December 28 - a big day for China Railways

Today (December 28, 2013) a new schedule comes into effect on China's railways. Schedules, of course, are updated a couple time every year, but this time there are a lot of changes, because a number of major railways open on the same day:
  • The Xiashen (Xiamen-Shenzhen) High-Speed Railway, which completes the high-speed corridor along the country's southeastern coast (Shanghai-Hangzhou-Ningbo-Wenzhou-Fuzhou-Xiamen-Shenzhen-Guangzhou). One probably will see the introduction of direct Shanghai-Guangzhou high-speed service (although, actually, it could have been introduced several years ago, via Shanghai.
  • The Yuli (Chongqing-Lichuan) High-Speed Railway completes the first east-west high-speed mainline, Changdu-Chongqing-Lichuan-Yichang-Wuhan-Hefei-Nanjing-Shanghai. However, news reports say that the Lichuan-Yichang section (which opened a few years ago) won't have high-speed train (D or G type) yet, just regular passenger trains. Supposedly, some signalling issues etc need to be taken care of first. So the long-standing promise of a day train from Shanghai to Chongqing will have to wait a while yet.
  • The Xi'an-Baoji high-speed line. Baoji itself is not a major destination; this project is merely a step extending the western terminal of another east-west high-speed mainline (now from Baoji to Xi'an to Zhengzhou), which eventually will be extended in the west to Lanzhou, and into Qinghai and Xinjiang.
  • High-speed (D and some G) trains will start running on an upgraded rail line into Guangxi: from Hengyang (on the Beijing-Wuhan-Guangzhou mainline) to Guilin, Nanning, and Beihai.
  • Direct high-speed service starts between several existing high-speed railways. For example, direct high-speed service from the Northeastern China (Harbin, Dalian, etc) to Shanghai, Qingdao, and elsewhere on the nation's high-speed rail network is started. Elsewhere, direct service from Guangzhou to Qingdao opens.
  • For "regular" passenger trains, somewhat symbolic is the extension of one of the overnight Urumqi-Yining trains all the way to Khorgos (Khorgas), near the border with Kazakhstan. On the Kazakh side, there is already an overnight train from Altynkol to Almaty. (So this is obviously not a "timed connection"). Incidentally, the track development in Khorgos looks pretty impressive for a place that only got its railway 3 years ago. Obviously, trade with Kazakhstan is a fairly major business...
    Khorgos area - View Larger Map
  • The Wuhan-Xianning commuter railway, the first line of Wuhan's future commuter rail system opens. This is a specifically Chinese development. In most countries, commuter trains - like Metro-North and New Jersey Transit around New York City, elektrichka in Russia, or Cercanías in Spain share tracks with long-distance trains, often not without some detriment to both services. In China this is apparently considered impossible, due to the heavy load (especially freight) on the "regular" rail lines, and rather inconvenient track alignments on the new high-speed lines. So if Hubei wants to introduce service similar to New Jersey transit, with frequent and more or less conveniently located stops, it build a completely new system of tracks and stations. Except that, unlike New Jersey, commuter trains in Hubei will run at speeds up to 200 km/h...
  • Ah, yes, there are also subway news. Wuhan opens Line 4 of its subway system, so now they will have three lines in total (Line 3 does not exist yet), connecting all three gigantic train stations of the city (Wuchang, Hankou, and Wuhan).

On another important east-west railline, Nanning-Guangzhou (Nanguang), the testing stage starts for the high-speed service. Revenue service is probably still a few months away.

(Based mostly on materials from http://news.huochepiao.com/ )


Panamá bus weirdness

I was looking on the internet for a bus map for Panama City (as in "Ciudad de Panamá" in the Republic of Panama, not Panama City in Florida). There actually is one, created by Anson Stewart. Unfortunately, even though recent, it depicts the system that is no more: the one of the unregulated Diablos Rojos (the "Red Devils"), the last of which was apparently put of service last March.

The system no in operation, called MiBus, is more like a typical US system, but it has some strange features too. For one, as their route maps seem to indicate, the routes are only identified by names, not number - and that's in a city of about a million! And yes, they only have individual route maps on their site; there is no overall system map.

After checking on site, weirdness continued. The main bus terminal (Albrook, next to the domestic airport) and the downtown terminal (Cinco de Mayo / Marañon) are huge, and bus bays have signs with the general indicators for direction ("Corredor Sur", etc), but no specifics such as route numbers. (Hey, we don't have route numbers!). Neither terminal has a single system map or route map (or, for that matter, a map of the terminal itself) posted anywhere. Besides the route name displayed on the front of the bus, buses carry no route information whatsoever. A great contrast to China (where the board with the bus route would typically list all the stops) or even Russia (where you'd usually find a rather cryptic, but informative, route map posted somewhere inside each bus).

If you try to actually ride a bus, you'll find that they seem to spend most of the time going in loops, getting on or off highway, or into or out the Albrook and 5 de Mayo terminals. It seems that once they are out of the terminal area and on the highway or a major city street, they are pretty fast.


Istoria Naturalъ

Another strange find on Google Books: Natural History in Romanian in... Cyrillic script! We are not talking about the Moldovian Soviet Socialist Republic: rather, the year is 1837 and the country is [Western] Moldova (Iași - Ешiй) under the Ottoman domination!

The language of the work is described as "Лимба Ромънѣскъ" (Romanian language) in Romanian, or "langue Valaque" Wallachian language) in French.

Apparently, a rather old-fashioned looking Cyrillic alphabet was the standard for Romanian until ca. 1860.


Mësojmë Kinezishte!

I was a bit surprised to find out that, forty years later, China Radio International still has an Albanian service, complete with a web site. Included, naturally enough, are Chinese lessons for Albanian speakers (Mësojmë Kinezishte).

This is how you'd offer your business card, in Chinese and Albanian:

  Zhè shì wǒ de míngpiàn.
  Kjo është kartëvizita ime.


Lelystad to Amsterdam

August 19 was the last day of my Copenhagen to Amsterdam ride, which started on August 2. I had camped in a forest strip near a canal a few miles east of Lelystad. It started raining hard just as I started to pack, so I had to fold the wet tent, to dry it once I am in Amsterdam.

Lelystad, the capital of the Flevoland Province, is sort of an experiment in futuristic architecture, 1970s vintage. There are no street names (other than for several highways crossing the city); rather, buildings are addressed by the name of the neighborhoods they are in. Direction signs are numerous, but often they all have the same work (the name of the neighborhood) in them, with various numbers appended to it. (Referring to building numbers? subsections? God knows...) Asking for directions is rather frustrating; after several "... to the right, and then to the left again..." the informant would conclude, "you see, it's so simple!". I don't know how I could conveniently operate in a place like this, but I figured it probably would not be an obstacle for somebody like my Mom, who has managed to have lived in the same city, on and off, for 40 years, without knowing the names of most streets. (Of course, communicating with my Mom about directions can easily get rather frustrating too).

The downtown Lelystad skyline is dominated by a monument that strangely resembles many a Lenin statue in Russia. However, this is not Lenin, but Lely. Unlike Lenin, Cornelis Lely had his new society created in an area that was previously occupied by the sea (rather than an old society).

There is a major civic center downtown; actually, it seems most of it is dedicated to real estate sales: one of the reasons of draining ("poldering") the Zuider Zee and creating the province of Flevolands on the land that emerged was to relive the population pressure in the rest of the Netherlands... so the local government (or is it a crown corporation of some kind? whoever runs this place...) is still busy selling houses and apartments to prospective migrants.

There was a city library in one of the corners of the center. Although it was closed on Monday, in a wonderful Dutch fashion its free Wi-Fi service was fully operational... and there were even electric outlets in the public areas! Finally I was able to do as much Internet "work" as I needed. I placed an ad on Craigslist.org to sell my bike (as much as I liked it, there was no way I could get it back to North America at a reasonable cost), and got a response right away.

A little mosque on the polder

After having a lunch running a few other errands and having, I finally left the Lelystad area only around 5 pm. Fortunately, days in the Netherlands in August are still along, and the road ahead was pretty nice.

On the Oostvaardersdijk between Lelystad and Almere, looking back (east). The Ijsselmeer (which is at the sea level) is on the left, the Oostvaardersplassen (part of the Flevoland polder system) in on the right... and it is visibly lower!

When I was in the Netherlands the first time, some 7 years ago, I wondered if I can get to a place where you can actually see, from a single point, both the sea (or at least some waterway at the same level) and some dry land that's below the sea level. An iconic Netherlands picture, as I'd imagine it. I did not have a chance to get to a location like that on that occasion... but now I finally had a full day of it! I rode on the Oostvaardersdijk, the dike that forms the northern border of the Flevoland polder system. And it certainly did look like that the polder is below the sea level!

Riding on the Oostvaardersdijk was one of the most pleasant sections of the trip: obviously, the dike is straight, and its top is flat... The road surface is smooth, and there are no crossing roads. As you pass Almere, signs start showing distance to destinations on the "mainland", including Amsterdam.

Now, on to Amsterdam!

Everything good ends eventually. So did the Flevoland. The last 20 km of my route went through cute little towns (with cobblestone roads) and some of Amsterdam's grittier suburbs... but by around 10 pm I finally got to my hotel, on Amsterdam's west side. The person who responded first to my "for sale" ad (when I was still in Lelystad) got there too, just a few minutes later... at 50 euro, the bike was good enough deal even in Amsterdam (this was less than half the price I has bought it for at Amsterdam 3 weeks before, 1000 Danish kroner), so at least I did not have the bicycle parking problem on my hands for my last day in Europe.


Fehmarn Sound Bridge

About the scariest travel experience I had in the last several years: crossing the Fehmarn Sound Bridge (Fehmarnsundbrücke) between Fehmarn Island and the northeastern tip of the German mainland (Holstein).
Everything that you'd want from a bridge: the railway (single track) on the left, the roadway in the middle, and a walking/bike path on the right.

The western wind is quite strong in this area even at the ground level (Fehmrn Sound forms a part of one of the few comparatively open east-west corridors between the North Sea and the Baltic). The bridge is quite high, to accommodate fairly large ships. As a result, the wind strength at the bridge level is just incredible.

I mean, the bridge itself is sound, the handrails are tall and strong, so one of course could not be literately blown off the bridge by the wind. Nonetheless, the wind is so strong and unrelenting that you pray that none of the numerous ropes, lanyards, strings, and bungee cords that hold your kit together breaks: you feel that if it does, anything that has been held by it - your backpack, tent, camera - would surely fly across the roadway and into the Baltic Sea.

Note the wind sock - it does not hang or flatter; it's just stretched horizontally and stays steady, like a steel pipe!
The sign on the mainland side apparently says that the access to the bridge bike path is closed in winters. (Interestingly I did not see a sign like this, or a closable gate, anywhere at the northern [island] side, though...)


Bert the Turtle teaches to duck and cover, in Japanese

Readers in the English-speaking world are used to seeing American and British scholars publish books on history of culture of other countries. But this, of course, is not a one-way process: scholars in the rest of the world are also publish results of their studies of all things American.

Recently, while browsing in a university library I've run across a volume that can be fascinating reading for someone who reads Japanese (I don't). Hiroko TAKAHASHI's compact, but densely packed volume, 封印されたヒロシマ・ナガサキ―米核実験と民間防衛計画 (Classified Hiroshima and Nagasaki: U.S. Nuclear Test and Civil Defense Program), published by Gaifusha Publishing, offers what appears to be a Japanese view of the civil defense programs started in the US in the late 1940s - once it became apparent that the USA would not be the world's nuclear power for long. The book's appendix contains lots of documents the authors obtained from US government archives using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - or, in some cases, the government's responses indicating that a requested document can't or won't be released.

I can't refuse myself the pleasure of reproducing one of the book's illustrations: the early 1950s Duck and Cover comic strip, teaching American kids to be prepared in case of a nuclear explosion nearby. Somehow, it seems strangely appropriate to see it with Dr. Takahashi Japanses translations of the captions, where Bert the Turtle becomes 亀のバート (Kame-no bāto)...

In the 1960s, people used to make lots of fun about the "duck and cover" drills, but in reality they weren't utterly useless. Apparently, during the recent meteor (bolid?) event in Russia's Chelyabinsk a quick-thinking teacher who must have remembered her own duck-and-cover drills was able to save her own 40 pupils from being hurt by breaking glass.

Pawnshops have some competition!

Until recently, I did not realize that Amazon.com has entered the second-hand goods market more directly. They, of course, have always welcomed vendors who, in effect, want to run their own small second-hand shops via Amazon.com web site (much like Ebay vendors do). But now Amazon.com actually invites customers to sell goods directly to them: when you browse the web site and look at a product page, you often see an offer to buy this particular product from you - the line of business which, in which, in the US at least, has been mostly reserved to pawnshops so far.

How good a deal do you get, compared to the retail price of a particular product (new or used)? Not always very good. For example, the web site offers to sell you a Nokia N900 cell phone / pocket computer for $160-190, and they can buy it back from you for $3.25. (That's three dollars and twenty-five cents). And, by the way, the payment is not in cash but in the form of an Amazon gift card.


Noah and Zheng He

Smaller than Noah's Ark?

Perhaps the one most heavily disputed issue is the scholarly and popular literature about the Zheng He's expeditions from the Ming China to India and Africa is the size of his fleet's flagships, the so-called "treasure ships (宝船). The literalists go along with the length preserved in the literary tradition, 444 chi, cobbling together various circumstantial evidence in its support. The skeptics argue that the traditional sizes just does not make sense, on a variety of grounds (e.g., comparisons to the sizes of the reliably documented largest wooden ships from other cultures, and the existent evidence about problems people had handling those other vessels). One can see an overview of various positions e.g. in Edward L. Dreyer's book, Zheng He: China and the oceans in the early Ming dynasty, 1405-1433 (2007); for a good exposition of the views of skeptical naval architecture historian, see e.g. Christopher Wake "The Myth of Zheng He's Great Treasure Ships" (International Journal of Maritime History, vol 16 (1), pp 59-75, (2004).

In any event, no one is sure exactly how long the chi used by Zheng He's shipwrights was, but it was somewhere around a foot - making the recorded length of the treasure ships about 450 feet, or 135 meters, give or take 10% or so.

Faithfulness in reproduction can only go so far...

The controversy does not of course stop the builders of scale models of Zheng He ships, and, on occasion, full-scale models as well. (Admittedly, the treasure ship constructed in Nanjing's Treasure Boat Shipyard Park, celebrating 600th anniversary of Zheng He's expeditions, is "merely" 63 m (210 feet) long; but the on-site signage explains that it is supposed to represent merely a "mid-size" treasure ship, rather than the largest one. Incidentally, the stationary vessel is actually built from concrete, merely lined with wood on the inside and outside. I guess this will guarantee the modern treasure ship greater longevity than the original could boast...)

While Zheng He's treasure ships may be the most famous maritime vessel of the Chinese historical and literary tradition, throughout the rest of the world this role is played by an even older - and even more poorly documented vessel: Noah's Ark. The Biblical description of the ark is, of course, not much more detailed than that of Zheng He's flagships, and the archaeological evidence is, uhem, scarce. But that is not stopping the believers from building full-size a replica ark, although not near the Biblically appropriate Mt. Ararat, but in the Biblically named Hebron, Kentucky. (The money may be an obstacle, however). The length of the venerable ship? The Biblical 300 cubits became converted to 500 feet (150 meters), just a tad more than the traditional size of the Chinese Treasure Boats!

I imagine that few (if any) of the people planning Kentucky's "Ark Encounter" park are familiar with Nanjing's "Treasure Boat Shipyard", and vice versa. But I think that it would not hurt the designers and operators of the two facilities to compare notes and exchange experiences. For example, the Nanjing treasure ship's holds are mostly empty (the park's exhibits are in separate museum buildings), meanwhile the Kentucky ark will perhaps house some animatronic simulations... Zheng He's fleet is know for carrying at least some exotic animals from overseas countries to China (notably, giraffes), besides of course many thousands of its own men and horses; so here's one possibility for "enhancing" the treasure ship model...

Who needs an ark if you have a literate turtle loaded with xirang?

Incidentally, Chinese mythic/historical tradition has a Great Flood of its own, possibly even contemporaneous with the Biblical one. However, there is no ark involved. Instead of building a ship and waiting out for God to drain the waters, as Biblical Noah did, the human protagonist of the Chinese Flood story, Yu the Great, was busy handling the flood waters on the ground level, becoming the founder of the nation's flood control work. Like Noah, Yu, too, had some divine help at his work. According to one version of the story, in front of him, a yellow dragon was dragging his tail, cutting channels in the ground; behind him, a black turtle sent by the Spirit of the Yellow River was swimming, carrying xirang (息壤) - a magic substance using which dry land could be created. Pressing engraved characters on its lower shell (plastron) against the newly created land, the turtle was then giving names to the emerging mountains and rivers of China. Although I am not aware of any Great Flood theme park in China, there is apparently a Yu-the-Great-centered sculpture park in Wuhan.



The first shoots of asparagus emerged above the ground a couple days ago. It's a been a long, cold winter, and a later spring...


Is the voice of the (snapping) turtle heard in our land yet?

If it is, the spring must be hear. When planting tender plants, gardeners rely on the "average last frost" dates in their calendars, but an unexpectedly late frost, often ruinous, is always possible. Wise farmers have various rule of the thumbs to figure when one should plant in a particular year. None of them, however, sounds better to me than this piece of advice shared by Susan Weisand, who grows hot chili peppers in southern Indiana, in a recent issue of the 812 Magazine:
Animals know the land better than you do.
I don’t plant until I see that my snapping turtle has laid her eggs in the spring. If she’s not out, I’m not planting.
(Photo of the snapping turtle by Willy Logan)
Now, where do I get a snapping turtle?


"Shopping-enabled Wikipedia page on Amazon"

Now working for Amazon.com's benefit!

Everybody is probably aware of a panoply of "parasitic" web site whose entire content consists of a huge number of articles copied, usually with no changes (other than poor formatting, character set confusion, etc) from open-source web sites such as the Wikipedia. There are even a few publishers (or, more precisely, "publishers") which reprint assorted Wikipedia articles as books (or "books"), and sell them through various channels including Amazon.com. But do you know that Amazon.com itself has joined the game?

Hmm, Bixi (tortoise) - Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page on Amazon... I wonder what suitable products are available on that topic on Amazon!...

Looking at a few articles, it turns out that the "products" on which shopping is "enabled" are mostly books (real books, that is) whose ISBNs are mentioned in the article. Well, even though a tad parasitic, that's at least reasonable.


Kangyuan Yellow River Turtle Farm Inc.

Strange things one can find on Youtube: a music video about Kangyuan Yellow River Turtle Farm Inc. (镇平县康苑鳖业有限责任公司) in Jiasong Town, Zhenping County, Henan Province of China. The facility, one of the largest of its kind, is said to raise some 6 million Yellow River turtles (a variety of the Chinese softshell turtle, Pelodiscus sinensis) annually, and occupies 600 mu (100 acres) of land and water. I wish the guy who took the video had a better camera, though!

It is apparently here on Google Maps.


The bear and the Littl Shyning Man

The city of Zheleznogorsk adopted a new coat of arms, which, according to the city councils, is described as a "bear or tearing apart an atomic nucleus argent". Considering the city's location and its main industry, the design is quite appropriate. But am I the only one who wonders if the emblem's designers have read too much Russell Hoban?


Electric tricycles of Qufu

Qufu, Shandong, is famous as the hometown of the Yellow Emperor and Confucius. But besides dozens of stone turtles guarding the memory of ancient sages, there is one more interesting thing to see in this town: a variety of electric vehicles that the locals use to get around and to move stuff.

Electric bicycles and scooters are nothing unusual for China: for several years now, many cities now have more of them than the regular kind, and they may have become the most common means of private transportation in some metropolitan areas. What I found interesting in Qufu, however, on my visit in January 2011, is the abundance and variety of larger, three-wheeled vehicles often seen there. They seem to be much more prominent in Qufu than in bigger cities I visited in more southern provinces, such as Nanjing, Wuhan, or Xiamen. I don't know if the difference is due to a difference in legislation between Shangdong and other provinces, or this is primarily due to difference in residents' financial means (i.e., perhaps a person in Nanjing who's in a trade that requires him to move stuff would be more likely to afford a pickup truck?).

Anyways, here are a few pictures: some from a shop where these vehicles (as well as more conventional 2-wheeled electric bikes and scooters) were on display, and some from the streets. All pictures are clickable.

The "vehicle" has pedals, and presumably can be moved on pedal power if necessary (say, you've run out of charge in the battery), although I suppose it would not be a particularly pleasant thing to do.

Another model for sale, and a couple more - with a bit more protection from the elements - going down the street.

Another view. Apparently the back of the "vehicle" can be configures as needed, either with a bench for passengers or with more cargo space.

The dashboard.

Yet another model - this one seem to have no pedals, so probably is purely electrical.

Winters are pretty cold in Qufu, definitely below freezing. But this does not deter bicyclists. Most bicyclists (and drivers of the three-wheel contraptions) in Qufu have "mittens" of sort attached to the handlebars, to keep hands warm.

Local drivers, I assume, are not surprised by electric trikes, since they must have been long used to the original, pedal-only variety. Here's a pretty old specimen of those - now not as common as in the days of yore - against the background of an array of electric bikes.

Here's one of those traditional "cargo bikes" (trikes) in use by a vendor next to Qufu's Bell Tower.

Apparently no electric vehicles in this picture; but it gives an idea of rather relaxed traffic on a slow winter morning in Qufu. The building in the middle is Qufu's Drum Tower, so it is the center point of the city. In the summer it would all be thronged with tourists.

And here, it seems, all vehicles in site are electric! (Outside of Qufu's Mosque, just west of the walled city).

And here, too.

Sharing road with cars.
There are a few more pictures of the local bike shops etc. here.

Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras

Both the Chinese calendar and the Christian calendar (as far as the Easter-based moveable feasts are concerned) are lunisolar, which means that the dates of the Chinese New Year and Easter are determined by rules that are based on the timing of the new (or full) moons with respect to the winter solstice (or spring equinox). Of course, the existence of the 7-day week enters yet additional rule into the Paschal computations, which don't exist in the rules for the Chinese New Year. (The 7-day week cycle is a comparatively recent development in Chinese history, and the Chinese New Year may fall on any day of the week).

So what is the exact correspondence between the dates of the holidays of the two traditions?

The Chinese New Year is the beginning of the first month (农历正月) of the Chinese year, and as such has to fall on a new moon, or more precisely, "dark moon" - i.e. the day when moon is in front of the sun; this, incidentally, means that solar eclipses can only happen on the first or last day of a Chinese month, and lunar eclipses, only around the middle of a Chinese month). The idea of choosing the first month of the year is, basically, to do it so that the New Year Day is as close to the half-way point between the winter solstice (which in the traditional scheme of solar terms is viewed as the mid-winter point) and the spring equinox (which, in China is, notionally, the middle of the spring). In other words, the Chinese New Year day should be chosen as the new moon day closest to the first day of the lichun 立春 ("Start of spring") solar term (around Feb 4). Thus the Chinese New Year Day festivities are referred to as the Spring Festival (春节, chunjie). In other words, the Chinese New Year Day (the first day of the Chinese Year, or [农历]年初一 [Nongli] Nian Chuyi) has to be the first new moon on or after Jan 21.

In a similarly "lunisolar" way, the Easter is determined, more or less, as the sunday on or after the first full moon (the Paschal Moon) after the spring equinox. With some simplification, the Easter of the Catholic Church, and most other Western churches, happens on the first Sunday on or after the first full moon on or after March 22.

Since the full moon is always in the middle of the Chinese calendar month, we see that the Paschal Moon has to occur around the middle of the 2nd or 3rd month of the Chinese calendar (农历二月15日 or 农历三月15日). The former takes place in case of a "late New Year" (i.e., the Chinese New Year happens after the first day of Lichun), and the latter, if the Chinese New Year occurs early (before Lichun). The (Western) Easter would be celebrated, respectively, on the 1st Sunday after the middle of the 2nd or 3rd Lunar month.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lent in the Western tradition, is 46 days before Easter. The last day before the Lent begins (the Shrove Tuesday, celebrated as Mardi Gras - the Fat Tuesday - in Latin Countries) is 47 days before Easter. Assuming 29 to 30 days in a lunar month, Mardi Gras should typically fall on the first Tuesday within the 7-day window that begins either 2-3 days before the Chinese New Year Day (in case of a "late New Year"), or 2-3 days before the end of the first month of the Chinese calendar (i.e. around 农历正月28日 - 农历二月5日) (in case of an "early New Year").

In other words, if the Chinese New Year Day comes during the Lichun term (on or after Feb 4), then the Mardi Gras will most likely fall on the Tuesday before or after the Chinese New Year Day. If the Chinese New Year Day occurs before Lichun (i.e., during the Xiaohan 小寒 term, before Feb 4), then Mardi Gras will be on a Tuesday a month after the Chinese New Year Day. Over a long period, both situations are approximately equally likely (since, by definition, Lichun is right in the middle of the period when the Chinese New Year Day may occur).

The Orthodox version

How will this work for those of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion? Both the Old Style and New Style Orthodox churches agree that Easter ought to be celebrated on the first Sunday on or after the first full moon (the [Orthodox] Paschal Moon) on or after March 22 of the Julian calendar - i.e. April 4 on the Gregorian calendar. Which means that in almost all years the Orthodox Easter (or Pascha - 巴斯克节 - as it is called in most Orthodox communities worldwide) has to occur on Sunday right around (or a few days after) the middle of the 3rd Lunar month (农历三月15日). The Orthodox equivalent of Mardi Gras is the "Butter Week" (Maslenitsa in Russian); this pre-Lent celebration ends on the Sunday 49 days before the Orthodox Easter, i.e. in most years, on the last Sunday of the first Lunar month or the first Sunday of the second Lunar Month.

In other words, the Maslenitsa Sunday and the Clean Monday are typically a month after the Chinese New Year, and 2 weeks after the Lantern Festival (元宵节 Yuan Xiao Jie). On rare occasions, when the Chinese New Year occurs very late (e.g., 2007-02-18, 2015-02-19), the full moon in the middle of the 2nd lunar month is late enough to be the [Orthodox] Paschal Moon; in these years the Butter Week happens right around the Chinese New Year. In the 22nd century the Julian calendar will fall back by one more day, so such situations will be even more rare.


Some translation stats

I was trying to add a comment to a recent post on Bruce Humes' blog, but apparently you can't enter HTML there. So here it is.

You may be interested in the statistics in UNESCO's Index Translationum, which is based primarily on the data (not always complete) from the participating nations' national libraries (such as the Library of Congress). The "Index" is aware of 81 books translated from Uighur into other languages published since 1979. Most of them (56) were published in the USSR (i.e., during 1979-1991; the Soviets were big at this kind of thing; most of these translations were into Russian, but also into Kazakh, German etc); and 19 more titles, in China. (Interestingly, not all of the latter were translations into Chinese!). And the remaining 6 titles, all over the world - including Europe, the USA, and even Singapore.

Not surprisingly, translations from Chinese to Uighur are a lot more numerous: 2006 titles over the same time frame. (You don't even need to go to Xinjiang to see a collection of these kind of works: there is, for example, a very quiet and dusty room in the National Library in Beijing full of such editions, some still in Romanized Uighur and Kazakh!).

The index is also aware of 8 books translated from Manchu published worldwide in the same time frame, and 946 translations from Kazakh (870 of which published in the USSR, 15 in China, and 10 in Russia. (Strangely, they don't seem to have any data on translations from Kazakh published in the independent Kazakhstan itself).