Hakkasan Restaurant » Culture http://hakkasan.com Hakkasan Restaurant serves Michelin Star awarded Cantonese Cuisine Mon, 11 Dec 2017 15:35:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 The history of tea http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-history-of-tea/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-history-of-tea/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:32:51 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=8076 Tea plays an integral role in Chinese society, and has done for thousands of years. It is believed that China introduced the rest of the world to tea via the renowned Silk Road trade route that connected the huge country to Russia and the Middle East (and from there to Europe). In fact, its production […]

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Tea plays an integral role in Chinese society, and has done for thousands of years.

It is believed that China introduced the rest of the world to tea via the renowned Silk Road trade route that connected the huge country to Russia and the Middle East (and from there to Europe). In fact, its production has been prominent in driving economic development, such is its financial worth and global popularity.

Additionally, tea drinkers were traditionally seen as the academics and cultural elites of society (although tea consumption is now a practice enjoyed by all), and it is still regarded as hugely important medicinally, with many positive health benefits.

The discovery of tea some 5,000 years ago is often attributed to Emperor Shennong, whose name means the Divine Farmer, and who is considered the ancient Chinese Father of Agriculture.

According to Chinese legend, Emperor Shennong and his court decided to take a rest under a Camellia sinensis plant, a plant native to the Asian continent, to enjoy some boiled water. It is said that dried leaves from the Camellia drifted into the boiling water creating an aromatic infusion that intrigued the emperor so much so that he took a sip, therein marking the first ever discovery of the beverage that would become the most popular in the world, second only to water.

During the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, tea was primarily used for its medicinal qualities. There was much exploration and study into the health benefits of tea. Indeed, the first references to these health effects were recorded by Emperor Shennong himself in The Divine Farmers Herb-Root Classic that tea infusions were useful for treating a variety of disease conditions. Its high price meant that most people were unable to afford it, and it was most often given as gifts to aristocracy or tributes to the emperor.

In the 700s, Lu Yu, an orphan who was raised by scholarly Zen monks, wrote the first definitive book about tea. He spent his life according to the Confucian tradition, pursuing poetry and literary classics. His book on tea gained the emperor’s patronage, and other Buddhist monks carried his tea service style to Japan where it evolved into the Japanese art form that is still performed today.

It was in the Song Dynasty that tea evolved from a medicinal plant to an everyday beverage. Whipped powdered tea prepared from tea cakes made from compressed tea powder became fashionable during this time, but disappeared completely from Chinese culture after the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), along with many other aspects of the previous dynasty. The act of drinking steeped tea from leaves became popular, and it is how people continue to drink it today.

Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, Hakkasan Dubai and Hakkasan Shanghai launch Afternoon Tea, a unique perspective on traditional afternoon tea with classic desserts and dim sum accompanied by Chinese tea and Champagne.

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The number eight in Chinese culture http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-number-8-in-chinese-culture/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-number-8-in-chinese-culture/#comments Sat, 26 Mar 2016 19:56:49 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=7971 Many cultures associate with numerology, but none more so than the Chinese, where certain numbers hold a special meaning as they are believed to be auspicious (吉利). Some numbers hold more significance than others because of their double meaning, believed to bring good fortune and luck. Like much of Chinese culture, numbers are associated with […]

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Many cultures associate with numerology, but none more so than the Chinese, where certain numbers hold a special meaning as they are believed to be auspicious (吉利). Some numbers hold more significance than others because of their double meaning, believed to bring good fortune and luck. Like much of Chinese culture, numbers are associated with yin and yang: odd numbers are predominantly yang, and even numbers yin. It has long been acknowledged that one should stay away from odd numbers as they are less favourable, whilst even numbers are thought to be more likely to bring wealth and prosperity.

Numerology has long dictated luck for the Chinese. Therefore it should come as no surprise that this number be incorporated into Chinese cuisine. When purchasing a home, picking out a phone number, or even selecting a license plate, the luckiest numbers are often chosen. One of these is the number eight, 捌, pronounced ba, is similar to 发, said fa, meaning wealth, fortune or prosperity. It is perfectly symmetrical and in balance, which is considered ideal. Not only was 08/08/08 a day there were a record number of weddings, but it was also the date the Olympic Games started in Beijing. Indeed, there are eight distinct cuisine styles that make up the culinary traditions of China as it is recognised today.

Escape until Eight at Hakkasan Las Vegas with a menu that includes eight sharing dishes, from Beijing dumplings to unique desserts and specially created cocktails, available daily at the bar for $8 each from 5pm until 8pm.

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The Mid-Autumn Festival http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-mid-autumn-festival/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-mid-autumn-festival/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 15:03:10 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=4540 The Mid-Autumn Festival is arguably one of the two most important festivals in China. The other, Chinese New Year, is widely recognised and acknowledged globally, with people around the world flocking to their city’s Chinatown to watch brightly coloured dragons dance down the streets to the sound of crashing cymbals. In contrast, the Mid-Autumn Festival […]

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The Mid-Autumn Festival is arguably one of the two most important festivals in China. The other, Chinese New Year, is widely recognised and acknowledged globally, with people around the world flocking to their city’s Chinatown to watch brightly coloured dragons dance down the streets to the sound of crashing cymbals. In contrast, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a more sedate celebration, primarily observed in mainland China and Vietnam, and little is known about this romantic festival further afield.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the night of the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese Han calendar, within 15 days of the autumnal equinox. This year the festival falls on Sunday 27th September. Because of its association with the moon – the festival is said to be held on the night of the brightest and fullest moon – the Mid-Autumn Festival is sometimes referred to the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival, and its history dates back to the traditions of moon worship in the ancient Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).

The modern Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations are centred on family and reunion, with many gathering outdoors to eat mooncakes and look up at the moon. Historically, however, the festival was a time to enjoy and give thanks for the harvest, and Morris Berkowitz, who spent a long time studying the Hakka people, conceives that the original Mid-Autumn celebration began with worshipping the Mountain Gods after the harvest was completed.

As with many of the celebratory Chinese festivals, there are ancient folklores surrounding the festivities. The story of Chang’e and Hou Yi is the most widely accepted tale about the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and it is this story that is the most often told, although the version differs slightly from location to location.

Chang’e and Hou Yi

A long time ago there were 10 scorching suns in the sky that burnt all the plants on Earth and killed lots of people.

The protagonist of the legend, a young man called Hou Yi, used his bow and arrow to shoot down nine of the 10 suns, thus saving everyone and everything. Upon hearing of Hou Yi’s tremendous and brave story, the queen of heaven, Wagmu, gave Hou Yi a bottle of elixir that could make him become an immortal.

However, this bottle of elixir would only work for one person. Although Hou Yi did want to become a god, he decided he’d rather stay with his beautiful wife Chang’e, such was his love for her. Instead of taking the potion, he went home and presented it to Chang’e, asking her to keep it for him.

Hou Yi had gained notoriety after shooting down the nine suns. More and more people wanted him to be their master, and he readily accepted most of them as his students.

Unfortunately, not every student of Hou Yi had good morals. Feng Meng, one such student, had noticed Hou Yi giving the elixir to Hou Yi and wanted to get his hands on it for himself, so one day when Hou Yi was out hunting Feng Meng pretended to be ill to stay at home. He crept over to Hou Yi’s house and demanded Chang’e hand the elixir over. Knowing that she could not defeat Feng Meng with strength alone, Chang’e drank the elixir herself. The moment she drank it, she flew out of the window and up into the sky towards the moon.

On realising his wife’s fate, Hou Yi was so grieved that he shouted Chang’e’s name to the sky, and was amazed to see her looking back at him from the moon. After hearing that Chang’e had become a goddess, people offered sacrifices and prayed to her for good luck and peace.

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Lantern Festival http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 15:09:27 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=3675 The annual Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities. During the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of Spring by lighting lanterns, watching fireworks and eating yuanxiao (or tangyuan), sweet stuffed glutinous rice […]

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The annual Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities. During the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of Spring by lighting lanterns, watching fireworks and eating yuanxiao (or tangyuan), sweet stuffed glutinous rice dumplings. This year the Lantern Festival falls on Thursday, 5th March.

Lanterns

The main event of the Lantern Festival is the lighting of the lanterns, and this activity originated during the reign of Emperor Hanmingdi (58-75 BC). Historically, the lanterns owned by the majority of the common people were simple with very minimal design. Only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate lanterns. However, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the most prosperous period in Chinese history, the Lantern Festival was celebrated on a much larger scale, and it is at this time that the festival evolved into a country-wide party. It is said that during the reign of Emperor Tangxuanzong, 50,000 lanterns were lit in Xian City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty.

The lanterns are almost always red, as the color is symbolic of good fortune and prosperity in China. Nowadays, the lanterns vary in shape and size, occasionally created in the form of animals, insects, flowers, people and even machines and buildings. Others depict scenes from popular stories teaching traditional values. In Taiwan, the lanterns represent brightness and birth, which is why women who want to be pregnant often walk underneath hanging lanterns while praying for a child.

Origins and customs

The festival, although not a nationwide public holiday, is one of China’s more significant dates, and it can be traced back to the Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago.

There are many alternative stories and beliefs relating to the Lantern Festival’s origins.

One story suggests that the holiday is attributed to Taiyi, the ancient god of heaven. The belief is that the God of Heaven controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his beck and call, and decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon humans. Emperor Qinshihuang, who first united China, held the first Lantern Festival to ask Taiyi for good weather and fortune.

Another common explanation for the Lantern Festival is rooted in Taoism. One story centers on the Jade Emperor, whose favorite crane flew down to Earth and was subsequently hunted and killed. The Jade Emperor was furious, and planned a firestorm as retribution. However, the emperor’s daughter was kind and warned the villagers first. A wise man from a neighbouring village suggested that the villagers hang red lanterns outside their homes, make bonfires and light firecrackers, to give the illusion that the village had already burned to the ground. On the day of retaliation, the Jade Emperor was tricked into thinking the village was ablaze, and the villagers escaped without tragedy.

Lantern riddles (cai deng mi)

An essential part of Lantern Festival celebrations include guessing lantern riddles. These riddles are attached to the lanterns and are often very challenging, some similar to English riddles and others based on the construction of Chinese characters or referring to traditional poetry. The person who answers the riddle correctly usually wins a small prize.

Yuanxiao

Throughout the festival, people eat yuanxiao (or tangyuan), and the Lantern Festival is sometimes referred to as the Yuanxiao Festival. The sticky rice flour dumplings are sweet, often stuffed with red bean paste, sesame paste or crushed peanuts. The name tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation to tuanyuan which means ‘reunion’, so people believe the dumplings signify union, harmony and happiness for the family. It is also believed that the round shape of the yuanxiao and the bowls in which they are served symbolise family togetherness, and eating the dumplings may bring happiness and good luck in the New Year.

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Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:54:15 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=3643 Chinese New Year, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is one of the most auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and therefore the date differs each year. This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19th, although traditionally festivities run […]

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Chinese New Year, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is one of the most auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and therefore the date differs each year. This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19th, although traditionally festivities run from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival, a festival that concludes New Year, on the 15th day of the first month.

Celebrations

While Chinese New Year is celebrated across China and in many neighbouring territories such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia amongst others, regional customs and traditions concerning celebrations vary widely.

For instance, a reunion dinner known as Nian Ye Fan 年夜饭 will be held for family members on Chinese New Year’s Eve, but the food served at this meal will differ depending on where in China it is being celebrated, although most dinners will include a whole chicken, symbolising prosperity, togetherness and joy, and a whole fish, symbolising abundance of money. In fact, the Chinese phrase “may there be surplus every year” sounds the same as “may there be fish every year”.

In some countries of Southeast Asia, Chinese New Year is considered to be one of the most important holidays of the year, with the biggest celebrations taking place in Malaysia and Singapore. In Singapore there is an annual street parade, well-known for its colorful floats and performances. Similarly, the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong draw many a visitor – local and tourist – to throw oranges up into their branches for good luck.

The Year of the Sheep

The Chinese lunar calendar is associated with the Shēngxiào, or Chinese zodiac. This year is the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram).

The sheep is recognised as one of the animals of the zodiac that people like the most; gentle and calm, the sheep is unable to walk backwards or sideways and so continues plodding onwards, indicating that 2015 will be a year that people will progress, slowly yet steadily.

The sheep is also the eighth zodiac animal, making it one of the most auspicious signs; eight is one of the luckiest numbers in China, symbolising peace and wealth.

Mythology

According to ancient Chinese folklore, a mythical beast called the Nian would visit a small village in China at the beginning of New Year and terrorise the people, eating livestock, crops and even villagers, especially children. However, it was soon discovered that the Nian hated both the colour red and loud noises. From then on every Chinese New Year’s Eve, families hang red banners from their houses, decorate the streets with red lanterns and let off loud firecrackers in order to scare the Nian away.

Symbolism

Red is the predominant color used in Chinese New Year celebrations. It symbolises virtue, truth and sincerity, and is seen as joyful.

Red envelopes, known as ‘lai see’ in Cantonese and ‘hong bao’ in Mandarin, are often presented at social and family gatherings during Chinese New Year to children or unmarried and unemployed adults. The red color of the envelope symbolises good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

Typically, the envelopes contain money. The amount of money given usually ends in an even number, as off-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount (such as 40 and 404) as the pronunciation of the word ‘four’ sounds like that of the word for ‘death’ and thus signifies bad luck.

Hakkasan will be offering all guests who dine from the signature Chinese New Year menu a red envelope containing a gift. This will be accompanied by a red wishing ribbon, and guests will be encouraged to share their wishes for 2015 before hanging the ribbon on the latticed woodwork in the restaurants. These wishes will be shared on the Hakkasan Wishes Instagram page and Chinese New Year website.

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The Chinese New Year Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees tradition http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-lam-tsuen-wishing-trees-tradition/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-lam-tsuen-wishing-trees-tradition/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 12:12:36 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=3420 Chinese New Year is one of the most significant and important festivals in the Chinese calendar. Celebrations traditionally run from the last day of the last month (known as Chinese New Year’s Eve) to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month. Within China, traditions and customs vary widely depending on region. […]

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Chinese New Year is one of the most significant and important festivals in the Chinese calendar. Celebrations traditionally run from the last day of the last month (known as Chinese New Year’s Eve) to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month.

Within China, traditions and customs vary widely depending on region. Typically, most people begin festivities on the Chinese New Year’s Eve with a family-oriented dinner, often bringing together family members who work away from home for a reunion. It is also customary for families to thoroughly clean the house, sweeping away ill-fortune and bad luck to make way for incoming good luck.

The Chinese New Year tradition of the wishing tree arguably began hundreds of years ago in Lam Tsuen, Hong Kong. During Chinese New Year, villagers would travel for miles to visit the sacred Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees, two ancient banyan trees situated near the Tin Hau Temple in Fong Ma Po village, one of the 23 traditional Chinese villages that make up Lam Tsuen.

It is believed that the wishing custom originated from fishermen who would throw paper josses made from bamboo into every Tai Pak Kung (earth god) tree on their way into the New Territories of Hong Kong to bring them good luck and protection.

Historically, people would burn joss sticks before writing their wishes down, tying it to a small orange or kumquat, and then throwing the wish up to hang in the branches of the trees. It was believed that if the wish successfully hung onto one of the branches, the person’s wish would come true. The higher the branch the wish landed on, the more likely it would be for the person’s hopes to be fulfilled.

Although people are now discouraged from throwing their wishes up into the trees, tourists and locals still make the journey to the small village every year to tie their wishes onto wooden support beams, imitation trees or racks that surround the original wishing trees.

Hakkasan will be honouring the wishing tree tradition by offering all guests around the world who dine during this festive time the opportunity to write their wishes on red ribbon and hang them on the latticed woodwork. These wishes will be shared on our Hakkasan Instagram page and website.

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Dongzhi Festival or Winter Solstice Festival http://hakkasan.com/blog/dongzhi-festival-winter-solstice-festival/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/dongzhi-festival-winter-solstice-festival/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:35:05 +0000 http://old.hakkasan.com/?p=3275 The Dongzhi – or Winter Solstice – Festival is a festival in China and East Asia during the winter months designed to celebrate the return of longer daylight hours and an increase in positive energy.

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The Dongzhi Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is a festival celebrated in China and East Asia during the winter months. Dongzhi is literally translated to mean ‘the extreme of winter’, and the festival is designed to celebrate the return of longer daylight hours and ultimately an increase of positive energy. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony, and this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù 復 which means ‘returning’ (of the longer days, of the light, of warmth). It usually occurs between the 21st and 23rd December; in 2014, the festival lands on Sunday 21st December or Monday 22nd December, depending on location.

The Dongzhi Festival is traditionally a time for the family to get together, much as Westerners do on Christmas day. Although the festival isn’t an official holiday in China, historically farmers and fishermen would take time off from work and reunite with their families with a lavish meal.

During these get-togethers, families in southern China often make and eat tangyuan, balls of glutinous rice, occasionally brightly coloured, cooked in a sweet or savoury broth. Tangyuan symbolise reunion or wholeness and unity, and are also eaten during Yuanxiao or the Lantern Festival and served as a dessert on a Chinese wedding day.

In northern China, people typically indulge in dumplings, either plain or stuffed with hearty meats. The reason for this is rooted in Chinese folklore: it is said that Zhang Zhongjing, the eminent Han Dynasty physician, noticed poor farmers suffering from chilblains or frostbite in their ears on one cold winter day. On seeing this, he ordered his apprentices make dumplings with lamb and other warming (or yang) ingredients before distributing them to the poor to keep them warm. The word for dumpling is jiozi 饺子 which sounds like jiao ‘er 娇耳 meaning ‘tender ears’. This tradition has continued and is adhered to even now. Similarly, food prepared according to traditional recipes with the focus on nourishing the body is commonly eaten during the festival.

Dongzhi is the last festival of the year, occurring only six weeks before the Chinese New Year. However, some people believe that this festival marks a turning point, and that everybody becomes one year older on this day. Despite the fact that the festival is no longer as significant as it was 2,000 years ago, Dongzhi is still a great example of ancient Chinese traditions that are still acknowledged today.

 

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