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Chinese bacground information (food, numbers, colours, tea, etc)

Background Information

It is always better to get to know people before you start doing business with them. Therefore, a number of social events and meetings would be suggested to help everyone get to know each other well.  Many non-Chinese speaking international business people gather a circle of Chinese friends around them; these people will be priceless if they are instinctive and socially adept. In any normal condition, there is a chance that there will always be English speakers present in a business environment.
However, talking about very general stuff like the weather and the traffic won’t be enough to grow a long term relationship.  It is of great significance to know China in depth. The more knowledge you have about China on the whole, the more common ground you will be able to find with your business associates and the better you will be able to make conversations flow, therefore growing the intensity of the relationship. 
Similarly, showing your awareness of China and a keen interest in their country will make you a very well-liked guest and will help to ease the ambience.   To find out more about China, let’s go through some facts:

Food in China - Chinese food

Chinese are food lovers. Their most favourite and famous leisure activity and means of entertainment is dining. Let it be an everyday activity or about special occasions or festivals, every gathering and ceremony will involve a lot of eating! It is not only because of people’s personal likings, it’s about the importance of food that the Chinese culture holds. Every dinner and lunch is treated with high and equal respect. A quick business lunch can easily expand into a huge feast, even if there is only a small number in your party! There is always some excitement in the Chinese about the food decorated on the table. They notice the best and rarest dish from the menu and love to talk about it. Obviously, being a foreigner in China, the Chinese may not expect you to know everything about Chinese food, but they will highly appreciate if you are able to show some of your knowledge. For Chinese, this is an indication that you are interested in their culture and have respect for it.
China has a very large geographical landscape. Each part of it has a different climate, environment and multitude of cultural differences. This difference is one of the reasons why China has a range of Chinese food available in the country. There are generally four types of famous cuisines: the Northern plains - including Beijing; the fertile East - watered by the Yangtse River; the South, famous for the Cantonese cooking of the Guangdong Province; and the fecund West of Sichuan and the Hunan Provinces. Every cuisine has a range of dishes as a part of it. Some of the most renowned traditional ones are as follows:

  • Cantonese (Yue) – From Guangzhou/Canton - the most well-known with Westerners, as it is dished up in most of the Chinese restaurants abroad.  
  • Shandong(Lu) – Often looked upon as a daily meal served in the Northern areas in places such as Beijing and Shandong. Soy Sauce is an important ingredient.
  • Sichuan(Chuan) – Its  distinguishing taste is chilli, making it very sizzling and spicy.  It is likely to be an interesting experience for fans of Indian food.
  • Jiangsu(Su or Yang) – Quite  light in contrast with other Northern dishes, and with a sweet taste.

Other major types of cuisine include Fujian (Min), Hunan (Xiang), Zhejiang (Zhe) and Anhui (Hui) styles.
Except for all the above mentioned traditional meals, there are many innovative and rare dishes coming up in modern restaurants in big cities. They have an awesome range of ingredients that may include western goat’s cheese and potato chips to Chinese soy sauce and Sichuan chilli pepper.  Along with the very incredible Chinese food, there is also a range of international food available in China. The list includes: Italian, French, Indian, Brazilian and even Thai. Western food can always become a reason for taking Chinese contacts out for a change.

Typical Chinese dishes

  • Peking Duck, Beijing(北京烤鸭)- Its genuine taste can’t be found in any Chinese restaurant in the West.
  • Chinese Hotpot, Mongolian(火锅)- A state dish to help bear the cruel winters in the North.
  • Pork Stew(炖肉)- Mao Tse Tong’s favourite dish, it is deduced in many different ways all through the country, but the basic ingredient is the same: pork belly.  It looks fatty but tastes great.
  • Spicy Fish Hotpot, Sichuan (水煮鱼) - A very inspiring experience if you have a strong enough palate for chilli and Chinese pepper.
  • Dim Sum, Guangdong (早茶) - As popular in China as in the Chinese restaurants throughout the world, it is worth contrasting it to your own experience of the dish!
  • Little Steamed Dumplings, Shanghai(小笼包)- A mouth-watering experience, worth queuing at the Nanxiang Restaurant for!
  • Dumplings, Northern饺子)- A typical dish for Chinese New Year’s Eve, representing the unity of the family.
  • Hand-pulled Noodles, Northern(拉面) - This dish is more of a creative demonstration than a cooking process.  Witnessing the production of the thread-like noodles is a truly amazing experience.
  • Steamed Pot, Yuannan(气锅)- A soup with a healthy mixture of meat and vegetables.


Tea drinking culture

There are 6 major types of tea available in China made from camellia leaves. These include: Green, Black, Wulong, While, Scented and tightly pressed tea. Tightly pressed tea is sometimes referred to as gunpowder tea due to its color and shape. The tea that holds the longest history is the green tea. It is a very popular tea known for its freshness and natural aroma.  Famous green teas include Longjing (Dragon Well) from Hangzhou, Maofeng Tea from the Huangshan Mountain, Yinzhen (Silver Needle) Tea from the Junshan Mountain, Yunwu (Cloud and Mist) Tea from the Lushan Mountain, and Wulong from Fujian in the Southeast of the country. Scented tea, made by mixing green tea with flower petals is unique to China.  Sweet osmanthus, jasmine, rose, orchid and plum flowers are all available.

The contribution of Chinese people to the world 

The Compass – China invented the compass during the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC). In the 15th century, Zheng He travelled through a number of oceans using the compass.
Paper – In 105 AD, the Chinese made a unique experiment. They blended the mulberry and the bamboo fibres with water and pounded it to a pulp. After it dried, it created an incredible writing material.
Printing – One of China’s most significant inventions is probably block printing.   This occurred during the Tang Dynasty sometime between the 4th and 7th centuries AD. 
Gunpowder/fireworks – This was a mixture of saltpetre (potassium nitrate), sulphur, and powdered charcoal invented in the latter part of the Han dynasty, during the 3rd century AD.  Combination of gunpowder with other elements that blazed to give different colours led to the conception of the first ever fireworks.   The above four inventions are the most well known contributions made by Chinese people to the world’s development.
Porcelain – In the 13th century, Marco Polo illustrated the beauty of Chinese porcelain in his book.  It wasn’t until the 18th century that it was effectively produced in Europe.
Silk – One of the strongest natural fibres, stronger than steel, was obtained and woven from silk moth caterpillar cocoons.
Trade Routes – transcontinental trade routes such as the ‘Silk Route’ which ran from Xi’an to Rome were developed.
Seismograph – During the Han Dynasty, Emperor He’s Royal Astronomer - Hang Chen - was accountable for the discovery of the seismograph to forecast the power and course of earthquakes.

Sports in China  

Traditionally, sports were strongly connected to politics and had been a matter of national pride. Time after time there were drastic changes observed in the public’s favourite sport. Like every other country, China has a very strong passion for sports, especially in which the Chinese people stand out, attracts their interest the most. With China’s maintained achievements, the Olympics is the most important sporting event for them. After the remarkable success at the Olympics in 2008, China has drawn together strong momentum throughout the past years and will preserve its velocity for the future. Since the Chinese economic transformation commenced in 1978, Chinese sports have experienced their utmost period of development. By this time, westernized sports took over the traditional sports that were common in China. Below is the list of the most popular sports in China:

  • Table tennis – Also known as ‘ping pong’, this has always been a sport in which the Chinese have excelled on an international stage since the 1960s.
  • Volleyball – when it comes to volleyball, Chinese not only defeated China’s traditional Asian rivals, Japan, but they also went on to win at the Olympics and five successive world titles.
  • Badminton – this is another sport in which Chinese people do extremely well.
  • Basketball – There is a theory by some historians that basketball was invented in China as a progress of the ‘shouju’ game.
  • Football – this is hugely popular and attracts more fans in China than anywhere else in the world.
  • Tennis – just like table tennis, a winning Chinese team authorized the sport to add to its fame.
  • Snooker – it suddenly got a lot of fame in China when a Chinese player Ding Junhui defeated British snooker legend Steve Davis in the UK Championship final.
  • Grand Prix – The Chinese Grand Prix is a Formula One event held at the Shanghai International Circuit in October every year.
  • Golf – Golf is a status symbol and a networking tool as well as a sport in China.


The Chinese zodiac chase a guide of 12 years and each year is symbolized by its own unique being from the animal kingdom. These take turns as the dominant sign in a particular year – for example, 1977 is the year of the Snake.

  • 寅Tiger             Feb 14 2010 - Feb 02 2011
  • 卯Rabbit          Feb 03 2011 - Jan 22 2012
  • 辰Dragon         Jan 23 2012 - Feb 09 2013
  • 巳Snake           Feb 10 2013 - Jan 30 2014
  • 午Horse           Jan 31 2014 - Feb 18 2015
  • 未Sheep           Feb 19 2015 - Feb 07 2016
  • 申Monkey       Feb 08 2016 - Jan 27 2017
  • 酉Rooster        Jan 28 2017 - Feb 18 2018
  • 戌Dog               Feb 19 2018 - Feb 04 2019
  • 亥Pig                 Feb 18 2019 - Feb 06 2020
  • 子Rat                Feb 07 2020 - Jan 25 2021


Western cultures are often superstitious with regards to the number 13; the Chinese also join good and bad omens to numbers.

  • "8" is look upon as a lucky number, as the way it is pronounced in the Chinese language sounds similar to the phrase “to get a fortune”.
  • "6" symbolises safety and an easy journey.
  • "9" is very lucky – there are 9 door knobs located horizontally and vertically on the imperial doors in the Forbidden City.
  • Doubles are a good omen, for instance a pair of vases, not a single vase, would be given to a newly married couple. 
  • "73" and "84" are regarded as bad omens for the elderly, as they are deemed possible years for death or illness.
  • "4" is considered bad luck as its pronunciation is similar to the word for ‘death’ in Chinese.
  • "7" can also be a symbol of death, but this is not as commonly regarded as the number 4.


Colour symbolism is important and it is practical to know what each colour represents in public places:

  • Red symbolises good luck and is used for ceremonial purposes
  • Yellow is reserved exclusively for imperial palaces in China
  • Green is for the Post Office
  • Black, being the colour of faeces is associated with dirt, sin, evil, disasters, sadness, cruelty and suffering among other negative things.
  • White symbolises the mother’s milk and is the central ground between red and black, balancing the 2 colours. It signifies moderation, purity, honesty and life


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