Happy Year of the Horse!

On February 16, 2014 by Timothy Coghlan

Syn­di­cated from Mao­suit

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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