The yuan2 bao3 元宝 is a shoe-shaped gold ingot used as money in old China.
Its name means “original treasure”.
As currency, ingots were either made of gold or silver. They appeared in history as early as 2,200 years ago during the Han Dynasty.
The first sound of ingot yuan2 元 the same sound as yuan2 源 as in cai2 yuan2 财源 “source of wealth".
That’s why gold ingots are popular as an auspicious symbol for wealth in Chinese New Year pictures.
A Chinese New Year tradition is eating dumplings.
These are shaped like ingots.
Dumplings jiao3 zi 饺子 sounds like jiao1 zi3 交子which means the hour of transition into the New Year.
Hence, in northern China, dumplings filled with meat are eaten on Chinese New Year’s eve to usher in good luck and wealth in the New Year.
Sometimes a coin is placed in one of the dumplings. Whoever bites on it will have plenty of wealth in the new year.
When dumplings and yellow noodles are cooked together they mean “golden threads through gold ingots”.
In the eastern cities of China, like Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou, egg dumplings are eaten as they look like gold ingots.