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TO welcome the Chinese year of the dragon, an exhibition of photographs will shine a light on Beijing, the ancient capital.
THERE is a strong Chinese presence in Johannesburg. The original Chinatown is huddled at the bottom of Commissioner Street, so it is fitting that the area – Newtown – welcomes the Chinese new year.

Charming BeijingNewtown is Joburg’s cultural hub, and the home of Museum Africa, which will hold the Charming Beijing Photo Exhibition. It comprises nearly 100 photographs, the work of photographers of various nationalities, of Beijing.

Through these images, viewers will gain insight into the geographical features, social customs, cultural heritages, daily life and economic development of the Chinese capital. It displays the vast city, an international metropolis with a long history and modern civilisation.

The exhibition opens at Museum Africa on 5 February and runs until 15 March. It is jointly sponsored by the Chinese ministry of culture, the Beijing municipal government and the City of Johannesburg.

New year
The Chinese new year is the longest and most prominent, with the year of the dragon marking the Chinese year 4710. New year in China, also known as the spring festival, traditionally lasts 15 days.

During festivities, people wear red clothing, decorate poems on red paper and give children lucky money in red envelopes. Red, which symbolises fire, is believed to driveaway bad luck.

Occupying the fifth position in the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is the mightiest of the signs. Chinese months are calculated on the lunar calendar, and each month starts on the darkest day. People born in the year of the dragon are said to be innovative, brave and passionate.

According to Chinese legend, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on new year. Twelve animals came and Buddha in turn named a year after each one. It was thereafter announced that people born in each animal’s year would possess some of that animal’s characteristics.

China is the most populous nation in the world, with 56 ethnic groups making up the population of more than a billion people. The Han is the largest group, numbering 1,1 billion people, or 93,3 percent of the country’s population. Other ethnic groups – minority nationalities – total 160 million people, only 6,7 percent of the Chinese nation. Some 20 of these minority groups have fewer than 50 000 people each.

New year is a time for reconciliation, forgetting past grudges and wishing for peace and happiness.The year of the dragon will last for 12 months until 10 February 2013, making way for the year of the snake.

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