Every February, Chinese New Year is a great celebration in Manchester City Centre, spilling out of the confines of China Town down Market Street and onto St Anne’s Square, where red lanterns hang from the trees and a dragon parade may pass with beating drums.
But aside from having our favourite Chinese restaurants, loving to eat chicken Chow Mein and knowing how to say ‘kung hei fat choy’ (happy new year) how much do we know about the rich Chinese culture that lives here in Manchester all year round?
The late 1800’s saw mass emigration from China, where young men journeyed overseas to find work in the western world. Faced with racism and harsh conditions in many trades, the better resort was to open up a business. Laundry services, doctors surgeries and of course, beloved Chinese restaurants, then began to open in abundance, and the creation of China Towns established in many big cities.
Here is how to sample the best of Chinese Culture in Manchester, to learn about the rich heritage and how it fits into our bright and multicultural society.
Traditional Chinese medicine (known as TCM) is believed to have originated over 2000 years ago, which has of course since evolved but still relies on common concepts. There are many doctors practicing TCM in Manchester, and here are a few of our favorites to try whether you’re feeling under the weather, or even just curious.
Shanghai Acupuncture Clinic
On the outskirts of China Town, there’s a wealth of oriental remedies founded in this ancient practice. Enter the small red door to the waiting room and be transported to Shanghai’s old town, with traditional red knots of good fortune, and bottles of potions and lotions lining the back wall. Being an extremely authentic experience of Chinese medicine, the language barrier can sometimes be an issue here, so research what your looking for first and maybe even save the character for your ailment to your phone. The staff are highly trained, however, and use acupuncture, massage and herbal remedies to treat a range of complaints from eczema to anxiety, from muscle pain to infertility. So sit back and let the doctors work their magic, using treatments passed through many generations right down to this little red door on Portland Street.
74 Portland St, Manchester M1 4GU
Chinese Therapeutic Massage
Nestled away in Affleck’s is a self-professing relaxing massage parlour, where ancient techniques are used to relive the stress and body pains of a hard days shopping in the Northern Quarter. A tranquil retreat amongst the music, colours and characters of Affleck’s, Chinese Therapeutic Massage seems a little out of place, but once inside you subject your body to a heavenly process of correction and manipulation. With walk – or hobble – in appointments available, take a break from your day and experience the wonders of Chinese massage at this small practice.
Affleck’s, 35-39 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JG
0161 832 3637
Chinese Language may seem daunting at first, but it is extremely satisfying to learn and master. With a huge Chinese community in town, you will never be short on places to go and practice what you’ve learnt or show off how you can read a menu to your friends. If you’re interested in learning, Manchester has a range of different options to suit any budget.
The University’s Confucius Institute offers courses for non-students ranging from conversational mandarin on an evening class for £140, or a more comprehensive course twice a week for £260. These courses are run by professional teachers, and can even offer official credited certificates (or prepare you for the HSK – the formally recognized Chinese certification – if your want to advance even further).
This lot run informal ten-week courses for £55, which is extremely cheap, however you should expect only a native speaker – rather than a qualified teacher running the class. Usually university students trying to gain some teaching experience, the courses are laid back and informal but a great introduction to learning the language and meet like-minded people. The international Society also has a huge notice board full of people wanting to learn in tandem (exchange their Chinese knowledge for your English skills), so it’s also a good place to find yourself a private tutor.
If, like many of us, you’re looking to get fit this New Year, Chinese activities have proven health benefits for any age or ability. Not only do the Chinese have a good life expectancy, but they are also healthy for longer due to lifestyle choices. By 9pm in mainland China, any park or public open space is filled with older generations dancing, from ballroom to aerobics, every night sees a high turn out of people socializing and exercising together. Though this may not quite fit in with the rainy weather of Heaton Park, there are a few indoor options of sampling Chinese exercise in Manchester city centre.
Tai Chi Centre
Slap bang in the centre of Chinatown, the Tai Chi Centre offer beginner to advanced classes in Tai Chi, combining exercise, stretching and mindfulness. Originating from the philosophy of yin and yang, Tai Chi actions are based around the transferral of energy and finding equilibrium. It is a great not only for your body, but also your mental health, and with classes between £6-£10 it is definitely worth a try.
Chinese Kung Fu
A more physically challenge way to keep fit (literally translating as hard work) whilst also learning the art of self-defence. Not lacking in a theoretical background, Manchester Martial Arts Centre is a great place to practice that also teaches the fundamentals of Kung Fu – for example being defensive rather than offensive.
The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art
The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art on Thomas Street always has an interesting program of contemporary artists from China. Although small (with only two galleries) it is open 6 days a week Tuesday to Sunday and free to enter, and often has extra activities for children. The last Thursday of each month sees the gallery open after hours, and they sometimes have film showings or guest speakers. Pop in in between shopping, and be transported from the dreary rain of the NQ to the current affairs and issues inspiring contemporary Chinese artists.
The Confucius Institute
As well as language classes, this place at Manchester University also offers evening courses in calligraphy and Chinese brush painting. Both are extremely relaxing and satisfying to learn, as you’re taught not only how to create such beautiful pieces but also the history behind each practice. Classes run for 8 weeks at £120.