Category Archives: Chinese Customs

Mid-Autumn Festival

mid autumn festivalIt’s the Mid-Autumn Festival  also known as Mooncake or Lantern Festival.  It’s the 3rd most popular holiday in China and its origins go back 3,500-years. The festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar which translates to September 8th.  It’s  a happy occasion celebrating the harvest, family and friendship.

One of the most important elements of celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival is to buy and give mooncakes to your friends and family.

mooncakeThe mooncake is round, like the moon, and this represents harmony and reunion.

Eating slices of mooncake together signifies that those present will be reunited in the future. If you eat mooncakes given to you as a gift by other people, it is another indication that you will meet them again.

Mooncakes are also a reminder of a time in ancient Chinese history of great strife and crisis, in particular the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, which ruled China for over a century from 1271-1368 AD.

A piece of paper was baked into thousands of mooncakes to incite rebellion, saying, “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the eighth month”, which was distributed by rebels to the Chinese families under strict military rule.

To commemorate the rebellion, mooncakes have been baked in special molds which imprint between three to six Chinese characters onto the cakes.

mooncake2Today the Chinese characters refer to the flavor of the cake.  Some of the more popular flavors include:  date, red bean, mung bean, pineapple and nuts.  Usually a single or double egg yolk is baked inside to further signify the moon.

The Mid-Autumn Festival also honors the legend of Chang’e  who lives on the Moon and is immortal, while her husband Houyi is stuck on Earth, and the two can only meet during the Mid-Autumn Festival’s the full moon, when the milky way is easier to cross.


lanterns 2To honor the story, it is traditional to light lanterns outside your home during Mid-Autumn Festival. The oldest style of lanterns are pink, blue, yellow and green paper lanterns which hold a candle and have a tassel hanging beneath the lantern.



5 Foods to Help You Stay *COOL* this Summer

summer beach ballsWhen it comes to cooling down, air conditioning or a fan is the first thing people often turn to, but not everyone has that luxury.  Believe it or not, there’s a way to cool yourself down by eating certain foods.  In an article by Devon Brown on, she speaks to Soho Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist Mia Hatgis (check her out on, who discusses 5 different foods you can eat to help cool off.

watermelon1.  WATERMELON – When dealing with thirst, low energy, headaches and dizziness, watermelon can help.  Chinese herbalists use watermelon to prevent or recover from heatstroke.  The fruit increases the amount of fluid in the body.  Hatgis states, “Composed of 93 to 96 percent water, watermelon allows the body to generate fluids, maintains electrolyte balance and induces urination, which is a very efficient way of clearing heat from the body.”

mung bean2.  MUNG BEAN – Mung bean is very popular in China — it’s mixed with noodles, rice, cakes and desserts.  Better yet, it’s known to reduce fever and thirst.  Mung beans help the body rid itself of toxins and reduce inflammation, which is especially helpful after a long night of partying or a day filled with consuming fast foods.



bitter melon3.  BITTER MELON – Bitter melons are valued in Asia for their ability to restore the hot and cold temperatures of the human body.  According to Chinese Medicine, bitter melon is a hot food with cooling benefits.  According to Hatgis, “Frozen or refrigerated foods and beverages tend to weaken digestion, and lead to that sluggish feeling associated with summer days,”  Instead rely on hot foods such as Bitter Melon Stir-fry with Beef, to cool the body.

papaya4.  PAPAYA – Papaya is great for people who find cold foods hard to digest.  “Papaya prevents the lethargy and loos of appetite associated with hot summer temperatures.  It’s full of digestive enzymes that clear inflammation in the body, and  helps drain toxins and generate fluids,” says Hatgis.  Papaya offers the most when it’s consumed raw.


cucumber5.  CUCUMBER – Cucumbers are rich in vitamins, alkaloids and chlorophyll.  Additionally, they’re made up of 90% water and replenish electrolytes.  Like the mung bean, cucumbers are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.  They’re known to help reduce your risk of certain cancers.  Cucumbers not only cool you down, they’re providing your body with substances to live a long and healthy life!

How will you cool down in this summer?






Ghost Marriages

ghost marriage2Most brides and grooms promise to be together “til death do us part” and “as long as we both shall live.”  But what if death wasn’t the end but rather the beginning?

The Chinese custom of “ghost marriages”, or as the Chinese call it “minghun”, shows that death can be the start of a relationship.  Most people would find this odd, but it is still practiced in the  Chinese culture. 

On February 4, 2010, 26-year-old Zhuang Haugui planned to marry his girlfriend, 21-year-old Hu Zhao. But before the wedding, Zhao was murdered by thieves who broke into her apartment.   Instead of letting her go off into the afterworld a spinster, Haugui proceeded with the wedding and married his dead girlfriend.  The wedding took place at a funeral parlor in Zhangzhou, Fujian China.  Family and friends from both sides attended.

“Ghost marriages” can be performed between one or two  people who are no longer living.  Either both are dead or one person is a corpse and the other is still living.   The Chinese are very heavy believers in the afterlife; therefore this is a common nuptial ceremony.  The Chinese believe that if a person dies and they aren’t married, they will forever haunt the family members, so it is the living relatives duty to find them someone who they can share a happy life with in the afterlife.  Ghost marriages were outlawed in 1949, but are still practiced in some regions that are rural.  In fact, since China’s economy has excessively improved, ghost marriages are making a way back into their culture. 

When imaging a ghost marriage, you wonder how it works.  Believe it or not it is the same way a wedding would be between two live humans, with a little twist.  The family members do the usual at a wedding; they dance, eat drink and socialize.  The family of the groom also gives the bride’s family a gift and they will forever be united after the wedding.  The twist in it all is if both are deceased, the family of the  bride digs up her remains, and places her near her husband’s burial site.  They then have a graveside ceremony where they are pronounced husband and wife. 

Professor Chen Huawen, who is an expert in Chinese burial customs, says that the demands for bride corpses are very high.  He says that “the reason is, is that many young bachelors work as coal miners in provinces where ghost marriages persist.  Coal mining is dangerous and leads to death. “  According to Huawen, the families of miners will get compensated $50,000 when they die, and this is often spent on the corpse of a bride.  Because there is such a high demand, bride corpses can be priced at as much as $30,000.  The shortage of bride corpses has led to the crime of grave robbing.

Grave robbing is pretty self-explanatory.  What people do is they dig up graves and steal the corpses to sell on the black market to people looking for them.  There have been numerous arrests of people getting caught doing so.  It is high illegal but it is a very common act that is done.  Some have even gone beyond to the point of plastic surgery and dyeing of the hair to make them look younger for higher prices.  Even though asking for a corpse is an insane request, the Chinese take pride in ghost marriages.  At the end of the day, a ghost marriage is a stable marriage that will last forever. 

In my novel, Shanghai Love, Peilin marries a ghost.  Experience her inner most thoughts as she is wed to a corpse by picking up a copy today.




Year of the Horse


Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones much joy, good health and prosperity in 2014.

I have much to share about this exciting Year of the Wood Horse, but first, I’d like to let you know about some fun upcoming events!


booked in burbankOn Thursday evening, January 16th I’ll be speaking at Book’d in Burbank.  Doors open at 7:30pm at Theater Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank CA 91505.  General Admission is $10 (Tickets can be purchased at the door – cash only).


Then Sunday January 26th @ 4pm, I’ll be at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena for Local Author Day!  Admission is FREE.  Come join us for a lively talk and discussion.  Address:  695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena 91001.  Bonus FYI:  Vroman’s now carries Shanghai Love!


green horse  According to the Chinese Calendar, a new moon on January 30 at 11:20PST (listed as January 31st on most calendars) marks the start of the Year of the Wood Horse.  How does this play into the universe?  And more importantly, what does it mean for you?  We depart from the slower energy of 2013’s Water Snake, and launch into a period of fast victories, unexpected adventure and surprising romance.  A hero in Chinese folklore, the Horse brings with him good fortune and luck.  Decisive action and high energy brings victory.  Production is rewarded!

Events move quickly though, so be sure not to gallop off in the wrong direction.  The Horse symbolizes nobility, class, swiftness and determination.  There is no midfield with the Horse’s fierce inspiration.

chinese zodiac  2014In Eastern philosophy, wood relates to green trees, which is why the cycle is sometimes referred to as the Year of the Green Horse.   The Horse is the strongest Fire animal of the 12 zodiac signs.  Since 2014 is year of Wooden Horse, Wood can help Fire to burn and last longer.   The last time the Wood Horse appeared was 60 years ago in 1954.

What does the Year of the Horse mean for you?  Check out your birth year below for more:

Paul Ng, a professional feng shui master based in Toronto, evaluates how the Chinese zodiac will affect us — from the global political climate to what the world’s health will look like in the coming months. And most importantly, he tells us how our birth sign will affect us in 2014.

green horseHorse: Born in 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918
The Year of the Horse means there is leadership linked with this sign this year, so your authority might grow. However, a horse’s hasty conduct can lead to irresponsibility, so take caution when gambling and/or fielding speculations.
Work: Those in positions of authority will do well, but unstable businesses, like the stock market, should be avoided.
Wealth: Don’t anticipate making a great deal money, and appreciate the revenue you do have coming to you.
Relationships: There won’t be a lot of excitement in your love life this year.  If you’re engaged, you might want to postpone your marriage until the following year.
Health: Watch your health this year — you could tired and can catch bugs easily. Make physical exercise and rest an important part of your life.

goat3Sheep or Goat: Born in 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919
This is a “linking” year for you. Benefit from your good relationships with other people, especially if you’re a male sheep.
Work: Those who work in the automobile industry, analysis, public relations, entertainment, surgery, and police work should expect to do well this year.
Wealth: Anticipate stability, with a slender growth in income this year. Streamline your investment portfolio.
Relationships: You’ll be loved this year, in fact, watch out for love triangles. If you’re married, make sure to exhibit lots of fondness to your partner.
Health: You’ll be healthier this year than last, but watch out for minor accidents. Drive protectively and take your time.

monkeyMonkey: Born in 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920
It’s important for the monkey to widen their reach–either travelling or moving–to increase success this year.
Work: Businesses that are good include areas based around movement—sales, marketing, travel, education, law, and finances.

Wealth: Money is poised to be good, including prospects for promotions and strong investment returns.
Relationships: If you’re single, this won’t be a promising time for finding love, but those who are married should feel assured in the continuance of their bond.
Health: Your overall health is good; but like the goat, be careful of accidents especially when driving.

roosterRooster: Born in 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921
This is revving up to be an extensive year for roosters. There are many opportunities for work and business, but your personal relationships could be unstable. Rely on friends for support.
Work: You do better outside an office than inside.  Look for positions in police work, law and politics.
Wealth: Be cautious with your money—don’t gamble this year.
Relationships: There’s love headed your way, but look out for struggles in your relationships. Take a moment to think things over before continuing to quarrel or it could end.
Health: Small accidents could be an concern for you, and be aware of your heart and lungs.

dogDog: Born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922
This is a lucky year for dogs. Everything from work and funds to relationships are on the upswing.
Work: Work within your innate creativity–the arts, music, architecture and writing. Even theater, TV and movies are great for you.
Wealth: Use instincts, rather than logic, rule when building an investment portfolio — it will help keep your money secure.
Relationships: Consider proposing if you haven’t already. If married, express more love toward your partner. Be humble when relating with others.
Health: Enjoy your good health, but be careful of overindulging.

pigBoar or Pig: Born in 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923
You’ll need energy at the start but be prepared for a great year— you’ll cultivate friends, experience breakthroughs and be supported in business.
Work: Good environments for you–metaphysics, religion, public relations, human resources, media and politics.
Wealth: Money will be secure for you this year, but don’t wager or invest in speculative markets.
Relationships: Nothing exciting, but nothing bad here either.  Your relationships stay flat but stable.
Health: You’ll feel better than last year.  Even if you do become ill, you’ll recuperate swiftly.

red ratRat: Born in 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924
The rat is in opposition this year, so this could mean losing some money.  Still, the rat sign is generally lucky, which will aid in keeping you out of trouble.
Work: Show business is great for you, including things like pageants and the arts.

Wealth: If not greedy, you’ll hang onto your money. Stay away from gambling though.

Relationships: Be quiet and patient this year.  If not, many of your relationships will involve arguments and conflict.
Health: Be sure to get lots of exercise and rest.  Body areas to watch for: the lungs, kidney and waist.

oxOx: Born in 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925
The ox is in conflict with the horse, which could mean arguments with other people.  However, the ox is a sign of authority, which potentially means promotions.
Work: Good environments include politics, the army or police work, where a promotion might be waiting for you. But watch out for enemies.
Wealth: Don’t expect a lot of money, but your income is proportional to your authority level.
Relationships: There isn’t a lot of romance expected for you this year. Be patient with the people in your life.
Health: Your health is fine, just watch out for small accidents.

tiger1Tiger: Born in 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926
This should be a good year for tigers. Be on the lookout for luck, joy, romance, spirituality and learning opportunities.
Work: You’ll do well in businesses that have to do with medicine (particularly surgery),  the military, teaching, and philosophy. If you’re self-employed, expand your business.
Wealth: This will be a year of financial stability.
Relationships: Romance is in the air. If the opportunity arises, consider marriage. If you’re married though, be wary of temptation and extramarital affairs.
Health: Watch out for accidents, and be especially careful around sharp objects.

rabbitRabbit: Born 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927
This is a year of romance, controversy, and lots of happiness. Just be watchful about your non-romantic relationships with others.
Work: Entertainment, speaking and sales all suit you — mental work is better for you than physical.
Wealth: This year the more you work, the more you’ll make.
Relationships: Romantic entanglements await, but watch out for love triangles.
Health: There’s a minor concern about sharp objects, so be mindful.

orange dragonDragon: Born in 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928
This will be a good year for dragons, as horses and dragons together have great energy. Also, health and wealth abound.
Work: You’ll do well in surgery and the military, as well as spirituality—philosophy and religion.

Wealth: Trust your intuition on investments.  You would do well in travel or trading businesses.
Relationships: Not a particularly romantic year for dragons.
Health: You have a general tendency towards accidents, but, you’ll be very healthy this year.

blue snakeSnake: Born in 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929
Last year was a year of conflict for the snake, so this year is a money year.
Work: Since this is your money year, finance and the stocks work well for you. Entertainment is another good area.
Wealth: Both your fixed and speculative incomes look good.
Relationships: If single, think about marriage.  If already hitched, be sure to express love toward your partner.
Health: You’re prone to colds and flus this year so keep your immune system boosted.  Exercise and get plenty of rest.

Whatever your sign and prediction, be sure to make the most of your year!




5 Lessons We Can Learn from Chinese Medicine

TCMTraditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been healing people for thousands of years.  Although quite different from Western practices, there are at least five lessons that we can glean from its method and philosophy.

1.  Listen – TCM practitioners pay attention to the whole body.  Using their senses – sight, smell, hearing, feeling and even taste — to pick up on messages from the body.  For the Eastern practitioner, a reddish complexion indicates heat.  A sweet smell often points to spleen deficiency and/or dampness problems.

2.  Treat the problem not just the symptoms –  In most Western medicine, painkillers are prescribed for the pain.  In TCM, pain is due to the non-free flow of qi (energy) and/or blood. When the qi and blood flow freely, there is no pain. Therefore, it is essential to keep our qi and blood full and moving freely for optimal health and well-being and especially for being pain free.

3.  Treat the whole person – Western medicine focuses on the organs.  Eastern medicine treats people as the whole – mind, body and spirit.  A TCM practitioner inquires about family, diet, and life stressors, among other areas.  S/he takes into consideration what’s going on in the patient’s life.

TCM2 4.  Health is not just about disease, it’s also about wellness – We often see the yin-yang symbol associated with Chinese Medicine.  That’s because TCM believes m keeping the body in balance.  It addresses wellness as well as prevention.

5.   Evidence is in the eyes of the beholder – Many who’ve been treated by Eastern remedies have said that they were able to get relief for ailments that Western treatments failed them.  Could it be a placebo effect?  Possibly.  But even scientific research acknowledges that empirical evidence is not the only method of confirmation.  For the rational mind, it’s difficult to accept that we may not be able to explain why – yet positive results have been supported.

More research in TCM practices will continue.  In the meantime, it’s valuable to be open to the lessons it can provide.

Fortune Cookies


National Fortune Cookie Day

fortune cookieSeptember 13th is National Fortune Cookie day.  Do you know their American history?  Fortune cookies became common in Chinese restaurants after World War II. Since desserts were not traditionally part of Chinese cuisine, the cookies provided Americans an after meal treat with an unusual flair.

Early fortunes included Biblical sayings, or quotes from Confucius, Aesop and even Ben Franklin. Later, fortunes included lottery numbers, smiley faces, jokes, and sage, if trivial advice.

Fortune cookies were originally made by hand using a chopstick.  In 1964, Edward Louie of San Francisco’s Lotus Fortune Cookie Company, automated the process by creatinv a machine that folds the dough and slips in a fortune.  Today, the world’s largest fortune cookie manufacturer, Wonton Food, Inc. of Long Island City, Queens ships out 60 million cookies a month.

What’s your favorite fortune cookie saying?  Have you ever had a fortune come true?




Chinese Wedding — The Bride

Chinese BrideThe Chinese marriage is a revered ceremony.  The traditional event signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood.   The Chinese wedding dress one of the most important elements.  A “good luck woman” attends the preparation of the bride and speaks words of wisdom to her.

The style of the bridal dress varies in each region, but always includes the color red, which symbolizes good luck and guards against evil spirits.  It also indicates prosperity, joy and love.  You’ll rarely see dark colors as they denote sorrow and grief in the Chinese tradition.

Depending on the region, it can either be one or two pieces.  If you are a Chinese bride living in the North, you wear what it is called a “qi pao” or “cheongsam”, which is a form fitting, long, one-piece garment embroidered with elaborate gold and silver designs.  If you are a Chinese bride living in the South, you wear what is called a “hung qua”, which is a two-piece garment that consists of a long decorative jacket over a long embroidered skirt also elaborately decorated with the golden phoenix and dragon.

In extravagant situations, the bride wears a crown-like headdress, often made of silver and decorated with pearls and feathers.  This adornment may also feature a red silk veil which covers the bride’s face as she makes the transition coming from her family’s home to her husband’s home.  In the previous generations, the bride would wear this veil to cover her face for the entire ceremony.   The newlyweds do not see each other until the night of their wedding.

Before the wedding, the bride bathes in water infused with pomelo or pomegranate leaves.  The Good Luck Lady performs the hair combing ceremony, known as “shutou” to further bless the bride with luck for a bountiful union.The four bridal comb blessings include: (1) First combing ensures that bride and groom will be together all their lives, (2) Second combing brings harmony to the marriage, (3) Third combing blesses the couple with many children and grandchildren, (4) Fourth combing is a blessing for longevity.

What cultural traditions do you like to include in your wedding?

Until next time,