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China is a country with a long history, and food has played an important role in the development of Chinese culture. Every year many traditional festivals and events are celebrated with special foods. Some of these foods have particular meanings, such as good luck, best wishes, unity, and commemoration.
Dating back at least 2,000 years, the symbolism of foods in China comes from superstitions or traditional beliefs in eating to invoke/celebrate blessing. A meaning or "power" is associated with foods through food name pronunciation, food shape, colors, food history/legends, and so on.
Here we introduce several festival and special occasion foods as examples.
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is the most important traditional festival in China, when Chinese people especially emphasize wishes for happiness and blessing. So New Year foods usually symbolize good luck and best wishes.
Learn more details about Chinese New Year food.
Lantern Festival is the first full moon night in the Chinese calendar year, and the full moon as well as the food symbolizes family reunion.
The name sounds similar to 'tuanyuan' (团圆 tuányuán /twan-ywen/ 'reunion'), and roundness means togetherness and unity in China.
Sisters' Meal Festival is celebrated by Miao ethnic people on the 15th day of the third Chinese lunar month in Guizhou Province, south central China. They celebrate by eating five-color rice, which is regarded as a symbol of the Miao people.
The sticky rice sticks together, representing solidarity, and it is colored purple, red, yellow, white, and black using different leaves, berries, and flowers.
Learn more about Sisters' Meal Festival.
Dragon Boat Festival is an important celebration in China to commemorate Qu Yuan, a famous patriotic poet of China in ancient times.
Their symbolism is based on a legend: Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River on hearing his state was defeated. It's said that people threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fish, so they wouldn't eat Qu Yuan's corpse…
Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important traditional Chinese festival. It is a time for family members and loved ones to get together to celebrated family reunion. Therefore, people celebrate it by preparing foods with family-reunion symbolic meanings.
Besides festival foods, there are other foods with symbolic meanings eaten at special occasions to invoke (or celebrate) a specific blessing…
The Chinese word for 'seed(s)' (子 zǐ /dzrr/) is the same as the word for 'child(ren)'.
One of the characters in the Chinese for lobster (龙虾 lóngxiā) is 'dragon' (龙), and a chicken looks like a phoenix, so lobster and chicken symbolizes 'a dragon and a phoenix', representing auspicious male-female pairing in Chinese culture.
This is because noodles have a long shape, representing a long life. An old superstition says that it's bad luck to cut them.
According to Chinese myth, peaches were a sacred item served on the birthday parties of the immortal Queen Mother of the West.
The symbolism is obvious here. After a baby is born, parents may give "red-boiled" (chicken's) eggs to their relatives and friends to announce the birth of their baby.
Or you can contact us and we can tailor-make a Chinese food tour for you based on your needs and wants.