Hainan rice paddies: photo by Meng Zhongde, Xinhua/China News.
This is the year of the Ox. Instead of 12 months, the Chinese calendar has 24 divisions. When the first greens appear, it is the Lichun: "spring begins". Rice is planted in the south. In Shanxi people fly kites. In Beijing they eat Spring Festival pancakes made with wheat flour, eggs, bean sprouts and leek -- a tradition called yaochun: "biting the spring." Mongols tie red cloth on their doors. Other regions hang red lanterns and scrolls. In the mountains of the southwest the Miao and Yi dance and play flute songs.
Bird and cherry blossom 5 Feb 2009: photo by Ren Zhenglai, Xinhua
There are lion dances in Henan, ancient temple dramas in Anhui, visits to home towns, feasts and fireworks everywhere.
But the President of China has just declared a drought emergency, the most severe since 1951, threatening more than two-thirds of the winter wheat crop in the north. Water is imported by truck and tractor, farmers are desperately digging new wells and irrigation canals, the aquifer is dropping and the deserts are expanding.
---------------------------------- Compiled from stories on Xinhuanet.
Yangtze drought 2008: photo AP
See also the exceptionally frank Interview with China’s Deputy Minister of the Environment Pan Yue, Der Spiegel 7 Mar 2005.
Birders: see C A Macdonald's World Bird Gallery to identify the bird shown above, and comment.
See Wikipedia on Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.