Development & Alumni Relations Office 



XIN NIAN KUAI LE - HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!  Happy Chinese Year of the Ox on black background

11 February 2021

The Development and Alumni Relations at Queen’s would like to wish all our Chinese graduates, students and University staff a very Happy New Year – Xin nian kuai le – and best wishes for the Year of the Ox!

Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Spring Festival or chunjie, is celebrated by more than 20% of the world’s population. Marking the end of the coldest days of winter, it is the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all around the globe.

Because the Spring Festival falls according to the lunar calendar there is no set date for Chinese New Year, so it can start anytime from January 21 to February 20. In 2021 it starts today – Friday 12 February – and ends with the Lantern Festival on 26 February.

Normally it is a time to celebrate, to visit friends and to gather for special meals with family members. This year, however, the pandemic has changed how those marking what is the most important festival in the Chinese calendar, will do so.

Chunjie is normally celebrated at Queen’s by the Chinese Lion Dance Society and by the Chinese Students’ Association (CSA). Throughout the year the CSA promotes Chinese traditional culture and during Spring Festival, members of the Chinese Lion Dance society usually make appearances on campus – and elsewhere in Belfast and around Northern Ireland – with marvellous dancing dragons and traditional Chinese music.

Bidding farewell to the Year of the Rat, 2021 welcomes in the Year of the Ox. It is the second of all Chinese zodiac animals and, according to astrologers, the Ox denotes the hard work, positivity and honesty that will be evident in us all in the next 12 months.

University links with China

Queen’s has well-established links with China going back over many years and our alumni have been making a major impact there since the University was founded. Sir Robert Hart, who graduated in 1853 at the age of 18, went on to become Inspector-General of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service. He also helped establish the country’s postal service, lighthouses, imperial navy and meteorological service.

We have many ties today with important Chinese colleges and institutions, including Shenzhen University, the Beijing Institute of Technology and the China Medical University in Shenyang, with which we set up China Queen’s College (CQC) in 2014.  

The CQC relationship alone will see over 1,000 Chinese students studying for Queen’s degrees in pharmaceutical science.

Collaborative agreements have also been signed with Shanghai Jiaotong University, Peking University and the Chinese Scholarship Council all of which build upon the University’s existing links in China, including the £2.3 million Science Bridge project.

Queen’s and Southeast University lead the UK-China University Consortium on Engineering Education and Research, which is aimed at building higher education links and helping to improve the quality of engineering research and teaching.

As part of the Consortium Queen’s has developed the Future Leadership and Innovation Academy which is now in its second year and has so far brought together 56 students from 18 different institutions across the UK and China.

Graduate activity

Among those celebrating Chinese New Year will be many of our 2,000+ alumni in China – the University’s biggest alumni network outside of the UK and Ireland. These graduates are primarily in finance, management and process engineering with numbers concentrated in Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai.

In November 2018 Queen’s launched a new China Alumni Association Group at an event in Shenzhen, which will keep Queen’s alumni in China in touch with each other and with the University. Earlier that year, one of our graduates in China Jerry Brown, BSc (Mechanical Engineering) 1982, PhD 1986, received the Chinese Government Friendship Award at a special ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing.

Jerry was presented with the medal by H E Liu He, Vice Premier of the State Council of The People's Republic of China and was also invited to meet the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, the following day.

All about Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is normally responsible for the greatest number of fireworks set off on one night, anywhere in the world. As in the myth about Nian, firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. People stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight and in the morning, more are used to welcome the New Year and good luck.

That same night, families also burn fake paper money and printed gold bars in honour of deceased loved ones.

The event also results in the largest human migration – known as chunyun – in the world. With the most important aspect of Chinese New Year being the family reunion, millions of Chinese people make an effort to return home for the New Year’s Eve dinner. This year, due to lockdown restrictions around the world, travel will be heavily reduced, though the traditional hanging of decorations and special dinners, and the setting off and watching of fireworks, will still enable celebrations to go with a bang.

The colour red features largely in celebration of the Chinese New Year as it too is believed to scare away monsters. New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and many people will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too. 

Children in China receive ‘lucky money’ in red envelopes – also called red packets or pockets – which is supposed to help transfer good fortune from older members of the family to younger children.

In addition to the Chinese greeting of Xin nian kuai le – a phrase that literally means Happy New Year – people in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions say Gong hei fat choy and in Mandarin Chinese, Gong xi fa cai meaning Congratulations may you attain greater wealth. And if you want to know how to say 'Happy New Year' in Chinese, take a look at our special video here.

Celebrating at Queen’s

From 12–26 February, the Language Centre at Queen’s will host a number of online events, details of which can be found here

Xin nian kuai le or, alternatively, Gong xi fa cai!

To submit graduate news items, or for general enquiries about this story, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast or telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

Photo credit: main photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash.

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