Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chinese Artifact

A teapot shaped like a Lotus Root -- red clay

Monday, January 30, 2006

Chinese Red and Dogs

copyright Monika Roleff 2006.

At the beginning of the year of the dog

Take me
to a far country
up the great river
into the ancient places

Take me
to a strong people
that I may learn the art
of survival

Teach me
to travel without luggage
so that I may learn a language
that lives for five thousand years
and still can be heard

A Chinese Alley

While relaxing on board the junk, on my way to the Isle of Ancestors, I thought about a place I visited so long ago. A place and a picture that is etched in my memory.

A Chinese Alley

While reflecting on this Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog, I recall, when living in San Francisco, how I used to prowl around Chinatown with a camera. Being, at that time, far less security conscious than I am now, I would seek out the alleys and odd corners—places that did not attract the tourists.

I did not see a soul that evening as I entered and prowled an alley where, when I stopped to listen, voices speaking in Chinese could be heard through open doors. I was a predator … my prey: images of a culture—a foreign culture embedded within this beautiful American city, in which I lived at the time.

I remember one image, one evening in particular. I entered an alley, one that would be typically thought of as a perfect setting for Tong War activity. Mind you, this was in the mid nineteen fifties, a long time ago. The blackened, uneven brick walls of buildings towered on each side, coming together at the top to keep the sunlight or moonlight at bay. A faded wooden sign hung over one of the doors—a message to those who could read the language. I could not understand its message, but I could appreciate it because of the artistry, the design of the Chinese written language.

Later, at home, when I processed the image in black and white, I was delighted to see that I had captured the essence of the place. It was a picture I treasured and kept safely for many, many years. Unfortunately, in a recent move, a batch of my pictures disappeared, my Chinese Alley image among them. I cannot go back and recapture what I saw that evening, because even if I could physically do so, I would consider it foolhardy. Our living in such a security minded world has, in my personal opinion, strangulated our desire for small adventures as it has our larger ones. Even if I summoned up the courage to enter that alley again, I don’t believe I could ever recapture the ambience of place that I did that evening so long ago.

Looking back from this place in time, I can, even without the picture in front of me, transport myself back to that timeless alley and experience again, all its sounds and smells. It is indeed a flicker of the magic lantern of my life—a life made up of thousands upon thousands of fleeting flickers that are stored away in the filing cabinet of my mind.

I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous Chinese Year of the Dog.

Coincidentally, I saw last evening on the news where they are teaching childen to speak and to write Chinese. This is happening in some of our schools. I hope more will take it up. The children seem to be delighted and are accepting the challenges of the language with enthusiasm. What better way to bring East and West together. I envy their opportunity.

January 28, 2006

Im not sure this fits in here if it doesn't please delete it
when I heard Chinise New year I thought of Dragons and masks
so for now I am going to post a mask i created this weekend


This directed Spring Cleaning
has us playing with attic dust --

but I wonder ...


Return to Dust

"and to dust ye shall return"
is never a dire prediction,
nor religious distinction
between one's body and spirit,
but a normative claim on creation.

Aye -- that noisome detritus --
accumulation of drifting motes
of fibers, skin and gristed earth
are proof that all is well -- alive;
the universe is of change, after all.

The same is true of thought, perhaps --
those nubile ideas and conceptions
which tumble about in mind and soul,
with jagged edge and random form
that scarcely fit in ordered minds.

These need be polished and cleaved
through interaction with others --
lubricated by social mores,
buffed by cherish and compassion
and chipped away by adversity.

But what then of the swirling dust?
Should it be ignored -- swept away,
or gathered as nurturing compost
to fill in cracks of loneliness
and cushion the shock of re-birthing.


I am not sure if I am late or early
I have just arrived by moonlight,
I look along the long jetty
where many Junks are birthed

The one I must travel on
has three sails
Brown or dark maroon in colour
Sails hand made with bamboo struts
Frail looking, but I presume we will travel
on seas that are calm

Especially to the Island of Ancestors
Where all is peaceful ,quiet and serene.
Meting with one who has gone before
One who has been to me
a person not easily forgotten.

Others are already on board
mostly females,except one in deep conversation
with others clustered around him
I knew who it was...Faucon,never one to
give up a trip like this ,reading poetry no doubt.

As the moon lit up the night sky
I only noticed how gentle the waves were
At the helm was our well known
Ferry Woman (The greatest woman navigator)

I think of past navigators ,written about
through history ...I don't remember a woman among them
But I could be enlightened by a history buff
I see a light, the moon was shining over the apple trees.
We all alight ,now on terra firma,
Some breathe gratefully ,not liking the sea
Me I love it, it is in my blood.

We all walk through a rock doorway ,torches lighting our way
No one there to tell us which way to go, but......
It seems a well worn path ,others have been this way,
many a foot has trodden thistrack on their journey,to meet
someone from the past ,someone who knows them and has meaning in their life
someone who they wan't to meet again,someone who will be glad
to meet with one from the other side
The side that still lives ,the side that has stories to tell.

As I walk with other travellers
down this lit passageway
A red glow ,although faint,seems to mark
the end of our journey
We will go our separate ways
Each to his own ..to...
meet that special one.
One who will not be surprised
to see us
They have the knowledge ,they took with them
on their last journey
They know all,see all and remember all
I am looking foward to meeting
with the one who went suddenly some 30 years ago
come this December 21st 2006

He will have much to advise me on
I must not let politics take over the conversation
His memories and beliefs were those of an optomist
Mine are ones of pessimism.
I don't wan't to argue
I want to hold him tight
Even though he was not a demonstraive man
Except with his grandchildren .

We will face all this when we meet

Lois (Muse of the Sea) 30.1.06


I hear tell
it is the Chinese New Year

I hear tell it is
The Year of the Dog,
A Fire Red Dog

Now unsure of what this means
I look to other's writings,
information is what I need

I could find rabbits
a creative dusting service
A man telling me that to touch the mind
is a form of love.

I could find creative spirits
making lanterns,collages,food delacies
Then up popped a story
of The Rat,The cat,The Tiger,
the Horse and on and on
Twelve in all
History tells us.

So now I know that it was
ordained (so to say)
by the Jade Emperor,who invited
all the animals to his

And that is how the special
years on the Chinese Calendar
came to be
Because he promised them so

Oh if only the world adhered
to promises made,
We would as one with the animals
in a place of tranquilty
living together in harmony

Oh such Joy
or just a dream
Or perhaps a mirage

Lois (Muse of the Sea) 30.1.06

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Tale from the Isle of Ancestors - Chinese "Gypsies"

The Hakka are called the Gypsies of China because they are migratory tribes, now scattered all over Asia and the rest of the world. Many Chinese scholars believe them to be descendents of the Han people who fled the Mongols during the Yuan dynasty.

The name Hakka means `sojourner’, and among the traits they have in common with European and Middle eastern Gypies are their fierce pride and strong belief in family.
In the 19th Century, the Hakka started to flee persecution in China and spread over the world. Hakka travelled as far as the USA and Australia where they continued to follow their own unique culture.

The women of Hakka were never subjected to restrictive Chinese customs such as foot-binding. The women were strong and self sufficient, able to work and fight along the men.

The Hakka did not live in mobile dwellings – they settled in the areas they moved to and built circular mud brick fort houses with three foot thick walls to protect themselves against the locals, who were often hostile to the sojourners. Each house would hold around 20 families, with a courtyard in the centre where they kept their livestock. The Hakka, a hard working people, built complex drainage systems so that the entire fort could be closed off and the families remain self sufficient when under siege.

The Hakka keenly observe Chinese New Year, and other festivals, practice ancestor worship, and love to sing their own complex folk songs. Song is very important to the Hakka, and they have a variety of styles of songs and singing for every ocassion. They have special dishes for Chinese New Year such as Fried Pork with fermented bean curd. In this two stage dish, the pork is first marinated, then deep fried. Then it is stewed with wild mushrooms. Like their songs, Hakka recipes are very complex.

Today, the widespread Hakka are in danger of losing their unique culture, so a website has been launched to help preserve Hakka customs and lore. The China based Hakka welcome tourists to their roundhouse villages such as Chu Xi, where 200 inhabitants all share the same surname.
One of their most popular crafts is paper umbrella that they make from oiled paper and bamboo. These are highly prized by tourists as local craftsmen can only make two a day.

The Lion Dance

It is Chinese New Year. The Year of the Dog. Students at my school get ready for their “Multicultural Show”. Today there are many different Asian groups performing. A Vietnamese fan dance. A Hmong dance. Pilipino jumping dance with the bamboo poles. And to start and finish it off is our school’s version of the Lion Dance. I hear the drums and cymbals. Bang! The lion dances proudly. Happy New Year! Gung hay fat choy!

I remember my first Chinese New Year Lion Dance. I was very small and it was very loud. The firecrackers scared me and the larger-than-life lion heads petrified me. We had gone to Chinatown with my aunt, uncle and cousins to see our first lion dance. I think I cried most of the time.

Several years later when I was in high school my friend Marilyn invited me to go with her and her family to Chinatown for the New Year’s celebrations and Lion Dance. Her family was Cantonese but welcomed me warmly to their celebration.

Chinatown was bustling with people. Old Chinese grandmothers scurrying to buy the last vegetable for their dinner. Tourists roaming the shops looking for bargains. Families wandering up and down Grant Avenue greeting friends and showing off their children. I remember we went first to the Chinese bakery my friend’s family owned and picked up a few more relatives. Then we wound around to a little side street to a restaurant probably owned by a family friend. Upstairs to the banquet hall. Large round tables with the biggest lazy susan’s I had ever seen. We sat as dish upon dish was brought to the table. Steam poured out from soups, noodles, meat and vegetable dishes, rice, and countless items I had never tasted.

We ate for what seemed like hours, loud banter and hushed murmurs. Chopsticks waving in the air to make a point. Babies crying and dishes dropping all added to the cacophony. But it was good then, warm and friendly, and I was having a ball.

Later we ventured outside among the crowds and squeezed into place to watch the famous Chinatown Lion Dancers. First we heard firecrackers, then drums and cymbals. Soon sparklers and lanterns came into view as the dancers wound their way amongst the crowd. Bang! The head reared up as the dancers held it high. Bang! Pop! The lion snaked along the street. More firecrackers and music seemed to come from all directions. The crisp night lit up with the celebration. The crowd cheered the dancers on as they gyrated to the ever changing music. Bang! Pop! We watched the procession as it wound down the street. Soon the dancers got swallowed up by the crowd and we only heard the drums and cymbals. Bang! A last firecracker near us exploded. People cheered as they wandered off to continue their Chinatown adventure. Happy New Year! Gung hay fat choy!

Ah Shiloh

Being 'elfish

We are taught,
and oft reminded,
that to think of oneself is wrong --
or at least viewed unkind,
especially to those who don't like
themselves very much.

Yet, in finality,
there is only thee
and divinity as you please --
ethereally sought without,
or profoundly found within,
perhaps the same.

So spend some time,
a musing each day.
on being 'elfish in perspect --
just prancing in 'joi de vie';
of proudly being your 'elf
in spite of all.

Magick will come,
you just wait and see,
though no one need know save thee --
for 'who you are' as 'elf
is grander than 'what you do'
seen 'elflessly.

My Chinese New Year

It wasn't just the vindictive gleam in the dentist's eye as he drilled with too much vicarious joy deep into my throbbing jaw. It was when he gleefully announced
" No Alcohol!"thrusting a packet of rock sized tablets into my hand, adding
" For two weeks!" that I decided then and there to return to Riversleigh as soon as possible.

However when I did make my way back, the whole manor was eerily quiet. No scones baking or secateurs clipping in the garden. My room was cool and welcoming with fresh flowers and a lavender candle burning. The crisp linen was a delight as always. The magic at work was a balm to my harassed and neglected soul. The lemon tree was well tended too. Pinned to it was a cryptic note..."Gone to China!"

The Faraway Tree was beckoning and I followed. The branches were rustling, seemingly urging me to hurry. Up up to the highest branches I scrambled, forgetting any pretext at caution or fear. No sign of friends old or new. Again, an eery absence. It was becoming cooler as I climbed higher and into a soft mist and head over heels into an explosion of intense light and sound.

Fireworks! Like a million tom thumbs the boys used to scare us with a lifetime ago. Catherine Wheels and wondrous streams of stars cascading from rockets propelled high above what I suddenly recognised as Hong Kong. Indeed I was in China, and I surmised it to be Chinese New Year.

I immersed myself in the cacophany of light and sound which extended long into the balmy evening. Following a Lion Dance wending its way around the foreshore, I found myself in a remote part of the Harbour. Junks were bobbing at anchor with tenders plying back and forth with passengers from the wharf. Not pausing for any rational consideration, I found myself in the junk of a beaming, dark haired ferry woman, whose equally dark haired toddler had the run of the boat along with a couple of straggly chickens. No one seemed to fear them falling into the suspiciously murky water.

We bobbed across the harbour, aided by a deceptively small outboard motor and soon left the mainland behind. We headed for a group of small islands, docking at an isolated jetty.
"Island of Ancestors" murmured my dark-haired captain, and bowing deeply handed me a stick of sandalwood incense.
"Be back" she added. "One hour".

Instinctively I clambered ashore. Alone. Sensing I was in a place where there was an interface with all those gone before me. With their own journeys of success and defeat. Knowing I could speak with one, ask one question. But Who? What Question? Perhaps great grandmother Kate., I mused. The tribulations she must have undergone coming to this antipodean land. In long skirts with crying babies some of whom she buried under an unfamiliar Southern Cross in a little cemetery at Stringybark Creek. Did she hurt then, I wondered. Or my own mother. Why she held herself aloof and withdrawn accessible only through an alcoholic haze. Did she hurt too perhaps?

The trees rustled as the only evidence of that other world so close to me. There was no feeling of conflict or sadness or tension. Only peace and restfulness after any anguish that had happened to be part of their earthly vigil. Some comfort in the face of the mystery I found myself in.

Time was ticking. Decision time. Not to be mine after all as out of nowhere materialised the tall figure of an ephemeral beauty unknown to me, who embraced me warmly. Whose eyes were soft and welcoming. I always notice eyes. No hint of coldness. No harshness in her demeanour.
No hesitation in her response to me.
" I am the ancestor who loved you into being from ages past" she said." The one who gave you curly blonde hair as a child and the strength and courage a Friday's child would need. I danced at your christening with good humour and joy to counterbalance the Irish melancholy that was your heritage too. And I am here to give you the answer to the question you haven't even formulated yet...Yes. You were loved. That is enough. Nothing else is of consequence. "

Inexplicably she handed me another stick of sandalwood incense and I in turn gave her the one the ferrywoman had given me.
"But I ask you to consider in return" she added. " Why doesn't it shine in your eyes?"
And she vanished.

The ferrywoman had returned and was ringing a bell urgently. To linger longer was to risk being left behind. I hastened back.She merely bowed deeply again in approval as I lit the incense and placed it in front of the little altar to her house gods, with ancient photos of her parents flickering in the dim light.

Back at the dock again I was immersed in the New Year rituals of cleansing and dancing and renewal and forgiving. And the light was shining in my eyes.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Journey to the Isle of Ancestors

The Journey to the Island of Ancestors

In this meditation, you will journey to meet an ancestor. Remember that an ancestor is a person from your past, who is no longer living, who has helped shape the person you are today; an ancestor may be a predecessor from your bloodline, a previous incarnation, a person who has given you a meaningful tradition or philosophical basis, such as an adopted relative, a teacher, a mentor. You will not choose who will appear to you and it may be someone you know or do not know. Now prepare for a journey. (Pause)

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You stand on quay in the Land of Chinese New Year. The night is clear; the waxing moon rises over your shoulder, and you hear the gentle rolling of water past the old junks that are lined up waiting to take lone travellers to the Isle of Ancestors.

You recognise the junk you must travel on.

Board the junk and meet the ferry woman who will carry you over the South China Sea to the Island of Ancestors. (Pause)

As you slowly head towards the island the water gently stirs. The full moon has provided a pathway and the Ferry Woman is an able navigator.

You see an island emerging before you. The ferry woman stops at the shore and you see a grove of apple trees. There is a moonlit path between the trees and you follow it. Ahead is a mound. In the centre of the side is a doorway made of two immense upright stones topped by a massive lintel. There are two torches burning at the door providing light for the entrance into a passageway. At the far end of the passage is a faint red glow. Proceed through a corridor inclining downward. (Pause)

You emerge into a shadowy great hall. In the centre is a hearth with the glowing embers of a fire. Seated before the fire facing away from you is a hooded figure. Across the hearth from this figure is a bench. You circle halfway around the hearth clockwise and sit facing the figure. This is one of your ancestors. Greet that person. (Pause)

You may now ask your ancestor one question. It may be about his/her contributions to your life or your family, it may be to clarify something about yourself, or about your future. (Pause) When you have finished, your ancestor gives you a token of help and guidance. (Pause)

In a fair exchange, your ancestor now asks you a question. Answer as best you can. (Pause) You find that you have a gift for your ancestor. Look at it and present it to your ancestor with thanks. (Pause)

Finish your circuit around the hearth, go behind the ancestor, and pass out of the mound and back along the path. (Pause)

Boarding the junk, you return to the Land of Chinese New Year as the first light of dawn breaks over the eastern horizon.

At your own pace, bring your experiences and token with you and share these on both the Isle of Ancestors and Land of Chinese New Year bloggers.

Wishing you a safe passage! May the spirit servants be with you!

The Enchantress

land of chinese new year

in the land of Chinese New Year
golden kumquat trees in abundance,
lining up the boulevards and parks around
interspersed with the elegant pussy willows,
with its furry fruits and bare brown zen like stems
flying dragons, so regal, majestic and splendourously scintillating,
circling around the skies, chasing after the pearls across the clouds
prancing lions, fearsome protectors & guardians of the people,
dancing and rejoicing with the big head dolls twirling and swirling around
fu dogs playing and tossing balls of prosperity along the streets,
bringing wealth & luck to all who pass by;
children in their finest silk, all dolled up, full of smile and joyous laughter
lighting up red fire crackers,
shouting & shrieking as they explode simulaneously
houses, all sparkling clean and decorous with bright red lanterns,
crysanthemum plants of yellow, red & orange flowers,
pussy willows in large chinese vases, mandarin oranges & peaches all in abundance,
Striking red banners hanging across the lintels, keeping the Nian monster at bay,
welcoming visitors near and afar, close & distant,
to renew acquaintances, friendships, and love,
to celebrate family togetherness and
to wish everybody
prosperity, health & long life

The Creative Dusting Service

"Contemplate how to undertake a thorough cleaning of your creative house, ready for the [Chinese] New Year. How will you decorate your house in preparation for the arrival of your Muse?"

Staring at the gold caligraphy on the small red square of parchment paper in my hand I pondered this new assignment from the Enchantress. The word magic came to mind.

"Magic," I muttered as I crossed the room to sit before my trusty new computer. "I wonder..."

Googling, I've found, gives you interesting results, sometimes completely unexpected ones at that. I typed in "magic dusting" and hit Enter, wondering if anything would show up. The first three or four pages revealed nothing out of the ordinary, only the urls for different cleaning and maid services. Very disappointing. Tamping down that emotion as well as the budding frustration I felt, I tried the fifth page, thinking that if its results were more of the same I'd try a different key phrase.

But three urls from the bottom I was stopped in my tracks, so to speak. There on the screen before my eyes, in blue hyperlink letters, was the title: "Creative Dusting Service." Below the link the brief description read:
    In need of a mental spring cleaning? Let our team of elves help revive your creativity by creatively dusting your cobwebs...
Intrigued I clicked the link to have a look. Beneath the logo was this advertisement:

Quirking both eyebrows I mouthed the word elves as I read the ad. Oookkaayy... I love fairy tales, legends and myths and the very thought of most things fantastic, such as elves, but really--elves making themselves this well-known to humans? In a menial capacity? And on the Internet to boot?

Surely this had to be a gimmick...but what if it wasn't? Chewing on my lower lip, I stared at the screen for several minutes as I debated. To call or not to call, that was the question. Rolling my chair over to the nightstand by my bed I snatched up the phone and dialed before I had time for second thoughts.

These are the beautiful new stamps issued by the Australian Post Office for the Year of the Dog. I couldn't resist buying this stamp sheet - the 12 stamps beach have a different zodiac animal on them. I think the background artwork is superb.

A Fitz of Attic Dust


The touch of love is never lonely,
though alone we must reach out and on –
fingertips yearning,
feather dusting the cobwebs
from cluttered attics
of identity and hidden fears.

We reach out to others in touch of mind,
and spirit and soft caress,
bridging isolation –
and spiritual death.

I am touched –
just by your being.

Spring Cleaning

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Images pass before me
as I sit in the humid stillness
that soaking rain has not washed away
If Soul Food vanished,
if my words disappeared
Would I be the same?
Same person I was

Stopping to question
attachments to material things
Do I need the things that surround me?
Who would I be
If I abandoned some of the things
To which I have become attached?

I look and wonder
who would I be?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Clean Sweeping - Inside and Out

While I was doing the inside --

The much needed rain --

Was doing the outside --

And the difference was becoming obvious.

copyright Monika Roleff 2006.

A Clean Heart

You say that the cleaning
Is moving the dust,
Moving it from one place to another.
I am looking at the dust
My heart is all clogged
My shoulders weighed down.
I am sweeping the dust
Right outside away from my heart.

My shoulders are free
My heart is a-singing.
The rain is pouring down and the air is so fresh.
Energy is there and new ideas are a-coming
A new year ahead,
The year of the Dog.

My dream is to be loyal
Loyal to myself
To keep my house clear
To allow my sweet muse
The space to create.


Happy New Year

A very Happy Chinese New Year to all

I am very much in tune with the Chinese New Year as our dear friends and ex neighbours of ten years are originally from Vietnam. This lovely family faithfully celebrated their Vietnamese New Year each year and we were privileged to be a part of those celebrations. The boys would tell us about the rituals that they undertook in preparation for the New Year. Now that they live elsewhere, we exchange presents, however I miss their friendly and welcoming outreach.

Year of the Wood Green Rabbit

It may be the Year of the Fire Red Dog, but I was born in the Year of the Wood Green Rabbit. Kinda fitting for this latest adventure at Riversleigh Manor I think. *smiles*

The Rabbit (Fourth Year or Sign)
"Rabbits fall under a most fortunate sign! Their sign is the emblem of long life and they possess the powers of the moon. Rabbits are very sensitive to beauty. They are gracious and soft-spoken. They are the diplomats and the peacemakers. They have a special interest for law, politics and diplomacy. Rabbits rather not be disturbed. They enjoy a tranquil life and love a quiet evening at home. Rabbits are reserved and very artistic. Sadly unlike the Ox, Rabbits start things with great interest, but hardly complete their project. They are thorough and good scholars. When Rabbits are moody, which is often, they will appear totally indifferent to the world.

"Rabbits are lucky in money matters and great at finding a bargain. They may look easy-going, but they are actually quite cunning! Being a strong-willed person, they go quietly but determinedly towards their goals. They don't like making waves and find other means to get their way.

"Rabbits are well-mannered and seldom use harsh words or foul language. Instead they cater to your every whim until they get their way. Before you know it, you have been won over! Although Rabbits appear slow at times, they are actually practicing caution. They read all the fine print before signing their names. Their uncanny abilities to correctly assess people and situations leave them quite conceited. Rabbits are considerate, understanding, warm, friendly, and easy to be with. They know how to relax.

"When everyone is rushing around, Rabbits remind you that there is still tomorrow. Their motto is "live and let live." Rabbits would never embarrass you in public and they know how to save face. If Rabbits can spare your feelings, they will. For this they are well-liked.

"Rabbits make few enemies and rarely get into serious trouble. No one is more understanding. Rabbits give you all the sympathy you need. Just don't expect them to go out and do battle for you. If the going gets too rough, Rabbits may make a quick exit. They can't stand suffering and misery. Rabbits are experts at passing the buck and may hedge over difficult issues. When they feel too threatened they are unpredictable. If you push them too far they will simply get rid of you! Rabbits were not born to be fighters. They have their own ways that are very effective. Having good sense they know how to take care of themselves. They protect their own environment from strife at all costs.

"Rabbits are good entertainers and hosts. They have good words to say about everyone. Although they often know more than they will say, they are discreet in their choice of friends. No matter what happens to Rabbits, they land on their feet and easily leap over obstacles in their path. Rabbits believe in themselves and are at peace within. They will find success and contentment.

"Rabbits and Sheep are often bosom friends. They are both trendy. And stand out fro the crowd for the way they dress. Rabbits try their best to get along with everyone, they detest any open resentment. Aside from the Sheep, the Rabbit's friends would consist of mainly Dogs or the Boars. However Horses and Tigers are what rabbits have to be wary of.

"The people who are born in the years below are born in the Year of the Rabbit:
1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011"

Cleaning - Ready to Welcome Creativity

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Gongs crash and firecrackers explode as a wily dragon brings in the New Year. The Chinese calendar dates back more than 4,600 years and the end of winter has been celebrated even longer.

As part of the the Chinese New Year celebration, people buy presents, decorations, special foods and new clothing. Railroad stations throughout China are filled with travelers who take their vacation days around New Year to return home for a family reunion.

Days before the New Year celebration, Chinese families are busy giving their home a thorough cleaning. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away bad luck and makes the house ready for good luck to enter. All brooms and dust pans are put away on New Year's Eve so good luck cannot be swept away.

Contemplate how to undertake a thorough cleaning of your creative house, ready for the New Year. How will you decorate your house in preperation for the arrival of your muse?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Riversleigh Manor is all abuzz and humming with activity. Of course, when isn't it? *laughs*

"There's a new land coming over the Faraway Tree," the Enchantress said to us at breakfast one recent morning. "The Land of the Chinese New Year!"

Her news was greeted with cheers and excitement, and almost immediately after our meal preparations for the Chinese New Year commenced amidst much visiting, laughter and storytelling. Paper lanterns and other crafts were made. Stories took root in fertile, creative minds, and over the next week or two will have been shared with an appreciative audience.

"It's the Year of the Fire Red Dog," I overheard one of my fellow adventurers say to another as I made my way thoughtfully down the long corridor leading to the attic stairs and my garret room.

Hmmm, I thought as I climbed the steep stairs, Fire Red Dog... What can I do for the New Year that represents the Dog? An image slowly formed and took shape in my mind. A pleased smile curved my lips, and once back in my room, seated before my computer, I began Googling images, the Chinese New Year and Paintshop Pro tutorials.

The morning and afternoon wore on as I continued working, only taking a break in between for the noon meal. Finally, after hours of tinkering, testing this or that to see what worked and looked best and deciding on how to put my work together, I sat back and beheld the end result.

Rolling my shoulders to release tension and the stiffness that had stolen into them while sitting at my computer, I stretched and stood up. "Yes, they will be pleased," I said out loud. "...I think."

I am ready for the New Year:

The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
A long, long time ago in China, the calendar years hadn't always been represented by animals. But one day the Jade Emperor decided to throw a party and invited all the animals. He promised the first 12 who came would have the years named after them.

The Rat, who heard the news spread it far and wide, yet when he came to his best friend, the Cat's, place he paused.

I'm one of the smallest animals and less favored, he thought to himself, if the Cat goes I won't stand much of a chance in being one of the 12!

So the Rat lied to his best friend, the Cat, and told him the party was in two days, when the Jade Emperor had really set it for the next day. The Cat was estatic, dancing for joy. A party! He loved parties, and to have a year in his honor, that would be a special treat! That night he had sweet dreams of the coming banquet and slept late into the morning, unaware of the animals (the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Ram, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Boar) gathering and going to the banquet being held in their honor.

The Rat rode on the Oxen's back all the way to the party, hopping down as his ride neared the emperor's palace. He raced the rest of the way to be the first to be greeted by the emperor. This is how the Rat claimed the first year of the zodiac and why the Cat wasn't included.

When the Cat found out he'd missed the party, he was furious and heartbroken. He'd been betrayed by whom he thought was his best friend, the Rat! This is why cats hate rats and chase them.

Ok, so the Zodiac story has a slant to it other than an impartiality to all their animals, but we now know why Cats chase Mice and their cousins! *winks*

Fortune Cookies

I did a search for Chinese New Year crafts and found
these fortune cookie decorations. These are two that
I have made this evening.They are made from felt
and each one contains a fortune, like the real thing.
The fortunes came from this website
that also has recipes to make your own
edible fortune cookies.

Chinese Horoscope

I've had this lying around for a while ..
just dogging it, I guess


Whatever you do, don't cheat!





1st. Get PEN and PAPER
Very important for good results.

1. On a blank sheet of paper,
WRITE NUMBERS 1 through 11
in a COLUMN on the LEFT.
2. BESIDE the NUMBERS 1 & 2,

3. BESIDE the NUMBERS 3 & 7,
(like FRIENDS or FAMILY...) next to 4, 5, & 6.

5. WRITE down FOUR SONG TITLES in 8, 9, 10, & 11
6. Finally,




3. THE PERSON YOU LIKE but your relationship CANNOT WORK is in

4. YOU CARE MOST about the PERSON you put in









I loved colouring these in today, so therapeutic.
Troy (my son was so impressed with the green and red
dragon, he asked if he could have it and frame it.
When I showed him the seadragon, he chose the
colours, so that he could have them both framed.
He is of course a dragon lover!

Green Dragon - Colouring In

Haven't had this much fun colouring in with textas

for ages, and took my mind off the heat wave. Also

decided to do an ancient tint on the same

pic which gives an interesting angle.

copyright Monika Roleff 2006.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Red Envelopes

Goddess of the Stove - For Jan

The Goddess of the Stove
A beautiful old woman
Clad in red garments
Hair knotted
On the top of her head
Charged with brewing medicines
seeking prolongation of life
a most noble aim

Worship this beautiful old woman
The Goddess of the Stove
Clad in red garments
Her hair delicately knotted
On the top of her head
Converting cinnabar
In to golden drinking vessels
The most noble of deeds

Give audience to
The Goddess of the Stove
A beautiful old woman
Clad simply in red
Hair twisted, knotted
On the top of her head
Plays music on warm pipes
Ripening millet amid frozen earth

Make due sacrifice
To the Goddess of the Stove
the immortals of Pengai
Living in the midst of the ocean
Make offerings to
The five sacred mountains
the four great rivers and
Give breath to immortal words

Chinese New Year

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On January 29 the Year of the Dog begins, taking over from the Year of the Rooster.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated as a spring festival in commemoration of the legend of Nia. Nia was supposed to be a huge wild animal which terrified towns and villages on winter evenings when it came looking for food. The people were frightened as they could think of no way of scaring the monster away. Then one day, someone hung a red cloth in a tall tree too dry. Nia, seeing the ominous red cloth looming against the sky, ran away in fear of its life. Everyone was so glad that they had found a means of keeping the monster away that they hung red cloth on the front door of each house. And since then Nia has never returned.

Legend has it that Lord Buddha ordered all the animals to come to him before he left the earth. Only twelve showed up! As a reward he named a year after each animal, in the order they arrived.The period begins with a symbolic spring-clean, debts are paid and preparations made for a fresh start to the New Year. Houses are decorated with lanterns and red paper strips with New Year poems are hung from the doors.

On their New Year's Eve, families gather together for a large 'unity dinner' which consists of more than ten dishes! New Year's greeting are painted on red paper and displayed on doors, cards are exchanged and there are big firework displays.

On the morning of New Year's Day, everyone gets up early, and the children find small red envelopes containing sweets or money under their pillows. Everyone greets eachother saying 'Kung Hoy Fat Choy' (Happy New Year).During the Lantern Festival, everywhere is decorated with a variety of different sixed lanterns and there is music and dancing in the streets. One special feature is the dragon dance, where a huge dragon head and body, supported by a team of dancers weaves its way around the streets collecting money from houses on its route.

Red is a lucky colour for Chinese people, so you'll see lots of red decorations, masks and artwork at New Year

Dragon Colouring Competition

The Dragon Colouring Competion is a favourite activity at Soul Food. The colouring sheets are amongst the most visited pages on the site. I am not really surprised because they are so lovely and detailed.

In preperation for the Land of Chinese New Year and Chinese New Year 2006 print off a copy of one, or both of the dragons and colour them. For added inspiration learn more about Ancient Chinese Dragons.

Post your entry here at the Land of Chinese New Year. Every entry will be a winner and each participants will be pleasantly surprised by what they receive as recognition of their efforts.

The Setting - Background Information

Chinese New Year conjures images of dragon dancing, firecrackers, the Lantern Festival, and hong bao (red packets filled with lucky money). Most non-Chinese are aware of the trappings of Chinese New Year but are unaware of the deeper significance and importance of the holiday.

Chinese New Year is very much a family holiday, as well as a time to celebrate the coming year and look back on the old. The festivities for Chinese New Year run for fifteen days and include the turning of the lunar year and dragon dancing of the Lantern Festival. In times past people took the entire time off work and stores were closed for the duration of festivities. This being impractical in today's world (especially when celebrating the New Year outside of China), Chinese New Year's festivities now usually take place in the evenings and on weekends.

When is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year usually falls between the twentieth of January and the twentieth of February. This is because the Chinese use a lunar calendar, rather then a solar calendar. Chinese New Year falls on the first new moon of the lunar year.

Preparing for the New Year
Like any other holiday, Chinese New Year requires some preparation. On the twentieth day of the twelfth moon (the last moon of the year), the house is given a careful cleaning in preparation for the New Year (a tradition known as "Sweeping the Grounds").

Dust is not swept out the door, because tradition has it a family member will also be swept out. Instead, dust is swept to the center of the house, and carried out through the back door.

On the 23rd day of the last moon, the family Kitchen God, or Zaowang, returns to Heaven to report on the family's behavior during the last year. On the evening of his departure, the family offers the Zaowang a feast of sweet, sticky food and honey, so he will be pleased and give a good report. And if the Kitchen God isn't pleased, the honey seals his mouth and prevents him from saying bad things.

The last few days of the old year are a flurry of preparation for the New Year—the family gets haircuts, prepares food, and fills hong bao with lucky money. All sharp items, such as knives and scissors, are safely stored away, to prevent the New Year's luck from being cut or severed. Food is prepared ahead of time, as the kitchen is not used in the first few days of the New Year (a practical tradition that ensures no one spends Chinese New Year cooking).

Chinese New Year Traditions
Chinese New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are exclusively family affairs. The closest Western equivalent would be Thanksgiving—no matter where family members are, everyone tries hard to be home for the holiday. If a family member cannot get home for Chinese New Year, a seat at the table is set for them to symbolize their presence. A dinner banquet is held on Chinese New Year's Eve and at midnight younger family members pay respect to their elders.

On Chinese New Year's Day, hong bao, or red packets, are presented to children and young family members. Each hong bao contains lucky money for the New Year. The amount of lucky money in the hong bao varies, but it must be an even amount (for instance, a hong bao may contain two dollars, eight dollars, or ten dollars, but never one or five dollars).

Throughout New Year's Day, the family is on their best behavior. Beginning the New Year with swearing, arguing, yelling, or breaking something is considered bad luck. Red is associated with good luck in Chinese tradition, so many people wear new red clothes during the celebrations.

Between New Year's Day and the Lantern Festival
Chinese New Year starts with New Year's Day and ends with the dragon dance of the Lantern Festival. In between are many occasions for giving hong bao, visiting friends, and other activities. While everyone looks forward to the dragon dance, during the days preceding it one can watch acrobats, skits and lion dances. Daily the smoke of firecrackers fills the air while the sound drives away any evil spirits that may be near.
  • Day One (Chinese New Year's Day): A family affair, when the gods of heaven and earth are welcomed into the house.
  • Day Two: Traditionally a day of prayer to the gods and ancestors.
  • Days Three and Four: Sons-in-law visit their parents-in-law to pay their respect.
  • Day Five: Families stay home to welcome the God of Wealth into the home. Visiting another person's home on this day is considered very unlucky for both the visitor and the host.
  • Days Six to Ten: A time to visit friends and family and present gifts of hong bao to younger children.
  • Day Seven: "Everybody's Birthday." According to Chinese tradition, everyone is one year older on the seventh day of the New Year, no matter where his or her birthday falls in the calendar.
  • Day Nine: A day of respect for the Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven.
  • Days Ten to Twelve: A time to host dinners for family and friends.
  • Day Thirteen: A day of recovery from the rich food eaten during the previous days. On this day simple foods such as rice congee are eaten.
  • Day Fourteen: Preparations are made for the Lantern Festival and dragon dance.
  • Day Fifteen: The Lantern Festival, and the culmination of Chinese New Year festivities.
The Dragon Dance and Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. It occurs on the first full moon of the year. Firecrackers and fireworks fill the air.

Traditionally, the community carried lanterns through the streets, following the dragon dance. Today elaborate paper lanterns and floats light the festival. In some cities streets are blocked off from traffic and lit by lanterns that create arches of light across the street for pedestrians to enjoy.

Street venders often have rice balls (yuanxiao or tangyuan) available for sale. These dumpling-type rice balls are made of rice flour and filled with either salty or sweet filling. Sweet filing ingredients include sugar, walnuts, flower petals, sesame, and bean paste. The salty yuanxiao may be filled with minced meat or spiced vegetables.

In addition to the millions of lanterns, people come to enjoy watching performers walking on stilts and skilled dancers performing the famed dragon dance.

The dragons used in the dances are elaborate constructions, usually made from bamboo, paper, and silk and are often over a hundred feet long. Drums, cymbals and gongs accompany the bobbing and weaving movements of the dragon. Manipulating a dragon or lion takes skill and strength. The dragon dance is not to be missed. Observers will often place hong bao into the dragon's mouth. This can be both a thrill and frightening for young children.

Going to Land of Chinese New Year

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They set off soon after breakfast. They hadn't let Silky or Moonface know that they were coming, but they felt sure they would be in the Tree.

They jumped over the ditch and made their way through the Whispering Wood till they came to the Faraway Tree. Heather whistled for the red squirrel to tell him to go and ask Moonface to send cushions down. But the red squirrel did not come.

"Bother said Monika" "Now we will have to climb up and it is so hot."

So they climbed. The Angry Pixie was sitting on her verandah talking to Chameleon. She waved and everyone was glad she had no ink or water to throw over them.

"Going to the Land of Chinese New Year" she called.

"Oh is the land of Chinese New Year there?"cried Heather. It sounds exciting. What is it like?

"Oh just Chinese New Year" said the Angry Pixie. But you can join in all the lantern and dragon festivals, sample fortune cookies, take tea leaf readings and this year, Silky said there is as special contest."

"What sort of contest?" asked Lois.

"Go and find out yourself' said the Pixie, sounding very cross all of a sudden.

They left the Angry Pixie with Chameleon, who soothed her again, and climbed up to Silky's house. But when they got there they found that it was shut. They went to Moonface's but dear me, his door was shut too. The old Saucepan Man was nowhere to be found and neither was Watzisname. Nobody was about.

"Bother" said Heather. "They must have gone to the Land of Chinese New Year. I do think they could have told us that the land had come."

"Do you really think we should go without Silky and Moonface to guide us?" asked Lois, sounding not very brave.

"It will be safe up there. It is only Chinese New Year. What could go wrong? Look, they have left some lanterns for us to take with us" said Heather, little realising what was in store and that they would even return to the Isle of Ancestors while they were there.

No wonder the Faraway Tree is all but deserted.