SACU member Jan Johnson’s Chinese New Year

Dragon Year Blessings

The SACU mission is to tell stories of people to people friendship between Britain and China. I am delighted to share the Chair’s Blog with our members so that we can hear a wider range of voices. In this Blog, it’s an honour to be able to bring you SACU member Jan Johnson’s article about her Chinese New Year experiences.

“I’ve been interested in China for a long time and have been teaching myself Mandarin Chinese. I’m disabled and don’t get out very often or for very long but my friend/carer and I met a lovely Chinese lady called Rosita in a café fairly near to my home. Of course, I wanted to practice my Chinese with her. But she wasn’t from mainland China. She was from Hong Kong. Many of your readers will know that Hong Kong residents usually speak Cantonese. But no problem. Cantonese was her first language but she could also speak some Mandarin and English. Great. We chatted in a mixture of languages and I enjoyed myself immensely. This lovely lady sent me details of a craft fair being held in Leeds City Centre on Chinese New Year’s Day. This would be a big outing for me but my friend/carer, Lloyd, was determined to try to get me there, with my wheelchair.

The New Year craft fair

The craft fair was being held by Hong Kong folk now living in Leeds, at the beautiful and historic church now known as Leeds Minster. I was confused about this because I remember it by its old name of Leeds Parish Church 

 Let me tell you a bit about this impressive place.  Leeds Minster, also known as the Minster and Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds, is a prominent church located in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and has a rich history dating back to the 7th century. The current structure dates mainly from the 19th century, with some parts even older. It is renowned for its impressive architecture, including its striking tower and stained glass windows. The Minster serves as both a place of worship and a popular tourist attraction, hosting various events and concerts throughout the year.

Leeds Minster

So, we arrived at the entrance and were immediately welcomed by the organisers and joined the throng of people attending the craft fair and celebrating Chinese New Year. I did not use my wheelchair inside the church. It was too busy and I am fortunate that I can walk a little. I was a bit excited and wished everyone “新年快乐” (happy new year), or “龙年快乐” (happy year of the dragon). I found everyone was patient as I stumbled over my Chinese. I noticed the older folk couldn’t speak Mandarin but the younger and also middle-aged folk were very familiar with Mandarin and the people I spoke to were all very welcoming and spoke slowly so I could keep up. Of course, they all spoke English but they were very indulgent of my wish to practice my Chinese.

Jan tries her hand at Chinese calligraphy

I practiced writing using a Chinese brush and ink. You could see where children had used the brush and ink to draw with. I was attempting Chinese characters! I can’t call it calligraphy. It wasn’t that grand!  but I did manage to write a few recognisable characters and I was offered a cup of pu’er tea. 

It was all very interesting but I quickly tired and my carer pushed me in my wheelchair to his car so he could get me home to rest.

新年快乐 ~ xīnniánkuàilè ~ Happy New Year!”

Thank you Jan. SACU wishes you a dragon year full of blessings!