Chinese Language Blog

At the Market – Vegetables Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Culture, Vocabulary

An important part of your daily life is going to the market (市场 – shì chǎng) to buy groceries. Of course, doing this in China can be difficult if you’re not a native speaker – you can’t understand the labels, you don’t know to ask for what you want, and you find things you’ve never seen before and can’t quite identify.


To make life easier for you, and to ensure that you don’t end up just eating kung pao chicken (宫保鸡丁 – gōng bǎo jī dīng) every day, I’m going to write a short series of posts that provides tons of useful vocabulary for grocery shopping in China. For the first post, here are 25 Chinese words for vegetables (蔬菜 – shū cài):

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 10.11.10 AMStudy those words, and then get out there and hit the market or a restaurant to practice! If that’s not an option for you, try answering these questions at home in Chinese:

  • What vegetables do you like to eat?
    你喜欢吃什么蔬菜? (nǐ xǐ huan chī shén me shū cài)
  • Do you eat vegetables every day?
    你天天吃蔬菜吗? (nǐ tiān tiān chī shū cài ma)

This short video will help you with your pronunciation.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Peter Simon:

    Hi, really important. But funnily enough, this was the first, so probably the easiest thing to learn as a beginner in China. You just go out, point and listen what they say, consult a friend perhaps, and voila! I know most fruits and vegetables at the market. No kidding! But the ‘dou’ in the picture is not beans, it’s something the Indians would call yellow lentils, and I think in English they’re yellow half-peas. Hungarians call them almost the same as that (without the ‘half’). Definitely not beans! Try making ‘doufu’ out of them 😉

  2. Mike Stalder:

    I didn’t see On Cai (water spinach) on that list. I could get it in California, ate it all the time in Nanning, Guangxi, but can’t seem to find it here in Florida.

  3. Malcolm:

    Minor comment: pity the table is an image and not text.
    Here are a few more – all veg that are fairly common in the UK; I suppose most are less common in China.

    Leek 韭葱 – same as chives! Also called 扁葱.

    Turnip 萝卜 as for radishes,
    parsnip 欧洲防风 or 欧洲萝卜,
    artichoke 洋蓟
    Jerusalem artichoke 洋姜 yángjiāng
    Garlic 大蒜 dàsuàn


    • sasha:

      @Malcolm Thanks for the extra vocabulary words, Malcolm! In these older posts I made the vocab charts in Word and added them as photos because it was the best way to have it look clear. You’ll notice in more recent posts that the vocabulary lists are charts in the blog post that can be copied and pasted.

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