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Would you like to have a bowl of “长寿面”?

birthday noodle in china, chinese culture, learning chinese

Birthday is a big day in one's life. In the old days, Chinese people would eat a bowl of "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn, literally "longevity noodles", a type of noodles eaten specially on one's birthday – they're also called birthday noodles)" rather than a birthday cake. As this type of noodles is "长 (cháng, long)" and "瘦 (shòu, thin)", and the pronunciation of the two words is the same to the Chinese word "长寿 (cháng shòu)", longevity. "长寿面" (cháng shòu miàn), means wishing the person celebrating a birthday a long life.

生日是人生中非常重要的时刻。以前,中国人不吃生日蛋糕,而是吃一碗"长寿面"。因为面条又"长"又"瘦",和"长寿"发音一样,所以就叫做"长寿面",意思是希望过生日的人能够长命百岁。

 

Chinese people often put an egg in the "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)" because egg yolk is round, and roundness stands for "圆满 (yuán mǎn, to be satisfactory, or perfect)" and a symbol of new life in Chinese culture. The ways of making "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)" are quite diverse across different regions. The birthday noodles are usually longer. The person that celebrates the birthday should finish a string of noodle at one go while eating "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)", and he/she should not bite off the noodle before slurping it up completely.

中国人一般会在长寿面中加一个鸡蛋,因为蛋黄是圆的,象征着"圆满",也象征着新生命。在不同的地方,做长寿面的方法也都不一样。长寿面和普通的面条不太一样,一般比较长。吃长寿面的时候,要一口气吃掉整根面条。在把面条放进嘴里之前,不能咬断长寿面。

 

About 2,100 years ago, Emperor Wu was keen on physiognomy, fortune telling by studying facial features (相术-xiàng shù). He was convinced that a person's destiny could be determined by his/her looks. Emperor Wu once chatted with the ministers and said, "A book mentions that the longer a person's groove between upper lip and nose (人中-rén zhōng) is, the longer he would live." Then one of the ministers began to laugh and said, "Peng Zu (彭祖, a legendary long-lived figure in China from 1900 to 1066 BC) has lived for 800 years, and how long could his groove be?" In Chinese, another saying for "脸 (liǎn)" (face) is "面 (miàn)". Because of this legend, Chinese people gradually cultivate the habit of eating "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)" on birthday.

在两千一百多年前,在中国有一位叫汉武帝的皇帝,他很喜欢相术。他相信人的相貌可以决定他们的命运。有一次,他在和他的大臣们聊天的时候说:"书上说,人的人中——也就是鼻子和嘴巴中间的部分——如果越长,他的寿命也就越长。"这时,有一位大臣笑了起来,说,"彭祖活了八百年,他的人中得有多长啊?"在中文里,"脸"就是"面"的意思。因为有了这个传说,渐渐地,中国人就有了过生日吃长寿面的习惯。

 

That is just an interesting tale of course. Historians have never factually proved the tradition of eating "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)" originates from the story of Emperor Wu. "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)"  in China means a happy wish for the future. Chinese people hope that the person celebrating a birthday can live longer after eating a bowl of "长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn)".

当然,这只是一个有趣的传说。其实,从来没有历史学家证明,吃长寿面的传统来源于汉武帝的故事。长寿面代表着中国人对未来的美好愿望。人们希望,吃完一碗长寿面,过生日的人就可以活得更长久。

2016-06-22

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