Spring Festival couplets ward off evil spirits, poverty

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For more than 50 years, Jiang Jie has written Spring Festival couplets for villagers in his neighborhood.

As a tradition, Chinese people write Spring Festival couplets, a two-sentence, auspicious poem written on red couplets in anticipation of a prosperous Lunar New Year.

As the Spring Festival is just around the corner, Jiang has joined other villagers in writing the couplets again. The difference this year is that each of them wore a mask under the requirements of COVID-19 control and prevention.

“It’s like a ceremony for us to say goodbye to winter and say hello to spring. Likewise, we bid farewell to poverty and pray for luck in the coming year,” said Jiang, 80.

Jiang lives in the Shenjiahe Folk Cultural Village, Yuanzhou District of Guyuan City in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The village is home to various forms of intangible cultural heritage, including paper-cutting, painting and Chinese calligraphy, and many villagers like Jiang are good at this art form of writing with ink and brushes.

In Shenjiahe, it’s an annual tradition to write Spring Festival couplets for villagers in the Chinese Lunar New Year, and the event usually attracts up to 1,000 villagers to the site, said Shen Kebin, the activity organizer.

“We have written the couplets for generations,” said Jiang, adding that in this way, villagers do not need to buy couplets from markets and could save money in preparation for other necessities for the Lunar New Year.

Among more than 30 pairs of couplets written by Jiang, one pair reads: Shake off poverty with governmental help and make fortunes with our own hands. A horizontal scroll bears the words “Hope for the future.”

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“I like this one most. It shows the life we have been fighting for,” said Jiang.

Yuanzhou District was once a national poverty-stricken locality. For Jiang, his younger years were marked by water shortage.

Thanks to China’s targeted poverty-alleviation efforts, villagers now have access to tap water, electricity and the Internet.

Benefiting from an irrigation project, the vast arid land in Yuanzhou District has become the base to 14,667 hectares of vegetables, which have increased people’s income and enriched the variety of dishes on locals’ dining tables.

Yuanzhou District shook off poverty last March. Jiang’s son has bought a car. Gone are the days when Jiang had to walk or ride on a donkey. “I feel so satisfied with my life now, and I write down those changes in couplets too,” Jiang said.

“What’s written in the couplets should keep pace with the times and reflect changes in society,” said Shen Kebin, the activity organizer, adding that nearly 400 Spring Festival couplets have been written under the themes of festival celebrations, fighting against poverty and the coronavirus.

According to Shen, most of the couplets were written online in WeChat groups, in line with rules against COVID-19.

Cai Jinghua, 12, was the youngest to take part in the activity. In his couplets, he wrote “We should always be grateful to those who lifted us out of poverty and keep us safe amid the COVID-19 epidemic.”

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