Food traditions in china

Food traditions in china

Households in rural china are known to thrive on growing as much of their own food as possible; this allows them to spend very little money on food. This low food expenditure suggests high poverty rates, however china’s rural population are generally not malnourished. Their diet mainly consists of rice, wheat flour, other grains and vegetables, with a low protein intake; through this most of their nutritional needs are met. Spend very little on food, allows families to save their money for the more important things in life: like school fees, household construction and other goods or services they may need.

Chinese people have many different eating traditions. Table manners are seen as a very important part of daily life, it is said that if you have good table manners it will add to the enjoyment of your meal and keep everyone in good spirits. Hosts in china are all friendly and hospitable. However, you must show them respect. Some may offer words of greeting to visitors before you eat and it is not till they have finished and say “please enjoy” or words similar you can tuck into your food, failure to do so shows major disrespect and is offensive to the host. The elders in a family are looked upon with great respect; they are seen as wise/intelligent people. As a show of respect it is tradition to present the senior members of the family with the best and finest foods first, this what is expected and has been going on for many generations. As shown in the photo hosts place the main dish in the center and arrange the side dishes evenly around it creating a circle. If dishes are prepared in a decorative form they will be presented facing the guest and elders, as a final act of respect.

As everyone knows china is the hometown of chopsticks but china were not the only ones to take up this tradition, they were also introduced in Vietnam, North Korea, and South Korea. It is said that the invention of chopsticks shows the wisdom of the Chinese, creating the simplest design of two sticks able to do so much to and with food. Nowadays it is a strong belief that chopsticks bring good luck to peoples lives, so are given as wedding presents and gifts. Chopsticks have developed over the years, starting off 5000 years ago as a two twigs picked off the ground and developing into two tapered sticks of equal lengths coming in all kinds of materials like bamboo, plastic, metal, bone, ivory, and gold. With allsorts of patterns engraved or printed onto them.

There are many rules regarding the correct way to use chopsticks. These must be obeyed or you could come across as having bad manners and can be seen as being very disrespectful.

  1. Firstly, it is considered begger like to hit the side of your bowl or plate with your chopstick because Chinese people think you would only do that when you are begging for food.
  2.  Secondly, it is seen as a kind of accusation to others if you where to stretch out your index finger while eating or point your chopsticks at another, at the table.
  3. Thirdly, it is seen bad manners to suck the end of a chopstick; this implies you haven’t been brought up properly, so puts shame on your family.
  4. And lastly, do not insert a chopstick vertically into the food. This is only done when burning incense to sacrifice the dead. So is a sign of major disrespect.

As you can see food is a very important part of Chinese heritage. There are many different traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, that Chinese people just see as a way of life but others looking in, might deem unnecessary. Their relationship with food is very important part of their life and people from around the world should look into this culture and try new things. Then people might even start up their own traditions to pass down the generations.


Challenge 3: Find Your Chinese Name

Chinese names tend to have two or three characters. Unlike us, the Chinese place the family name first (if you have Chinese friends they may have swapped them round for our convenience). So Mao Zedong would be “Zedong Mao” over here (though he never was).

When the Chinese choose names they do so very carefully as a lot of meaning is bestowed on them. The hopes of the parent can be incorporated into the name (so “success”, “peace”, “hard working” might be alluded to) and the overall harmony of the sound will be considered too. Seasons, zodiac signs and animals or plants may feature.

Getting your name

The Chinese often “translate” western names into Chinese characters based on the sound they make. For example, George W Bush was known as bù shí (布什).

Common names have ready translations. “Mary” is  玛丽, which is pronounced mǎ lì (“mah-lee”), and “David” is , pronounced dà wéi (“Dah-way”). As well as choosing the translations based on the sound, they are often made in order to mean something.

Mary in Chinese

David in Chinese

You have to be a bit careful when choosing your name. Emma is 爱玛 which is pronounced as ài mǎ (“Ai-ma”), and means… “love horse” – which might be fine by you. The Chinese don’t hear it as “love horse”, of course, but as “Emma”.

Emma in Chinese

Jonathan has two common translations. The most common it seems is 乔纳当, pronounced qiáo nà dāng, which means very little. The other, pronounced “jeeang-nai-shan” means “mountain in the river” which I quite like. So that’s mine.

Jonathan (fairly meaningless version)

However, you don’t have to keep a phonetic translation of your name. You could choose an entirely different name, just as the Chinese often do when they live or work in the west. Perhaps you know some Chinese who have western names?

So you could be “bright star” or “lucky tomorrow”… but do be careful as sometimes names can sound like something else. 興星 (flourishing star) sounds like 猩猩 (gorilla). So it’s always best to get some help if choosing a Chinese name.

So: your third challenge is to choose a Chinese name. Start with the translation of your own name and see if you like it. If not, think of a new name for yourself and ask a Chinese friend or fellow student to help you.

When you’ve got your name, learn it and practice writing it (paying attention to stroke order – this is important, so get help!) Upload your Chinese name in both characters (as an image like I’ve done – the website I’ve linked to will produce one for you) and pinyin when you’ve got it along with its meaning and your thoughts on it.