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The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar Year or Spring Festival, holds significant importance for Chinese families worldwide. It marks the transition from winter to spring, with dates rooted in the lunar calendar, giving the festival its name. This celebration diverges from the Gregorian calendar’s January 1st New Year, embodying a unique cultural significance and heralding the onset of spring.

Each family celebrates the Lunar Year distinctively, yet the essence of togetherness remains a universal theme. During this time, typical decorations adorn homes and streets, such as red lanterns symbolizing good fortune, vibrant Dragon or Lion dance parades embodying strength and power, and the giving of red envelopes or Hong Bao, which are tokens of luck and prosperity. The air is filled with the excitement of firecrackers, believed to ward off evil spirits and call the gods over to bless them. Additionally, each year is represented by an animal from the Chinese zodiac, adding a layer of cultural richness to the décor. These elements are not just decorative but are steeped in mythical stories and cultural lore, making the Lunar Year a deeply symbolic and joyous festival.

The Legends of Nian(Year) Beast

The legend of Nian, a fearsome sea beast central to Chinese New Year traditions, is captivating. On every New Year’s Eve, Nian would emerge to devour livestock, crops, and even humans. To escape its wrath, people would retreat to the mountains for safety. They left food at their doors, hoping Nian would consume these offerings instead of them.

An elderly man discovered Nian’s Fears: the colour red and loud noises. Acting on this knowledge, villagers started wearing red clothes, hung red decorations, and burned bamboo, which crackled loudly, to scare the beast away. This practice led to the association of red as a color of good luck and protection. Over time, burning bamboo evolved into the use of firecrackers, their loud bangs a symbolic defense against evil forces like Nian and a celebration of the arrival of spring. This legend beautifully illustrates the origins of some of the most enduring customs of Chinese New Year.

Animal Zodiac

The Animal Zodiac is a fascinating and integral aspect of Chinese culture, especially during the Lunar New Year. In this zodiac system, each animal is associated with one of the elements: water, fire, wood, or air. The current year is celebrated as the year of the wood dragon, a sign known for its confidence, intelligence, and enthusiasm.

The origin of the zodiac is rooted in a mythical race orchestrated by the Jade Emperor. The outcome of this race, surprisingly won by the Rat, determined the order of the animals in the zodiac. The sequence follows the Rat: Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The story goes that other animals were part of this race but got distracted and failed to secure a place in the final twelve.

Each animal in the zodiac represents a year. It’s also believed the personality traits of a person born in that year are influenced by the animal zodiac. Moreover, each animal is linked to a specific gemstone that’s considered auspicious for people born under that sign. For example, Rats are associated with garnets, Oxen with jade, Tigers with sapphires, Rabbits with pearls, Dragons with amethyst, Snakes with opal, Horses with topaz, Sheep with emeralds, Roosters with citrine, Dogs with diamonds, and Pigs with moonstone. These gemstones add another layer of depth and significance to the rich tapestry of the Chinese Zodiac.

Auspicious gemstone during the lunar year

During the Lunar New Year, Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese philosophy of harmonizing people with their surrounding environment, becomes particularly significant in Chinese families. This extends to using various objects, including gemstones. It’s believed to increase positive energy and bring good fortune. Feng Shui principles, often discussed during this festive period, suggest using certain auspicious gemstones that align with Chinese astrology and Feng Shui beliefs.

Jade is usually at the forefront of these auspicious stones. Revered not just for its aesthetic appeal, jade holds a place of great honor in Chinese culture, symbolizing good luck, prosperity, and longevity. Its significance is heightened during the Lunar New Year when it is sought after for its protective and harmonious qualities.


Jade, in commercial terms, encompasses a variety of stones primarily composed of minerals like jadeite, omphacite, kosmochlor, or nephrite. Each of these minerals contributes to the unique and desirable characteristics of jade.

  • Jadeite, belonging to the pyroxene group with the chemical formula NaAlSi2O6, is celebrated for its broad spectrum of colors, ranging from white and various shades of green to blue-green, black, pink, and purple.
  • Omphacite, another member of the pyroxene group, has the formula (Na,Ca)(Al,Mg,Fe)Si2O6 and is used in jewelry for its colors spanning from light to dark green, black, and almost colorless.
  • Kosmochlor, also in the pyroxene group and rich in chromium and sodium, bears the formula NaCrSi2O6 and is typically green.
  • Nephrite, part of the amphibole group, specifically the tremolite and/or actinolite types, is known for its fine, fibrous crystalline texture. With a chemical composition of Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si8O22, nephrite presents in various colors like white, light to dark green, brown, and black.

The most prized jadeite is the emerald-green “Imperial Jade’. Imperial Jade is highly valued for its vibrant emerald green hue and significant translucency. This rare form of Jadeite is one of the most expensive gemstones due to its color, clarity, texture, thickness, and translucency. The color of Imperial Jade is a crucial factor, with a rich emerald green hue being the most desirable. The texture of the stone refers to the fineness of the crystal grains, and the stone’s clarity is determined by the visual appearance of internal inclusions. The translucency of Jade is a significant factor in its valuation, with more translucent stones being more valuable. The thickness of the Jade should be proportional to its size to maintain strength.

In the Chinese market, Jade is known as “Fei Cui” (翡翠)  or “Yu”.

Fei Cui is a term for stones mainly composed of minerals such as jadeite, omphacite, and kosmochlor, either alone or in combination. These stones are highly prized for their finely crystalline texture, remarkable toughness, and vibrant colors, which range from translucent to opaque. Their aesthetic and physical qualities make them especially popular for being shaped or carved into ornate and decorative designs.

Jade often undergoes various treatments to enhance its color and translucency. These include polymer filling and dye impregnation. The gemological appeal of Jade lies in its unique blend of beauty, rarity, durability, and historical significance, making it a treasured material in jewelry and art and a focal point during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

History of gemstones in China

The history of gemstones in China spans thousands of years and is deeply intertwined with the nation’s culture, economy, and art. Since the Neolithic era, gemstones such as jade have been revered, serving as decorations, amulets, ritual objects, and symbols of status. Jade, in particular, holds a special place in Chinese jewelry and culture, used in various symbolic and ritualistic ways across history. During the Zhou Dynasty, jade was used as earplugs, symbolizing virtues like self-discipline, and later evolved into fashionable hairpin decorations and earrings, especially among royal women. Other significant gemstones in China include cinnabar and corundum (sapphires), with notable mining areas like the Wanshanchang mines, known since the Ming Dynasty. Chinese jewelry-making techniques, including jade carving, gold and silver threading, and filigree inlay, showcase a blend of artistic skill, cultural symbolism, and technical expertise, forming a rich heritage in gemstones and jewelry.


As we delve deeper into the essence of the lunar year, it’s clear that this festival is more than just a celebration; it reflects a rich cultural heritage that seamlessly blends mythology, astrology, and gemology. The beauty of this festival is that it brings loved ones together and spends time with loved ones. Its ability to unite people across the globe in observance of traditions that date back centuries fosters a sense of community and continuity.

In the spirit of the Lunar New Year, we find ourselves surrounded by traditions and beliefs that have shaped the celebration and the heart of Chinese culture. The intertwining of gemstones with these traditions is a testament to the deep connection between nature’s wonders and human life. Each zodiac year brings its unique gemstone, reinforcing that our connection with the natural world is spiritual and tangible.

Looking ahead, the Lunar New Year is not just a time for reflection but also for anticipation. It’s a period when we can embrace the lessons and legacies of the past while looking forward to the opportunities and challenges of the future. As the vibrant festivities unfold, they remind us that life, much like the ever-changing phases of the moon, is a cycle of renewal and rebirth.

In conclusion, the Lunar New Year is a vivid tapestry woven with the threads of history, culture, and geological wonders. As we celebrate this auspicious time, let us cherish these traditions that bring us closer to our roots and each other. Here’s to a year filled with prosperity, joy, and the enduring magic of age-old customs. Happy Lunar New Year!