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

One Response to “Happy Year of the Horse!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  • Check out a random post from CFB!

    • Mao Suit Newsletter Oct. 16
      Mao Suit Newsletter Oct. 16

      Thanks to the team at Digital Creative, Mao Suit’s had some sprucing up and is back in action. As the China business landscape and intersections of the fashion, retail and technology landscape continues to evolve, I hope to use continue to use Mao Suit as a type of thought “lab” on these topics. I’ll endeavor [...]