Have you eaten today?

vegetable salad

Lately I painted quite a lot of animals and plants, and before each painting I usually spend a decent amount of time studying this particular animal or plant, so that its three-dimensional image is imprinted in my head before I lift the brush to paint. In each research however, if this plant or animal has been seen in the ancient Chinese times, there normally will be records about it, detailing its name, color, size, and other properties, especially how this plant or animal is beneficial to us humans – it may increase our blood flow, clear our lungs, strengthen our hearts, etc. I often say that the Chinese people prefer multi-functional things, so if something is pretty, it better also be useful too, or at least be tasty. The more I think about it, the more I realize this “trying to taste everything” tendency is something that I wanted to share with you.

vegetable salad

“The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating.”

– John Walters

Someone once said that there can not have been mermaids in the world, because the ancient Chinese books never wrote about them, not their looks nor how they taste like! “Chi” means “to eat” in Chinese, and no wonder China is spelled this way, eating is a deeply rooted personality trait in the Chinese blood. In my hometown there is a saying that if you have encountered something so upsetting that one BBQ session cannot even fix, then have a second one.

We love food, and we love eating. There are many slangs and expressions about eating in Chinese that explain almost everything we do in life! We call our jobs, “bowl” – a job with great security is called an “iron bowl”; a glamorous job is called a “gold bowl”; to get fired can be referred to as “lost the bowl”. In fact, to get fired can also be called “to stir-fry somebody’s squid”.

food healthy wood agriculture
Ma La Tang (麻辣烫)
  • When you are jealous, others would say that you are “eating vinegar”;
  • When you want to get back together with an ex, you can be called “turning around to eat grass”;
  • To be in a relationship with someone close to you, you will be called “eating the grass near your nest”;
  • When you do well in a company, your boss loves you, then you are “eating fragrance”;
  • If unfortunately you are not popular in your company, then you are “not eating well”;
  • To get sued, there is the expression to “eat affaire”‘
  • When making a loss, having to suffer from an unfairness, you have experienced “eating deficit”;
  • Harassments are referred to as to be “eaten Toufu”;
  • To receive kickbacks, you have “eaten” the kickback;
  • Suffering from poverty at the end of the month, you are “eating dirt”
  • … …

Ask a Chinese person to read this word “奶酪陷阱” (Cheese trap), I believe many would see it as “cheese tart” (奶酪馅饼) – we are always alert and receptive for any food related stimulus! Even the main theme of the Monkey King story (Journey to the West) is all about a whole bunch of monsters trying their best to eat the monk…

bowl of dimsum

So, if you are at all similar to a Chinese person after checking with the previous parts, then when you have a hard time falling asleep, perhaps think twice about counting sheep, because this may be how it goes:

One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, lamb, roll of lamb, sesame sauce, lettuce, mushroom, shrimp, rice noodle, spicy soup, mushroom soup, tomato soup… …

You may have to get up and and find out where to get some hotpot…

Ok ok, I admit, we are big foodies. I think as long as we still enjoy eating, then the world is going to continue getting better! You know many happy and productive Chinese people? Now you know why!

Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!

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Pet Names & Culture

Are you one of the pet loving people? What is the name of your pet? I personally do not find the pet naming an easy task, but I surely know of some names that really crack me up – a cat named “Jean-Clawed Van Damme” or “Harry Pawtter” gets me every time – who doesn’t like a clever pun? In the oriental society since the prosperity of the pet industry, the pet naming also received quite a lot of attention. Today, let us explore a little bit of the pet naming strategy in the oriental culture. Who knows, perhaps you can get inspired for your next pet!

black and white siberian husky puppy on brown grass field

“If there are no dogs in heaven, when I die I want to go where they went.”

– Will Rogers

If we trace the origin of pets, one of the first real pets would be horses in the ancient Chinese society. The horse names already displayed the people’s wisdom, and the same naming strategies are still in use today. The most obvious naming strategy is using the observable patterns, which produced many famous horses in history, such as “white bunny” and “red bunny”. The speed was another factor, creating names such as “chase wind” or “chase lightening”.

In the Tang Dynasty (6th-7th century) with the popularity of domestic cat and dogs, people were able to take their naming abilities one step further and started using other species to name their cats and dogs. One of the most famous dog in this period of time was named “Oolong”, the black dragon. Yes, you read it correctly, the actual meaning of the oolong tea is in fact “black dragon” tea.

The most common naming strategy in the Eastern world is giving the pets a name that brings fortune and wealth to themselves (our recurring theme), and there appeared quite a few “fortune bringer” or “hundreds of happiness” in turn. I guess names such as “fifty cents” would simply not make the cut. This is a strategy that regained popularity amongst the millennials in our modern world, this “naming renaissance” is quite interesting, producing names such as “Fortune Li” or “Rich Zhang”.

Li Di, Tang Dynasty

Another very popular naming strategy is focusing on the characters of the pets. “White cloud”, “snowy” or “pink nose” became the popular name for quite a few fluffy cats in historical record. The most common cat name throughout history has been “mi mi” which resembles some sound they make; When it comes to dogs, the most interesting and fitting one I have ever heard was “go”, literally the word for dog in Chinese. Another way to call dogs is “wang”, which is mimicking the sound they make (in Chinese).

The modern world has also seen a wave of international names for their pets. So taking Chinese pets for example, you may very well hear names such as “Lucas” or “Amy” being used. My friends who come from all over the world, perhaps it is also time to consider some Asian names for your pets?

Corgi freehand brush painting, Fiona Sheng

Nowadays people enjoy to name their pets with food (many Asians are foodies in fact), so “egg tart”, “jelly”, “steam-bun” or “watermelon” could all very well be the name of pets, but you have to be prepared that your neighbours having the same ideas as you. Some people decided to give celebrity names to their pets, so we also know of many “Beethoven”s and “Li Bai”s, a very famous Tang Dynasty poet. I have also heard that some people choose the pet name by employing mathematical methods, for example, if the pet was born on February 14th, then in order to be more unique, the name could be “28” (you know, 2×14) – the sky is the limit in the naming creativity!

Honestly I cannot decide which strategy is better, they are all wonderful! I guess we just need to have multiple pets so that we can put our intelligence to proper use in pet naming!

Border Collie freehand brush painting, Fiona Sheng

Good news, the cat painting course is finally launched! You can access it below, and a Coupon Code (market lowest price) will be included in the coming newsletter (you will receive one each week, so subscribe now)!

Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!

Mindful Art, Zen Home | InkDifferent Studio

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