Diwali Festival As A Part Of Chinese Culture: Food Etiquette, Behaviour And Manners
Chinese cultural values and traditions are largely expressed through the consumption and preparation of food. In China, food is highly valued by many, and the etiquette surrounding food and its consumption is considered a significant aspect of Chinese culture. Food also plays an essential role in developing traditional cultural celebrations and religious holidays. This has helped shape Chinese culture and food into the way it is globally viewed today.
Foods function in culture
Food plays an essential role is shaping and developing various cultures. Apart from nutrition, food is important for a variety of other reasons, particularly within cultural practices, etiquettes and rituals. Food is considered to be multidimensional, as something that shapes our identities, and our cultures. It operates as an expression of both cultural identity and as a cultural or national symbol. As well as this, it unites people both through the preparation and the consumption of food, depending on the cultural or religious occasion. Food can also have a major role in celebrations by being used to symbolise various cultural meanings. For example, during Chinese New Year foods are used as symbols. As well as this, in Chinese culture, dumplings and spring rolls symbolise wealth, while fish symbolises an increase in prosperity.
Etiquette associated with food
Food etiquette in various Asian countries differs depending on the country and the culture of the people within the area. As well as this, etiquette surrounding food, consumption and rituals prior to eating may differ depending on where you are within Asia. Chinese food etiquette is a major part of Chinese culture, and is highly values by many people throughout China.
Food etiquette prior to eating
Chinese dining etiquette is a major aspect of Chinese culture, as values surrounding food consumption and the rituals prior to eating differ from those of varies other countries and cultures around the world. Seating arrangements are one of the most important parts of Chinese dining etiquette. Upon arrival to a formal Chinese meal, introduce yourself, before taking a seat in accordance to where the master of the banquet has arranged. As well as seating arrangements, the Chinese culture highly values the respect of elders. This is particularly shown prior to eating. If the guest of honour or the most senior member is not seated, others are not allowed to be seated. If he has not eaten, others should not begin to eat.
Asian rituals prior to eating differ from those specifically in China. For example, throughout the majority of Asia, seating arrangements are not as highly valued and respected as they are in China. Throughout some Asian countries, wearing shorts to a formal meal or meeting may be seen as a sign that the guest does not respect the master of the banquet. However, the values placed on elders continues throughout the majority of Asia. As well as this, there are various rituals prior to eating that are continues across the whole of Asia. For example, the different colours of clothing are used to symbolise different things. Black clothes are seen as bad luck, so wearing them to formal meals is avoided. Red and yellow signify happiness and luck, and are worn often.
Behaviour and manners considered culturally acceptable while eating
Various countries throughout Asia have different behaviours and manners that are considered culturally acceptable while eating. This depends on the country and the culture of the people within the area. Many Asian cultures highly value the etiquette surrounding food consumption. Throughout the majority of Asia, it is considered rude to chew with your mouth open. As well as this, once the food has been eaten, the indication that your hunger has been satisfied is shown through leaving small quantities of food on the plate. This is considered to be a sign of respect and gratitude towards the creator of the meal.[image: Image result for Chinese dinner]In many Southeast Asian countries, such as China, it is considered polite to limit conversation during a meal. This is also seen as a sign of respect towards the creator of the meal. As well as this, behaviours associated with the consumption of food are highly valued throughout various Asian cultures. For example, in China, tea is a staple of most meals, and there are many customs and culturally acceptable behaviours associated with it. When tea is placed on the dining table, a companion will pour you a cup. After this, tapping two fingers on the table a few times signifies your gratitude to the pourer. There are also numerous beliefs and customs associated with the use of chopsticks. In China, crossing your chopsticks as well as resting them vertically on the table once you have begun eating is taboo, as it is considered to signify death. Chopstick stands are placed on the table so this can be avoided.
A traditional Chinese meal
Chinese people value highly food and its consumption. This is shown particularly through the behaviour and manners considered culturally acceptable while eating. Chinese etiquette associated with eating varies largely from those shown throughout Western society. For example, throughout the majority of China and in some areas in Canada, burping is considered as a sign of appreciation towards the food. However in Japan and in western society, burping is considered rude, and is not culturally acceptable. Similarly, slurping noodles or soups is seen as a sign as appreciation for the food in China and Japan. However it is considered rude in other areas within Asia. As well as this, in most Muslim countries, eating with your left hand is considered dirty, as it is thought to be an insult to many people. This however is not as common throughout other Asian countries.
Food rules based on customs and/or religious practices
There are a variety of different food rules based on customs and/or religious practices. The rules associated with each custom and/or practice depends on the event, the country and the culture and values of the people within an area. Various celebrations and holidays in Asia have food rules specific to that event, and the importance and value placed on food is shown through each of these.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is considered the most important Chinese holiday, and food is a major aspect of the celebrations. Chinese New Year is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese Lunar calendar. Food is highly valued in Chinese culture, and this is shown particularly throughout the Chinese New Year celebrations. Foods are prepared specifically by families. This is done to ensure prosperity and happiness in the year ahead.
Throughout the festival, various foods are eaten specifically based on their meaning what they symbolise for the coming year. For example, dumplings and mandarins are very popular during the celebrations of the New Year. They are thought to resemble gold ingots, which symbolise wealth and prosperity. Seeds are also popular during the festival, as they are traditionally a symbol of good harvest, and are eaten in hope of a good farming year ahead. However, more recently they have become a symbol of fertility, and bringing in an extension to your family.
As well as certain foods having specific symbols, there are also many taboos and superstitions surrounding food preparation. Noodles are an example of this. Longevity noodles are popular across China, and particularly during celebrations. It is considered extremely bad luck to have the noodles cut, and is symbolic of a shortening of life. Also, the consumption of porridge is avoided during the festival, as it is thought to bring poverty in the New Year.
Family is also a very important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Family’s company is most often shared through the presence of food. Family reunion dinners are considered a very important aspect of the Chinese New Year festival. Luxurious homemade dinners are created to give blessings for the year ahead. All family, no matter how far away, are expected to attend. Dumplings and a whole fish are foods that are always eaten at a Chinese New Year family reunion, as they are traditional Chinese dishes. This food are considered to bring surplus and fortune to the New Year.
Buddha Day (Buddha’s Birthday)
Buddha Day, or Buddha`s birthday, is a Buddhist religious holiday to commemorate the birth of Gautama Buddha, who later became the founder of Buddhism. In many East Asian countries, as well as China, Buddha’s Birth is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Buddhism is the most popular religion in China, with Buddha day being one of the most valued and significant religious holidays celebrated. The emphasis upon food on Buddha Day is quite significant, and there are various food traditions are rules associated with the day.[image: Image result for sobaq rice cakes]In many parts of Asia, no meat is eaten on Buddha Day, however not all Buddhists choose to abide by this. Traditionally, vegan or vegetarian diets are adopted on the day as Buddhists believe Buddha preferred this as it excluded the harming of animals, so everyone else should do so too. Instead of excluding meat all together, some Buddhists may choose to consume meat on the day, so long as the animal has not been specifically slaughtered in the name of the eater.
Rice cakes steamed with zelkova trees are traditionally eaten on Buddha Day, as they are the most commonly recognised example of temple food throughout China. On the day, when a guest arrives at your house, they are to be presented with a dish called Sobaq, meaning simple dish. This refers to the rice cakes steamed with zelkova tree leaves, with roasted beans and boiled water parsley. This is commonly eaten as throughout the day no meat is eaten by many Buddhists. Zelkova rice cakes are considered to be connected with the appearance of young buds of trees, which carry a significant meaning. It symbolises growth and prosperity, which is widely associated with Buddha.
Diwali – Festival of lights
The Festival of lights is a both a Buddhist and Hindu religious holiday widely celebrated across the majority of Asia, as well as all around the world, however, it is not as commonly celebrated throughout China. The festival of lights, also known as Diwali, is a five day long light festival. The festival represents the triumph of good over evil. Diwali is commemorated by many Buddhists, although not everyone chooses to participate in the celebrations. Food is a very important aspect throughout celebrating Diwali as it is a joyful time, and this joyfulness is shared often shared through the presence food.
Sweets are a very important aspect of Diwali, as they are the most common foods eaten throughout the festival. Sweets are eaten during the festival as they symbolise good, and its triumph over evil. Some traditional sweets eaten include Kheer, Gulab Jamun and Shankarpale. Many sweets eaten during this time are made with broken pieces of dry fruits. This is simply due to the various cultures preferences. As well as this, dieting and exercise is commonly forgotten during festival, and most people tend to forgot about healthy eating. This is shown through the vast amounts of sweets eaten throughout the celebrations of the festival.
ccording to Hinduism, food should be treated with respect, as it is considered to be a gift from God. Before eating all food should be first sacrificed to God to pay respect. Hindus believe that if the meat of animals is eaten we will start to develop animal qualities, however not all Hindus abide by this. During the Diwali celebrations, many of these traditions are practiced and valued more widely throughout the Hindu population. Food holds a major importance upon the Diwali celebrations for this reason.
Throughout the various religions and cultures that celebrate Diwali, food plays an important role throughout the festival. It is traditional, during Diwali, that the women of the household cook all of the meals and food from home. This is due to the importance many Asian cultures place on continuing traditions. Another tradition widely celebrated throughout the festival is the use of rangoli. It is used to decorate people’s homes during the festival. Rangoli is coloured artwork made from rice powder, and its shapes resemble that of individual grains of rice. It is considered to bring good luck into your home, and to symbolise strength and generosity. Rangoli is a popular tradition during Diwali for this reason.
The interconnectedness between food, beliefs and culture in Buddhism
Buddhism is China`s largest religion, and is based on the teachings of Budda. Food is a major aspect of Buddhism, as their individual customs and rules present themselves in everyday life. There are many cultural rules associated with the consumption and preparation of food in Buddhism. Chinese Buddhism values and beliefs are expressed mainly through the consumption and preparation of food.
Vegetarianism in Chinese Buddhism
The Buddhists culture incorporates food into many beliefs and customs. This has created a well-known connection between food and Buddhism. Vegetarianism is one of the most important aspects of Buddhism’s food rules and restrictions. It has had a major impact upon Chinese cuisine, as well as the values all Chinese people place upon meat and animal products. Buddhist vegetarianism is the belief that no animals should be slaughtered in the name of the eater. Many Buddhists believe that following a vegetarian diet is implied in the Buddha’s teaching. Not all Chinese Buddhists are vegetarian, however on Buddha Day, the vast majority of people choose a vegetarian diet, as this is seen to be a way of celebrating and acknowledging Budda`s teachings.
Many Buddhist`s are strong believers in karma, as it is an important aspect of their culture. It is believed that a non-vegetarian diet can bring bad things to whoever consumes meat. Buddhists treat the lives of human and non-human animals with equal respect. Traditionally, this value is shown through the exclusion of all meat products. As well as excluding meat, donating food to Buddhist monks is considered a means of building good karma and cultivating generosity.
The importance of cattle in Chinese Buddhism
Cows are a highly valued animal in Chinese Buddhist culture. For many Asian cultures, the slaughter and consumption of beef and other exotic species, such as elephants, is avoided. Many Chinese Buddhists abide by the rule of refraining from the slaughter of cows. Cattle are seen by some Buddhists as a form of reborn human beings in the endless rebirth cycle of samsara, which is the Buddhist belief that after death a person is reborn. Protecting animal life and being kind to cattle is seen as a form of good karma, which is highly valued in Buddhist culture. As well as a abstaining from the consumption of cow meat, the innards and organs of cows, as well as other animals, is considered a taboo by many Buddhists.
Buddhist food rules
As well as vegetarianism within many Chinese Buddhists, there are also many other food rules and restrictions that impact the lives and culture of many Buddhist people. Chinese cultural values and traditions are expressed through the consumption and preparation of food, and this is also shown throughout the Buddhist diet. For example, bland food is valued by many, as it is believed that its consumption is required in order to cultivate a pure and clear mind. Many Chinese Buddhists prefer to only consume a diet consisting of only simple and natural ingredients. For example, fruit and vegetables are very common in many Chinese dishes. As well as this, drugs and alcohol are avoided at all times, choosing vegetables over meat, fruit over sugar and chewing thoroughly over eating more is recommended.
Many Chinese Buddhists consider onions, garlic, scallions, chives and leeks, ‘the five pungent spices’ as forbidden and are avoided by many Chinese people. They are considered to symbolise and lead to anger (when spices are raw) and passion (when spices are cooked). As well as this, many Buddhists believe that their odours repel gods and attract hungry ghosts and demons. This is another reason that the spices are largely avoided. Refraining from these spices is considered a major part of Chinese Buddhists lives. This is due to their daily diet constantly being impacted by their cultural beliefs.
Chinese culture is largely viewed as having some of the most unique and diverse foods. This is due to the various food rules, beliefs and customs shown throughout traditional Chinese religious holidays and celebrations. Food has a major impact upon many Chinese people for a variety of reasons, and this is demonstrated throughout everyday life. This has helped shape Chinese cuisine into what it is today.
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