Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese New Year 2015 - Looking for Year of the Sheep & A Good Friend!

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL, wishing you a Happy New Year – again! Thank you for joining me!

Today is New Year’s Eve of the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year. We’re leaving Year of the Horse and entering Year of the Sheep on Feb.19.

I wrote about customs associated with this 15-day celebration in last year’s post, Gung Hay Fat Choy! You’ll find a rich and colorful resource of song suggestions, favorite books, fireworks and Chinese instruments apps, and links to stories, a parade, lion dancers and dancing dragons.

Looking For A Good Friend

Dance into the new ear with How Pung Yo, a popular Chinese singing game. Full disclosure: I teach the game in English. The version you chose depends on the personality of your class and what level of movement you want to encourage, but the progression below is from the simplest to the most complicated and active. Those lucky enough to own I Will Be Your Friend or Roots & Branches can listen to lovely and distinctly different versions of the song on the accompanying CDs – but never fear! YouTube is here to help!

My kiddos delight in this YouTube video (“Looking For Friends”) of cheery animals dancing together. I share it on my iPad before introducing the singing game, and ask children to watch closely and imitate the animals’ movements. It is helpful to practice bowing and shaking hands with a partner before starting.
Please Note: YouTube links are subject to change, and sometimes material disappears. Download the video to your mobile device to circumvent any nasty surprises!

(1) Single player. One child changes place with another. All sing.
Teach the song to the children. Make a circle, with one child in the center of the ring. This child is “It,” and walks or skips inside the circle while children are singing. He/she stops in front of another child at the end of the line, “Now I find a good friend.”  On “Jeeng gah lee ah/ I bow to you” the two bow to each other, then shake hands on “Wah guh sho/ I shake your hand.” On the last line, they trade places, with the new friend going into the center.  Repeat. Continue until everyone has had a turn (no repeats!).  Teaching Tolerance: I Will Be Your Friend (Gao Hong - I Find a Good Friend)                                               

(2) Everyone looks for a new friend while singing.
 All the children play and look for a friend simultaneously. Everyone walks or skips for the first two lines of the song, then turns to the nearest friend, bows and shakes their hand. At the end of the song, dancers wave goodbye to each other. Repeat, finding a new friend. Chinese American Service League (CASL), Chicago

(3) Long dragon-dancer trains of new friends weave around the room while all sing.
Follow directions for #1 (above), but instead of trading places, the new friend holds gently on to the shoulder of the first child (“It”). Repeat the song, adding a new friend with each repetition.  New friends are added to the end of the train, until everyone is selected.
Note: Only the first child (the leader) shakes hands with children as they are added. 
(Hao Peng You - Looking For a Friend)

Music & Lyrics:
            Jow yah, jow yah, jow yah jow,                        Looking, looking, looking for,
            Jow do wee guh how pung yo.                         Now I find a good friend.
            Jeeng gah lee ah.                                             I bow to you.
            Wah guh sho.                                                   (I) shake your hand.
            Nee shur wah duh how pung yo.                     You are my good friend.

Den-Den Daiko Drums for the New Year!

Spin-drums, including one made by Briana a decade ago!

After dancing, it’s time to scare away any bad luck that may be lurking about! I bring double sided spin-drums from different parts of the world and let my kiddos explore the sonic difference between drums while madly twirling the drum’s spindle!  Things we find out: Big drums are lower in sound, small drums are high. Wood sounds different than hide or plastic or paper, etc. Speed of spinning alters the sound. We’re musical scientists!

Whether they’re called den- den (Japan), bolang jo (China), damru (Tibet, India), flip, spin or pellet drums, they are fun for one and all. I’ve made versions of spin-drums, mostly with paper plates and beads, but this year I’m going to try something new, inspired by a Learning 4 Kids post: Homemade Musical Instrument: Den Den Drum, which uses wooden spoons as the instrument base. Look out world!

Learning 4 Kids photo: Janice Davis

Keep your heart open to the wonders of the new year, and banish your preconceived notions of what it means to be a sheep on this turn of the zodiac. Life is full of surprises!

I am continually inspired by The Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2014 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *


  1. So fun! Tomorrow I am teaching the Chinese New Year and your video and song/game will make such a great addition to our lesson! Thank you!

  2. Have fun! Check out last years post. There's a link to a beautiful, colorful online story about Nian.

  3. Wonderful post! Love seeing Briana's spin drum and of course the Lamb-Dog! Very fun!

  4. Great ideas!!! I make Chinese drums for Chinese New Year and have been looking for something a little more sturdy than the ones we've been making! Pinned to try these for next year!


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