Dragon Boat Festival History & The Story of Qu Yuan

The Dragon Boat Festival (a.k.a DuanWu Festival 端午节) is a significant happening in Chinese culture. Every year in June. In fact, people get 3 days off to celebrate this holiday with friends and family.

The Story of Qu Yuan

To understand the cultural significant, it’s important to understand the history and origin of this holiday. For this, watch the below video about the story of Qu Yuan

Also listen to this podcast for a deeper discussion on the History.

Dragon Boat Races

To get an idea of the festival today, watch this National Geographic video:

Here’s another video of a Dragon Boat race in Hong Kong:

The Tradition of Exchanging Zongzi

As you could see in the video above, eating Zongzi has become a traditional custom during the holiday. In this video, you can see one of China’s superstar vlogger making Zongzi the traditional way:

One of the main reasons why the Dragon Boat Festival is so popular is because the exchange of Zongzi is so much fun. People will make Zongzi at home, and bring some to friends and family when they visit them during the Holiday.

If you’re interested to make some zongzi yourself, this recipe by Angel Wong is highly recommend:

We hope you enjoyed this post. Any questions about this traditional Chinese custom? Never hesitate to leave a comment below!

Chinese Business Meeting Etiquette Guide

When attending business meeting in China, there are cultural customs that needs to be taken into account. Language isn’t an issue anymore, as nowadays most sales staff as well as business owners speak decent English. Yet, there’s still some cultural differences that needs to be bridged. Follow this guide to prepare yourself perfectly for a Chinese business meeting!

Arrive early

This is a do that is quite normal everywhere but do try to arrive more early before a meeting. Chinese are very punctual in a business setting. So by coming earlier you make a good image for yourself.

Business Cards Exchange

When meeting your host, you’ll see the ritual of exchanging business cards will follow. It’s important to use both your hands when giving and receiving business cards!

A few more tips:

  • Do not write on the received business card, that’s considered rude.
  • Have your business card translated in the local language. While your host likely can read English, having a translated side of your business card, shows that you’re well prepared and professional.

Do not write in red

Writing in red is a big no no in Chinese meetings. Read this article for more information:

Communicate Your Dinner Preferences

If you go for a dinner and you don’t like some of Chinese food please let your host knows ahead of time. You may feel this is rude, but if you don’t and you don’t eat it will be considered an insult and lose “Face” of your host. This is a big thing in China and definitely make you lose that business opportunity. My tip: be brave and try. That will make you look very good.

Sometimes a good host will ask you proactively what you like. In such case, don’t shy away, and simply tell him/her your preferences.

At last, using chopsticks will impress your host, but if you really can’t, it’s perfectly ok to ask for forks, spoons and knives.

Leverage on Chinese stereotypes

Many Chinese have great trust in Western products and services, and rate their quality often higher than their Chinese counterparts. From a B2B perspective, Western suppliers of products and services should demonstrate their focus on safety, reliability, user friendliness and comfort.

Chinese business partners are then more likely to view collaboration as a way to create added value.

Do not open a gift directly when receiving

When you receive a gift from your host never open it in front of them! This could embarrass your host and also is not common. Only when your host keep insist to open it you can do it. In other cultures this is quite normal.

Get used to lengthy meetings

When you are at a meeting with a group of Chinese people, you may experience it to be very lengthy. That’s normal in China. The Chinese love to discuss everything and even take small breaks in between. During the meeting there may even be frequent periods of silence. The reason for such long meetings is that meetings are often attended by more people relative to the West. In Western countries, people want to limit the amount of attendants and meet effectively and fast.

In China, the meetings could get extremely lengthy, with the speaker giving those long pauses during the speech. You may feel uncomfortable as a Westerner, but it would be a bad idea to interrupt them. Try to be patient and understandable during such meetings.

Tea Etiquette

Sometimes meetings are held around a traditional Chinese tea table. Impress your host by learning about these tea ceremony etiquette.

11 Chinese Dog Idioms (Chengyu) That Will Surpise You

For a deep understanding of Chinese culture, one should look into idioms that are used daily life. As more Chinese are having dogs at pets, these common dog expressions in China are more frequently used. However, dogs in idioms do not always have a positive meaning, often describing bad guys and enemies in politics. Yet, some of them are really funny and positive!

A dog trying to catch mice

狗拿耗子 (gǒu ná hào zǐ): What would a cat say if a dog is trying to catch its mice? This dog idiom is often used in situations ‘when one minds other people’s business’.  In other words it means ‘please, mind your own business’.

When a man becomes immortal, his chickens and dogs become immortal too

一人得道,鸡犬升天 (yī rén dé dào, jī quǎn shēng tiān): Meaning When a person becomes powerful, those who connect with this person rise to power as well. This Chinese dog saying is used to describe those who cling to power and get what they want.

The story behind this idiom is quite funny. Legend has it that Liu An, the king of Huainan in the Han dynasty, rarely did anything serious. The only thing he did all day was to seek recipes for making immortal pills. He sent people to look for the alchemists in the woods and finally got the recipe for the elixir. He shut himself up in the room and tried and tried. Finally, ten refined pills came out of the furnace! He swallowed five of them in one go and floated and slowly ascended to the sky. The rest of the pills was eaten by his dogs and chickens. He was overjoyed about the success, and suddenly heard a bunch of chicken sounds and the barking of the dogs. Turned out his chickens and dogs also gained immortality and ascended to heaven with him!

To use dog tails when there are no more mink tails

狗尾续貂 (gǒu wěi xù diāo): Odd image, isn’t it? In old times, mink tails were used as a decorative accessory on the hats for the guards in the imperial court. One lord got carried away and appointed excessive amount of guards, which caused the shortage of mink tails. Dog tails got used instead in the end. Usually it means making an unworthy continuation of a great work with inferior quality.

Having foxes and dogs as friends.

狐朋狗友 (hú péng gǒu yǒu): Meaning having bad friends who do nothing serious.

To draw a tiger that ends up looking like a dog

画虎类犬 (huà hǔ lèi quǎn): Trying to draw a tiger but the drawing ended up looking like a dog. This common dog expression means trying to imitate someone or something and failing to do so, or being overly ambitious.

No elephant’s tusk comes out of a dog’s mouth

狗嘴里吐不出象牙 (gǒu zuǐ lǐ tǔ bù chū xiàng yá): It means a filthy mouth cannot deliver decent language.

A dog borrows the power of its owner

狗仗人势 (gǒu zhàng rén shì): Meaning being a bully under the protection of a powerful person.

A dog will leap over a wall in desperation

狗急跳墙 (gǒu jí tiào qiáng): Meaning a cornered bad guy will do something desperate.

Chickens and dogs are not left in peace

鸡犬不宁 (jī quǎn bù níng): Describing having disturbances that drive people crazy.

To steal chickens and dogs

偷鸡摸狗 (tōu jī mō gǒu): Describing stealing or doing something dishonest.

Nice music, beautiful women, good dogs and fine horses

声色犬马 (shēng sè quǎn mǎ): Meaning indulging oneself in extravagance and pleasure.

Chinese Cat Idioms (Chengyu)

The Chinese frequently use idioms in daily communication. Understanding these idioms can highly enhance your understanding of Chinese culture. And for Chinese language learners they’re pretty essential to advance language skills too!

In China (and perhaps also in the world), cats are the most popular pets right after dogs. In fact, China’s cat population around 90 million! With so many cat lovers, there is an increasing use of the following cat idioms (also called ‘chengyu’). We’ll discuss 4 of them below:

The cat and mouse are sleeping together

猫鼠同眠 (māo shǔ tóng mián)

Meaning: to neglect of one’s duty, covering up the subordinate’s evil deeds, or doing bad things together.

The cat cries when the mouse dies.

猫哭老鼠 (māo kū lǎo shǔ)

This idiom means to pretend to be sad and compassionate.

Get a cat and lose a cow

争猫丢牛(zhēng māo diū niú)

Meaning seeking small gains but causing big losses.

To draw a tiger, while looking at a cat.

照猫画虎 (zhào māo huà hǔ)

The meaning of this idiom is ‘to imitate’ or ‘be sloppy in performing tasks’. The origin of this idiom is related to a late Ming Dynasty story. There was a very famous painter in Penglai City. He particularly likes the stories of the “Liang Mountain heroes” and decided to work on a series painting related to the legend.

He painted all the heroes expect the last one called ‘Wu Song’. He felt that Wu Song was inseparable from tigers, but he was not familiar with tigers, so he saved him for the end.

Just before he passed away, he called his apprentice in front of him and said, “I’ve not completed my work. You have to finish the painting after I die. You must go to the other side of the mountain to find the tiger, watch carefully and then paint the final painting.”

The apprentice obeyed the master’s instructions. He hiked to the mountain with dry food and a self-defense knife to look for tigers. However, he couldn’t find it after many days, and was discouraged.

When he met a monk on his journey he explained his troubles. After listening,, Monk Xiao smiled and said, “How difficult is it? Can you just find a cat? They look the same.” The apprentice said, “cat is too small.”

The young monk said, “Isn’t it better to draw a bigger one? Besides, the cat is still the master of the tiger! You can draw the tiger as a cat.”

The apprentice was convinced and went home to find a big yellow cat, and then painted a tiger. He finally completed the Wu Song and Tiger painting and added it to the collection of 108 Liang Mountain heroes.

After a literati read it, he wrote an inscription on the edge of Wu Song’s Tiger Fighting: Masterpieces of famous paintings, heroes of 108, and only the painting of Wu Song mistakenly used a yellow cat as a tiger.

From then on, the story of the cat and the tiger spread, and became a proverb, specifically describing those who do not perform their tasks responsibility and without adhering to high standards.

We hope you enjoyed learning these interesting idioms on kittens! If you’re interested in learning about cats in Chinese literature please read: Cats in Chinese Literature on Helloteacup.com

Avoid Eating Everything off the Plate in China

It’s obvious that you don’t want to waste food. When eating with your own family or best friends, it’s of course ok to finish all the food. However, in a more formal setting you’ve got to leave some on the plates. Here’s why:

When having a meal, try to avoid eating everything off the plates in the middle of the table. By leaving some food it shows you are full. If you finish all the food it is considered impolite and means you are still hungry! The host will feel embarrassed and order more food (even if everyone is actually full).

Finishing the food on your plate is however fine, as long as you don’t clean the plate where the dishes are being serve on. Leave a bit on the plate to show some modesty.

Also on a day like Chinese New Year leaving a bit behind means you have an extra spiritual food reserve through out the year.

Exchange & Examine a Business Card

In Asia, exchanging business cards is a true ritual. There’s a few important customs that you need to keep in mind for successful meeting.

  1. Always make sure to receive the business card with both hands. In some countries, it’s rude to accept a card with a single hand or even worse with your right hand. Right hands are perceived to be used only during toilet visits. Thus, use both your hands to make sure you don’t upset someone and make a good first impression that you’ve done your homework.
  2. Offer your own business card in exchange. If your has one side translated on the local language, then make sure that side faces up.
  3. After you receive a business card of your Chinese host try to examine it closely to get a good image.  Make sure to remember the name and position/role of the person.
  4. After you looked at it well, place it on the table in front of you and keep it there until after the meeting. Don’t put it away directly.

Tip: Have your business card translated in the local language. This show that you really care and that you’re professionally prepared.

Tagged : /

How to use Chopsticks?

Do you want to learn to use chopsticks? When having a meal in China, it’s important to use the chopsticks correctly. Checkout the great video below to learn the basics. Of course, you won’t be able to use chopsticks right away. This requires practice. If you want to show off some skills in Asia, you’ll have to practice first at home. Below we also have some important Chinese etiquettes to share, which may have some overlap with other asian cultures.

Chopstick Etiquettes

playing with chop sticks

Do not use them as a fork, and don’t stick both chopsticks in your meal! Chinese believe in the after life and by sticking the chopsticks in the meal you are inviting the spirits to eat it. Especially do try not to place your chopsticks straight up in your bowl. By placing your chopsticks like this you will remind your host of joint chopsticks sticks which is connected with dead and funerals.

stick chopsticks in bowl

A very common scene on the round table where Chinese people get together to have meal is people will pick up food and put it to your plate with their own chopsticks. Western people might find it hard to accept concerning the public health, but such behavior expresses the hospitality and kindness that you should not deny it.

Don’t strike the edge of your bowl with your chopsticks and think it sounds funny. It is considered rude and disrespectful. The tradition can trace back to ancient times and it is considered as a beggar’s behavior.

If You’re Not Able To Use Chopsticks, Don’t

If you have difficulties using chopsticks, feel free to ask for knives and forks. There’s really no shame if you simply can’t. Your host will understand, and it won’t be considered rude at all. They’ll be happy to just see you try.

Avoid Saying No in China

Try to avoid saying “no” , this is a sign that you are unwilling and it is considered rude in the Chinese culture. This may sound strange, especially if you’re raised in the West, with a very direct way of communication.

If you’re doing business in China, it’s important to understand the nuances of one’s reply. Obviously, it’s hard to answer every single question or demand with a direct ‘yes’. But the Chinese unconsciously avoid a direct no by giving the reply a twist. For example:

  • Sounds like a reasonable idea, let me look further into it.
  • I’m a bit busy currently, but I’ll make sure to get back to you in the future.
  • It’s a good suggestion, but you may also take (time/budget/resources) into consideration.
  • Interesting, let me think about it.
  • etc

Looking at the above examples, you may realize that, that some responses look like constructive feedback, which is a good think. Others are just to avoid saying no. It’s important to listen carefully to the nuances if you’re doing business with a person. This allows you to better know what to expect from the business relationship in the future.

When you’re a Westerner, saying ‘no’ may be less rude, relative to when it comes from a local. After all, there’s much more international interaction nowadays, so some Chinese are aware of the cultural differences in communication.

Not Write in Red in China

The color red is considered to bring luck. But there is one way the color red may not be used. Please do not write somebody’s name in the color red. This means you wish them bad luck.

In general, it’s not good to write with a red color at all. In some more conservative company cultures, it’s not done, when your boss or colleagues see you writing with a red pen.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Give/Receive Business Card & Gifts in China with Both Hands

When given and accepting any objects (such as gifts or business cards) with both hands, it shows you are fully interested and dedicated to receive the object. This custom is relevant in China, but also in many other Asian countries.

For example, business cards are also given with both hands and thumbs up. When you’re the receiver, also accept it with both hands.

An often made mistake is to directly hide the card away. This is considered rude. The best thing is to study the card closely for a while and then put it in front of you on the table. Do not play with the card or write any details on the card. Instead, just take a careful look to remember the name and the background of the receiver.

accepting objects with both hands

Do not throw cards across table. This is considered to be very rude and disrespectful. Always handle the business card with great care and respect. After you finish the conversation pick it up and take it with you. Do not put it in your pocket directly!

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Chinese Cuisines and Dining Etiquettes

In Chinese culture, food has more than just a vital function. It has a significant social role. Their meals are times for family get together, friends reunion and business meetings. They prefer to consume food in a form of group of people rather than alone. For instance, occasions like Spring Festival, Chinese folks eat dumplings to express the relationship between themselves and God. Thus, food is an important part of life in Chinese culture.

Chinese take great pride in their dining etiquettes

Chinese people are very proud of their food and they have every right to be. Chinese food is probably the most diverse in the world. And, certainly it doesn’t restrict itself to the five or six dishes you usually found in Chinese restaurants in western countries. Chinese cuisine uses a wide variety of ingredients, and there are totally 48 ways of cooking them. Such as stir fry, deep fry, steaming, roasting, boiling and so on.

Chinese breakfast vary greatly between different regions. In northern China, breakfast fare typically includes Chinese hot pocket, tofu soap, Spicy Peppery soup and soy milk paired with fried Chinese dough. In southern China, represented by Guangdong province, breakfast includes rice porridge prepared to thicker consistency than those sold in Shanghai, and side dishes are not served. Some of them also like to have congee in their breakfast. Other breakfast options include pan frying noodles with bean sprouts, spring onions and soy sauce. Their Cantonese breakfast also includes turnip cakes and rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves. The dim sum breakfast is a world in itself and it’s often eaten as brunch in specialist restaurants. Chinese folks enjoy their morning tea and dim sum breakfast together with lots of people, where they talk about business and exchange information.

It is Chinese tradition to serve rare and expensive foods to their guests. By doing so, they express their social status and show respect to their guests. It is also used to represent high economic status and a way to show, how much wealth they have. Bird’s nest, shark’s fin, and lobster are few examples of their custom. These rare foods are from animal sources and high in protein.

Majority of Chinese people prefer to have 3 meals a day. Their formal dinner includes 8 to 10 hot dishes, 4 to 6 cold dishes, served with fruits and soup. All dishes are put in the middle and shared between all members of family. Members need to wait until whole family gets seated. Usually a rotating platter, in English it is named as lazy Susan, is used to facilitate the distribution. Their traditions vary in different places. In some places, Chinese have a tradition to serve others first. They first serve elders and the younger members, followed by men and ladies. In other places, women eat after men. But mostly, the group dining is the preferred eating system in Chinese society. Yet, group dining culture also brings the possibility to spread infectious diseases. Thus, one should consider the benefits of separate dining. Regardless, due to dispute against standard dining culture, separate eating is not encouraged in China.

Tagged : / / / /

Traditional Chinese Pre-Wedding Ceremonies

The Chinese Wedding is considered to be one of the three most important ceremonies of life; the other two are birth and death.

The Chinese Pre-Wedding customs and rituals of traditional Chinese weddings were originally found in the Book of Rites, the Book of Etiquette and Ceremonies, and the Bai Hu Tong. The three books are now condensed into a series of written documents and known as the Three Letters and Six Rites. A traditional Chinese wedding that includes all of the six rites is therefore considered to be a complete wedding.

The Six Rites are:

  1. The Formal Proposal
  2. Presenting the eight characters of the bride to be to her prospective groom’s side of the family.
  3. The eight characters being placed at the ancestral altar to ensure the couple’s compatibility.
  4. Betrothal gifts sent to the bride to be, she in turn sends gifts to the prospective groom.
  5. The selection of the wedding date.
  6. The wedding ceremony.

The Steps to a Successful Wedding

The Selection of the Most Auspicious Dates

The first step to having a successful wedding in China is the selection process to find the most suitable date. A date will be selected on a combination of the birth dates, time of birth and ages of the prospective couple. Other factors to consider on the Chinese calendar are lucky or prosperous days. Even numbers are usually preferred and for many Chinese couple’s the preferred time is close to the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, when families are gathered together, everyone is happy and good luck is abundant.

Once the date is selected, the next detail to be decided is the type and quantity of all the gifts, such as betrothal gifts, reciprocal gifts, the price the groom must pay for the bride, and the number of guests and tables needed at the wedding banquet.

Betrothal, Exchanging Gifts and a Dowry

The exchange of gifts will begin with the family of the groom presenting their gifts to the bride’s family up to three months before the wedding; this symbolizes both good luck and prosperity. Another important ritual is the ‘bride price’ the dowry paid to the family of the bride, inside a red envelope. The family of the groom receives gifts from the family of the bride. The bride will also receive a dowry from her parents.

The gifts that are given are usually presented in pairs to represent a couple. Food items can be wine, tea or oranges. Jewelry given to the bride may be earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces of gold. Traditions in some areas also include dates and peanuts. In the Chinese language date is close to the word for ‘early’ and peanut for ‘birth’. The dates and peanuts are a blessing for the birth of a child within the first year or two of the marriage.

The ‘bride price’ the dowry given to the bride’s family varies from one region to another. Traditionally it is much higher in the south of the country. Once the exchanging of gifts and the dowry had been paid the date of the wedding is announced, invitations are written and distributed within two weeks of the wedding ceremony taking place.

The Bride’s Gift from her Parents

A few days before the wedding ceremony the bride may be given gifts from her parents, these gifts will include bedding, new clothes delivered in a suitcase, a tea set for the wedding ceremony and a tub filled with items for a baby. Other gifts include a sewing basket and gold jewelry.

The houses of the bride and groom as well as the venue for the wedding banquet will be decorated with paper cutouts known as ‘double happiness’. These cutouts will be pairs of ducks, dragons or phoenix. Red paper decorations will be hung around the doors to announce the wedding.