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Yee Sang (鱼生)

A Master's research paper to examine the intricacies behind the creation of brand identity

About Yee Sang

Originally eaten by the inhabitants of Guangdong -- China’s South-Eastern coastal province -- to commemorate Renri (人日), it is practiced today to usher good fortune for the coming year. The custom itself, however, originated from Chaozhou (Eastern part of Guangdong province). The idea then proliferated southwards to Canton where the dish took on a more colorful and complex form.

A ritual called “lo hei” (捞起), meaning "toss up", for the person who tosses Yee Sang the highest, symbolizes the rising of prosperity. A big plate is thus necessary for the tossing of Yee Sang as the food can quite literally end up everywhere. The ritual is an extremely joyous occasion filled with energy; you can always expect people to yell “Huat ah!!!”, signifying prosperity for oneself. 

Why Yee Sang?

Although Yee Sang is an cultural practice that symbolizes the heralding of the new year, there is the absence of an identity for Yee Sang.

Based on the study from Omar and co., “Tourism destinations may be popular when there is a unique cuisine served for tourists. This can be a major reason why tourists choose their destination”. This shows that without a strong sense of identity, the practice can be often overlooked by tourists. A lack of identity discourages tourists from wanting to try and learn about a certain food culture.

1) Omar, S. R., & Omar, S. N. (2018). Malaysian Heritage Food (MHF): A Review on Its Unique Food Culture, Tradition and Present Lifestyle. International Journal of Heritage, Art and Multimedia, 1 (3), 01-15.

2) Ling, L. Q., Karim, M. S. A., Othman, M., Adzahan, N. M., & Ramachandran, S. (2010). Relationships Between Malaysian Food Image, Tourist Satisfaction and Behavioural Intention. World Applied Sciences Journal, 10, 164–171.


Photo by Shutterstock

The Values

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Malaysian Chinese Identity

Yee Sang is a tradition that is unique to the Malaysian-Chinese culture. Few groups around the globe actually perform this tradition.

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Family & Togetherness

Yee Sang is a tradition that promotes togetherness and unity as a family gathers for a reunion meal.

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Prosperous Wishes

Prosperity is one of the most important aspects of Yee Sang. The tradition started as a way to greet the New Years and to wish prosperity for the next year.



A triangulation method of research was chosen as follows:

Document Analysis


To check and compare existing research and sources of the current perception of YeeSang. A foundation of existing awareness of people.



An anonymous survey for both Malaysians and Non-Malaysians to understand their perception and thoughts about YeeSang.



Interviews done with individuals from different generations to gain insight of what is lacking when it comes to YeeSang culture and its identity.


Yee Sang’s presence isn’t prevalent in communities outside of the Chinese Malaysian communities. About 52% of the international participants do not know of Yee Sang or are unsure if they have heard about it before. Yee Sang would be enjoyed in different cultures outside of Chinese Malaysian culture as 86% reacted positively towards enjoying the culture of Yee Sang. The perception of Yee Sang in communities outside of Malaysia is very limited but these communities are keen to try this unique culture.

1  Perception

“I do not know why we consume YeeSang. I just eat it during the New Years and enjoy it with my family.” 

“Traditions are lost in the packaging and designs as it doesn’t show how to carry out YeeSang.” 

To the younger generation, Yee Sang is a meal to be had with family with no concrete value. For the value to not be lost, the packaging highlights information and values so the newer generation can learn.

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2  Recognition

“Another connection that is used in Yee Sang are chopsticks as it connects us all to one dish while we do YeeSang.”

“...memories of togetherness lingers on as no changes in terms of values whilst growing older.”

Chopsticks often come in pairs, which signify unity and togetherness of helping one another to achieve a goal. Incorporating chopsticks can give identity to Yee Sang in the form of its packaging.

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3  Identity

"The packaging has a lot of fish because the dish is called Yee Sang which means 'fish alive'."

Fish is an important aspect in Yee Sang, especially since the name of Yee Sang itself has fish in it. A saying in Chinese, 年年有余 
(niannianyouyu) is an expression commonly used during the Chinese New year to wish people an abundance and surplus every year. 余 (surplus) shares the same pronunciation with 鱼 (fish), making fish a must-have dish on Chinese dining tables every new year.

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