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Being vegan in China!


Hi there!

I was wondering if you guys had thought about doing a topic on living as a vegan in China. I know a lot of worldly travellers abstain from animal products, and it helps a lot to be able to communicate with local vendors.

As being vegan is not a mainstream decision in China, it would be good to know the most effective terminology to describe it to people, as well as the words for things one might wish to avoid (lard, fish sauce etc).

Given veganism is exploding in popularity lately, I though it might be a good time to discuss this in a lesson :grin:




Check out this video (Fiona is vegan :slight_smile: )


Thanks, that’s really handy! It’s good to know about the garlic and onion thing.

Another lesson that would also be really useful would be animal welfare/animal agriculture. When you tell people in China you don’t consume animal products, a lot of Chinese follow up by asking why (or assume you are Buddhist). As this is a daily conversation for a lot of people it would be great to cover some of the vocab around animal agriculture eg. factory farming, cage hens, sow stalls etc, to explain the reasons for this. I know there is a lesson on dog meat, but that didn’t delve into specifics :slight_smile:

Perhaps a bit on the serious side, but it would eminently useful for a lot of people!


I have seen “a vegetarian” translated as 吃素的 or as 吃素主义者. Do these words mean different things to you?


When I was living in Kunming, there was a great little book that had a large collection of vegan-friendly restaurants. I believe it covered the whole of Yunnan province. Unfortunately I can’t remember where I got it from :frowning:. My favourite restaurant was a place called 爱有多深that did amazing vegan food and I possibly got it there (I think it’s changed name now).

It was nice to know that veganism wasn’t a 100% alien concept there. Saying that, I mostly frequented Buddhist/Daoist places as explaining it to some waiters/waitresses was nigh impossible. Quite frequently I’d have the “Oh no meat? How about chicken then?” conversation.

Hopefully it can get a bit more of a foothold in China as I feel that given the general lack of dairy in cooking and a wide variety of commonly used vegetables, it wouldn’t be hard to cater for vegans.

I get the impression that Taiwan is a lot more accommodating for vegans however - I believe the Loving Hut originated from there. I guess Fiona, Gwilym and co. could shed more light on that ;).


Hi @Jonathon!

Thanks for posting on this topic. When I filmed the vegetarian episode for MME I was actually still eating meat. Having been vegan for almost a year now I would love to expand on the topic more.

I have asked the scripting team to create an upper lesson which will include a variety a reasons why someone would choose to eat vegan, as well as a lower lesson to help solve the “no, no chicken” issue on Chinesepod.

I understand where you are coming from when you mention that it’s sometimes a little challenging to answer the follow up question when you say you are not a buddhist vegan, but just a vegan because of ethical, environmental or health reasons. In my head, in english, the reasons run off smoothly, but at first they always sounded a little awkward in Chinese. I actually frequently asked Constance to help my modify and improve my ‘script’.

There is actually a lot of interesting language at play and i’m sure all of our other poddies would find it useful too.

@podster first one would simple mean one that eats vegetarian. the second is one with a ‘vegetarian belief’.

I’ll keep you all posted!




Taiwan, especially Taipei, is a dream for vegans and vegetarians. There has been a long standing buddhist vegan tradition here so on any street there will be a vegan restaurant with incredible Chinese vegan food. I actually credit Taipei a lot for my easy transition to being/eating vegan.

Cooking and eating is a big passion of mine so I’ve been collecting recipes and converting my own favorite dishes to vegan dishes over this last year. I’m about to publish a personal blog called A means of logging what i’ve learnt and translating some of the delicious recipes i’ve come across.

On Saturday night’s I’m actually doing a vegan Chinese cooking course. (I feel so spoilt here)

So all in all, pretty cool being a vegan in Taipei.



Thanks, Fiona. My hunch was that the 吃素 meant one does not eat meat for whatever unspecified reason, whereas 吃素主义者 implies some ethical reason, but I asked someone from Taiwan and they did not seem to feel that was the case. I looked for examples of word usage on line and saw things like 素食者 and 素食主义者, and they seemed mostly interchangeable. I did see “a strict vegetarian” translated as 一个严谨的素食主义者, which seems to be in line with your explanation about “belief.”


Oh wow, I didn’t realise it was so widespread there - great news! Taiwan’s on my list of places I must visit but I didn’t realise it would be so easy for me to eat there. I’ll add it to the list of vegan food tourism locations I need to visit, just below Berlin ;).

I’d love to take a vegan cooking course but that would probably mean travelling into London and I don’t think I could survive that on a regular basis haha. Will definitely keep an eye out for your blog - if there’s one regret I have from my time living in China, it’s that I didn’t take the time to learn any Chinese cooking. Any idea when it will go live or any sort of newsletter or anything? I’ll try to remember to have a check now and again. Good luck with it!


Haha exactly, I need to sort out a sort of ‘script’ to reel off when I’m asked this question. I feel like consciousness of animal welfare (or lack of) is pretty low in China (like most places), so it would be great to be able to explain objectionable farming practices and ethical concerns. And, it’s useful to know how to respond to tricky questions in general.

Very keen to go back to Taiwan and seek out their veg options! I have heard it’s a bit of an island haven :smiley:

Thanks so much for chasing up the lessons - very much looking forward to them!