Maddog at Taiwan Matters points to the debate on whether Lunar New Year should be Chinese New Year

First, from the Liberty Times, the Chinese language Green publication:

范嘉芬提到農曆年,如果要用英文表達,幾乎絕大部份的人都會說成「Chinese New Year」(中國年),但這是錯的。正確的說法是Lunar New Year。

Fan Chia-fen observed of the agricultural new year, that if we use English to express it, most people say “Chinese New Year”, but this is an error. The correct way to say it is Lunar New Year.

因 為太陰曆法(簡稱陰曆)依循的是月球運行週期所計算制定,所以如果要說成英文,就是Lunar(Moon) Calendar,過的新年就是Lunar New Year。而相對於此曆法當然就是以太陽之運轉為曆法計算基礎的太陽曆(Sun Calendar)了;也就是目前世界多數國家所通用遵循公元紀年,是根據阿拉伯的太陽曆法編製的。但使用到現在全世界沒有人會說是阿拉伯新年 (Arabic New Year)。

Because the solar-lunar calendric system (the lunar year) uses the movement of the moon as the basis for its calculations, if we say it in English, we should use Lunar (Moon) Calendar, so new year is actually Lunar New Year. The solar calendar, in which the sun is used as the basis for calculation, is used by many countries, but it is originally based on an Arab solar calendar. However, currently nobody on earth calls it “Arabic New Year.”

全球不只一個國家在過農曆年,這並不是中國專屬的年節,所以不適合說是Chinese New Year。

Around the world more than one nation celebrates lunar new year. It is not appropriate to call it Chinese New Year.

The subject has also come up in the English papers. Here’s caustic columnist Johnny Neihu receiving a letter about it:

Saturday, Feb 17, 2007, Page 8
Politically correct pork
Dear Johnny,
Is saying “Happy Lunar New Year” politically correct nowadays in Taiwan or will a group of irate “trade unionists” attack me if I say it?

Also, if the coming year is the Year of the Pig, will it be possible to buy decent bacon instead of the crap streaky bacon sold here?
Pete Jones


Johnny replies: I’ve never been one to advocate political correctness. But I’ve never been one to advocate political incorrectness either. The actual content of both are vulnerable to whoever has the power to induce guilt or outrage at any time.

But I can tell you that “Chinese New Year” is a politically incorrect expression at this newspaper, not just because Taiwan isn’t part of China, but also because China is not the only state or national “culture” that marks the lunar calendar.

So if some demented “trade unionists” (politically polite code for pro-blue-camp labor bosses) take you to task for daring to name a calendar event after the moon, refer them to me and I will find out why it is exactly that the Republic of China is averse to politically correct pork.

I’ve been discussing this privately with maddog. Frankly I think these analyses both err. The reason we call it “Chinese New Year” is (a) because the Chinese celebrate it at this time; and, (b) we celebrate it Chinese style. The second is far more important. I’m not waiting for the 25th of Kislev, I’m not doing Seollal with tteokguk, and I’m not observing a “Day of Silence.” I’m preparing red envelopes for the kids, cooking up Chinese specialties, and decorating the house with red banners.

This is on the level of “freedom fries” or “victory cabbage.” The whole point of Taiwan independence is political independence from China, opening up the world to the idea that a people can partake of the great Chinese cultural stream without necessarily being ruled by Beijing, and that Beijing is not the sole arbiter of what constitutes “Chinese culture.” We need to destroy the way Beijing uses Chinese culture as an imperialist tool. We can do that by redefining it as something Taiwan owns too, in its own way, not by reifying its power through renaming cultural events away from China.

Your thoughts? Me, I’m off to celebrate Chinese New Year, hand out red envelopes to my nieces, and overeat.