China’s Spring Festival Foods and Their Meanings

What’s China really like in the eyes of foreigners? Which parts of Chinese culture are the most attractive? What are their personal experiences while learning Chinese language? Are there any touching stories that happened to them during their stay in China? You will find the answers here. After reading the following stories, don’t you have the desire to pick up your pen and put down something in Chinese about things around you?


Joann Lee
Student in the Diocesan School for Girls in New Zealand

As to the many cultures behind China’s history of more than 5,000 years, the “eating culture” is my favorite. I love Chinese cuisine. When I am hungry, Chinese traditional food, such as spring rolls and dumplings appear in my brain immediately.

I think what Chinese people eat during Spring Festival is the most interesting. Everything they eat has a unique significance. I am curious about the anecdotes of the food names. Are there any special meanings?

My favorite Chinese food is dumplings called “jiaozi” in Chinese. Friends told me the shape of “jiaozi” dumplings looks like ingots that the ancient Chinese people used as currency. So, in north China, people make “jiaozi” dumplings during the Spring Festival. Then what about the southerners? They eat glutinous rice cakes.

I remember glutinous rice cakes are sold in most of the Chinese stores during Spring Festival. My teacher told me such cakes are sweet and sticky. They are the Joann Lee ( 新西兰) New Zealand favorite of kids. Glutinous rice cakes have a round shape, representing reunion of the family and a more prosperous life with every passing day. (The Chinese pronunciation of “round” is the same as that for “reunion.”) I have not tried any glutinous rice cakes yet but I can not resist the temptation every time someone mentions it. I will ask my mom to buy some for me next Spring Festival.

Fish is indispensable for the Spring Festival dinner. My Chinese friends used to tell me that fish represents “Every year ends with ample surplus.” (The Chinese pronunciation of “fish” is the same as that for “surplus”). Therefore, fish should not be missing when all the family members sit at the table.

Hot fried spring rolls are really delicious. They look like pieces of gold bars. Evidently, spring rolls stand for fortune, which are believed to bring people an affluent life. Every one pursues a life of sufficient food and shelters, so naturally they show particular love for spring rolls.

There are so many delicacies for the Spring Festival and each one of them is special. I hope I can spend a Spring Festival in China, experiencing the festival atmosphere and, of course, enjoying the delicious food.


Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Magazine 02. Volume II. May 2009.


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