Archive for the ‘China’ Category

If you are anywhere near AJ Panda’s hometown of St. Louis, MO, you are going to want to make plans to attend the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden!

The annual Lantern Festival is one of China’s most ancient and cherished traditions. “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” will be an international exhibition of immense, lighted works of art from China. This festival will include extravagant outdoor sets that celebrate Chinese culture through bold colors, impressive light and fascinating designs. This is an opportunity to witness an extravaganza rarely available outside of Asia.

“Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” will run at the Missouri Botanical Garden from May 26 through August 19th. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/.

Lantern Festival - MO Botanical Garden

Lantern Festival – MO Botanical Garden

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Tea connoisseurs say that a Yixing teapot is an invaluable tool for any tea enthusiast’s collection. The qualities that make them truly special are the clay from which they are made and the highly skilled craftspeople who create them. Yixing clay is named for the city where it is found, in the region near the city of Yixing in Jiangsu province, China. The purple clay dates back to the Song Dynasty and is typically used to make tea vessels.

While Yixing teapots are famous in China for their beauty as well as practicality, it is their ability to absorb flavors of the beverage it holds, creating a more robust flavor over time. It is said that a well-used Yixing teapot will retain so much tea flavor that after many years of use, the teapot can brew tea by just pouring in hot water without using tea leaves. Yixing teapots also distribute heat more evenly to bring out the most flavor and health benefits of tea and can keep your tea warm for an hour or longer!

Due to the porous and unglazed surface of Yixing teapots, there are special care instructions to follow. To prepare your teapot for use:

  • Remove lid and completely submerge teapot, lid, and teacups in a pot of cold water.
  • Add tea leaves into the water bath and bring everything toa slow boil.
  • Boil for 15 minutes, then let the teawares sit and cool for 2 hours.
  • Remove the teaset from the water.
  • Rinse well with hot water.
  • Add tea leaves into the teapot and fill with boiling water.
  • Let the tea sit in the teapot for 24 hours.
  • Empty out the contents and rinse again with hot water. This removes the natural, earthy aroma of the teapot and rinses awa any clay residue from inside the pot.
  • Let air dry uncovered.

To maintain and clean your Yixing teaware:

  • Use the teapot to brew tea, not as a stove-top kettle.
  • Never use in a microwave oven.
  • Do not use any soaps or detergents to clean your teapot. Rinse ONLY with water and wipe dry after each use.
  • Do not use any abrasive pads to clean the teapot.
  • Do not expose the teapot to salt or oils.
  • Never teapot in a dishwasher.
  • It is recommended to only brew one type of tea in a Yixing teapot to avoid “cross-brewing”.

You may notice red spots or white water marks two to three weeks after first use. This is normal and will help prevent rust. When properly cared for, Yixing teapots can last a lifetime.

All Yixing teapots are on sale now at AJPanda.com!

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Not all Chinese dragons are created equal. Actually, there are nine Chinese dragons, not just one. Chinese scholars of ancient times identified a total of nine types of Chinese dragons based on their specialized tasks.  So while you’re doing your last minute shopping for Chinese New Year gifts, you may want to think about the different dragons.

  1. The Heaven Dragon protects the homes of the gods in heaven. This is the ruler of the all the dragons.
  2. The Spirit Dragon has five toes and is known as the imperial dragon. This dragon controls the weather. If you upset him, the weather may get nasty.
  3. The Earth Dragon spreads beautiful spring weather in the heavens and fall in the sea. He also controls rivers. When a river floods, we’ve upset the Earth dragon.
  4. The Underworld Dragon controls gemstones and precious metals. When this dragon reports to the heavens, he creates volcanoes. So next time one erupts, you know he’s reporting to the gods.
  5. The Horned Dragon is the strongest despite being deaf. His head points to the North. His tail points to the South. He also can make it rain.
  6. The Winged Dragon is the only Chinese dragon to have wings. He was the servant of the yellow emperor.
  7. The Coiling Dragon is the water dragon. He lives in deep oceans, lakes, and rivers. 2012 is the year of the Coiling Dragon.
  8. The Yellow Dragon represents the Chinese emperor. He is the dragon of knowledge.  He also doesn’t have horns.
  9. The Dragon King is not one dragon, but four. Each rules of the seas: North, South, East, and West. If you want it to rain, you go to the Dragon King.

Explaining the nine dragons to children can be fun. They might think it’s pretty cool that there are nine magical creatures. It just makes sense to buy dragon inspired Chinese New Year gifts.

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We are so lucky in AJ Panda’s hometown of St. Louis to have so many fun events that celebrate Chinese culture. From the Chinese Culture Days at the Missouri Botanical Garden to multiple Chinese New Year celebrations, we can always find somewhere to celebrate, share and learn more about Chinese culture.

This past weekend, the annual International Institute’s Festival of Nations was held in Tower Grove Park. This event showcases dance, music, crafts and food from cultures from all over the globe. Festival headliner was COBU, an all-female dance troupe that fuses Japanese traditional Taiko drumming with tap dance that traveled all the way from New York to perform. Students from St. Louis Modern Chinese School performed Mayila,a Kazakah dance.

Festival attendees were able to sample cuisine from 40 nationalities. My personal favorite from the day was Turkish borek, a pillowy pastry stuffed with spinach and feta.

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend this year’s event, you might want to mark your calendars now for next year’s! For more information, visit their website at www.festivalofnationsstl.org.


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Time to start gearing up to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival! This festival, sometimes called the Mooncake Festival, is for worshipping the moon when it is at its fullest and roundest. It takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which falls on September 12 this year. The celebration dates back 3,000 years to China’s Shang Dynasty.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important holidays in China, second only to Chinese New Year. On this day, friends and families gather to admire the bright-autumn harvest moon and eat mooncakes. Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes are piled in a pyramid to symbolize the thirteen moons of a “complete year,” being twelve moons plus one intercalary moon.

Visit AJPanda.com for the complete Mid-Autumn Festival history and mooncake recipes!



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The Royal Wedding is just days away and everywhere you look there is news coverage about every tiny detail! It is anticipated to be one of the most publicized and watched events ever and Chinese culture is going to be part of the big day! Zhu Xiaoju, a Chinese woman who studied in the UK, offered to create a custom tea set to be used at the wedding and the royal family accepted. After 10 days of design meetings, Zhu picked a hexagonal design teapot in a blue and white rice pattern porcelain. The names William and Kate are etched on the design that is decorated with plum blossoms, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo.

Royal Wedding Chinese Tea Set

Royal Wedding Chinese Tea Set

The set was produced in Jingdezhen, China’s capital of porcelain. Zhu says she wishes William and Kate to be attached to each other and live a happy life. She also says “”With this tea set, I want to congratulate the royal couple and also hope it can be the medium for a cultural exchange between the West and East.”

You can learn about Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremonies at ChinaBridal.com. If you would like your own Chinese tea set to follow along with while you watch, visit AJ Panda and check out our wide selection.

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I wanted to take a minute today and highlight one of the great books we have here at AJ Panda. The adoption process is long and complicated and nothing can help calm your nerves more than advice and stories from others who have already gone through the process.  While AJ Panda offers a large selection of books on Chinese adoption, culture and language, there is one that everyone seems to always love. A Passage to the Heart: Writings from Families with Children from China comes highly recommended for waiting families. It is a collection of 100 articles and stories regarding all aspects of adopting from China. It includes personal accounts from adoptive parents about both the joys of adoption and the challenges of parenthood.

One customer review on our site described it as “a compilation of stories related to the adoption process and experience; some of the stories are difficult and gut-wrenching and some are joyful and heart-warming. This balance in perspective helped prepare us for the many emotions and experiences that we encountered during our adoption process.”

No matter what step you are at in the adoption process or if you are just starting to explore adoption, AJ Panda has great resources for you. Or if you have already adopted, we have many great children’s books to help your little one learn about and celebrate their culture.

A Passage to the Heart

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Dream Chinese Character Necklace
Dream Chinese Character Necklace

Chinese jewelry is very popular and frequently searched for online. And while a lot of those searching do have ties to China – be it heritage, adoptive children, or just an interest in the culture – many just like the look of Chinese characters. I have to admit, they are pretty cool. I guess that’s why so many people opt to get Chinese character tatoos. As the buyer for AJ Panda, I’ve searched high and low looking for pieces I think our customers will like. Most of our Chinese character jewelry is sourced from an American designer, Zia Jewelry, but I have found some interesting jade pieces from wholesalers in China, as well. The good thing about Chinese jewelry is that it can be a fashionable accessory while projecting a positive message like “love”, “hope”, “dream”, or “friend.” These positive messages are what makes them such great gifts. Not to mention the characters that say things like “mom”, “dad”, “jie jie big sister“, or “mei mei little sister.” So the next time  you’re looking for a unique gift, think of Chinese character jewelry. I’m sure the recipient will be grateful.

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Ni Hao!

With Easter coming up soon, some adoptive parents wonder how important the holiday is to their children from China. Popular to contrary belief, the Easter holiday is also celebrated in China. Even beyond the religious implications, Easter has many significances in the Chinese culture. Easter in China symbolizes the conclusion of winter and the magnificent rebirth of spring.

The three most common symbols that are associated with Easter in the West are:  the Easter egg, rabbits, and baby chicks and all hold significance in Chinese culture as well.  In one of the creation stories from ancient China, the world was created from an egg of chaos.  Rabbits and chicks can be seen in many pieces of art, often there to symbolize life and birth.

To wish someone a “Happy Easter” in Chinese, say:  fu huo jie kuai le. Literally translated it means “happy festival for the sign life”.

AJ Panda has the perfect goodies for any Easter basket. Use our Easter Gift Guide to help you select the perfect items to put in Easter baskets for children of any age. You can start with any of our Asian dolls and browse through our toy collection that includes gifts like Chinese noise makers and 3D puzzles. For older children, we have Chinese journals and a large selection or Chinese character and jade jewelry.

Fu huo jie kuai le to you and your family this Easter season!

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It was another great party in St Louis for the Chinese New Year. As in previous years, the FCC did a wonderful job organizing the venue (Maryland Heights Center), food and entertainment. It is an amazing experience to be around so many families sharing the same passions for Chinese culture. And best of all, it’s great to see all these beautiful children coming together to bond and connect. I know my daughters, for example, are impacted by the many peers who not only share their appearance, but also a similar history. When we leave the party, they always have a bit more spring in their steps.

This year the entertainment was a local acrobatic troupe based from the St. Louis City Museum, as well as puppet show put on by the Confucius Institute of St. Louis. The girls seemed to enjoy both performances, and especially the crafts that allowed them to get hands-on with celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Lastly, it was nice to walk around the silent auction and see the assortment of baskets. There were lots of interesting options and items to celebrate Chinese culture, and I even saw many of the items AJ Panda donated to the party. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t win any of the bids! Next year I suppose I’ll have to make bigger bids!

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