Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The hidden message in Chinese food 01: based on homophones

The language of Chinese food is observed in everyday life events, usually those that are of some significance.  

On the wedding day, the man goes to collect his bride, and they serve tea, on their knees, to her parents, for her to say farewell to them, before going to his place to serve tea, on their knees, to his parents, for her to pay her respects to her new parents and for them to welcome her into their family.  

Then the couple retire to their bedroom, where they share a bowl of sweet clear soup:  sweet for a sweet start to their new life together as a couple; the clear bit is probably partly because most Chinese soups are clear, and partly for the obvious symbolism (clear as opposed to cloudiness).  

In the soup are: 枣子 zǎozi (red dates), 花生 huāshēng (peanuts), 桂圆 guìyuán (dried 龙眼 lóngyǎn / “dragon eyes”; lóngyǎn is more commonly known in English as longan, after the Cantonese pronunciation; the dried form is called 桂圆 guìyuán and is a common ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine), and 莲子 liánzi (lotus seeds).  

The zǎo of the red dates is the same sound as the zǎo of 早 / early.  

The shēng of the peanuts is the same character for “to give birth to”.  

The guì of the dried dragon eyes is the same sound as the guì of 贵 / treasured.  

The zǐ of liánzi is the same character as that for “son”.  

So, the ingredients add up to the phrase: 早生贵子 zǎo shēng guì zǐ / “early give-birth-to treasured son”.