One of the nice features on Google Calendar is the ability to add the lunar calendar on top of the western one, which helped us verify that today, Thursday, is indeed the third day of the third month of the lunar calendar.
For several years now, Shanghai Normal University has been holding a ceremony/celebration of this day, which is known as “Daughter’s Day” (女儿节). We know this because we saw a TV report yesterday about this holiday. The TV report, full of images of people dressed in Han fu, or traditional Han costume, seems to us to be part of that larger cultural effort to resuscitate traditional culture and, moreover, have it legitimized as Chinese by UNESCO.
Around 2005, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) became one of the first pieces of intangible heritage that China applied to have recognized by UNESCO. Here’s some background:
To honor examples of intangible cultural heritage, UNESCO in 1998 created an international program, the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Proclamations were announced in 2001 and 2003. To date, 47 forms of art, music and oral tradition have been proclaimed by UNESCO as masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage, including a Chinese form of opera called Kun Qu, and the playing of the guqin, or Chinese zither, a seven-stringed instrument that reportedly requires 20 years of training to master.
In the TV report, a girl said something about it being a common misconception that Daughter’s Day originated in Japan during the 8th century Heian period (平安时代), and slowly changed through the centuries. By the time you get to the Edo period, the holiday had become somewhat official.
Now we’ve not seen what this whole business looks like, either in Japan, Korea, or China. But in Japan it involves a bunch of wooden puppets, which are dressed up and placed in certain order, or in the water, or something like that. Check out the results of an image search on Baidu and you can get a sense of what it looks like in Japan. And yes, those pictures are from the Tokyo Disneyland—they have Daughters’ Day events held there each year, after all, Snow White was someone’s daughter, and surely Minnie Mouse was not immaculately conceived.
In Shanghai, which is spearheading the effort to repopularize the holiday in China, one would expect to see more Chinese characteristics, but we haven’t seen it in person. To our jaded minds it seems more like something young university students to do—dress up and prance around in auditoriums while feeling like you’re doing something new/creative AND safeguarding your culture in what seems like an era of perpetual cultural decline.
Zhu Yi’an, a professor of women’s culture at Shanghai Normal, mouths off a bunch of Hallmark platitudes in this report about the festivities, and the report even uses the term “好女儿,” a riff on the male American Idol-esque show “好男儿” which showcased the musical and acting talents of China’s most effeminate men.
Don’t get us wrong, Shanghaiist loves daughters, especially the ones that are willing to date us, but we are more interested in the attempt to recreate tradition. Reports we read say that only certain minorities now celebrate this holiday and that for the vast majority of Han Chinese, this holiday has long since been consigned to the dustbin of history. But as we all know, there are people in this world willing to dig into the garbage.
In terms of holidays, we prefer April 17, which in Chinese is pronounced si yi qi, a play on the words for “die together,” and so it will be no surprise to you that this day has been dubbed
collective suicide “Brothers’ Day”; brothers in the sense of “哥们儿” or sworn-brothers, comrades-in-arms, best best friend in the world, etc. Actually, this information came to us via some spam SMS that a friend in Beijing received two nights ago, but what the hey.
Photo from edu.beelink.com.cn.