February 7, 2021
The Chinese New Year is almost upon us.
My Chinese teacher 唐老師 Teacher Tang gave me a “hóngbāo”, a traditional red envelope, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_envelope. In the photo above it is on the far right. A hóngbāo is the same shape as a letter for posting, with an opening in the narrow end. When I was given a hóngbāo I confess I didn’t know what it was. The other similar envelopes are other hóngbāo; many shops will give hóngbāo away for free.
The NTNU Mandarin Training School had some displays welcoming in the New Year.
A noticeboard set up outside the office on level 7. The top line gives the full title of the MTC, but it’s given as characters going right to left, opposite to English. Chinese characters can go either way.
This display is of Cáishén yé, the God of Wealth; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caishen. The figure is made of inflatable plastic.
Some firecrackers, made in the same way.
Riddles, in both English and Chinese, with answers covered over. I became nostalgic for Christmas at home in Australia, where similar groan-inducing riddles are read out.
A stand offering “Fa gao”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa_gao. It is made of rice and is a speciality of the season.
Teacher Tang and I holding “fa gao”. It looked like rice pudding except more bland, a smooth, moderately sweet taste. I quite liked “fa gao”.
Next a stand selling 鳳梨酥 fènɡ lí sū, pineapple cake.
“Pineapple became a critical component of Taiwan’s economy during the Japanese era, during which Japanese industrialists imported a wide variety of pineapple cultivars and established numerous processing plants. By the late 1930s, Taiwan had become the third-largest exporter of pineapples in the world. However, when pineapple production in Taiwan shifted toward domestic sales and use of fresh pineapple, local bakeries sought to use this surplus in pastries. While pineapple cakes had historically been produced as a ceremonial food, a combination of governmental promotion and globalization popularized the pineapple cake. Pineapple cakes have become one of the top-selling souvenirs in Taiwan.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineapple_cake
Me holding an entire cup’s worth of pineapple cake. It was a crunchy base enclosing an almost too sweet pineapple filling. This piece was enough. I thought about bringing some home to Australia but I think it would be confiscated at Customs.
Finally a stand playing 老鼠牌, Lao shu pai, the “mouse game”. It’s from southern Taiwan; Teacher Tang, who has lived entirely in north Taiwan, didn’t know this game. It’s played using the 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac. I couldn’t find the game on the Internet in English.