Chinese New Year, 1903
Staff Person: Maury York
The Chinese New Year is one of that country’s most important holidays. It begins on the first day of the first lunar month, in late January or early February. In 1903, Commander George Leland Dyer, a U.S. naval officer, witnessed the Chinese New Year celebration in Shanghai. He described the celebration in a letter to his wife, dated January 31, 1903.
“We had a good look at Shanghai on an interesting occasion. It was the Chinese New Years and the streets were crowded with Chinese in gala dress. There was a continual passing of Chinese women in carriages of the hack variety and in rickshas. These people were all handsomely dressed in colored silks and were painted very perceptibly. Many women were also walking or stumping along on their deformed feet, all attended by women more plainly dressed. There were also many riders on the small ponies which seem to be in use. These were all Caucasians and men. I saw no ladies on horse back.”
Dyer was nearing the end of a long career in the Navy that had begun in 1870, when he was graduated with honors from the U. S. Naval Academy. His papers are a rich primary source for studying naval history. A finding aid for the George Leland Dyer Papers is available on the Special Collections Department’s website.