“Lo Hei”

“Lo Hei”

“Lo Hei” is a southern Chinese New Year tradition and the Cantonese pronunciation of the first two characters of 捞起魚生, which means “mixing up the raw fish.” It refers to a sashimi salad that is built up as the host pronounces a series of blessings, before everyone mixes it all together by tossing the ingredients up into the air with their chopsticks.

“Raw fish” sounds the same as “an increase in abundance” and each of the other elements of the salad is a pun on or symbol for something in the corresponding blessing. The blessings are hard to translate because they are so compact and the characters carry a wide range of meanings (a picture is worth 1000 words and all that) but might be understood as:

1. Raw fish: 年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú)= May there be a surplus every year
2. Tangerine/lime/pomelo: 大吉大利 (dàjí dàlì)= May we have good fortune and great profit
3. Pepper/Cinnamon: 招财进宝 (Zhāo cái jìn bǎo) = May we usher in wealth and treasures
4. Oil: 财原广进, 一本万利 (Cái yuán guǎng jìn, yīběnwànlì) = May the source of wealth open wide and may we see a 10000 fold return
5. Carrots: 鸿运当头 (Hóngyùn dāngtóu) = May good fortune be with us
6. Green radish: 青春永驻 (Qīngchūn yǒng zhù) = May we be forever as vibrant as spring
7. White radish: 步步高升, 风生水起 (Bùbùgāo shēng, fēng shēng shuǐ qǐ) = May we climb higher and higher; may the wind stir up waves on the water
8. Peanut/sesame: 金银满屋, 生意兴隆 (Jīn yín mǎn wū, shēngyì xīnglóng) = May our house be filled with gold and silver and may business boom
9. Crackers: 遍地黄金 (Biàndì huángjīn) = May the ground beneath us be covered in gold
10. Plum sauce: 甜甜蜜蜜 (Tián tiánmì mì) = May we enjoy sweetness and intimacy
发啊 = Go!

The focus is on physical/material prosperity as the manifestation of good fortune, as indeed it was for the ancient Israelites. We live in a physical world and have material needs, which is why Jesus teaches us to pray for the things that we need each day (our daily bread).

Jesus blessed the wedding party at Cana with the equivalent of 1000 bottles of exceptional wine and welcomed his anointing with a perfume worth thousands of dollars. A favourite analogy Jesus chose for God’s kingdom is a feast, and even when Jesus fed the crowds with simple bread and fish there were basketfuls of left-overs.

The image of the new Jerusalem in Revelation is of a city bedazzled with jewels, gates made of enormous pearls, a great street paved with gold, and a river flowing through the middle that causes the trees to blossom and fruit all year round. Whilst affirming the goodness of the physical creation and looking forward to its full restoration, the vision in Revelation clearly goes beyond the material.

The New Testament calls us to see beyond the material to deeper, richer and eternal blessings of which experiences of material prosperity can only ever be a small reflection. Otherwise Jesus would have been born in a palace, would not have experienced unimaginable suffering and would not have died with no possessions beyond the clothes he was wearing.

As we enjoy the fun and festivity of Chinese New Year, we can let the symbolism – as with Revelation – point us to the God who loves us, cares for us in our present situation and is generous beyond our imagining.

Image from Photo Bunn__Bunn_ on Flickr, found at https://saltandlight.sg/