Weddings are a joyful event where everybody comes to celebrate the marriage of two people and toast their happy prosperous future together. The parents of the newly wed couple proudly announce to the world their happiness that their children have found each other. The wedding banquet is to give their blessing to the young couple and start them off on their long and fruitful journey through life together. Everything has symbolism in a Chinese wedding.
A traditional Chinese banquet has eight or nine dishes; excluding dessert, fruit and wedding cake at the end. Eight is a lucky number to Southern Chinese people. This is because the sound of “8” rhymes with the words for “to prosper”, “good luck” and fertility. “9” rhymes with long-life.
- The banquet starts with a platter of Chinese cold cuts consists of 5 items – jelly fish, bean curd, 5 spice beef shank, seaweed and pork slices. It is arranged to represent a dragon and phoenix [Ying and Yang] to symbolise the union of two mystical creatures. The phoenix represents good luck, beauty and female energy. The dragon represents strength, creativity and male energy.
- Second course is usually Shark’s Fin Soup with crab meat or Eight Treasures soup. Both of these contain expensive ingredients; this signifies the future prosperity of the marriage.
- Fish – This is a must for every wedding banquet as it symbolises abundance. This is literally saying to the couple: “May your off-spring be as plentiful as the fish of the sea.” Or to be more blunt “be fertile and breed like rabbits”. To Chinese people the marriage is not complete unless it bears fruit, that is the couple have children, the more the merrier. The fish must also have a head and tail. This signifies that all projects that the couple engage in have a start and a finish, that come to a successful completion.
- Abalone, sea cucumber and vegetable stir-fry is next. These have a very smooth texture and are from the ocean. Literally they symbolise “smooth sailing” for the couple’s relationship and close family ties. The Chinese phrase for ‘sea cucumber’ is also sounds similar to ‘good heart’.
- Roast Suckling Pig. This symbolises fertility. “May the wife have many babies to suck at her breast.” Suckling pigs in China are equivalent to sacrificial lambs, they are “young and innocent” symbols of virtue and purity.
- Prawns in Chinese is pronounced “HA” – the sound of laughter. You eat prawns to generate more laughter and happiness amongst friends. Honey prawns (even though non-traditional) are even better, then you get “sweet laughter”.
- A Whole Bird or Poultry like chicken, duck, quails or pigeons symbolises peace and unity between people. (Doves of Peace)
- Noodles are long and symbolises long life.
- Rice is a stable food in China, a large dish of rice symbolises a plentiful supply of food throughout the couples life.
The wedding banquet is finished with a sweet Red Bean and Lotus Seed soup. Red is the color of happiness. Beans and seeds are elements of fertility and growth. This dessert is very sweet because you don’t want the relationship to turn sour.
The theme of this banquet is a rich and prosperous life for the newly weds. Nearly every culture and nearly every religion in the world says that children are a blessing. The more numerous your descendants the more blessed and prosperous you are. Hope this gives you more insight into Chinese culture.
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