A page from the Palace Museum calendar (Photos/Courtesy of the interviewees and Qi Xijia/GT)
After a long silence, traditional Chinese paper calendars seem to have made a robust comeback in 2018, but with a new look and a large number of young fans. Gone are the days when paper calendars were filled with "superstitious content" such as imagery of the God of Wealth and daily fortunes. What is now being placed on the desks of many white-collar Chinese - and being shown off on their WeChat moments - are upgraded "calendar books" with more modern and pertinent themes ranging from physical and mental wellness advice to encyclopedia excerpts.
I love, I love, I love my Chinese calendar
Almost like art books, these calendar books are beautifully illustrated and delicately bound and printing. The intricate design and layout is the exact opposite of the old, simple paper calendars, injecting more culture and individualized expression to cater to the aesthetic tastes and personalized needs of Chinese millennials.
One of the more popular calendars is the Palace Museum, which features luxurious illustrations of cultural relics and imperial collections at the Palace Museum in Beijing. The nature-themed Plants and Animals calendar, which is also quite popular, introduces one new species per week with illustrations and factual information.
Beginning with the 2016 China Central Television (CCTV) television program Chinese Poetry Conference and the museum-themed TV show National Treasure, many say that last year and this year are witnessing a Chinese cultural renaissance following several years of tech-obsessed content. The new calendars are a symbol of China's renewed love of its own history and traditions.
For 2018, Shanghai resident Qian Jie bought herself the Palace Museum calendar. "On one hand, the design of the calendar is full of Chinese aesthetics, and on the other hand it is very practical and functional, introducing new cultural relics on each page," she told the Global Times.
Zhang Xin, a civil servant working in Shanghai, agrees. This year he purchased an "old almanac" that focuses on traditional Chinese medicine, the laws of ancient times, the 24 Solar Terms and what one is supposed to do and not supposed to do on that day.
"I think it is a good way to preserve and spread traditional Chinese culture, making it more down to earth for ordinary people, like having new buds and sprouts from an old tree."
Inspiring and educational
An Xuan, who is self-employed, bought a calendar book displaying China's lunar calendar, as her iPhone calendar only showcases the solar calendar.
"As a lover of traditional culture, I pay much attention to the lunar calendar," said An, adding that while her iPhone is more practical and convenient to record appointments, a paper calendar makes a nice desk decoration and adds some aesthetic feeling to her daily life.
Peggy Liu, who works in the advertisement industry, bought her first calendar book this year. "You tear off one page after a day's work and you feel the time go through your finger, which makes you want to spend each day more seriously," Liu said.
Her calendar features famous quotes and illustration from classic Chinese literature and art. "It feels great to begin your day with an inspiring quote. You feel like every day you are greeted by a new face. You won't get that same good feeling from a phone screen," Liu told the Global Times.
An, whose personal hobby is flower arrangements and gardening, also purchased a calendar illustrated with different flora species along with explanations of what each flower symbolically stands for.