No Chinese New Year dinner is complete without this fun – and delicious – tradition.
Whether you’ve been invited to a friends for Lunar New Year or just plan to enjoy a traditional meal out, you’ll likely take part in the “prosperity toss” (Yu Sheng or Yee Sang).
According to Chinese beliefs, ren ri is the day of Humankind. Goddess Nu Wa spent six days creating animals (from mud by some accounts) and on the seventh, she created humans. To honour and commemorate this day, the Chinese community participates in Yu Sheng on the the seventh day of Chinese New Year.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a prosperity toss at a recent dim sum lunch and was surprised, not by how much fun it was to toss salad up with wild abandon (especially when you don’t have to clean up the mess!), but by how good the salad tasted.
Each participant gets long chopsticks and is invited to toss the salad high into the air and shout, “Loh Hei” meaning toss high! You’re encouraged to be both loud and messy, shouting blessing of good luck and wishes. Popular phrases include, “Nian Nian You Yu” meaning “abundance through the year,” “Qing Chun Yong Zhu” meaning “forever young”.
At more traditional prosperity tosses, you’re likely to hear specific phrases when certain vegetables are added because each of the ingredients has special meaning. We have broken it down to bite-sized (ha!) pieces for you to crush your next prosperity toss!
The Yu Sheng Prosperity Toss: What’s In It?
The ingredients are served on a large serving platter along with piles of sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, (sometimes) crushed crackers, dried orange peels, spices, and sauce primarily made from plum sauce, vinegar, sesame oil.
1. Raw Salmon
Raw salmon slices are also added to symbolise yearly prosperity. What to say? 年年有余 (nian nian you yu).
2. Pomelo and/or Dried Orange Peels
These symbolise good luck and prosperity. What to say? 大吉大利 (da ji da li).
3. Pepper & Seasoning Powders
These are added to represent incoming wealth. What to say? 招财进宝 (zhao cai jin bao).
This symbolise success in financial endeavours. What to say? 一本万利 (yi ben wan li).
5. Shredded Vegetables
Yu Sheng is made from all kinds of pickled vegetables cut into thin slices (all of similar size). Some of the more elaborate salads will have up to 20 different types of vegetables. In addition to turnip, ginger, and cucumber most will have:
Symbolising the arrival of good luck into one’s life. What to say? 鸿运当头 (hong yun dang tou).
Symbolising eternal youth. What to say? 青春常驻 (qing chun chang zhu).
Symbolising the event of being successful in everything you do. What to say? 步步高升 (bu bu gao sheng).
Symbolising prosperity in one’s professional life. What to say? 风生水起 (feng sheng shui qi).
6. Chopped Peanuts & Sesame Seeds
These are added to hope for wealth in one’s house (literally, for one’s one to be filled with gold and silver) and for success in any business endeavours. What to say? 金银满屋 (jin qin man wu) or 生意兴隆 (sheng yi xing long).
7. Golden Crackers
Added to mean, “may the ground (you walk) be covered with gold”. What to say? 满地黄金 (man di huang jin).
8. Plum Sauce
To symbolise sweet (and harmonious) relationships in one’s life. What to say? 甜甜蜜蜜 (tian tian mi mi).
With that, you’re all geared up for your CNY Prosperity Toss! Gong Xi Fa Cai!
A Quick Pronunciation Guide…
Yu Sheng (鱼生): yú shēng
Loh Hei (捞起): lāo qi (pronounced as “low hay” in Cantonese)
Nian Nian You Yu(年年有余): nián nián yoú yú
Qing Chun Chang Zhu (青春永驻): qīngchūn yong zhù
Gong Xi Fa Cai (恭喜发财): gōngxi fācái
Also…since we can’t go all-out on the CNY Prosperity Toss cheers due to Covid…
Try using this voice-recorded hack instead. Trust us, it’ll definitely tickle your funny bone.
By Kathleen Siddell, January 2016 / Updated January 2020 / Updated + Additional Reporting by Willaine G. Tan, January 2021. / Images: 123RF.com
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