What is a Chinese Candy Box?
A Chinese candy box is a traditional gift of treats given during Chinese New Year or other special occasions, such as marriage. Though called a candy box, many of the included snacks are dried fruit or candy uncommonly found in America, such as dried candied lotus roots. When given during the Chinese New Year, a Chinese candy box is called “Chun Hop,” or “A Box of Completion.” Traditionally in the shape of a circle, they are containers with opaque lids and sectioned off compartments, usually with one compartment in the center of the box. You can picture this as a completely divide pie, but instead of all of the pieces meeting in the center of the circle, they meet along the perimeter of a piece cut in the center of the pie.
One of the most interesting things about a Chinese candy box is that each candy has a special meaning. Therefore, the candy you choose to include may send a special message to its recipient. Some of the most common inclusions are chocolate coins, dried candied lotus seeds and roots and other dried and candied fruits and seeds. Understanding each candy helps to understand the significance of a Chinese candy box as one entity.
Dried Candied Lotus Seeds
A Chinese candy box will sometimes include dried candied lotus seeds because of the cultural significance of lotus flowers in China. Symbolic of purity and a divine birth due to the delicate flower growing from the mud without brandishing any effects of its unclean environment, coupled with lotus flowers being used in traditional Chinese cuisine and medicine for centuries, dried candied lotus seeds are very significant. If found within a Chinese candy box during the Chinese New Year, the giver may be wishing its recipient luck in purity and a fresh start, particularly if their previous year had been difficult. When presented in a Chinese candy box as a wedding gift, the dried candied lotus seeds may wish the married couple luck with their new life together, or in their attempts to have an exceptional child. The meaning of these dried seeds may be of even greater significance if the recipient is a Buddhist, as the lotus’ meaning is also significant within the religion.
Dried Candied Lotus Roots
As the lotus is so important in Chinese culture, it should come as no surprise that lotus roots are also commonly a part of a Chinese candy box, only representing marital harmony rather than a divine conception or beginning. Extremely high in vitamin and mineral count, dried candy lotus roots are a healthy addition to a Chinese candy box, though not actually a candy itself. Like lotus seeds, lotus roots are also incorporated in many Asian cuisines and medicines.
Dried Candied Kumquat
One candied fruit commonly dwelling within a Chinese candy box is the dried and candied kumquat. Though a number of Americans may be scratching their heads about what a kumquat is exactly, the orange fruit is native to Asia, particularly the South Asian and Asian Pacific area. When fully grown, a kumquat is the size of an olive and sweeter than a clementine, with edible skin. They symbolize unity, wealth and perfection. To transform a kumquat into a yummy snack, a kumquat is sometimes simply candied and may be eaten alone or used in pies or cakes. However, when used inside a Chinese candy box kumquats are also dried. This is because wet candied kumquats must be kept in jars and would probably get the box unfavorably wet.
Dried Candied Pineapples
Yet another Chinese candy box content that isn’t actually candy are dried candied pineapples. Again, wet pineapple slices would be a poor match for a candy box, but dried fruit is a popular sweet snack in China. However, dried candied pineapples may specifically be included in a Chinese candy box to congratulate or acknowledge the achievement of a great success.
Dried Candied Water Chestnuts
Water chestnuts are a huge part of Chinese cuisine. They can be found in a number of dishes, much like carrots or peas in many American plates. Many other Chinese snacks also incorporate water chestnuts, such as water chestnut cake and pudding. A staple in Chinese eating, dried candied water chestnuts are an obvious choice for a Chinese candy box. They are high in fiber and potassium, and have a mildly sweet taste. When used in a Chinese candy box, water chestnuts are also congratulations for a great achievement.
Other candies in a Chinese candy box are candied and dried coconuts, ginger, peanuts and melon seeds. Coconuts represent unity and so may be especially used in boxes given at weddings, while ginger and peanuts symbolize longevity and may be given at a Chinese New Year to wish someone many days.
Davis, Edward L. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture . London. 2005. Print.