Chinese New Year History

It is unclear when the exact beginning of the New Year celebration in China is. Normally, it was said to start from the year end religious ceremony during the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC). A few believe that it started from as early as Emperor Yao and Shun (~2300 BC). At the beginning, the date of celebration varied from mid-winter to early spring. With the maturity of the solar base calendar, Emperor Wu (157 BC - 87 BC) of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220), established the first day of the first month as the beginning of the year, where it remains. The following is a brief list:

  • Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun (~ 2300 BC):
    small scale New Year celebration type of activities.
  • Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC):
    New Year celebration started from religious ceremony.
  • Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220):
    New Year celebration is official at the first day of the first month and crack bamboo appeared. (Crack bamboo will create loud cracking sound when put on fire. It is believed that the sound drives away evil.)
  • Wei Dynasty (220 - 265) and Jin Dynasty (265 - 420):
    Fireworks used in New Year celebration. The tradition of Shou Sui formed.
  • Song Dynasty (960 - 1279):
    Fireworks using gun powder began.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the "Year". The "Year" looks like an ox with a lion head and inhabits in the sea. At the night of New Year's Eve, the "Year" will come out to harm people, animals, and properties. Later, people found that the "Year" fears the color red, fire, and loud sounds. Therefore, for self-protection, people formed the habit of posting red Dui Lian in front of their house as well as launching fireworks, and hanging lanterns at year end.

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