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KUNG-HSI FA-TS’AI!(HAPPY NEW YEAR!)

January 24, 2016

It’s almost that time of year again. The fifteen day celebration of Chinese New Year 2016 begins on February 8th. The Chinese refer to this celebration as the Spring Festival and it is the most important holiday of the year. Last year at this time, I stood outside the door of our hotel in Beijing on the last day of the Festival. The noise was deafening; the jackdaws in nearby trees  were screeching and squalling – adding to the din. The sky was full of smoke and the smell of firecrackers. I could not believe that I was actually there….

This is the Year of the Monkey. Children born in this year will have have agile, inventive minds and insatiable curiosity. (Sounds like every two or three year old I’ve ever known!). But they can be incredibly versatile and can do well at almost anything. However, success can sometimes go to their heads, revealing a hidden arrogance. Dragons and Rats make very good business or marriage partners, but NOT Tigers.

For storytellers, the Chinese zodiac (pictured above) makes a wonderful tool to add to presentations at this time of year. Young and old alike love to delve into the descriptions and stories of each of the animals – and their relationship to one another. Almost everyone can find at least one or two characteristics of his or her animal that ring true.

This year, I will add a story about monkeys.  As I was doing research (one of my favorite parts of this work!), I came across a very short tale from Tibet called “Reaching for the Moon”. There are several different versions; my favorite is in a book called “Peace Tales” by prolific writer/storyteller, Margaret Read MacDonald. MRM, who is from the Seattle area, has written over FIFTY books of stories or on storytelling – and has traveled extensively, working with tellers from all over the world. Getting to know and work with tellers like Margie has been one of the richest parts of my storytelling career.

In the story, the King of the Monkeys spots a reflection of the moon in a pool, believes it to be gold, and MUST have it. He sends his subjects one by one to hang from a tree over the pool to retrieve it. As I was rehearsing the story, characters began to emerge: a belligerent, authoritarian king and his subjects – who sometimes fawned on their leader and other times objected (carefully) to his tyranny. But, in the end, they were all gullible… either mesmerized by false dreams of riches or intimidated by the king’s power. And when the king, impatient to have his prize, joined the chain of monkeys hanging over the pool, the chain broke – and they all drowned. What a marvelously appropriate story for this incredible electoral season!!

But – let us celebrate…

Chao-ts’ai chin-pao!  (May you have wealth and treasures!)

Fu-lu-shou! (May you have longevity, prosperity, and posterity!)

…and may the coming pussy willows and forsythia blossoms signal happiness, joy, and prosperity for all!!

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