Tangyuan 汤圆 tāngyúan "soup balls" are a traditional Chinese dessert made of glutinous rice shaped into balls that are served in a hot broth or syrup.

This rhymes with 团圆 túanyúan "to reunite; to have a reunion". Because it can mean reunion in the sense of a family reunion, 汤圆 are often eaten during holidays.


The term 汤圆 tāngyúan comprises two characters:

  1. 汤/湯 tāng "soup"1. decomposes as ==> ⿰(, )

    semantic shuǐ "water"; an abbreviated  shuǐ. This is common enough to have a nickname: 三点水 sandianshui "three droplets of water".
    phonetic yáng an unusual form derived from either
    (1.)   "change;exchange" or
    (2.)  yáng (more commonly 阳, a.k.a. the yang of yin/yang)
  2. 圆/圓 yúan "circle; round". decomposes as ==> ⿴(, )

    semantic wéi "enclose; surround". (Not to be confused with  kǒu "mouth".)

  1. here, “foo/bar” syntax means we write the simplified character first, then the traditional. ↩︎