Today is Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year), but I celebrated it a few days ago at a church potluck. When I was there, I saw the Chinese character for "fortune" turned upside down. Even though my Chinese is really lame (ie, practically non-existent), I knew the character didn't look right. But this explanation from Taiwan made sense:
"Spring couplets are paper scrolls and squares inscribed with blessings and auspicious words, such as 'good fortune,' 'wealth,' 'longevity,' and 'springtime.' The paper squares are usually pasted upside down, because the Mandarin word for 'upside down,' dao, is a homonym of the word 'arrival.' Thus, the paper squares represent the 'arrival' of spring and the 'coming' of prosperous times."
So should we make more New Year's resolutions? I'd like to say mine is to make progress in Mandarin, but at this point, it seems more like an intellectual exercise, though I eavesdrop on Mandarin conversations to try to figure out if they're saying the few words that I know. I'm still reading Beginner's Chinese by Yong Ho, which is a great book, and have even broken out my copy of 実用中国語会話, (Jitsuyo Chugokugo Kaiwa--Practical Chinese Conversation) where each phrase is translated from Chinese into Japanese and English. But all the explanations of grammar, pronunciation, and other rules are in Japanese, so it's good practice for the Japanese Proficiency Test.
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