Global landmarks, attractions turn red to celebrate Year of the Rat

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Landmarks worldwide have been illuminated red, a color symbolizing good luck and happiness in China, while popular tourist attractions have been filled with rat-shaped decorations -- a clear nod to Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.


The top of the landmark Empire State Building is lit in red for the Chinese Lunar New Year in New York, the United States, Jan. 23, 2020. The Empire State Building was lit up in red color Thursday night to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year of Rat which falls on Jan. 25 this year. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

As China on Saturday ushered in the Year of the Rat, the first animal in the Chinese zodiac and the start of a new 12-year cycle, many celebrated alongside Chinese communities around the world, while developing a better understanding of Chinese culture.

Festive costumes for Disney favorites

Among the attractions that have embraced the Chinese New Year, Disney's California Adventure Park in the United States has transformed "the Year of the Rat" into "the Year of the Mouse," starring the iconic Disney characters Mickey and Minnie.

Located in the California city of Anaheim, large red lanterns with decorative gold tassels can be seen hanging from parapets, while festive red banners flutter from lampposts, turning the amusement park into a sea of red and gold.

And as the star attractions, Mickey and Minnie Mouse look particularly festive in their new traditional Chinese-style costumes.

Mickey is wearing a traditional Chinese-style tunic of fine red silk, featuring gold-thread patterns to represent the traditional Chinese element of water, plus gold trousers and red bubble shoes as the final touches.

Minnie, meanwhile, is a vision in red, adorned with a richly decorated red silk cape fringed with gold tassels, embroidered with traditional Chinese water wave, peony blossom, and cloud patterns.

Guo Pei, a Chinese-born and internationally-prominent fashion designer, explained the elements of Chinese and Disney traditions that she creatively fused in her designs.

Red and gold are the traditional colors of the Chinese New Year, so they were a good place to start, she said.

"I also used three elements of Chinese culture in the design: one is water, which represents smooth sailing and good fortune; I also added peony to represent elegance, and the third is the traditional 'auspicious cloud pattern' for good luck."

"Children all over the world love Mickey and Minnie. It's an opportunity for me to express and share Chinese culture to the world through my work," Guo added.

Global landmarks go red

In a further nod to festivities, global landmarks the Vessel in New York City, the Sydney Opera House and the Tokyo Tower, all saw the Chinese New Year by turning red.

The lights inside the Vessel, a new attraction in New York City's glamorous Manhattan borough, changed to red on Wednesday evening.

Also in Manhattan, the top of the Empire State Building was illuminated in red and gold from sunset on Thursday to 2 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Friday. It is the 20th consecutive year that the Manhattan landmark has been lit in honor of the Chinese New Year, which became a public holiday for schools in New York in 2016.

The world-famous sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House also turned red on Thursday, to welcome the Year of the Rat.

Another highlight of the 2020 Sydney Lunar Festival is the returning Lunar Lanterns exhibition, with 12 larger-than-life illuminated artworks representing all the animal signs of the Chinese zodiac.

In the Japanese capital of Tokyo, the iconic Tokyo Tower was lit up on Friday in Chinese red as a symbol of China-Japan relations.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike sent a congratulatory message to the event, expressing her belief that the city's Lunar New Year's Eve celebrations would illuminate the road to a better China-Japan friendship, as well as world peace.

In Giza, near the Egyptian capital Cairo, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx shone red in a ceremonial sound and light show on Thursday evening as part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

During the show, the Sphinx was lit in vivid colors, while stories of ancient Egyptian pharaohs were told through laser shapes projected onto the three massive pyramids in the background.

"The Pyramids Plateau is distinguished by wonderful lights as the Chinese red lanterns integrate with the beautiful Egyptian pyramids, marking a meeting between the two old civilizations of China and Egypt," Shi Yuewen, cultural counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Egypt, told attendees.

A fusion of cultures

At the show, Reham Ahmed, a young Egyptian woman who studies Chinese at the Cairo University, said, "The celebration combines both the Egyptian and the Chinese cultures, so it is attractive to me as an Egyptian and a student of Chinese language."

Egyptian-Chinese cultural interactions have been noticeably growing thanks to the support of the leaders of both countries, Fathy Abdel-Wahab, head of the Cultural Development Fund of Egypt's Ministry of Culture, said during the event.

Similarly, such celebrations offer non-Chinese participants enjoyable experiences of traditional Chinese culture and enhance people-to-people exchanges.

"Lunar New Year has become an integral part of our calendar in New South Wales (NSW) State," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

"It is a time for families and loved ones to come together and share in new hopes and aspirations."

On Tuesday, calligraphers from both China and Japan wrote "Fu," a Chinese character meaning fortune and luck, on red paper with brush and ink in Tokyo.

"Cultural exchanges between China and Japan go back a long way," said Kiyoaki Igaki, president of the Japan Academy of Calligraphy Art. "Culture knows no national boundaries. This event allowed Japanese people to experience the charm of traditional Chinese culture."

At Disney's California park, Gary Maggetti, general manager of Pixar Pier, park banquets and festivals, believes food and culture can bring people together and create harmony, and that celebrating the Chinese New Year gives Disney's guests an opportunity to try new things.

"The feedback from our guests (on the Chinese New Year) has been very warm -- to try something different or to reinforce a family memory," he said. "It makes Chinese culture more accessible to Americans."

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