Chinese Lunar New Year widely celebrated in Cambodia

Xinhua, January 20, 2023

A woman shops for festive decorations ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan. 17, 2023.  (Photo by Phearum/Xinhua)

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh on Thursday that the Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, has been broadly celebrated in the Southeast Asian nation.

The 2023 Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, will fall on Jan. 22.

Speaking during a visit to the construction site of a new national hospital on the northwestern outskirts of capital Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said that his wife, Bun Rany, is a Cambodian of Chinese descent.

"My wife, children and grandchildren have celebrated the Chinese New Year too," he said.

The Chinese New Year is not a public holiday in Cambodia, but it is widely celebrated as some schools, private companies and institutions are closed by themselves on the occasion.

Tourists stroll at a public park decorated for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan. 19, 2023. (Photo by Phearum/Xinhua)

Sambo Manara, vice president of the Pannasastra University of Cambodia, said the Chinese New Year has gained its popularity in the kingdom from year to year thanks to the close ties in politics, economics and culture between the two countries.

"A large number of Cambodians have Chinese ancestry, and we estimate that about 80 percent of Cambodians living in urban areas and 40 percent in rural areas celebrate the Chinese New Year," he told Xinhua.

"I believe that this year's celebration is bigger and happier than that in the past few years thanks to the country's great success in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic through vaccinations," he added.

Manara said the wide celebrations truly reflected the kingdom's respect for cultural diversity and freedom of belief, and the excellent bonds of friendship between the people of the two countries.

Photo taken on Jan. 19, 2023 shows statues of rabbit at a public park for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year of the Rabbit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo by Phearum/Xinhua)

Chhort Bunthang, deputy director-general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, said the Cambodia-China ties dated back to the pre-Angkor era when Chinese envoys Kang Tai and Zhu Ying traveled to Cambodia in the 3rd century, and later envoy Zhou Daguan visited Cambodia during the Angkor period in the 13th century.

"Cambodians are open-hearted to welcome the cultural value of other countries," he told Xinhua. "It is believed that Cambodians and Chinese have enjoyed the Chinese New Year celebrations together since ancient times when they began to trade with each other."

Bunthang said the Chinese New Year is also an occasion for Cambodians with Chinese ancestry to honor their ancestors and enjoy a family reunion.

People shop for decorations for the upcoming Chinese New Year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan. 18, 2023. (Photo by Phearum/Xinhua)

Diep Sophal, a history professor at the University of Cambodia, said the kingdom usually observes three New Year festivals a year, namely the universal New Year, the Chinese New Year and the Cambodian New Year.

Days prior to the festival, Cambodian people with Chinese ancestors always clean and decorate their houses with red color paper-cuts, flowers, red lanterns and Chinese couplets, he added.