Symphony of Four #Seasons: Ode to #Spring from the East to West

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Rape Fields in England May 2018

2018 has been good to me, so far anyway.

When I was a school girl in China, we had no computers, iPhones and whatever gadgets children these days are bombarded with. I don’t even remember having any Barbie dolls or fancy toys. So I spent a lot of my spare time running in the corn and rape fields behind my school, chasing butterflies and catching dragon flies. I did not suffer from the unpleasant hay fever back then :-). 

While studying in Scotland, I used to walk through the lovely Glasgow Botanic Gardens, as I made my daily trips between the fabulous University of Glasgow campus and my temporary lodging. The smell of freshly cut grass, and its soothing softness had a calming effect. The glass houses contained a selection of amazing plants and flowers from far and wide, not to mention the cute and cool Scottish squirrels, who, just like the Scottish people, were friendly and easy to approach. 

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Friendly and hungry Scottish squirrel and me at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

I am a naturally cheerful and optimistic person, and I am even happier when I am surrounded by the greens, pinks, reds, oranges, purples and all colours in between that Nature has bestowed upon us. In recent years, especially with the ever-improving quality of iPhone cameras, I find myself obsessively taking shots of the flowers bursting out almost all year around, all about us. 

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Friends have liked my postings many more times.

I sometimes wonder what kind of thoughts are going through my neighbours’ heads when they look out from their houses, and see a Chinese woman kneeling down outside their front yard, her phone pointing at their flowerbeds. Thankfully so far no one has ever told me off yet, and many of their carefully planted flowers and garden treasures have delighted my family and friends all over my social media. British gardens, to those of my far-away relatives and virtual contacts, are always blooming, and one of my Chinese friends once commented: ‘For those who have never been to the UK and who read your posts (on WeChat), they would think that UK is everywhere beautiful and is blessed with fantastic weather all year round’. 

She made a good point there :-). 

The seasons are distinct in China. I was born in the springtime when the temperature was mild and the fields dressed in green and emerald, with rice paddy fields and young bamboo leaves which my native pandas like to chew constantly.

Temperatures would rise steadily and eventually reached a steamy 40+ degrees in August, when farmers and workers toiled only in their shorts and many families slept outdoors on their bamboo bed sheets, fanning themselves non-stop and waiting for the night breeze which seemed reluctant to grace the poor mortals, prior to the intervention of indoor air-con these days. 

Autumn ushers in a welcoming change, warm and cool in equal measure. Then there is winter, with or without snow.

In the UK, the changing of seasons is less distinctive. As my English text book once told me me: In Great Britain, we have summer in the winter, or vice versa. You may also experience four seasons in one day. 

No kidding! No wonder the Brits like to tirelessly talk about weather. You know why? Because it’s changing all the time and never quite predictable enough as to what to wear at the start of the day :-). 

Despite its unpredictable, ever changeable weather, the seasons in the UK, like everywhere else, follow a pre-destined pattern. Mother Nature has been repeating this enchanting melody of Four Seasons, just like the namesake of Vivaldi’s violin concerto, played year after year, in beautiful harmony and synchronicity. 

Every year, daffodils, tulips and cherry trees of various shades of pink and white burst into bloom, announcing the arrival of Spring, a time for renewal and revitalisation. The eternal clock of nature greets us each year, without fail.

Lucky me this year – I get to experience a much extended spring, of four countries, from the East to the West, and South to North over 3 months.

In March I travelled to China for business, and I returned to a few cities I knew well: Chengdu, Chongqing and Nanjing. I also visited two cities for the first time, Tianjin and Zhengzhou. From Southwestern China where the spring arrived a little earlier than the north, I saw magnificent spring flowers everywhere I went, cherry trees, magnolias, camellias and apple/peach/pear/plum blossoms. 

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Spring followed me further north to Seoul in South Korea. Not only the campuses I visited were full of stunning colours, but also the city itself was basked in the glory of fabulous spring. On the day before I flew back to the UK, a cherry blossom festival along the Hangang River gave the spectators a most amazing show of nature, as I joined many locals and tourists under canopy of cherry trees. I took numerous pictures and videos as I walked for miles, delighted by the beauty and energetic buzz surrounding me.   

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On returning to England, the winter chill seemed to have gone and the air was filled with a mixture of sweet fragrances. The rain still poured as the dark clouds gathered from time to time, but when they disappeared and the sun made a sudden appearance, the English countryside was decorated with colour and vitality. 

A couple of weeks ago, we headed to the northern part of Scotland, the furthest we’ve ever been to: part of the Scottish Highlands and Orkney Isles. Due to its location, Spring arrived later than the rest of the mainland, so we were presented with rows and rows of yellow daffodils, framing the blue lochs and hills of various shades. 

Inverewe Gardens basks in the warmth of the Gulf Stream where it reaches the West Coast and this creates an ideal micro-climate for growing plants from all over the World – even in the depths of a Scottish Highlands winter.

I love the spring. The vibrant colours transform both cities and countryside. Right now near me, new flowers, both domestic and wild, are bursting out, lilacs, irises, daisies, you name it. The different colours, sizes and shapes are enchanting and mesmerising. 

Many blooms are unknown to me. I treated myself to a little souvenir from Orkney: Wild Flowers Britain and Europe. Eventually I may be able to name them, as well as photograph them!

 

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The Return of the Native: #ChongqingUniversity and the Municipalities City Up the Yangzi River

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Returning to Chongda 2018

If you have not heard of the Chinese city of Chongqing, there is something missing. I mean, even if you’ve never been to China or never intend to go, you have heard of the fabulous Chongqing HotPot, right? Perhaps not, if you are not a foodie. 

Never mind if you are just a little disoriented as to where exactly Chongqing is by looking at the map of the Middle Kingdom. Chongqing, in Southwestern China, is famous for many things, among the Chinese people anyway, and aside from its mountainous landscape, its stunning night views overlooking the confluence of two big rivers and many varieties of hot and spicy food, it was known to be the wartime capital of China during the WWII (1937-45). 

In the last two decades, Chongqing’s political and economic significance has been further enhanced by its elevation from the Province of Sichuan to become the 4th directly controlled Municipality under the Chinese government (1997 onwards). As a result of that restructuring, it is now the most populous Chinese municipality with 26 districts and numerous counties, with a population of around 34 million in Greater Chongqing, bigger than many countries. 

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I have personal and professional ties with this city, and in particular, with an excellent Chinese institution, Chongqing University, Chongda in short.

Almost four decades ago to date, Chongda was a leading technological university, with only one campus in the city’s cultural and educational hub, Shapingba District.  When I was offered a place to read English Literature and Language Teaching in Chongda, I left my hometown about 175 kilometres away and never looked back. Interestingly, my birth place is now a district of Chongqing so effectively I should call Chongqing ‘home’. 

Needless to say, Chongda has changed and expanded tremendously in the last thirty years since I left it for the UK in 1988. With its four campuses A, B, C and D, it is a fully comprehensive university among China’s finest institutions. 

I spent the best part of my late teens and early twenties, first as a student and then a junior academic starting out on my career. It was a place which witnessed my very first affair of the heart and the subsequent heartbreak. It was also a place where my protagonist of the Journey to the West trilogy Pearl Zhang was wooed, got married and gave birth to her daughter Liyuan – by the way, Liyuan, also called Grace, is the protagonist of my new, currently work in progress ‘Journey to the East’. 

In the beginning of April 2018, I returned once again to Chongqing. It did not simply give me a chance to see family, friends, former classmates and colleagues, it allowed me to renew my professional relationship with Chongda. I was able to introduce my most recent employer, University of Strathclyde to my very first, Chongda. I am very grateful to a number of people who have made this happen. First of all, it was great that the Associate Principal and Executive Dean of HaSS, Professor Douglas Brodie was able to join me in Chongqing, making my return to Chongda an ‘official’ visit. Then of course, my former colleagues and friends in Chongda, particularly, Dean Peng Jin and Professor Huang Ping, these fine ladies helped making the necessary arrangements for our very brief and fruitful visit. I am optimistic that mutually beneficial collaborations will take in many different forms and Scotland will welcome generations of students and staff from Chongqing, and vice versa. 

Work aside, one simply could not go to Chongqing without enjoying a Hotpot treat. 

As it turned out, I had a weekend during which my brother Brad and Sister-in-law Shirley took me to Nanshan for a fabulous retreat. We stayed in the purpose-built Mount Mirage which presented wonderful views of bamboo forests, the city and scenic South Mountain. In the evening, we joined thousands of diners from all over the city and beyond, flocking to the Hotpot town which more or less occupied half of the mountain. 

Hotpot was originally eaten by boatmen on the Yangzi River but it quickly spread all over Chongqing and the rest of the Sichuan. Nowadays, you can find Hotpot places all over the world, from China Town of San Francesco to Sauchiehall Street of Glasgow, Scotland. It is hugely addictive because it uses a mixture of spices, notably Sichuan peppers and chillies to create a super hot, heavy flavoured thick soup, which is kept on the boil at your table. You dip in the food of your choice, then pop into your mouth. As a help-yourself-treat, friends and family usually gather together at one table. Traditional hotpot offers customers cattle guts, cattle bellies, different meats, beancurd and a section of seasonal vegetables. Nowadays you can almost order anything you wish, and you can choose how hot/spicy you want it to be. 

My visit to Chongqing was short but sweet. I enjoyed returning to Chongda. I could hardly believe it when I saw the old Number 4 Dormitory still standing in front of the Mingzhu Lake. The Dorm was nicknamed ‘Panda Hall’ which housed all the female students in my day. I had to have my picture taken in front of it, and my nephew had to join me, so there we were. 

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Some things don’t change – No 4 Dormitory

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I stayed in one of the rooms with 5 other girls when I was aged 17-21

As usual, I end this blog with more pictures of Chongqing, including the fabulous night views. Given Chongqing is one of the most polluted cities  in China, it’s not always easy to catch a clear day. Brad told me that many heavy industries have either been moved out of the city or shut down, and Chongqing’s skies now are better than many other mega cities in China. 

May Chongqing continue to boom and the famous mountainous views continue to enchant visitors from near and far.  As a native of Chongqing, I hope to return again soon. 

Chonqing skyline

The City of Bridges

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City of Lights

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Campus Tour

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Sports ground where I used to exercise and run

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China’s Southern Gem in Full Spring Splendour #Nanjing #南京之春

‘Which is your favourite Chinese city?’ 

It’s a question I have asked people, friends, family and travel buddies. It’s also a question directed at me once in a while. I may pause for a moment, just to go through in my mind some of the cities I enjoyed visiting, and to be fair. Then Nanjing will inevitably appear at the forefront of my Chinese map and crystallise its prominent position. 

Nanjing is a natural choice for me. After all, it is only one of the two Chinese cities in which I ever lived, albeit a long time ago. I had the good fortune of going to Nanjing University to do a postgraduate course in the mid-1980s. Decades went past yet memories of Nanjing remained and were stored in a tiny index box in my brain library, and more importantly occupying a place in my heart and soul. 

A few years ago just before Chinese New Year, I flew to China for a family celebration, when I decided to pop over to Nanjing for a nostalgic stop. Accompanied by my hosts Mr and Mrs Zhang, whom I had helped when they visited the UK previously, I was able to trace some of the footsteps of my younger self. As you can see from the pictures below, I posed very happily in the the beautiful campus of my former alma mater, at the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, and one of Nanjing’s must-sees: Fuzimiao. 

Since that winter visit, I was able to return to Nanjing a couple of times in the last six months, last October and again in the last week of March 2018. Although still short visits as part of my work for University of Strathclyde, I got the chance to enjoy the city, and reaffirm my belief that Nanjing, after many years gone by and after I have travelled around the globe, remains securely in a very special spot in my personal world map.

I won’t go into any details of my work related activities in this travel blog, suffice to say how welcome I’ve always made to feel by staff and students from these partner institutions in and near Nanjing. I will, however, share some of the pictures taken on these stunning campuses I visited, especially in March when the camellias, cherry tress, magnolias and peach trees burst into beautiful bloom. 

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In the past few years, I’ve connected with many professional contacts turning into friends and whenever I go back to China, some of these friends will travel from afar, just so we can catch up face to face. My work days are reserved strictly for business, however, I do try to spare part of my weekends, where possible, for some of these very special people in my life. 

Last October, Lily Wan travelled to Nanjing with her daughter to see me. She was a Visiting Academic to my previous employer in Birmingham. 

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Mrs Zhang on my right and Lily Wan on my left, at Nanjing Eye 2017

This March, another Lily travelled to Nanjing. Lily Zhang was among the ten students from Shenzhen University whom I looked after when they came to Birmingham for a short student exchange programme back in December 2014. I have written about these students before, partly because of the fantastic relationship I have since established with Shenzhen University, partly because these ‘students’ who are now graduates and working in different parts of China, still fondly call me ‘Mommy’. 

Lily is currently working in one of the universities in Wuhan, teaching photography and art. She’s travelled on overnight trains from Wuhan to Chengdu to see me over a year ago, and it seems that she’s made it her business to meet with me whenever I am in China and whenever she can. 

Lily joined me in Nanjing for a blissful Sunday afternoon when we headed out to Xuanwu Lake next to my hotel. The sun broke through the clouds and the lake was shimmering with a cool breeze. 

‘Let’s hire a boat,’ I said. I wanted to row back to my student days in Nanjing. The young girl who rowed beside me was Zhu Hui – where are you now, Hui?

Fast forward to a warm, sunny Spring day in 2018. No rowing boat available and our electronic motor boat took Lily and me further into the lake. Young, energetic and artistic, Lily made me do various poses for her camera, and as it turned out, she used various apps which made me slimmer, more fair skinned and years younger! Maybe that was one of the reasons I so enjoy spending time with students and young people. They really do make your heart sing with happiness and joy, and that happiness translates into positive vibes which you carry with you, long after good times come and go.

Like a pair of typical mother and daughter, Lily and I chatted and laughed. She told me about her boyfriend, her work with her students, talk of marriage and future aspirations. Both she and her fiancé have plans to pursue a PhD overseas before starting a family. I, of course, would like to see her in the UK, not America. Maybe, just maybe, she will want to come to Scotland and study here, as I did, many years ago. Maybe Lily, like my fictional daughter Liyuan in my ‘Journey to the West’, will follow my footsteps. 

I wish that she will and I wish her well. 

To end today’s post, I’m sharing a few pictures of Fuzhimiao, the Confucius Temple, day and night, on two different occasions, five years apart. 

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How Much #Choice Do We Have? #HigherEducation and Subject/University Picks for #ChineseStudents

IMG_2837It seems such a long time ago when I was faced with the choice of going to University and picking a subject. Four decades later, I am looking back, with a view to share with and hopefully to inspire a new generation of students. From the magic mirror of time, the past, the present and the future, I can clearly see my younger self, an enthusiastic and innocent 17 year old on the threshold of entering a brand new world. It feels like yesterday.

I was one of the first cohort of students to go to University, following the end of the Cultural Revolution when formal examinations were scrapped and universities closed for several years. From the excerpts of my debut The Same Moon below, you’ll find that my alter ego, Pearl Zhang, did not have much of a choice in picking the University she wanted to go to, or the subject area which appealed to her young heart and mind. Still, she was lucky. She ended up getting a degree in English. If you are in anyway following Pearl’s ups and downs in her Journey to the West, you will see that her first degree in China serves her well, well enough to earn her several more degrees in the UK. As time goes by and our protagonist comes to live in a different country, where she has her own pick of subjects and universities, but that is a different story which you can read in the book.

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Currently I am involved with recruiting Chinese students for a Scottish University, and I know that many students face a similar dilemma in choosing a study destination and a course which will sooner or later determine their career, possibly their life path. Can they decide what to study and where to go, or do they have to listen to their parents and their teachers, just as it was in Pearl’s time? Is personal ‘choice’ still a western concept or has China changed so much that the 1990s and 2000s children can now have their say about their future?

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How many Chinese students are heading overseas among those who enter universities?

Time moves on relentlessly, yet still there are many cultural and historical heritage which stay with us no matter what. In the 21st century more than ever before, the choices are increasingly wider and more varied; the students not only have to decide what subjects to study, but also many are blessed with the choice of destination overseas, the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and many Asian and European countries. There are over 3,000 HEIs to choose from within China and many more worldwide. The choices must seem limitless.

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This post is aimed to help some of my young readers to think about the choices they are going to make. I am glad to be in a position with certain amount of authority and expertise, to advise, guide and support the students whom I’ve come in contact with, and sometimes their parents too. In life, it does not matter where we come from and at what stage, career and otherwise, we are constantly met with choices and decisions, big, life-changing ones, or smaller, perhaps less significant ones. We are not all masters of our fate, although some people may believe so, but we are given choices, hundreds and perhaps thousands of them, and if we are lucky, we will be able to make better choices, with an enlightened, informed and open mind.

Same Moon paperback cover 2013 

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All Chinese parents want the best education possible for their children. In Confucius’ words: Scholars reign while everyone else is inferior.

With the prospect of higher education, senior secondary school pupils were required to choose to specialise in either arts/literature or science/technology courses. Wide consultations with relatives and teachers resulted in a consensus that I should pursue medicine, because ‘girls are better suited to medical careers’. “Teaching is good for you too. It’s in your family genes.” In Mrs. Chen’s words, “You are more likely to make political mistakes if you choose to do a language course or the like. With scientific subjects, you will be safe and sound.” I was never consulted, naturally.

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To study, is to meet a better self!

The decision to go to university and the subject choice had long been made, without my input. In my heart, I had harboured a strong desire to leave Sichuan and go to another province, where people spoke different dialects and cooked contrasting gourmet food. I dearly longed for an adventure, to explore places I had only read about in books, to experience new things. Without great fantasies about major cities like Beijing or Shanghai, a medium-sized city like Suzhou in the south of Yangzi would have been ideal in satisfying my emerging curiosity.

To my delight, I discovered that Suzhou had a medical school. I expected that I could at least be allowed to pick one of my own, among the six choices for key institutions and six for non-key institutions, which we were allowed. Status and rankings were distinctive, with so-called key national universities, mainly in big cities, followed by key provincial universities, teachers’ training institutes and hundreds of colleges of higher education. Admissions depended upon the grades in the annual national entrance exams. There was a possibility of getting extra bonus points if you excelled in sports or had musical talents; and to some degree if you had back-door Guanxi (connections).

“I’d like to apply for Suzhou Medical School.” I sounded timid and unsure, hardly audible in an attempt to make my voice heard, fearing rejection.

“No,” Mother’s reply was non-negotiable. “It’s too far away. You’re not going outside our province. We have more than enough to choose from within Sichuan.”

Subsequent and staunch arguments were put forward by other authoritative figures. “Why would anyone want to leave Sichuan? We have the best cuisine. You would not find it easy to adapt to another province.”

How do you know I can’t adapt? How can you be sure that our food is better, if you have never tried anything else? I argued with them vehemently but only in my head, because I had learnt that whatever I might have said would have been futile. In their minds, they had fixed ideas and they believed that they always knew what was best without understanding, or even trying to understand what it was that you really wanted. It was not in the rulebook.

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The letter bore the official stamp from South West Technology University (SWTU). I had applied to SWTU, but for a totally different course; the Mechanical Engineering course for which the university was famous. Instead, the offer was to read English, which I did not even pass. My knowledge of English was limited to being able to read the twenty-six letter alphabet and repeat after the teacher, ‘Long Live Chairman Mao’.

“The course is brand new, especially designed to train teachers of English, due to the extreme shortage of foreign language teachers.” My acceptance letter explained. English, as the British and American imperialists’ mother tongue, had been banned from the school curriculum during the Cultural Revolution.

I was over the moon, elated and thankful. Among the two hundred pupils in my year, less than twenty managed to enter universities and colleges in 1978. Nationally, less than three percent of those leaving school went on to Higher Education.

Someone up there was smiling down on me, of this I was sure. No other explanation, except that fate had shown a deft hand in the grand scheme of my life.

Chongqing may not be a huge jump, nevertheless it was a great leap forward. A large city, known for its craggy location in the mountains, it was once so difficult to get into that the Japanese troops never managed to reach it, except with air raids during WWII. It was situated in the upper reaches of the Yangzi River, where one would be able to drift downstream, passing massive cities like Wuhan and Shanghai all the way to the Eastern China Sea.

Having survived a premature birth, then life threatening meningitis followed by a near-fatal head injury, my time had come – an adventure about to begin. For a wide eyed seventeen-year-old, endless possibilities lay ahead of me. The prospect of getting out of Hongxin, the anticipation of the new and the unknown was liberating. I had felt like a frog, trapped in a small well, confined to a tiny space and surrounded by narrow-minded people. This one lucky frog was about to be set free.

One day, my daydream began, I would be able to swim and see the skies and the seas beyond the Sichuan Mountains. My imagination took flight. The road to the future may have had many bridges to cross and unforeseen obstacles to overcome, but my eager heart had leapt long before the trip actually began.

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Traditional and Modern #ChineseNewYear Treats #年夜饭

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Dumplings and Photo by friend Yang Lijun

A quick exchange with my friend Anna on Twitter reminded me that a food blog was due, especially when everyone of Chinese/East Asian origin, as well as many other nationalities are consuming loads and loads of good food in the past week which will continue for at least another week, leading towards the final countdown of Da Nian (Big Celebration) on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year.

In the West Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations usually come and go in a flash. At best, families and friends get together for a party or two, and a feast in the house or at a chosen restaurant. In big cities like London and Birmingham, festivities are held in China Towns with lion dances and sometimes street foods. In China and many other Asian countries, it’s a vastly different story. Millions of people make their way homebound, wherever that may be, or heading overseas for holidays.

Believe it or not, in the 30 years I’ve lived in the UK, I have only been back to China once for this auspicious occasion. It is partly my choice (not wanting to join the massive human migration within China), and partly the necessary and often unspoken sacrifice we all have to make as immigrants.

Anyway, I try and make the best of this special occasion whenever I can. I probably have had more than a fair share of throwing CNY parties, in Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham, in my tiny bedsits, in share student accommodations, and at home. I hosted two small gatherings last weekend – see pictures below. In terms of quality and quantity of foods they may not compete with what people back home are feasting, but as far as I am concerned, the diners were happy and satisfied, and that was the point of a get together and it was enough for me.

I’m sharing a few CNY signature dishes I especially crave at this time of the year, and treats that people all over China would enjoy as they toast ‘ganbei’ with family and friends.

Sweet Sticky Rice Dumpling – Tang Yuan (湯圓)

This is one of my all time favourite foods. I remember that as a child, I eagerly awaited for the Spring Festival (CNY commonly referred in China). Even when food was scarce, and many Chinese people were starving, we had to have Tang Yuan, with or without fillings. As China got richer, the varieties become more spectacular.

In Sichuan, we’ve perfected our Tang Yuan over its long history. We filled the glutinous rice ball with delicious sesame, peanuts, sweet bean past, dates, scented osmanthus flowers and tangerine peels. If you ever visit Chengdu, you must try Lai Tang Yuan.

In Northern China, Tang Yuan is often called Yuan Xiao (元宵), and they tend to make it savory, with minced meat and seasonal vegetables.

Living in the UK, I used to make my own fillings, using peanut butter, chocolate sauce, various jam and roasted nuts. Nowadays, I’m more reliant on my local Chinese supermarket for ready-made Tang Yuan, with different fillings mentioned above. All I have to do was to boil them for a few minutes and there it is! If I can be bothered, as I often do, I’d add an egg, a few spoonful of sweet fermented rice (甜酒釀 ‘tian jiu niang’  or 醪糟 ‘lao zao’), and sprinkle a few goji berries. They are divine!

Chinese Dumplings (饺子)

Chines dumplings go back a very long time, with nearly 2000 year history, and loved by all Chinese people. I have shared my very own special spicy recipe on various social media, as they are a regular in our diet. If you have not seen any of them, click Making Chinese Dumplings for a video instructions which John made a number of years ago. I’ve also collected a number of yummy photos from friends this week for your visual consumption ;-).

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Spring Roll (春卷 )

I am sure that many of you would have tasted this Chinese speciality in Chinese restaurants. Spring rolls are wrapped with either vegetables or meat, either sweet or savory. Having filled in spring roll with a flour pastry, you can either shallow or deep fry them, until golden. Naturally, its name came from Chinese New Year Celebration.

Spring Rolls

Glutinous Rice Cake 年糕 (Nian Gao)

In Chinese, Nian Gao sounds like “getting higher year after year”, which is seen as very lucky. Main ingredients of Nian Gao are sticky rice, sugar, Chestnuts, Chinese dates and lotus leaves. Again, there are regional variations in the recipes, and the most distinctive ones are Northern, Jiangnan (South of Yangtze River), Fujian, Taiwan and Cantonese. Even Japan and Korea have their own style Nian Gao.

Nian Gao 年糕

Fish (鱼)

In Chinese, fish (Yu) sounds like ‘save more’, and due to the Chinese nature of saving for the rainy days and especially towards the end of the year, so they can make more money the next year. Because of this, a fish dish is a must on any CNY banquet, no matter how it’s cooked.

There is a Chinese saying: 年年有余 (nien nien you yu) – May you always get more than you ever wish for!

The CNY treats do not stop here. As China’s economy soars year after year, and living standards continue to improve for the masses, more and more festive dishes are added to the banquet tables. Whatever you fancy, you can have them!

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Apart from the continuous feasting, another tradition of CNY ‘hong bao’ (red packets, used to be small lucky money for children, now everyone with a smart phone and Chinese Bank Account) has had a major facelift with the help of 21st century technology. Tens of millions of people are handing out, and receiving billions of RMBs on the net, in their WeChat groups of family, friends, classmates, colleagues etc. Personally I am not a big fan of this modern phenomenon – I am a little sad to see how this kind of money-grabbing (literally) obsession makes many people losing sight of some of the proudest traditional values and cultural heritage we have.

If you want to see more of the kind of foods people enjoy, do pop over to YouTube where I’ve shared a number of videos of fabulous Sichuan cuisine including the HotPot, as well as Dim Sums further afield from Southern China: Celebrating Chinese New Year in Chengdu, Hong Kong and Guangzhou

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May you have plenty of fish!

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A thousand good wishes of Happiness to you!

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