China Celebrates the Year of the Pig!

by Joe

In Ancient, pre-Christian times, life was challenging and unpredictable.  Many early societies attempted to create a sense of order in a world that mostly felt uncontrollable.  Looking around their environment, they thought they saw order and causality coming from things such as the location of certain constellations in the night sky.

Of course, educated and enlightened people no longer hold to these beliefs.  Instead, we seek understanding in our relationships with God and through a better understanding of the hard and soft sciences, for instance physics and psychology. 

As we all know, the New Year was celebrated in China on February 5 at which time the Chinese ushered in the year of  The Pig.   We thought it would be fun to learn a little about how the calendar is arranged in Chinese culture and we offer you this blog.


According to legend, the Jade Emperor invited all twelve zodiac animals to a party he was throwing.  The emperor was about to assign each animal to its respective position in the twelve-year zodiac cycle depending on each animal’s order of arrival.  Being last (twelfth) to arrive because he overslept, The Pig was assigned the final position.   The Chinese calendar actually revolves around a 60 year cycle, with each animal appearing once in each of five different cycles that are tied to natural elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water.  Chinese people who are born under any of the twelve zodiac/elemental combinations are thought to have certain personality traits.  The year of one’s zodiac sign is thought to bring a lot of bad luck.  The best that someone can hope for during their zodiac year is to ‘stick it out’.

Personality and characteristics

In Chinese culture, pigs are perceived as having beautiful personalities, blessed with good luck and are symbols of wealth.

Other associations with the zodiac pig:

·         Association with the earth element, di zhi (地支) hài ()

·         The hours between 9 and 11 pm

·         Yin (in terms of yin and yang)  

Pigs are known to be very group oriented, realistic, and thrifty.  They do, however, enjoy life and so pursue entertainment and treating themselves.  Their materialism is motivation to enthusiastically work.  Their success leads to occupying positions of power and status and once they have this, they have a right to speak their minds.


The Pig/ Earth combination:

Besides this current year, 2019, the most recent Pig/ Earth combination occurred in 1959.  People born in this phase of the sixty year cycle can be described as “…social butterflies with friends from all walks of life. They have a lot of support in both work and life. They have fortunate lives and can find happiness. They are successful later in life. However, they aren’t the most romantic people and might need to work on that.”  (

According to Chinese tradition, associations with people, numbers, minerals and other things can be either lucky or unlucky for people born in a particular zodiac year.  Here’s how it works out for people born in the year of the pig:

Most Compatibility

Least Compatibility

Things that are Lucky
for Pigs

Things that are Unlucky
for Pigs

People born under the following signs:




People born under the following signs:



Colors: yellow, gray, brown

Numbers: 2, 5, 8

Minerals: Agate

Months: April through July



How Can We Help?

Whether you have just started your new year this past month, or like most westerners, you began it on January 1, Word 4 Asia wishes you a happy new year!   We hope this is the beginning of a successful year for you.  If there are ways that we can help you pursue your goals in 2019, we’d be happy to talk more with you about them.  Feel free to reach us at


Market Opportunities In China: Healthy and Natural Products

by Joe

Since 2014, China has held the mantle of being the most health-conscious country in the world.  Changed attitudes and increased interest in healthy and natural foods and beverages has led to a booming industry which by 2020 will exceed $70 Billion.   

As an example of growing demand for healthier foods and beverages, the marketing research publisher, Mintel, recently published a report on plant protein drinks (PPD) in the country.  Nearly nine in ten (87 percent) Chinese consumers now drink plant-based concoctions, be it soybean drinks, juices or grain drinks.  

The quest for better health is pursued differently among different Chinese consumer market segments. This chart from management consulting group, McKinsey, provides detail about five major segments.

Factors Behind the Trend

Increased Affluence:  A growing middle class living in China’s largest cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, have increased awareness about healthier living and are willing and able to pay higher prices for healthier products. 

Rising Influence of Western Culture:  Western media has increased Chinese awareness for healthier eating and healthier life styles.  Gyms and fitness centers comprise a $6 Billion industry.  There are now over 37,000 gyms in China.  Nearly seven million Chinese are members of gyms, this is twice the amount as compared with 2008.  Sportswear, to go along with the more active lifestyle,  is also growing in popularity.  By 2020, this category will be more than $43.1 Billion in size. Fitness apps are also a recent craze.  One Chinese fitness app, Keep, actually boasts 100-million downloads/ users. 

Demographic Factors:  There are 415 million millennials in China today and many of them have the income to support interests in fitness and health related products.  Conversely, there is also a ‘graying’ among Chinese citizens.  Nearly 22% of the nation’s population will be over 60 in the next eight years.    As we have seen in the United States, aging consumers are looking to dietary supplements and exercise as preventative medicine aids. 

Two Consumption Paths:  Two distinct lifestyles have emerged in China in recent years.  One portion of the population has been influenced by China’s open policy to Western culture and lifestyle as well as technological development.  Another portion of  the nation’s citizens continue to live more traditionally Chinese lifestyles.   Those leaning toward a Western lifestyle tend to rely more on the media when forming attitudes about consumption.

Those Chinese who lead more traditional lives show greater demand for organic and healthy food, disease treatment and simpler recreations as hiking or going to the movies.  Chinese who are more westernized are opting for sports and fitness, and overseas travel.  These consumers tend to rely more on word of mouth from friends and family

The roughly even split in consumers’ lifestyle preference cuts across income groups, generations and geography.


Nutritional supplements are among the growing categories that Chinese consumers are turning to in their quest for wellness.

High Demand Products

Sales data extracted from Tmall presents these general consumption trends in greater detail.  For instance

·         Skincare products (e.g. moisturizer and sunscreen) have grown substantially, especially among products made with natural ingredients.

·         Vitamins and food supplements

·         Fresh produce

·         U.S. seafood (demand for local seafood has diminished due to health concerns)

·         Sporting Goods – including both outdoor gear and equipment for specific sports or workouts

·         Organic products – formaldehyde-free furniture, preference for natural textiles versus polyester, growing preference for sustainable products

 Astute marketers with an eye on growth in China will be looking to their products and marketing plans and making appropriate strategic and tactical decisions. 


Selecting healthier foods, pursuing a more active fitness regime and monitoring activity and diet with smart phone apps are just several of many ways that Chinese consumers are striving for wellness.


Word 4 Asia has extensive experience working on the Chinese mainland.  We help our clients achieve their objectives there by staying on-top of the ever-changing dynamics of this massive nation.  We work closely with our large Chinese network and the Chinese authorities to ensure that our clients goals are achieved under the parameters of Chinese law.  Success in China requires an intimate understanding of the cultural, legal and market forces at work there.  We only work in ways that are sensitive to local law, customs and China’s cultural heritage.  If your organization’s ambitions point towards China, we’d love to talk with you.    

Our sister company, Wellness 2 Asia, specializes in bringing better nutrition and health to China through a line of nutritional supplements.  We are leveraging our strong mainland network to reach even the hard to reach rural communities. 

To contact Gene Wood about consulting services or possible new distribution opportunities, use either of his two email addresses:

We Wish You a Happy New Year, 2019!

by Joe


It’s the beginning of a fresh, new year!  As predictable as another trip around the sun, people all over the world are thinking about their lives at this time of year and hashing up brand new ways to get a little closer to being ‘all they can be’, to borrow from the US Army’s slogan.

While at first you may not think of it, it turns out that our friends in China are also thinking of how they, too, will make 2019 a better, more productive, healthier, happier year.

We thought it would be interesting to compare  how the top New Year’s resolutions Americans make might be the same or different from what happens in China.  The results highlight how similar our two vastly different cultures are in this regard.  Perhaps this can be boiled down to one single fact; people are people, no matter where they live in the world.

Top New Year’s Resolutions in China Top New Year’s Resolutions in America
To be more family oriented. Exercise more
To be more physically fit Lose weight
To trim that waistline Get organized
 Quit smoking Learn a new skill or hobby
Quit drinking Life life to the fullest
Control shopping and buying sprees Save more money/ spend less money
Be more organized Quit smoking
Be debt free Spend more time with friends and family
Save, save, save! Travel more
Learn something new Read more

With a few differences in placement, you can see these two lists are very nearly the same.  East to West, to me it seems to say that we are more alike in our humanity than we are different.  At a time that is filled with more conflict than we’d like to see, this fact is encouraging.  It’s Word4Asia’s deepest desire that through continued mutual understanding and respect, through continued dialogue and trust, these similarities that have always brought us together will continue to provide the fertile soil for continued growth.


Word 4 Asia wishes our entire extended family of colleagues, clients, supporters and friends a prosperous and fulfilling 2019!


Dongzhi (冬至) Celebrating Winter Holidays in China

by Joe

For many Americans, the fall months bring some of our happiest memories and traditional celebrations that we share with family and friends.  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas follow one another in quick succession ensuring many moments of happiness as we celebrate our friendships and shared values.

Of course, this is also true in China, although the celebrations are as different from ours as our two cultures are unique from each other.  We are approaching the period of Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year), which normally occurs in China on either the 21st, 22nd or 23rd of December each year.

History of the Dongzhi Festival

China is a vast country composed of many different peoples, each of them has their own traditions.  On that day, the northern hemisphere has the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After that, areas in this hemisphere have longer days and shorter nights.  This is the traditional time of year when fishermen and farmers prepare for colder months to come. 

“Dongzhi” means ‘the arrival of winter/ winter’s extreme’ and this festival is thought to be one of the most important festivals the Chinese celebrate.   Having its origins in the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, the winter solstice festival represents balance and harmony in life:  the yin qualities of darkness and cold reach their height of influence on the shortest day of the year, but they also mark a turning point for the coming of the light and warmth of yang.

In Northwestern China (Shaanxi Province), Winter Solstice was traditionally regarded as the starting point of a new year during the Zhou and Qin dynasties (1046 – 207 BC).  Festivals and ancestor worship still play important roles in this holiday. 

During the reign of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), the holiday grew in importance. It was important during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907)  and Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) when the emperors officially proscribed it as a day to worship and sacrifice to their god and to the ancestors. It has also been called the Changzhi Festival or Yashui.


Traditional Foods Served During the Dongzhi Festival

Traditional dishes vary with the region: the north emphasizes different foods considered warming in traditional Chinese medicine because of their warming qualities or because they help ensure a healthy respiratory system

Pronounced tōngjyùn in Cantonese and tāngyuán in Mandarin and meaning “round balls in soup” has the same sound as a word that means “reunion”, “wholeness”, or “unity”.

In Southern China, sweet, sticky rice balls are served at this time of year. This dish is a great example of how the Chinese enjoy using homophones (words that sound like other words) to give each other good wishes or refer to desired qualities.  For instance, one winter solstice dish pronounced tōngjyùn in Cantonese and tāngyuán in Mandarin (汤圆) and meaning “round balls in soup” has the same sound as a word that means “reunion”, “wholeness”, or “unity” (团圆).   The round shape of the balls and the bowls in which they are served have also come to symbolize family togetherness.


Celebrating the Winter Solstice, a Chinese family shares a traditional Tibetan meal of Tsampa.

Another much loved food is Tsampa, a food that is considered integral to Tibetan culture.   It is  a hearty, nutty-tasting flour made from roasted barley and mixed by hand with butter tea, dried dri cheese (the dri is the female of the yak species) and sometimes sugar, to form a dough.   Along with Tsampa, people also enjoy mutton (rabbit), noodles or drink winter wine for celebration.


Folklore and history play an important role in Chinese cultural life and there is an old story about the dumplings served during this festival.  At the legend goes, Zhang Zhongjing was  a renowned medical scientist at the end of Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220).  He’d been away from his village for some time and when he came home, he  found his fellow-townsman suffering from coldness and hunger.  More severely, many of them had terrible chilblains in the ears.  To relieve the suffering, On the Winter Festival, he cooked food named Jiao Er with a stuffing of medicine and other ingredients fending off the cold to feed these people, and they recovered soon.  The local saying, that one’s ears will be frozen if he doesn’t have dumplings on the Winter Solstice, is an echo of this historic moment. 


The Chinese also share various proverbs or sayings related to the weather during the Winter Solstice.  A few of these include:

·         The Nines of Winter (Shu Jiu 数九):  This is a common custom for the festival. It refers to the nine periods of nine days each following the Winter Solstice. After that, it becomes warmer and spring will be around the corner.  A familiar folk song reminds people about appropriate safety measures during this time of year; People cannot put their hands in cold air in the first and second nine days; walking on ice can be achieved in the third and fourth nine days; willows on the banks start to sprout in the fifth and sixth nine days; ices dissolve and water flows freely in the river in the seventh nine days; in the eighth nine days, wild geese fly back to northern areas, and for the following days, farm cattle start to work in the field.

·         Zhejiang 浙江 (An Eastern, coastal province of China): If it is fine on Winter Solstice, the first month of the lunar year will be rainy; it also works to the contrary.

·         Heilongjiang 黑龙江 (Northeastern China): If it is sunny on Winter Festival, the New Year will be rainy. If it is rainy during Mid-Autumn Festival, Winter Festival will be sunny.

·         Hunan 湖南 (South Central China) and Guangdong (Southern China): If it is cold on Winter Solstice, the New Year will be warm. On the contrary, if it is warm,  the New Year will be cold.

·         Shanxi 山西 (North Central China): If there is northwest wind on Winter Solstice, it will be dry for the next whole spring.

No matter how you and your family choose to celebrate the coming holidays here at home in America, the entire staff at Word4Asia wishes you a very warm, happy and healthy Holiday Season!



China Celebrates the Year of the Pig!

In Ancient, pre-Christian times, life was challenging and unpredictable. Many early societies attempted to create a sense of order in a world that …


Read More


Market Opportunities In China: Healthy, Natural Products

Since 2014, China has held the mantle of being the most health-conscious country in the world. Changed attitudes and increased interest in healthy…


Read More


Celebrating Winter Holidays in China

It’s the beginning of a fresh, new year! As predictable as another trip around the sun, people all over the world are thinking about their lives at this time of year and …


Read More



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