Chinese Celebratory Banners
I can’t really think what else to call these things simply because I can’t find any reference to them in any of my books, but one thing is certain, whenever there is any sort of celebration in Hong Kong – from the large Da Jiu festivals to the simple (but rarely humble) opening of a new shop – these brightly coloured edifices sprout up and remain in place for the duration (and then some).
They vary greatly in size, from small versions placed in front of newly-opened shops to massive constructions placed on the front of temporary Cantonese Opera theatres built for large festivals such as Lunar New Year and Da Jiu/Tai Ping.
The first indication that one is being built is the appearance of bamboo scaffolding. People are often surprised when they come to Hong Kong for the first time (I know I was) to see bamboo in such extensive use on massive construction projects. In fact even after 4 years here the only time I have seen metal scaffolding is during the renovation of, specifically, C.L.P (China Light and Power) premises – weird, but there you go.
Bamboo use doesn’t stop here, it’s also used for all manner of minor structures and as placeholders for these extravagantly decorated banners. I’m sure they have a Chinese name but I can’t for the life of me find out what it is, I think I may just have to ask the man on the street.
The picture below is of a banner erected in front of a newly opened shop BBQ meat shop in Tai Po Market.
Note the bird at the top centre. Is it a peacock or a phoenix? Perhaps the latter because the phoenix is a very important creature in Chinese culture and when displayed in conjunction with a dragon (see the columns at the side) signifies the balance between yin and yang. The phoenix represents Yin and only appears in times of peace and prosperity and is also the symbol for beauty and creativity. Perhaps the general good vibes associated with these two are there to influence the success of the new venture? The dragon and phoenix are often used for this reason and can be seen most prominently at wedding banquets.
The Chinese writing at the top is announcing (and I think this is right) the opening of the new shop. Underneath is a two character saying (豐裕 Fung Yue) which means ‘abundance’ or affluence. I shall assume this is a standard good wish.
Underneath that we see 4 characters 燒味鮮肉 (Siu Mei Sin Yuk) which literally means ‘to cook the nice tasting fresh meat’. A good description of what this shop wants to do. The next line, too long to reproduce in Chinese here, sorry, seems to be some sort of special offer: 60 dollars for a catty (this is the Chinese equivalent of about 1lb or 0.5kg).
Unfortunately I have no idea what the rest says as I can’t read it, but perhaps some nice abiding Chinese reader can offer some suggestions. Finally at the bottom is another standard phrase 敬賀 (Ging Hor) which is a polite offering of congratulations. I wonder if this means the banner has been sponsored by someone outside of the business as a token. Well, who knows? I would love to find out more so if anyone knows where I can track this sort of information down I would be very appreciative.
Anyway, after that convoluted explanation here are some more examples of the festive banners. The next one is a massive one that adorned the opera tent at the 2008 Lam Tsuen Da Jiu festival.
Okay, strictly speaking this is many banners in a line, but its still impressive and you’ll notice some similarities with the one I have already talked about, especially the use of the dragon & phoenix and the set phrase 敬賀 at the bottom of each one. The Chinese is too numerous to explain in detail but basically the central vertical words are describing the festival name Tai Ping (the alternative name for the Da Jiu fetsival) and along the bottom above Ging Hor are what appears to be the names of sponsors. In particular the two on the right look to have been donated by the Hong Kong Branch of the Bank of China and the Asian office of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. So, I guess that might confirm the theory that donations are involved.
Moving on and I have another one for you, this time one that has been sitting outside the Tai Po District Rural Committee offices on Po Heung St for about the past 2 months.
Actually, due to current camera issues (don’t ask) I had to take this one with my super dooper 1 mega pixel camera phone and thus its a bit blurry. Suffice to say its still quite large and is a single banner although it looks to be celebrating some sort of honour for 3 members of the local committee, perhaps? The words in pink, in bunches of three are names. In fact one of them – the one on the far right, Lee Kwok Ying (英國李 reading right to left is pronounced Lei Gwok Ying) is a local politician for the D.A.B party. I wonder what honour he has got to get his name up there. Anyway, again a common theme for these banners with the seemingly ubiquitous phoenix and dragon and Ging Hor wish at the bottom.
I have no idea how much these things cost to construct but they obviously play an important role in the local Chinese culture for wishing people good luck or congratulations and the like. If anyone cxan help me find out more about them I would be most grateful. But until then here is some more pictures to keep you busy (all from 2008′s Lam Tsuen Da Jiu).
This entry was posted on January 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm and is filed under Cultural with tags banners, celebrations, da jiu, dragon, festivals, phoenix. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.