In traditional Chinese cooking, lard, beef fat and chicken fat are commonly used in stir fries, hot pots and other dishes, to create a fuller flavor. Especially in simple dishes, such as soy sauce fried rice, that use very few ingredients, using animal fat is practically necessary to add a rich flavor to the dish.
On the other hand, home cooking in China uses more vegetable oil nowadays, due to health considerations. Peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and other light colored and neutral vegetable oils are commonly used. Among them, peanut oil is the best choice, because it has a rich flavor and is the second best choice in that regard after animal fat. If you pick a high quality peanut oil, you can use it instead of sesame oil when making dumplings and meat pies.
I noticed that many of the peanut oils in Asian markets in the US are lacking in flavor compared to the ones I used in China, because most of them are blended with other oils, or refined with a different method. If you are purchasing peanut oil outside of China, try to find an Asian brand that uses 100% peanut oil. When you open the lid, the oil will be particularly fragrant and smell like peanut butter.
On this blog, I usually call for peanut oil in a stir fry or for making dumplings, because it makes a noticeable difference. If a dish calls for animal fat, you can use the 100% pure peanut oil as an alternative. For dishes with heavy seasoning or for deep fried dishes, I usually call for general vegetable oil that has a neutral flavor and high smoking point. For most traditional Chinese pastries, you can use butter or coconut oil to replace lard.