Happy Year of the Horse!


Year of the Horse Decorations Outside Wangfujing Department Store Beijing

With white collar China back to normal work operations this week and the official Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations having concluded on the 15th, its also time for Mao Suit to celebrate the Year of the Horse and get back in the saddle for a bit of blogging.

In Chinese culture the Horse is a deeply respected animal, long honored in calligraphy and the Chinese language itself with hundreds of idioms and popular sayings including the character for horse or ‘马’ (ma) in Mandarin.  The word ‘immediately’ in mandarin translates as 马上 (mashang) or in literal translation ‘on horse’ and amusing pictures of money, cars, houses and other forms of wealth were depicted above pictures of horses to indicate these things would be arriving ‘immediately’ this year.

The horse is a symbol of galloping strength and as expected a variety of fashion and luxury brands and malls have created horse inspired products and store displays for this year. Not sure if this will continue in 2015 the year of the sheep – perhaps we can expect a surge in the use of wool!

The Chinese lunar calendar goes in cycles of 60 years with 12 animals x 5 elements at play. As 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse (wood being flammable), some Feng Shui masters have predicted a tumultuous year ahead with all manner of things from international squabbles to corporate attacks ready to ignite.

As a visual and audible activity, there’s really no way to aptly describe the cavalcade of fireworks that are let loose in China over the CNY period. This link gives some idea.  Special pop-up fireworks shops are set up to sell what in most other countries would be outright illegal or considered industrial sized explosives. Despite injuries and fires every year started by the fireworks including the infamous burning down of the Beijing Mandarin Oriental hotel in 2009, as one Chinese friend told me that without fireworks it just wouldn’t be new year.

In China the Spring Festival traditions have continued for centuries and there are all sort of rules/superstitions about renovations, moving furniture, and cutting hair etc. Perhaps the most critical CNY tradition is to give red packets of money to children, subordinates and those who have helped throughout the year. Again, the amount of money to give has its own superstitions with certain amounts considered fortuitous or unlucky. The one thing no one seems to have problem with is dashing out to spend money during and CNY is always a guaranteed strong sales period for retailers.

This year record numbers of Chinese took advantage of the week long holiday to travel domestically, or abroad and with the onslaught of Chinese tourists over the period, many cities and retailers around the world are now hosting their own CNY celebrations and promotions. For those who choose to stay, there are temple festivals to visit and the obligatory fireworks to let off, plus because its the quietest time of the year on the roads, it enables one to get out and shop more conveniently than any other time.

As the numbers of Chinese traveling internationally during CNY continues to break records, the festival will likely become an internationally recognized and celebrated event in years to come just like Christmas. Certainly judging my the international media coverage of the celebrations in cities around the world, many of the worlds retail and fashion capitals are keenly aware of making a fuss over Chinese New year is good for relations and good for sales. Chinese tourists are becoming so powerful that they are even managing to raise entire countries such as Australia’s standing in luxury brand ranking with their spending power

Closer to home, this week, both the China Daily and Wall Street Journal reported that Shanghai is now the most stylish city in Asia, edging out Tokyo and Hong Kong for the number one spot. According to Global Language Monitor who conducted the study, its exclusive rankings are based on  “GLM’s Narrative Tracking technology…[that]analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 250,000 print and electronic news media, as well as new social media sources as they emerge.

Within the realms of what could be considered ‘stylish’ I concur that Shanghai is on par as China’s most stylish city. On a similar topic I’ve written in the past about China’s Gross Domestic Cool, however, after spending five years living in Tokyo and considerable time spent in Hong Kong, there’s no way I can agree that Shanghai is more stylish than these two cities.

On closer inspection, and it seems that GLM’s study ranked Global Fashion CAPITALS, rather than Most Stylish CITIES and their website doesn’t even mention the word ‘style’.  Given that GLM also states that “The words, phrases and concepts are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets”,  it would seem that the study tracks buzz and discussion over fashion topics related to Shanghai, rather than actually studying how stylish Shanghai is.

I believe a more valid and discerning ranking of fashion would be to analyze the fashion ‘consciousness’ of residents in a city.  Personally I think Tokyo is by far the most stylish city in Asia and within the top five in the world and not under any real threat of losing this title for many years to come – if ever.  In any regard, well done to GLM for garnering lots of PR out of their study and congratulations to Shanghai for the prestigious honor.

What do you think?

And mad respect to these crazy clowns who also made world headline with their ninja scaling of the Shanghai Tower.

Looking forward to what’s ahead in this year of the HORSE


Karl Lagerfeld Happy Year of the Horse Illustration Inside the Karl Lagerfeld Store Beijing

A Beijing Resident Poses with Chinese New Year Horses Outside a Van Cleef & Arpels Store in Beijing

A Play on Words in Mandarin With the Objects Above a Horse to Show the Car, House, Money etc. Will Arrive Soon. Source: Weixin

Pop Up Chinese New Year Fireworks Store in Beijing

Used Fireworks Cartridges Outside Luxury Car and Private Jet Dealerships in Beijing

Baidu’s Map Showing Chinese New Year Travel Intensity by Tracking Mobile App Usage Locations. Source: Baidu

Chinese New Year Shoppers and Gucci Flagship Store in Tianjin

Gucci Year of the Horse Window Display in China

Gucci Horse Saddle

Longines China Store Year of the Horse Decorations


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