Ancient and modern
Birthday congratulation customs

The Chinese attach great importance to honoring the elderly. As an old saying goes, ‘An elderly person is a treasure to the family.’ In the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republican Period, family celebrations of elders’ birthdays prevailed among the people. Beijingers would usually celebrate birthdays one year before round-number ages.


Longevity hall

The longevity hall, located in the central hall, was for offering birthday felicitations. If it was an old man’s birthday, a large ‘longevity’ character written with a single stroke would be hung high up, with a birthday-congratulating couplet beside it, and the image of the three immortals standing for good luck, wealth and longevity below it. If it was an old woman’s birthday, there would be a central picture of ‘five blessings and longevity’ and an image of the goddess Magu.


Articles for daily use

In well-to-do households of Beijing, apart from valuable things handed down from the older generation, such Western gadgets as electric lamps and telephones started to be used in daily life.



The comfortable life of young Manchu men was thus described in an old saying: ‘Beijing dialect, Peking Opera, and delicious food and comfortable clothes every day’. Almost each of them was good at ‘playing’ something—insects, fish, flowers, birds, hawks, dogs, or camels. Some dedicated their whole lives to ‘playing’, turning pastime into wonderful art.