Are you wondering what kind of Chinese theme parties are out there? And curious how to organise these for your next event?
With Chinese culture being so vast and rich, it can be difficult to find an entry point for your ideas. If you love Chinese food or Chinese culture already, you will want some authenticity to your events beyond the usual cliches.
Being British Chinese myself, I’m always happy to introduce people to the different layers of Chinese culture. Here are my favourite 5 ideas.
There’s no way you can start any list of Chinese theme parties without jumping straight into the food. Chinese cuisine is so integral to Chinese culture that it even contains its own dining rituals. It also plays a part in our social lives; for example, when you answer the phone, it’s common for the caller to ask “Have you eaten?” before the conversation can begin.
Chinese food is so vast, right? You’ve got everything from Dim Sum (shown in the photo, originally from China’s Guangdong province in the south and now huge in Hong Kong) to Wonton (a type of dumpling).
So how do you choose what you want to eat? Well, one great way to start is to decide if you will eat rice or noodle dishes. If it’s rice dishes, then decide if you want fried rice or plain rice? If noodles, then is that soup noodles or fried noodles? Ideally, you only choose one base item when making your decision, as this helps set the direction for your party and also reduces food costs. You can then build out the rest of your meal with an arrangement of vegetables, egg dishes and meats including pork, duck and chicken (something you will need if you choose plain rice).
You can also use your party to check out different spices, oils and cooking styles. Cooking with a wok can also give your night a more entertaining and instant feel since the food is being cooked on the spot.
If you don’t feel like cooking yourself, you can order in from local restaurants, but try and splash out on high-end food, to give your guests a sophisticated time.
Alternatively, why not enrol your friends on a Chinese cooking class, and have them taught by a professional Chinese chef? Make sure the class you choose is run by a chef of Chinese roots to give everyone an authentic experience.
Whenever someone says to me “do you speak Chinese?”, I always roll my eyes and reply “Which Chinese language do you mean?” Technically, there is no such language as Chinese, the term “Chinese” is more like a collection of multiple languages. These dialects include Mandarin (the official language in China), Cantonese, Shanghainese and Fuzhou. I’m suggesting a night of Cantonese vs Mandarin since these two are the most common.
If you or your friends are fluent in any of these, you can use this opportunity to show off your skills and teach everyone the differences between two. You can do this by using language cards, movies and trivia. Here is a video from Off the Great Wall that can give you an idea for your Chinese party.
Mahjong Game Night
A Mahjong night is without a doubt the best of Chinese theme parties here, but I’m biased as someone who grew up playing it with my family. Similar to the card game Rummy, Mahjong is a game of skill and strategy and involves opportunity and chance. Each game is played with 4 players and a set of 144 titles, with each tile based on Chinese characters and symbols. The goal of the game is to get a ‘mahjong’ – which is getting all 14 of your tiles into 4 sets and a single pair.
Mahjong is a great game for game night, it’s a game that requires thinking and skill. There’s also a competitive element.
Understanding how to play Mahjong is a little tricky to explain. So here’s a two and a half minute video from South China Morning Post that teaches beginners how to play the Mahjong.
Note, there are 2 types of Mahjong – Chinese Mahjong (the original game) and American Mahjong. The difference between the 2 games is that American Mahjong has 8 additional joker titles and score cards. That’s something to bear in mind when planning your Mahjong night.
Finding the right Mahjong set is also key as it plays into the presentation of your night. All Mahjong sets are portable in either a wooden carry case or a plush soft bag. You will also need a Mahjong table (square) so each player can sit comfortably at either side.
Mahjong is also fun to play on or around Chinese New Year’s Day. Find out more about in our post on Chinese New Year activities.
If you love movies, then you’re in for a treat with a night of Chinese kino. Chinese cinema extends over a variety of genres, such as war, drama, the supernatural and comedy, as well as the commonly-known kung-fu genre. Deciding which genre plays a big part in your Chinese theme parties.
Make sure you decide in advance if you’re going to screen movies in Cantonese or Mandarin. You can then theme your party after that in many ways, e.g. movie period (the 70’s, the 80’s); award-winning films (House of Flying Daggers, Shaolin Soccer, Chungking Express); by director (Ang Lee, Kar-Wai Wong, John Woo, Yimou Zhang); by actor (Michelle Yeow, Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang). Make sure you’ve got subtitles for your chosen films.
The IMDb website has a great selection of Chinese movies you need to know about.
If you’ve ever travelled to any city in China and come back glowing about it, chances are you’ve got experiences to share and stories from your travels. Why not show off what you’ve learned in your next Chinese theme parties? Using a city as your starting point makes it a lot easier to organise food, decorations and entertaining.
Each city will differ by history, cuisine and geography. For example, as the capital, Beijing is known for its imperial attractions including the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. The Great Wall of China is also only an hour away from the capital.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, is much more international, in part because it was a British colony for a hundred years until 1997. The Cantonese language is spoken there and the city still maintains its Chinese-Western character to this day.
Macau, in the meantime, is one of the smallest Chinese cities, with a population of just over half a million people. Like Hong Kong, it experienced colonism, this time from the Portuguese. The Portuguese influence is still felt there especially in its food that is blend of Cantonese and Portuguese.
If you’re stuck for inspiration or want to keep it real but don’t know where to start, take a trip to your local Chinatown and ask someone in the stores there to help you out.
Coming up with original Chinese theme parties can be worth your time. This is a rich world to get involved in, containing sumptuous food, ancient games and a cinema unlike any other in the world. I hope you enjoy at least one of the ideas on this list. Happy planning!