrapping dumplings with their teachers.
Surenjav Battulga and Oyunbat Nergui from Mongolia are both orphans and are studying at Jiaotong University on scholarships.
They said their classmates were their “brothers and sisters” and that China was where they “built their dreams.”