A Chinese celebration is a special thing. We’re grateful that we occasionally get to take part in them. The way they’re done — the ‘family style’ dining, the toasting, etc. — really is fun when done well.
And, of course, there’s the food. Weddings will have special dishes, fancy dishes, expensive dishes — and for Euro-Americans that often means eyebrow-raising dishes.
There are two kinds of adventure eating in China. It’s one thing to deliberately go out of your way to seek out some crazy-to-your-home-culture dish — like dog or mÃ¡odÃ n or cÃ¡nyÇ’ng or starfish — and share the photos on social media, regardless of how common those are to locals (Canadians eat bull testicles — did you know?). Sure it’s cliche but whatever, have fun. You’re not hurting anybody.
The other kind of adventure eating is the the kind that seeks you out. You’re just going about your business, accepting a neighbour’s dinner invitation or attending a friend’s wedding feast, and you’re served “cicada monkeys” çŸ¥äº†çŒ´:
Both of those were last weekend for us, at a friend’s wedding banquet, which was lots of fun.
With only 409 syllables in the entire language, Chinese has too many homophones. That might sound judgmental but hear me out: Jessica’s Chinese name, for example, has æ€¡ in it. If I type “yi” on my phone, it’s the 90th (!!) yi in the list of yi characters to scroll through. It’s a good thing I love her so much, because inputting her name is serious éº»çƒ¦ã€‚
So the Chinese totally go to town on homophone wordplays. They don’t even need to be true homophones; drunk language student pronunciation is apparently good enough to get the meaning across. In fact they don’t even need words; numbers work just fine. Turns out that in Mandarin you can say a lot with numbers. Like on the inside of our friends’ wedding rings:
They inscribed “L.L. 14520” inside the bands. The “L”s are just for their last names: LiÃº and LÇ. But the numbers when spoken are yÄ« sÃ¬ wÇ” Ã¨r lÃng, which to them sounds like yÄ« shÃ¬ wÇ’ Ã i nÇ ï¼ˆä¸€ä¸–æˆ‘çˆ±ä½ ï¼‰ï¼Œwhich means: “(For my) whole life I love you”. ï¼ˆâ€œä¸€ä¸–â€ is short for â€œä¸€ç”Ÿä¸€ä¸–â€ã€‚ï¼‰
I showed the picture to my preschool office coworkers and they all got it in under three seconds.
One of their friends has 201314 on her ring: Ã¨r lÃng yÄ« sÄn yÄ« sÃ¬, which sounds like Ã i nÇ yÄ« shÄ“ng yÄ« shÃ¬ (çˆ±ä½ ä¸€ç”Ÿä¸€ä¸–ï¼š “love you (for my) whole life”).
There’s more language learning fun to be had in the Learning Mandarin topic. See also:
There’s a long tradition of wedding games in China — many are designed to tease or embarrass the bride. In Lin Yutang‘s Moment in Peking, one bride is so well-educated and strong of character that she ends up embarrassing the people who were trying to tease her. Nowadays the games often have to do with trying to make the couple kiss. Not every wedding includes these kinds of games, but it can be fun when they do.
The bride uses a package of wedding candy (å–œç³–) to try and bribe the best man (I was the other groomsman) to give the hongbaos without making them play the game. He’s having none of it. The best man married an American girl last year.
bÃ¹ mÇŽnyÃ¬, bÃ¹ gÄ›i qiÃ¡n
“(If we’re) not satisfied, (then we) won’t give the money!”
It took them a few tries, but they got it in the end (with a helpful shove in the back of the head from the best man’s wife).
After a full-on and packed-out Western-style church wedding with the white dress and suit and all that, James (the groom) and JiÄ XÄ« (the bride) arrived at the banquet in Qing dynasty style traditional wedding clothes, complete with the giant red silk bow (å¤§çº¢ç»£çƒ). I asked a couple Chinese friends what the bow was about and none of them could tell me, but they were emphatic that, “He has to wear that!” One of my co-workers later said it’s a word-play on “glorious future” (é”¦ç»£å‰ç¨‹), since the name of the bow in Chinese and the idiom “glorious future” both have “ç»£“ã€‚