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Even a cursory look into the culinary delights of the Middle Kingdom will reveal countless references to Xiaolongbao. These bite sized delights, traditionally filled with pork and soup, are a must try on any China itinerary. Xiaolongbao are often, wrongly, called small dragon dumplings because of the middle sound “long” which means “dragon”. However, the written Chinese character makes it clear that this “long” is in fact, “steamer basket”, thus making them “small steamer basket dumplings”. They can also be called “tangbao” or “soup dumplings” because whatever the filling, pork, shrimp or crab, they always contain a delicious savoury soup that explodes in your mouth – or all over your clothes if you’re not careful!

 

Origins

While Shanghai is widely credited with creating these tasty treats, in fact there is some debate about their origins. Shanghainese will tell you that they originated in Nanxiang, on the outskirts of Shanghai in 1875, while Nanjingers would tell you that those creations were merely a copycat of the soup dumplings already frequently consumed in their fair city. Suzhou, a delightful city near Shanghai famous for its traditional gardens, also lays claim to their creation. The result of this is that three different styles of soup dumplings have emerged, each delicious in their own way.

 

Styles

The traditional Shanghai variety, in keeping with Shanghai taste, has a sweeter soup and a bigger meatball. Enjoyed with vinegar, sweetened with a little sugar and ginger, they are truly tuned to the Shanghainese palette.

The Nanjing Xiaolongbao have a wafer thin wrapper, through which you can see the soup hanging in the bottom of the dumpling. These require a delicate pinch with your chopsticks so as to avoid puncturing the skin and wasting the more savoury soup.

Then there’s Suzhou, where these dumplings are usually called “tangbao”, because they contain noticeably more soup. Suzhou went for a bigger dumpling all together, with more soup, a thicker skin and a more savoury flavour.

It’s difficult to choose a favourite as they’re each delicious in their own way.

 

How to eat

For those who are fully chopstick-competent, the traditional way of eating is to pick one up by the thick part at the top, dip it in vinegar and sit it in your spoon. Take a tiny bite out of the side of the dumpling and suck out the soup. The theory goes, the louder you slurp, the cooler the soup. Then dip the dumpling in the vinegar a second time and pop the whole thing in your mouth in one go.

For those too refined to slurp, punch a whole in the dumpling skin with a chopstick and tip the soup out into your spoon first.

 

How do they get the soup into the dumpling?

You might guess a syringe, pouring the soup in before it’s sealed, or some kind of steeping process. Actually it’s much simpler: first they boil up the pork skin for a long time until all the collagen-y goodness boils out (it’s collagen, so it must be good for you!), then that mixture is strained and allowed to set into a gelatin.  This gelatin is mixed in with the meat as a solid at room temperature, then when the dumplings are finally steamed the gelatin melts and creates the soup. Eat them while they’re hot or there’ll be no soup to be found!

 

Where to eat them

These tasty treats can be found all over Shanghai, and our carefully curated luxury China tours will introduce you to some of the best fine dining options. You can even drop by the famous Din Tai Fung, where you could try them filled with chocolate – not very traditional but fun nonetheless! Or for a more in depth sampling of these delectable buns alongside other tasty regional favourites, why not consider one of our evening food tours on offer?

 

– Kate is one of Imperial Tours’ China Hosts and a Shanghai resident.

 

Tomb Sweeping Festival, or Qingmingjie in Mandarin (pronounced Ching-ming-jair), is a three-day public holiday in China, making it the perfect time for a luxury China tour. Literally translating to the Pure Brightness festival, Qingmingjie is the day when people pay their respects to ancestors, traditionally by cleaning the graves and burning offerings. However, since this day usually falls on the 4th or 5th of April, the occasion is often used to mark the start of spring. Given the three day holiday, people may go on outings to enjoy the first hint of warmer weather, or even opt for domestic travel to another city, visiting the 5 Star offerings available in this fast developing luxury travel market.

 

Origins

Qingmingjie began over 2,500 years ago in the Zhou dynasty. Emperors and officials frequently held lavish ceremonies in honour of their ancestors, offering sacrifices and praying for a good harvest, health and prosperity. Over the years this morphed into the tradition of cleaning ancestors’ graves and burning food and paper, representing money, to bless them in the afterlife. The date of the festival, on the first day of the Qingming, or second, solar term, was fixed by Emperor Xuanzong, of the Tang dynasty, who decreed in 732AD that respect could only formally be paid at ancestors’ graves on this day. It’s a tradition since respected by officials and commoners alike.

 

Practices

Traditionally, Qingmingjie was the day when families would go together to the grave of their ancestors. They would spend the day digging up weeds, adding fresh soil and perhaps sticking willow branches, flowers or plastic plants on the tomb. They would also leave offerings of food and tea, or wine, as well as burning incense or artificial paper money, as it is believed that burning such things at a grave makes them available for use in the afterlife. They would also pray to their ancestors and ask them to watch over and bless the family.

If visiting friends or neighbours during this time, you’re likely to see willow branches hanging next to front doors to ward off evil spirits, which are thought to wander during Qingming. The use of willows specifically is homage to the Buddhist Goddess, Guanyin, who is usually depicted with a willow branch and a vase of sweet dew to banish demons. Guanyin also inspires the popular Hong Kong dessert, Yangzhiganlu (杨枝甘露), a feature of our popular food tour in Shanghai, as the sweetened coconut milk and sago in the dish represent the sweet dew and the willow branches.

Kite flying is also an important tradition of Qingmingjie. Young and old alike will often take to the park to fly kites with lanterns tied to the strings in the belief that this can bring good luck. Sometimes the kite strings will be cut, to allow the kite to fly free. Kites can even be seen flying into the evenings when the lanterns on the strings can appear like stars or fireflies dancing in the night sky. A fun activity for those travelling with children. Since the festival is marked by a three-day national holiday (actually just one day plus the weekends, as explained here), nowadays people often take the chance to celebrate the beginning of spring by taking a short trip out of the cities, or visiting parks and gardens to get glimpse at the emerging spring blossoms.

 

Food

incense burning

The most traditional food, which you’ll see everywhere in the weeks leading up to Qingmingjie, is undoubtedly the Qingtuan, literally meaniing “green ball”, and that is exactly what it looks like! A sticky, sweet, almost luminous green ball of paste wrapped in clingfilm and much tastier than the description would have you believe! The outside, green part is made of glutinous rice mixed with vegetable juice to produce the colour. Then inside is a sweetened red bean paste, which can sometimes be a bit of an acquired taste to the Western palette, but is a staple in many far eastern countries. The qingtuan is then eaten directly out of the clingfilm covering as a tasty sweet treat. Originally, Qingtuan were eaten on the “Cold Food Festival”, which was usually one day before Qingmingjie. However, over time, these festivals have merged together, and very few places now celebrate the two separately. Thus, the vast majority of people will tell you that Qingtuan are a traditional Qingmingjie snack.

Either way, if you’re visiting China in late March or early April, the Qingtuan really have to be tried! A food tour makes the perfect way to spend an evening on your luxury China tour, giving you an ideal opportunity to sample these special treats.

 

Thoughts on Qingmingjie

“I’m personally an atheist, but the concept of having a day to visit the family graveyard appears valuable to me, because I think sometimes it’s the living one that need to feel connected to a ‘root’.” -Sonia, 29

 

On Your Visit

April is a wonderful time for a China tour, with the weather becoming pleasantly warm across the whole country. Many cities on your luxury travel itinerary will include the option to visit Buddhist or Taoist temples, where you can see, and even participate in, the practice of burning incense sticks. Traditionally three incense sticks are lit and held during prayer and this incense is available to buy near the entrance to most temples. The Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou is particularly special, since just outside it is a long promenade with caves containing statues of many different Buddhas carved into the rock. A rare and impressive site! It’s also joined to the luxurious Aman hotel, offering indulgent massages and spa treatments after a long day’s touring.

As you visit Shanghai, keep your eyes open in the markets of Yu Gardens too, as you may see some of the paper money to be offered as a sacrifice available to buy. An unusual and poignant souvenir for those wishing to tell stories of the cultural tradition of Qingmingjie on their return home.

Mainland China has six main holidays every year in addition to New Years on January 1st which it celebrates in tandem with the rest of the world. The majority of China’s festivals follow the Lunar calendar and are based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases. Of the six holidays, two are labeled “Golden Week” holidays because they last seven consecutive days.  The others comprise of one day holiday. 

In practice, a unique feature of mainland Chinese holidays that differs from other countries is that weekends are usually substituted with weekdays next to the actual holiday so as to create a longer 7-day “holiday” period when in actual fact workers only get three days off. It is therefore common for staff working in Chinese companies to work during weekends to make up for this. For example, if the 3 days holiday lands from a Monday to Wednesday, the government will give everyone Thursday and Friday off as well, which added to a weekend equals to seven consecutive days off.  However, workers will need to work the weekend prior.

Below is a recap of China’s holidays, as well as advice for what which you’ll want to avoid when planning a private luxury tour with Imperial Tours. Note that Hong Kong and Macau observe slightly different holiday schedules, with some festivals inherited from their respective colonial days.

 

Spring Festival “Chun Jie” 

Also known as Chinese New Year, Spring Festival is one of the most festive holidays in Chinese culture when families gather in the ritual of reunification to send off the old year and greet the new one.  Typically an indulgent meal is prepared on New Year’s Eve that includes staples such as dumplings, noodles and fish which are symbolic of longevity.  Red clothing is worn, couplets with good wishes adorn doorways, red packets of money are distributed to children, and over the course of the holiday fire crackers are set off to ward off evil spirits (though in recent years the government has limited this due to noise pollution and safety). Spring Festival is one of two ‘Golden Weeks’ where an official “7-day” holiday encourages much of the population to return home, thereby marking the planet’s largest annual human migration with roughly 3 billion passenger journeys taking place, straining transport routes and quite literally reducing the world’s largest economy to a shuddering halt. 

Is this a good time to travel?  Although temperatures are cold at this time of year, as long as one packs appropriate cold-weather gear and is prepared, it’s a good time to visit China because tourist sites tend to be less crowded.

 

Tomb Sweeping Festival “Qing Ming Jie

incense burning

As its name indicates, this holiday commemorates and shows respect to ancestors. Relatives visit graves, offer food, tea or wine to the deceased, burning incense and offering joss paper (representing money … because one still needs cash in the afterlife).  Observed by the Han Chinese, families travel to ancestral burial sites to sweep tombs, remove weeds and add fresh soil.  Qing Ming Jie was not ‘officially’ celebrated as a day off in the PRC until about a decade ago.  When the communist government took power in 1949, they scrapped traditional holidays from their calendar but when China’s May Holiday Golden Week was scaled back in 2007, three traditional holidays were brought back: Qing Ming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival (more on all these holidays as you read on).

Is this a good time to travel?  Since this is a short holiday, it’s generally fine to travel during this holiday.  We might advise that you avoid certain cities where roadways can become congested and affect touring such as in Hangzhou.

 

May Day “Wu Yi Jie”

The literal translation for “Wu Yi Jie” is May 1st Holiday.  Like many other countries, China celebrates May Day to commemorate its workforce.   It was officially established and approved as a holiday by the Chinese government in 1949 following the formation of the Peoples Republic of China. During the Cultural Revolution, this day carried political significance and was considered one of the most important holidays in the country and lasted 7 days. At the time, nationalistic rallies and demonstrations were organized to celebrate its workers, however, today the nature of the holiday has evolved, lending to a more cheerful and casual family holiday with just one day off.  As mentioned earlier, in 2007 they reduced this holiday to one day therefore freeing days to dedicate to other holidays.

Is this a good time to travel?  Yes, generally a good time with ideal weather in most destinations.

 

Dragon Boat Festival “Duan Wu Jie”

Dragon Boat

This festivity takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar usually falling in June.  Although legendary origins of the Dragon Boat festival vary regionally with an over-arching theme of water-related tragedies, they all carry traditions in Chinese culture such as virtue, spirit, loyalty, honor and love.  Dragon Boat Racing is the highlight of this holiday with spectators swarming to watch teams competing in wooden boats shaped and decorated in the form of the dragon and manned by 30 to 60 people paddling harmoniously and swiftly to the sound of beating drums.  Hong Kong and Hangzhou are where the most lively dragon boat racing spectacles can be enjoyed. 

Is this a good time to travel?  Yes, it’s a good time and if you are in the right city, you’ll be able to catch some Dragon Boat races. 

 

Mid Autumn Festival “Zhong Qiu Jie”

Moon cake

Several varying myths surround the genesis of the Mid Autumn Festival.  According to one legend, the moon goddess Chang’e overindulged on an elixir and flew to the moon with her rabbit companion. Another tale says that Chinese emperors in the Zhou dynasty (1045-221 BC) worshipped the moon to bring a bumper harvest the following year.  Whatever origin one might believe, this festival is marked by not only distributing moon cakes to family members and colleagues, but also eating them, of course. The densely packed pastries often presented in gorgeous packaging traditionally come with all sorts of fillings such as salty egg yolk (perhaps an acquired taste?), lotus, red been or date paste. Now with a bit of creativity it’s rather common to find moon cakes filled with butterscotch, ice cream or chocolate!

Is this a good time to travel?  Yes, very good weather at this time of year.

 

National Holiday “Guo Qing Jie”

On October 1st 1949, in front of a crowd of 300,000 people in Tiananmen Square Chairman Mao declared the People Republic of China’s National Day.  Called guoqqingjie, the ‘Golden Week’ holiday celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China by the Communist Party.  Large-scale military displays and parades are held to mark major anniversaries; the last impressive military display took place for the seventieth anniversary of the PRC founding in 2019 resulting in road closures in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Is this a good time to travel?  If you can avoid it, it is advisable not to travel domestically during the week around October 1st. Since it is a popular time for domestic tourists to see the country, tourist sites are packed with local travelers.

 

(These are the official 2020 dates released by the China State Deparment)

 

– Nadia is one of Imperial Tours’ itinerary designers.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2017

Contact:   Jacqueline Soto, 480-430-7511, Jacqueline@slentertainment.com

Guy Rubin, +86 10 8440 7162 guy@imperialtours.net

 

 

IMPERIAL TOURS GREAT WALL PRIVATE BANQUET RECOGNIZED AMONG TOP TRAVEL EXPERIENCES

   

Scottsdale, AZ – An experience offered by Imperial Tours was recognized as one of the top experiential travel offerings at the inaugural CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25, a first-of-its-kind travel initiative that annually lists the top 25 travel experiences or products throughout the world. The winners were announced in a special interactive event at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on August 13 in front of leading travel professionals.

Chad Clark, principal and owner of Chad Clark Travel Ventures, is a travel industry expert and self-described, “experience junkie,” who has spent years seeking out top-of-the-line travel experiences and services. Now, he is providing a platform for the best in travel to share theirs.

Clark aims to set the industry standard for luxury travel with the inauguration of the CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25, an elite list of the world’s most prestigious, authentic and unique travel experiences or products. Great Wall Private Banquet was among the first recipients of this prestigious honor.

“We are humbled and overwhelmed by the immense number of submissions we received from travel providers across the globe,” said Clark. “It is an honor and a thrill to unveil the very best in luxury travel through the CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25. This initiative provides travel suppliers with an opportunity to have their premium experiences recognized and promoted in an innovative way, while simultaneously connecting travel advisors, and ultimately travelers themselves, with exclusive, thoroughly vetted travel experiences that have an industry seal of approval.”

 

About the Great Wall Banquet

When we hear these days of the daunting logistical and financial challenges of building a wall across the southern border of the US, it brings home the magnificent achievement of the Chinese in resolving exactly these issues many centuries before as they built successive fortifications across their northern frontier to protect their agricultural heartlands from aggressive nomadic invaders from the north. These fortifications are known to us today as the Great Wall of China. The incredible experience we are presenting is the opportunity to walk the Great Wall with the British conservationist who was instrumental in developing the law to protect it, and then to enjoy a white linen banquet in a guard tower.

What astounds visitors about the Ming dynasty Great Wall (1368-1644) is its surprising beauty. Whereas the sections closest to Beijing are the largest with the most tourists, more remote sections benefit from fewer visitors and less renovation. The centuries-old 5 meter high “wild wall” – as conservationist William Lindesay calls it – these days does not dominate its surrounding landscape so much as delineate, define and embellish it. William will introduce his thirty year association with the Great Wall, starting with being the first foreigner ever to walk its entire length, to now when he is known through China as the Guardian of the Wall. After a thorough introduction to his efforts to improve its conservation, you will be taken to a remote spot to enjoy a remarkable banquet on the Great Wall of China.

 

About Chad Clark Travel Ventures

A self-proclaimed “experience junkie,” Clark gave up corporate life to follow his love for food, wine, culture, destinations, a.k.a. extraordinary travel experiences, and turn it into a business that helps people make the absolute most of their most precious commodity – their time.

Whether traveling with friends, family or alone on a research trip, Clark is all about the experience – and when he finds one he is passionate about, he just has to share it with his clients and friends. He and his company have the contacts, relationships and dedication necessary to ensure his clients have the best possible experiences. Clark has dedicated his life to travel and is amassing an ever-growing “Experience Journal” that he shares online through social media. Viewers can follow Clark through Rome, Sydney, Paris and even in his own backyard golfing in Scottsdale, Arizona. Clark and his team are committed to sampling, connecting, building relationships and, in essence, helping his clients live their next big adventure.

Chad Clark Travel Ventures works with people who recognize that the types of trips they want require more than time and planning – they require knowledge, experience and connections, all of which Clark and his team can provide.

Chad Clark Travel Ventures, an independent affiliate of Camelback Odyssey Travel – a Virtuoso® Member.

For more information on CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25, please visit www.chadclarkcertified.com.

Wolfgang Puck, the famous Austrian-born American chef and restaurateur has brought his acclaimed American casual dining concepts to China for the first time. Wolfgang’s new hot spot is perfectly situated in the hip and affluent shopping and eating district of Xintiandi in Shanghai. And as there was a new celebrity chef restaurant in Shanghai, my friend and I felt obliged to experience it first hand. The outside of the restaurant was inviting with a soft gray brick exterior contrasting with rich wooden doors and flowing metal vines swirling through the windows. Walking in, we found the restaurant was quite full, with over two thirds of the place filled up. The décor inside made use of natural materials to deliver a modern atmosphere with a casual and elegant feel. Wood floors, soft leather chairs, granite tabletops and exposed light fixtures exuded a warm and urban atmosphere. This minimalist concept created an elegant and casual feel, which extended to the seating area on the terrace. Since it was a beautiful spring day in Shanghai, we opted for a table outside. As we took our seats on the terrace we decided it was the perfect spot to watch the world go by on a Saturday afternoon as friends, couples and families made their way through the streets with parcels in hand and smiles on their faces. After we had settled into our seats a server immediately came over with a menu. The western style menu was not overly extensive, but it had something to satisfy everyone’s tastes. The menu featured some of Wolfgang’s signature dishes such as handmade pizzas as well as a selection of salads, steaks, roast chickens, seafood dishes, pasta and the best part – desserts. The price range of each item on the menu fell between the range of $15 for a salad to around $45 for a steak.

Wolfgang Puck Shanghai Interior

Urban interior décor 

After going over the menu and discussing the pros and cons of each dish and what we were in the mood for, my companion opted for the Roasted Sea Bass accompanied by garlic spinach & charred lemon, while I decided on the Garlic & Herb Marinated Half Chicken with rosemary jus sauce. In addition to our mains we decided to share the Shrimp ‘Louie’ marinated in a tomato sauce as an appetizer and the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée with seasonal fruit for dessert. Following a casual catch up conversation our appetizer arrived. The Shrimp Louie turned out to be an excellent choice and a good portion to share between the two of us. Conversation ceased as we both tucked into the dish, agreeing we had made the right decision with the shrimp. After the remains of our starter were cleared away my companion and I continued to catch up on the happenings of our day-to-day lives while enjoying the lively atmosphere of Xintiandi’s pedestrian street. Xintiandi is one of the most popular shopping areas for young and well-to-do Shanghainese and foreigners alike so there is always something to see, do or eat.

  Herb & Garlic Chicken

Garlic & Herb Marinated Half Chicken

Our food arrived in good time and when it did we discovered it had been a wise decision to share both the appetizer and dessert, as the portion size of our mains was huge. Although the bar & grill had a European meets Asia flair the portion sizes were certainly American. Our two mains could have easily fed a family of four. Never one to complain about too much of a good thing, my companion diligently began to eat her fish, while I endeavored to enjoy my chicken. After a chatty pre-meal conversation, silence ensued as we attempted to tackle our mains, that is until about half way through eating when I glanced up at my friend and in a defeatist tone admitted: “I don’t think I can finish this.” Looking up bemused, with a smile on her face she joked, “I don’t blame you. When it arrived I wasn’t sure whether you would eat the chicken or the chicken eat you!”

Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill Creme Brûlée

Créme Brûlée 

By the time our Crème Brûlée arrived we were already full, but of course we had to try it. Like the other items we ordered the serving was quite large, presented in a dish the size of a soup bowl. With its golden-brown crust and vanilla-coloured crème hidden beneath, it looked too good not to try. Although rather sweet for my taste the Crème Brûlée had the perfect balance of crispiness and vanilla bean crème, it was absolutely delightful. I am not ashamed to admit that we finished the entirety of our dessert. At the end of it all both my companion and I were bursting! The bill for the two of us ended up being USD$120, without ordering drinks. Overall, our food was good. The star of the meal was the Crème Brûlée followed by the Shrimp Louie. Our mains were satisfactory, the chicken wasn’t too dry and the roasted bass was also well prepared, although nothing to write home about. However, it was the sheer size of the portions that was a bit intimidating and left the biggest impression. Overall, it seemed like a good place for families, as the menu had a large selection of child friendly options. The atmosphere was very family friendly as well – relaxed casual environment where parents and kids alike could relax and enjoy a good meal.

– Restaurant was reviewed by Lotus Qi, China Host at Imperial Tours. 

 

Learn more about Imperial Tours’ unique culinary experiences here.

 

The Year of the Rooster

Chinese New Year, also referred to as Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, is the biggest and most important holiday in China. In terms of significance in Chinese culture the Lunar New Year is comparable to combining Thanksgiving and Christmas together. We have assembled some traditions and facts behind one of the world’s largest celebrations to provide a better understanding of this holiday. We have also put together some useful travel tips should you wish to experience this festival first hand.  

How the Celebrations Began

The tradition of Chinese New Year is said to have started thousands of years ago when, at the end of a cold and hard winter, a mythical beast called Nian would storm into Chinese villages and devour all the men, women and children residing there. Full of fear and with no means to defend themselves the villagers would hide in the surrounding bamboo forests to wait out the night and the wrath of the beast. Until one year, tired of hiding, a brave old man decided to face the beast alone. In preparation for his fateful encounter, the old man hung up red flags and banners; he then cut fresh bamboo to light a fire. Once on fire the green bamboo created such loud cracking sounds that the monster, upon hearing the noise and seeing the many red colors, was scared away. And so as legend goes, from that day on people no longer had to fear the beast. Advancing forward thousands of years, it is now tradition that at the end of winter people across China gather together to celebrate, hang red banners and lanterns, wear red clothing and light firecrackers.

Red Lanters at Chinese New Year

Red Lanterns in Beijing at Chinese New Year/span>

About the New Year

Chinese New Year is a 15-day celebration following the lunar calendar, this means that the date of the holiday changes each year. Generally, Chinese New Year falls between the end of January and the beginning of February. In 2017, January 28th was the first day of the New Year, marking the beginning of the year of the Rooster. Outside China countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore also recognize and celebrate the festival. Chinese New Year is actually the biggest migration on earth. Over the holiday there are an estimated 650 million people traveling, either throughout China or overseas to visit friends and family. Much like Christmas and Thanksgiving, in Chinese culture over the Lunar New Year it is customary for families to spend time together. For those individuals who have have moved into bigger centers, such as Beijing or Shanghai for work or study, the New Year festival is a time to travel home. For many people, this is the only time of year when they will have time to reunite with their families. Officially, this mass migration begins two weeks before New Years Eve and ends two weeks after; this transport period is referred to as Chun Yun. The Chinese New Year festival is also responsible for the largest television broadcast in the world. Since 1983, CCTV (China Central Television broadcasting company) has hosted a lavish six-hour Spring Festival Gala. The gala is called Chun Wan and is essentially a variety show featuring traditional Chinese performances showcasing China’s vast culture and history. With approximately 800 million viewers, this is the largest entertainment show broadcast globally. Since its origin, Chinese New Year has evolved to incorporate new customs and traditions, which can vary from place to place and family to family. However there are some universal traditions that the majority of those celebrating Chinese New Year recognize. We have created a list of seven common customs followed during the New Year festival.

  Chinese New Year 2017

 

Traditional Chinese New Year Customs

Spring-Cleaning

Several days before the Lunar New Year is set to commence it is customary to perform a spring-cleaning of your home to sweep any ill fortune away. This is also the time to stock up on snacks and food to prepare for the festivities, much like what happens in the days prior to Christmas. This preparation is important as during Chinese New Year it is believed that one should do as little work as possible. It is also considered bad luck to use a knife, light a fire or even use a broom on the first day of the New Lunar Year.

Traditional Red Clothing & Decorations

In line with tradition, at Chinese New Year it is customary to decorate your home with traditional red lanterns and red banners. Across China red banners with auspicious poems written on them are hung outside doors to bring good fortune, wealth, happiness and longevity. In ancient China, New Year was also typically the time when people bought or traded for new clothing. In present-day China, it is customary to buy and wear red clothing, even underwear during this period.

Family Gatherings

It is traditional on New Years Eve for the family to congregate at the husband’s family home, then, on the second day of the New Year, the family would go to their maternal relatives for a visit and celebration. However, during the Lunar Festival the theme is generally ‘the more the merrier’ and generally distant relatives will gather together to celebrate regardless of family ties.

Lucky Foods

Symbolism in China is of utmost importance; even the food that is served and consumed during the New Year festival holds significance. Traditionally, fish is eaten for the New Year’s meal. In Chinese the word fish (yú) sounds similar to the Chinese word for ‘surplus’. Fish is consumed to ensure that each year there will be surplus. However, the fish is never eaten completely as this again symbolizes surplus. Other ‘lucky’ foods include mandarin oranges (júzi) as their name is a homophone of the word for success in Chinese. Another popular food with homophonic meaning is Niangao or glutinous rice cake, which sounds like ‘a more prosperous year’. Additionally, spring rolls and dumplings are eaten because of their similarities to ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots.

Firework Displays

In line with the tradition to scare away the Nian, at midnight on New Years Eve, to ring in the New Year people all over China go outside to set off a barrage of firecrackers and fireworks. However, this practice is not restricted to New Years Eve alone, every night for the next two weeks fireworks are lit until the last day of the festivities when anything that is left is set off.

Temple Visits & Temple Fairs

After the festivities and fireworks the night before, on the morning of New Years Day people congregate at Buddhist temples to give their offerings to the gods. While not everyone in China practices Buddhism, many Buddhist traditions have intermixed with folk customs and it is customary to burn incense at the temples as well as make a donation to wish for a smooth and successful next year. This is often combined with a visit to a traditional temple fair.

Traditional Gifts The five days following New Year’s Day are dedicated to eating, drinking, visiting relatives and playing mahjong. During this time it is traditional for older relatives to give children gifts of red envelopes with money called Hong Bao. The values vary from family to family, but typically Hong Bao’s consist of monetary values containing lucky numbers such as 6, 8 or 9. With the advancement of technology it has now also become popular for friends and family to send each other Hong Bao’s over the messaging service Wechat.

Chinese New Year 2017

Traveling During the Chinese New Year Festival

Because most businesses are closed for the holiday, we do no recommend traveling during the first week of Chinese New Year. However, in the second week business starts to picks up again, as people return from their holidays the hustle and bustle of modern China slowly returns. If you do wish to come during this period there are some fun and cultural experiences we recommend doing.

Attend a Temple Fair

Visiting a Chinese New Year Temple Fair, called a Miao Hui, is a great way to experience Chinese culture around the Spring Festival. These temple fairs are set up in large city parks and feature arts and crafts as well as traditional performances. Many temple fairs have evolved into bazaar-like events with parts of the park dedicated to arcades where one can try one’s luck at winning an oversized teddy bear and various other prizes. These fairs are also great for trying a multitude of traditional Chinese snacks that are often only available during Chinese New Year.

Fireworks

Over 2,000 years ago China invented fireworks, so it is no surprise that watching and lighting fireworks during the New Year festival can be quite inspirational. On every large street corner temporary shops set up selling boxes of fireworks of various types. During the festival you can expect to see firework displays every evening. In recent years the government has tried to discourage citizens from lighting fireworks in the city due to fire hazards, but this rule goes largely ignored and is often not enforced.  

Chinese Zodiac Animals

 

Characteristics

Years

Rat

Intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, artistic & sociable.

2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948 & 1936

Ox

Loyal, reliable, thorough, strong, reasonable, steady & determined.

2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949 & 1937

Tiger

Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, leadership, confidence & charismatic.

2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950 & 1938

Rabbit

Trustworthy, empathic, modest, diplomatic, sincere, sociable & caretakers.

2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951 & 1939

Dragon

Lucky, flexible, eccentric, imaginative, artistic, spiritual & charismatic.

2024, 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952 & 1940

Snake

Philosophical, organised, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive & decisive.

2025, 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953 & 1941

Horse

Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous & strong.

2026, 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954 & 1942

Sheep

Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive & calm.

2027, 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955 & 1943

Monkey

Quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively & smart.

2028, 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956 & 1944

Rooster

Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse & confident.

2029, 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957 & 1945

Dog

Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable & smart.

2030, 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958 & 1946

Pig

Honorable, philanthropic, determined, optimistic, sincere &sociable.

2031, 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959 &1947

Marketing China has never been more exciting, easy and profitable. As you may know Imperial Tours has partnered with Peninsula Hotels to bring you Peninsula Private Jet Tours Through China. Through this collaboration we have developed three bespoke travel experiences through China: Culture & Heritage, Family and Culinary. But what you may not know is that we have also developed a marketing plan designed to help you get the word out about these itineraries. Our Marketing Plan gives you the tools you need to promote and share Peninsula Private Jet Itineraries through multiple mediums. The idea behind sharing our marketing plan with you is to take the guesswork out of promoting these experiences. Essentially, let us do all the work for you and all you need to do is share!

These itineraries are packed full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. If they are booked privately, itineraries can be further customized for alternative dates or embellished with different destinations, and if wished they can also be booked on commercial flights. 

Marketing Calendar

Our Marketing Calendar (click to download) is complete with step-by-step instructions on how to market and capitalize on each itinerary. All you have to do is follow five easy steps and let Imperial Tours do the rest. 

1.   Follow us on our social media platforms:

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to get content on Peninsula Private Jet Tours that you can share with your followers.

2.   Download our Marketing Calendar:

Click to download our Marketing Calendar made especially for you. This calendar provides you with a detailed, easy to follow, marketing campaign that you can print out and follow to promote these tours. Additionally, our Marketing Calendar provides you with easy to follow instructions on how to repost and share from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and E-blast.

3.   E-blast Campaign:

Over the next 3 months, starting in November 2016, we will be sending out 3 e-blasts relating to a specific Peninsula Private Jet Itinerary; Culinary, Family and Culture & Heritage. Each e-blast will be created so that you can forward the information to anyone you think might be interested in one of these amazing experiences.

4.   Share our posts socially:

Each one of our 3 e-blasts will have a social share button that allows you to share each itinerary on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Simply click the social share button for each social icon and share!

5.   Book!:

After generating interest in each tour contact us to help you book one of these amazing journeys. Note: private tours based on these scheduled departures can fly commercial and be further customized.

 

Marketing Calendar Snap-Shot

Our Culinary Voyage e-blast will be sent shortly after American Thanksgiving. This one of a kind itinerary provides opportunities for your clients to try their hand at creating traditional Chinese dishes such as Peking duck, Dim Sum and even noodle throwing. China is a “must-eat” destination for all foodies; our Culinary Voyage is a 10-day tour highlighting the best eats China has to offer. Our culinary tour is ideal for groups of 8 or less. Tours are approximately USD$26,050* per person based on double occupancy. To view a detailed itinerary click here.

Our Family Tour e-blast will be sent in early December, in time for Christmas as the perfect once-in-a-life-time holiday gift for the whole family. This 11-day tour showcases the best of China in a safe and family-friendly interactive setting. This tour is ideal for small to medium sized families who are looking for a unique holiday experience and enjoyment for the whole family. Tours begin at approximately USD$102,120* per family of 4. To view a detailed itinerary click here.

Our Culture & Heritage itinerary will be sent out after the New Year and is equipped with unparalleled access to some of China’s most significant cultural artifacts as well as leading creative minds shaping China’s artistic landscape. This 10-day tour will introduce you to private collections and VIP access to China’s cultural treasures. This tour is ideal for clients who are looking for exclusive access to all that China has to offer. This tour is suitable for small groups as well as families. Pricing begins at approximately USD$25,530* per person based on double occupancy. To view a detailed itinerary click here.

 

*Price is subject to change based on fluctuating exchange rates. 

Imagine exploring three of the worlds most dynamic and fast paced cities from the comfort and convenience of a private jet. Imperial Tours has partnered with Peninsula Hotels, renowned for flawless service and quality, to provide you with the ultimate China experience, Peninsula Hotels’ Private Jet Tours.  We have crafted three themed itineraries – Culinary, Family and Culture & Heritage – each designed with immersive experiences to captivate you while introducing the rich culture, cuisine and history of China. 

Peninsula Private Jet Tours

Experience a journey like no other on a Peninsula Private Jet Holiday

For many people, the thought of visiting China sparks a sense of wonder and excitement for the mysterious culture of the East. As one of the most populated and diverse countries in the world, China provides a cornucopia of experiences engaging all the senses. While this temptation to discover the East is an enticing lure it can also be overshadowed by fear of the unfamiliar. With Peninsula Hotels’ Private Jet Tour itineraries you will experience the reassuring comforts, anticipatory service, and soothing attention to detail of legendary hotelier, Peninsula Hotels. In this way, the exoticism and mystery of the East can be enjoyed from the reassuring platform of some of the world’s leading hotels.

Each tour provides access to one-of-a-kind bespoke experiences only available as a result of the partnership between Imperial Tours and Peninsula Hotels. For example, you will explore a seafood bazaar in Hong Kong with the Executive Chef of the Peninsula Hong Kong and learn to paint with the Peninsula Beijing’s resident artist. Alternatively, try climbing aboard Peninsula Shanghai’s private yacht for an architecture tour of its future cityscape from the Yangzi River. Each itinerary features unique hotel experiences in China born of the collaboration between Peninsula Hotels and Imperial Tours.

Private access to world renowned cultural sites is merely a starting point for our Culture & Heritage tour. Apart from meeting with some of the most influential leaders in China’s arts and culture sector, you will also view rare art collections normally closed to the public. For instance, you will tour meet and enjoy lunch with the founders of China’s leading home-grown auction house and also tour private galleries in Beijing and Shanghai with gallery owners. In Beijing, you will not only enjoy a private lunch al fresco on the Great Wall of China but also meet with the conservationist responsible for the law protecting it.

Culture & Heritage Tour, uncover the mysteries of the east from the comfort you can only experience with Peninsula Private Jet Tours

A family vacation by private jet not only eases the stresses of traveling with a family; it also provides a relaxing environment to connect and spend quality time together between destinations. Enjoy the ultimate family vacation in China with experiences ranging from a Chinese cooking lesson with a Peninsula Chef to painting lessons with the resident artist in Beijing’s Peninsula property to playing table tennis with a former Chinese Olympian. Other highlights on our Family Tour include, hand-feeding pandas and enjoying VIP access to the newly opened Shanghai Disney. We have curated only the best experiences to ensure that each member of the family is captivated and entertained, providing you with a relaxing, memorable and safe vacation abroad. Make your next family vacation one filled with unforgettable experiences sure to entertain, bring you closer together as a family and introduce your children to the magnificence of China.

Family Tour, give your family an experience they will never forget from the safety and comfort of a Peninsula Private Jet Tour

China is a “must-eat” destination for foodies everywhere and our Culinary Voyage private jet tour offers the best China has to offer. Given our destinations of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, we focus on three main schools of cuisine; Imperial, Huaiyang and Cantonese from the perspective both of fine dining and home-style cooking. Together with Peninsula Hotels we have created a tour that provides exclusive access to Peninsula’s private kitchens as well as opportunities to learn, shop and cook with the best. For example, the Executive Chef of the Hong Kong Peninsula accompanies you on a traditional junk to his favorite island seafood bazaar. Alternatively, a TCM qualified nutritionist introduces you to China’s leading farm to table organic restaurant specializing in traditional cooking techniques. You will be introduced by experts to the art of preparing and cooking some of China’s most famous dishes from Peking duck in one of Beijing’s top duck restaurants to hand thrown noodles and dim sum. No matter your palette, our culinary tour will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the range and art of Chinese cooking.

Culinary Voyage, learn the art of creating some of the most iconic dishes in Asia with Peninsula Hotels & Imperial Tours

Flying on a private jet not only enhances your comfort, it also allows you to see and do more in a shorter amount of time. These itineraries are so enriched with eye-opening activities and unusual experiences that you will be captivated from beginning to end.

Please join these scheduled departures, if you can. However, if are not able to make those departures but wish to take advantage of these itineraries, please do enquire. Not only can we supply various sized planes according to group, but we can tailor itineraries to visit other destinations. For example, a Culture and Heritage group might wish to add Hangzhou or Dunhuang, a family might be interested in Guilin and a culinary group might want to check out Chengdu to find our more about Sichuanese cuisine. Additionally, each itinerary is adaptable to include commerical flights instead of flying via private jet. 

No matter what you wish to see and do in China, Imperial Tours together with Peninsula Hotels will endeavor to make your dream vacation a reality. Consider China a world undiscovered, a place rooted in an ancient history with a trajectory leaping into the future. Let Imperial Tours together with Peninsula Hotels help you uncover the mysteries of the East from the luxury, security and comfort of a private jet tour. 

Luxury boutique hotel Alila comes to China, located in the bamboo forests of Anji

Imperial Tours has compiled another roundup of what’s happening and what’s new in China luxury travel this spring.

Art, Culture & Fashion

This month will unveil the opening of the first Shanghai store for home-grown fashion designer Ms Min. Up until now her gorgeous designs were only available online or in department stores like Lane Crawford. The new store is designed by Italian architect Vincenzo de Cottis and is housed in the Shanghai Centre.

Hong Kong’s Art Basel has now been and gone but there’s still plenty to see art wise in Hong Kong. One of Asia’s hottest artists, Shahzia Sikander from Pakistan, has her first solo show at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre until early July. Meanwhile Galerie du Monde is exhibiting 25 works from The Fifth Moon group of Taiwanese artists, running from April 20 to June 01.

Running until May 28 at Pekin Fine Arts in Beijing’s Caochangdi is an exhibition by Hong Kong’s late Wesley Tongson. His modern take on Chinese ink landscape paintings are both beautiful and haunting.   

Ms Min's designs are stylish and chic

Dining

There’s less news from the fine dining scene with only a few new places opening recently. If you’re in Shanghai and looking for a taste of something different then head to Alan Wong’s Shanghai at the Ritz Carlton. Alan is a celebrity chef from the US who specializes in Hawaiian regional cuisine, so if you love fish then you should definitely consider stopping by for a meal.     

In Beijing The Georg is a wonderful new fine dining spot that actually opened quietly late last year. The restaurant is part of the Danish silverware and lifestyle brand by Georg Jensen and the food is a ‘Scandinavian take on international flavor driven cuisine’.      

A touch of Danish class in Beijing at The Georg by Georg Jensen

Hotels

The St. Regis Macao opened just before the New Year on 17 December. They are the first property in Macao to offer a signature 24-hour Butler Service for every room and suite. In February the Grand Hyatt opened its doors in Chengdu, located in the same fashionable district as Swire’s Temple House.  

Currently in soft opening phase is Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao, the first in a new chain of luxury hotels set to open in second-tier cities in China by the founder of Aman. It’s billed as an urban resort and is located in the water town of Zhujiajiao near Shanghai. We presume this chain will be aimed at the domestic market what with their spa being run by a Tai Chi expert and a focus on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).    

Recently opened St. Regis in Macao

Although this is now slated for a fall opening we are nonetheless already excited about the opening of the first Alila luxury boutique hotel in China. The setting will no doubt be stunning as the hotel will be situated next to a lake in the peaceful bamboo forests of Anji in Zhejiang province, where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed (see top photo).

Finally, we are still waiting in anticipation for the opening of the Waldorf Astoria in Chengdu. The property was originally slated to open in 2016 but seems now to have been moved back to 2017. Likewise, no news yet on the opening date of the Four Seasons Tianjin which is due to open sometime this year.

We look forward to seeing what else is in store on the luxury scene in China through the year. In the meantime, check out our luxury China travel collection of photos here or to keep up with all the information on luxury happenings in China please like our Facebook page. 

China has been a land fueling creativity for thousands of years but there seems to have been a resurgence of interest from the West in Chinese creativity recently. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and a handful of other museums featured exhibits on Chinese art. In the previous year, The Smithsonian showcased Chinese-American food and this past November The Met documented Chinese fashion and its global impact. Both exhibits noted that Chinese culture has been influencing the West for centuries.  

As vast as its realm of influence, China offers many ways to explore its impactful fashion and food scenes at their origins and there’s never been a better time to do so. Below, we’ve listed a few events in order to help you choose from your myriad of options. From fashion weeks to cooking lessons, China will leave you with worlds of knowledge.  

Hong Kong Fashion Week 

As Asia’s largest Fashion Fair, Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter collections features a variety of themes ranging from Emporium de Mode to Cashmere & Wool and offers inspiration as well as a view into current global fashion trends. January 18-21

Beijing Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week

Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week offers fashions shows and competitions featuring works from 450 designers. This event combines fashion design, accessories, styling and new technologies which show off China’s new breed of designers. March 25-31

Shanghai Park Hyatt’s Masters of Food and Wine 

The Park Hyatt’s Masters of Food and Wine events are held at numerous Park Hyatts around the world. They offer personal time and attention with international as well as locally sourced award-winning chefs, farmers, sommeliers, and craft brew masters in intimate settings. The Shanghai Park Hyatt’s event, now called Passion Week, offers in-depth insight from the best in culinary arts and entertaining. Here, “masters” of the trades form a connection between you and China through food, their passion and some edible influence. Exact dates are not yet announced but this event usually takes place over Thanksgiving week. Fall 2016

Design a trip with Imperial Tours to incorporate one of these events in order to have a premier experience while you see and taste for yourself how and why China continues to influence the world with its food and its style. 

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