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Happy Chinese New Year today! This ancient culture has influenced the design world in many diverse and colorful ways, and there is so much to learn from its history and people. In honor of the Chinese New Year, I compiled 15 facts – one for each day of the festival. 15 days! That’s my kind of celebration.

1. The color red is good luck in Chinese culture and often is used in Chinese decor, especially during Chinese New Year.

Bedroom design by Andreas Charalambous

2. Also prevalent is the color gold which represents wealth and good fortune.

Dining room design by Ammie Kim

Dining room design by Ammie Kim

3. Explorer Marco Polo is credited with introducing the West to China – a once mysterious land also known as the Middle Kingdom.
4. In the late 13th century, Chinese exports such as silk and lacquered furniture and porcelain began trickling into Europe. The fascination with these exotic objects led Europeans to create their own interpretations. The French dubbed the style Chinoiserie or Chinese-esque. If you like the look of traditional Chinoiserie but don’t want to shell out the bucks for the real deal, consider a stencil and create a one-of-a-kind wall treatment.

Create Chinoiserie-inspired art with a stencil.

5. The Qin Dynasty Terracotta Army has been called the 8th Wonder of the World. Reproductions of the estimated 7,000 statues found buried in a mausoleum are cast from metal, imported from China and can be found in many Chinese homes and businesses.
6. Feng-shui originated in China around 4,000 BC. This ancient system of aesthetics has evolved to include the proper arrangement of objects encouraging good energy and resulting in happiness and prosperity.
7. Ceremonial dances featuring drums and cymbals are common during Chinese New Year. It’s believed that the beats of the drum and the sounds of the cymbals along with the face of the dragon or lion can evict evil spirits.
8. The Koi fish is a symbol often seen during the New Year. These colorful fish are a popular choice for outdoor and indoor ponds, perhaps because they are said to symbolize love and affection.
9. Popular New Year floral decorations often include flowers and plants which symbolize good luck, prosperity and longevity such as the peach blossom, the kumquat and the chrysanthemum. Some families will decorate with a plum tree, a tradition likened to that of the Christmas tree.
10. Examples of Chinese architecture date back 2,000 years. Details are often specific to region, but emphasis on width is universal, such as the massive halls of the Forbidden City.

Bejing's Forbidden Palace was the home of the emporer and his family for nearly 5,000 years.

Bejing's Forbidden Palace served as home to emporers for nearly 5,000 years.

11. Symmetry is important in China except in the design of gardens where people are encouraged to wander.
12. Chinese art (such as fine art, folk art, painting, performance art, porcelain, calligraphy, music and poetry) often was influenced by philosophers, teachers and religious and political figures. The invention of paper gave rise to papercutting as an artform.
13. The phoenix or fenghuang bird is sometimes depicted during Chinese New Year. The bird was a symbol of the imperial house representing fire, the sun, justice, obedience and fidelity. It appears rarely in the Chinese tradition, usually to mark the beginning of a new era.
14. If you like Asian style (and there is a lot to like) you can easily incorporate elements into your current decor. Incorporate punches of the color red. Add a soothing water feature to a living space or work area. Clear the clutter. When it comes to art and accessories, think about the elements of feng-shui: water, wood, earth, fire and metal.
15. If you’d like to celebrate the Chinese New Year, what better way than with a traditional feast! Foods eaten during the celebration include yue or whole fish, egg rolls and jiaozi or dumplings.

Photo from Food Network Magazine

Photo from Food Network Magazine

Find recipes and learn more about Chinese tradition including how to use chopsticks at FoodNetwork.com.

Will you be celebrating the Chinese New Year? If so, what are some of your family’s traditions?
Does your home incorporate elements of Asian style? How so?

2 Responses

  1. Jaquie says:

    My family is not from a Chinese background but i have a dear friend who is, and she is the one who introduced me to Chinese New Year so many years ago. It's a tradition that I've carried over to my children. I think kids can't have enough diversity in their lives esp. from a culture that is so ancient and has so much to offer. I don't believe in everything from that culture but I certainly want my children to know about my friend's heritage – so much wonderful food and history and art. I love Asian style and dream of a Zen-garden in my backyard one day. Something peaceful and wonderful.

  2. Rosalie Hypolite says:

    Hi my name is Rosalie,

    HGTV did a design show were a chrysanthemum hanging wall picture was made. How can I find out what show it was, or how can I get the steps in making a chrysanthemum picture for myself. Please e-mail me at flair125@yahoo.com. Thank you.

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