In traditional Chinese families, the kitchen stove is considered the soul of the family. Each family’s own Kitchen God is responsible for giving an annual report about the family to the Jade Emperor. Before he ascends to the heavens to give his report, the family gives the Kitchen God a farewell dinner with offerings of sweet cakes and preserved fruits, so that hopefully he will deliver a ‘sweet’ report. In 2010, the Kitchen God ascends to give his heavenly report on February 11, giving the family a few days to prepare for Chinese New Year festivities on February 14, when the Kitchen God returns to his family.
In most prints, the Kitchen God, wearing the robes and hat of a noble magistrate, is seated next to his wife and is surrounded by children, domestic animals and vases filled with flowers. The Kitchen God is depicted as a compassionate deity associated with the warmth of hearth, family and good fortune. The farewell dinner to send off the Kitchen God continues to be a favorite custom among many Chinese families.