Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture


Good Luck Life is the first book to explain the meanings of Chinese rituals and to offer advice on when and how to plan for Chinese holidays and special occasions such as Chinese weddings, the Red Egg and Ginger party to welcome a new baby, significant birthdays, and the inevitable funeral. Packed with practical information, Good Luck Life contains an abundance of facts, legends, foods, old-village recipes, and quick planning guides for Chinese New Year, Clear Brightness, Dragon...

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Good Luck Life

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Good Luck Life is the first book to explain the meanings of Chinese rituals and to offer advice on when and how to plan for Chinese holidays and special occasions such as Chinese weddings, the Red Egg and Ginger party to welcome a new baby, significant birthdays, and the inevitable funeral. Packed with practical information, Good Luck Life contains an abundance of facts, legends, foods, old-village recipes, and quick planning guides for Chinese New Year, Clear Brightness, Dragon Boat, Mid-Autumn, and many other festivals.

Written with warmth and wit, Good Luck Life is beautifully designed as an easily accessible cultural guide that includes an explanation of the Lunar Calendar, tips on Chinese table etiquette for dining with confidence, and dos and don'ts from wise Auntie Lao, who recounts ancient Chinese beliefs and superstitions. This is your map for celebrating a good luck life.

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Editorial Reviews

Ming Tsai
“Good Luck Life is a great resource to Chinese traditions and celebrations, offering explanations of the customs and their symbolism.”
Martin Yan
“Good Luck Life is a cultural treasure chest - it’s a wonderful legacy to pass on to future generations.”
Judy Yung
“Finally, a guidebook I can refer to for answers on how and why Chinese Americans celebrate and observe special occasions.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060735364
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/25/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 441,589
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosemary Gong is a third-generation Chinese American. Born and raised in California, she and her family were the only Asians in their Central Valley town, school, and church. A graduate of San Jose State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications, she moved to San Francisco to join Saatchi and Saatchi Corporate Communications Group. Chinatown was her choice of residence -- just around the corner from her grandparents. There, she developed an affinity for the places and the customs inherent in her culture. Rosemary shamefully admits her Chinese vocabulary totals around twenty-nine words. Thus, she considers one of her greatest achievements to be ordering a plate of noodles in her native Cantonese.

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First Chapter

Good Luck Life
The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture

Chapter One

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a time of new beginnings and intentions. Families sit down to feast on foods of good fortune once the clutter of the home, finances, and even the mind is cleared for a time of reflection, recognition, and renewal.

Traditionally known as the Spring Festival, which coincides with the seasonal farming calendar of the Chinese Almanac, Chinese New Year marks a fifteen-day celebration beginning on the first lunar new moon of the year and ending on the full moon. It usually falls between January 19 and February 23. Considered the most significant of holidays, the New Year integrates the themes of family, friends, home, and food. It's a time to put resolution and respect to practice and seek fortune, prosperity, longevity, happiness, and health.

The days leading up to Chinese New Year are fraught with flurry. Chinatown shoppers move to the rhythm of rustling pink plastic bags. Sidewalk vendors multiply with displays of seasonal flowers and blossoms, pallets of fresh fruits, and lively catches of the day. In preparation for the lunar New Year, the family readies itself by tossing out the old and welcoming in the new. The countdown begins with a chronological order of activities beginning with the Kitchen God ritual and moving on to the practices of settling old debts, readying the home, buying new clothes, and feasting to the family's content.

The Kitchen God

About a week prior to the lunar New Year, on the twenty-third or twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month, the Kitchen God, the most important domestic deity, is transported to the Jade Emperor, the ruler of the heavens, to report on the family's behavior from the previous year. The Kitchen God is represented by a paper image and is hung throughout the year near the family's stove. Long considered the soul of a Chinese family, the stove is where all is seen and heard. To encourage a good report, families smear the Kitchen God's mouth with honey or molasses, to sweeten his tongue. They remove his image from the stove and then burn it to send his spirit to the heavens. Some families offer spirit money during the deity's burning and even dip him in liquor to produce a bright flambé. When New Year's Eve arrives, a new Kitchen God is posted to replace the old one for another year of observation.

Today, many spiritual supply stores offer Kitchen Gods that are vertical wooden plaques painted red with gold Chinese calligraphy in addition to the traditional paper ones. These versions are intended to be permanent fixtures in your kitchen and Kitchen God joss papers are sold separately for his annual burning.

the man who would be kitchen god

It's said that the Kitchen God was a mortal named Zhang, a wealthy farmer whose lands and rivers flowed with abundance. Grains flourished in. his fields, fish filled his rivers, and herds of livestock grazed his land, But Zhang wanted more. He took a mistress who drove his devoted wife away from their home. In the couple's excessive indulgences, Zhang and his mistress exhausted all of his wealth, and soon the woman deserted him for another man. Zhang, left with nothing, became a homeless beggar with no hope or will to live. So weak from starvation was Zhang that he suddenly collapsed fully expecting to die. He awoke in a mist of fog, which turned out to be the smoke from the hearth of a warm kitchen that welcomed all who possessed empty stomachs. Noticing Zhang's poor state, the kitchen girl fed and revived him. Nourished and bound by deep gratitude, Zhang sought to thank the mistress of the house, who was about to enter the kitchen from the outside garden. As she approached the door, he saw the mistress through a window and recognized her as his wife! Distraught and desperate, Zhang jumped into the hearth just as she entered the room, and the flame of shame grew large. Although Zhang's wife urgently tried to douse the fire, Zhang's ashes flew to the heavens in a huge, single pheew!

Upon hearing of Zhang's story, the Jade Emperor declared Zhang to be the Kitchen God. The heavenly ruler proclaimed that one who lived and learned as Zhang earned the gift of all-knowing and all-seeing and would influence the heavens year in and year out ...

Good Luck Life
The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture
. Copyright © by Rosemary Gong. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good as resource, but not ultimately defining...

    Growing up as a child of Chinese immigrants I found many of the rituals and cultural identifications familiar. However due to provincial differences (we're Cantonese) and different dialect expressions the book was confusing in its choice of terms when changing from the Cantonese and Mandarin terms/sayings.

    There was also the distracting pet peeve of referencing "Auntie Lao" whenever Gong referred to a custom/ritual that an older female elder would dictate. Too cutesie to say Auntie Lao.

    Overall I do recommend this book as a resource, especially if you have no clue OR if there are conflicting views. I received the book as a Christmas gift from one of my family friends and have since purchased several copies to give to my cousins and Chinese girlfriends that have needed a reference guide. (B&N seems to only have one copy at each of its store locations, so I say get it online!)

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  • Posted November 29, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Curiosities of the Orient, so to speak

    China fascinates me to no end and this book is another step in learning more about the people and the culture. It is a little rough in spots, not as engaging as I desired, but still worth reading.

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