Letters sent surface mail cost 10 fen within the same city and 20 fen to destinations elsewhere. Airmail inside the country costs 30 fen. There is also an express service for mail within China.
The rate for small packets depends on the weight and whether they are sent by air or surface mail.
The larger tourist hotels have their own post offices where you can send letters, telegrams and small packets both within China and overseas. Many have fax and telex facilities as well.
Chinese people everywhere still celebrate their traditional festivals according to the old lunar calendar.
The lunar New Year is ushered in by the Spring Festival, China’s most important family holiday. This usually lasts for at least three days and the time off study or work is used by most Chinese to visit family in their home town.
This Chinese New Year according to the lunar calendar usually falls betweentheend of January and mid-February and isthe occasion formuch celebration within the family circle. All preparations must be complete by the eve of the festival, homes spring cleaned, new clothes bought and debts settled. At midnight fireworks and firecrackers are let off to welcome the New Year, and in the days that follow friends and relations visit one another and exchange presents and greetings. Grand festive meals are prepared in people’s homes and these have to last until the end of the festivities since the days should be given over to pleasure and relaxation. Dragon and lion-dancing carries on in the streets and brightly coloured pictures, usually ofthe two house-gods Qin Qiong and Yu Chigong, festoon doorways and houses are draped with red banners inscribed with new year’s greetings made specially for the occasion.
During the festival most services come to a halt and the number of people travelling makes getting about the country very difficult.
The Lantern Festival, which used to signal the end of the New Year celebrations, is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, but is not a public holiday. It owes its origins to the tradition, still carried on today, of having a wonderful display of lanterns on this day. In north-western China lanterns are made from snow and ice which are truly spectacular when lit from within (see Events). The speciality eaten at this time, from which the festival gets its Chinese name “yuan-xiao”, is delicious riceballs stuffed with sugar and nuts.