The Classic of Filial Piety (孝经) is a Confucian classic treatise giving advice on filial piety. It was composed sometime between the Qin and Han Dynasties, with some scholars attributing it to Confucius. The book deals with the sole subject of filial piety, holding that filial piety is a sign of natural law, a behavioral standard of human beings and the foundation of national politics. It is what a ruler bases his or her state governing principles and what the people follow to behave and manage their families.
The Classic of Filial Piety is composed of 18 chapters, with concise description and profound content. It elaborates on the meaning and function of filial piety through the conversations between Confucius and his disciple Zeng Shen. According to the book, filial piety is mainly demonstrated through supporting and waiting upon one’s parents. In other words, one is supposed to care for their parents still living and in good health with heart and soul and to pay tribute to their deceased parents sincerely.In addition, one should protect their physical body and put up a good image, bringing glory to their ancestors and making parents proud. This is also a sign of filial piety. In society, the standards of filial piety for all strata are different. The details of this point are analyzed in the book from five aspects.For the Son of Heaven (or the emperor), filial piety is not only the way to treat his own family members, but also the foundation for educating the people and ruling the country. For Princes of States, filial piety is to protect the country and the people.For High Ministers and Great Officers, filial piety is to follow the correct path in terms of their words and behavior. For Inferior Officers, filial piety is to strike a balance between loyalty and filial piety. And for common people, filial piety is to live and work according to the natural change of seasons.
From a dialectical point of view, The Classic of Filial Piety makes an overall explanation of the exact meaning of filial piety, helping people get a deeper understanding of filial piety, advising them to cherish their lives and to coordinate between themselves and their living environment, so as to rule the country with filial piety. The Classic of Filial Piety was honored as a Confucian classic in the Tang Dynasty and listed as one of the Thirteen Classics after the Southern Song Dynasty. The moral principles stated in The Classic of Filial Piety have become part of the key components of traditional Chinese ideas.
Alcohol has been used medicinally in China for more than 5,000 years and its use and infusions – from snakes for virility to roses for complexion – were recorded in prescriptions 2,000 years ago in the first text of traditional Chinese medicine.
In fact, the Chinese word for wine, jiu (酒) is comprised of two characters, one for water and one for medicine. Many TCM practitioners recommend a daily dose of 30 to 60 grams of yellow wine, huang jiu (黄酒), for healthy adults.
Using rice, millet and other grains, as well as fruits, flowers, plants, herbs and animals, ancient Chinese people distilled and infused the bounty of nature into healing, translucent drops of wine.
Alcohol, which has antiseptic properties, was first used as a treatment for external injuries and is still used today. Herbal wine infusions are also made into compresses and placed on affected areas.
Alcohol is an effective solvent or menstruum for herbs; it penetrates the skin and also improves blood circulation. Many herbs dissolve better in wine than water and since it’s a preservative, infusions can be stored longer than herbal soups made with water.
In TCM, wine is considered a “guiding” drug, which enhances and reinforces other drugs.
Hundreds of medicinal plants and herbs, such as chrysanthemum, gouqi (wolfberry 枸杞), hawthorn and ginseng are used in wine infusions, and some wines contain a number of herbs.
Animals and animal parts are also used. These include snakes, frogs, bats, bears’ paws, tiger bone (illegal, but underground trade persists), the penis of various animals such as tiger, deer, bull, as well as deer antlers and rhinoceros horn, among many others. Trade in endangered species is banned in China and many countries, but demand is enormous for the curative powers of these wine elixirs, especially for sexual potency.
TCM holds that you are what you eat (bone is good for bone, heart for heart, penis for penis, and so on).
Animals and parts that look like a particular organ, such as antlers, snakes and rhinoceros horn, are said to have the characteristics of that organ and are used in treatments, especially sex tonics.
Even a walnut, with its wrinkled kernel, is said to look like the brain and benefit brain function.
The alcohol is usually yellow rice wine (30-50 percent alcohol), or colorless spirit (baijiu 白酒), which is 50-60 percent alcohol. Distilled alcohol is used more frequently because it has stronger kick, antiseptic properties and is a better solvent for some ingredients. Warm rice wine is especially suitable for infusions including ginger, brown sugar and honey.
Liquor, according to TCM, is “warm” in nature, containing yang (“hot”) energy that dispels cold, alleviates fatigue, warms the digestive system and clears blood vessels that carry the medicine throughout the body.
“Safe, effective, easy to make at home and store, medicinal wine is a brilliant invention that combines the elements of a fermented beverage and medical functions,” says Qian Hai, a professor with the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Wine made with animals and animal parts tend to have a more powerful effect than herbal wine.
Among the most famous is tiger bone wine, which was recorded 2,000 years ago by Li Shizhen, the author of the TCM bible “Ben Cao Gang Mu” (本草纲目) or “Compendium of Materia Medica.”
One glass a day is said to improve kidney function (in TCM, kidneys are the source of sexual energy), to treat arthritis, rheumatism, strengthen bones, improve circulation and many other conditions.
Tiger bone wine can include some of 200 herbs, such as dang gui (angelica root or “female ginseng” 当归), huang qi’ (astragalas root 黄芪), as well as parts of endangered animals.
In 1993, China banned the use of tiger bone in medicine; trade in tigers and tiger parts is banned too. Illegal trade persists and when badly cared tigers die in zoos, their bones and parts are often sold illegally for medicinal purposes.
Snake wine tonic, loaded with yang energy, is a legendary sex tonic for men and though Western medicine does not endorse it by any means, millions of Chinese men do. Women can sip a little to treat rheumatism.
Ancient and modern Chinese and people throughout Southeast Asia soak snakes in spirit, especially venomous snakes. The alcohol denatures the venom and breaks
down the proteins in the poison, but the invigorating “essence” of the venom remains.
Jars of snake wine are displayed and sold in many Chinese pharmacies. Since snakes are not endangered species, trade is not banned and sales of wine are legal.
Snake wine, some made with different kinds of snakes, bats and herbs, is said to nourish the kidneys, generate blood, dispel cold and damp (excessive yin energy), treat rheumatism, alleviate coughs and treat bronchitis, among other uses.
Snake’s blood, bone, bile, venom and skin are all valued as medicine, especially the venom.
To make snake wine, live snakes are first kept for a month without food or water, so its intestines are emptied. It is then washed and placed live into a strong container of alcohol (50 percent or higher), which is then sealed for at least two months.
The standard proportion is 1:5, or 500 grams of live snake in 5,000ml alcohol. It’s drinkable after two months, but wine that is six months to a year old is considered extremely potent in treatment of rheumatism.
“Liquor can amplify the medicinal effects of many medical herbs,” says professor Qian.
The ethanol in alcohol can dissolve alkaloids, tannins, volatile oil, resins, chlorophyll and other elements that cannot be dissolved in water. Many proteins can best be preserved in wine.
“While most of us don’t have access to rare and expensive ingredients, we can easily make effective medicinal wines at home,” Qian says.
The professor himself tends a TCM herb garden and brews wine tonics all year round. He gives wine as popular gifts to friends.
He uses red bayberry wine to treat diarrhea, rose wine to give women a bright, pink complexion, dried tangerine peel to stimulate appetite, caterpillar fungus (chong cao 虫草, cordyceps militaris) to nourish the lung and kidney.
The doctor recommends wine made with gouqi to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, he shou wu (tuber fleece flower root何首乌) to prevent hardening of the arteries, dang gui to generate blood, di huang (rehmannia or Chinese foxglove root 地黄) to lower blood pressure and huang qi to improve blood circulation and boost immunity.
After seeing a doctor, women with irregular menstrual periods can try dang gui to promote blood circulation and qi (energy flow).
“These herbs are very easy to get and handle for wine making,” Qian says. “If we drink them properly, we can definitely benefit from them.”
How to make your own medicinal wines
Here are simple DIY recipes you can concoct at home. Since wine amplifies the effects of herbs, check with a TCM practitioner before making your own medicinal wine.
Use fresh roses or dried roses – not commercially grown roses because they contain pesticides and chemicals. Use only glass or ceramic container.
In 1.5 liter distilled spirit (35 percent), soak 250g dried rose petals. Or in 1.5 liter spirit (50 percent), add 350g fresh rose petals.
Add 250g rock sugar.
Seal, shake every day or two. Store for a month.
Dosage: Drink 20ml, once a day.
Benefits: Improves complexion, reduces pigmentation caused by age or pregnancy.
In a large jar containing 50ml distilled spirit (at least 50 percent), add 1.5kg mashed hawthorn (seeds removed). Leave around 30 percent space in container for hawthorn to ferment.
Add 400g sugar. Mix thoroughly. Seal container.
Store for one or two months, stirring. If made in autumn, spring or summer, it can be stored at room temperature. If made in winter, it should be put in a warm place.
Filter with gauze.
Dosage: Drink 50ml twice a day before meals.
Benefits: Promotes blood circulation, strengthens spleen, improves digestion, relieves menstrual cramps.
Soak 10g red pointed chili and 10g dried tangerine peel in 500ml white liquor for seven days.
Dosage: Drink 2ml, 2-3 times daily before meals.
Benefits: Relieves arthritis pain. Those who cannot drink alcohol can apply wine directly to painful areas.
Yanshou (longevity) wine
In 2.5 liter distilled spirit (at least 50 percent), soak 100g huang jing (sealwort 黄精), 100g cang zhu (Chinese atractylodis 苍术), 74g tian men dong (asparagus root 天门冬), 150g song zhen (pine needle 松针), and 150g gouqi (wolfberry).
Store at least two weeks.
Dosage: Drink 20ml twice daily before meals.
Benefits: Nourishes blood, improves qi flow and prevents premature gray hair.
Xiangbai (literally fragrant and white) wine
This is an ancient recipe for a general tonic to be taken it autumn. It should be made a year in advance, sealed and stored at room temperature.
In 2.5 liter distilled spirit (60 percent), soak 150g xiang yuan (citrus wilsonii Tanaka 香园), 150g bergamot fruit, 150g papaya, 150g guang gan (citrus 广柑), 150g mung beans, 500g yin chen (virgate wormwood herb 茵陈) and 250g rock sugar.
Seal, date and store at room temperature for a year.
Dosage: Drink a small glass of the wine before the meal, once a day.
Benefits: Strengthens digestive system, dispels dampness and inner heat, removes toxins. Good for both young and elderly people.
THE easiest way to make medicinal wine at home is simply to make infusions by soaking ingredients in alcohol at room temperature.
Use rice wine or distilled spirit.
Seal and store.
Shake every day or two.
After 14 to 20 days filter with gauze.
Rock sugar or honey can be used to sweeten.
Drink a small glass, slightly warmed, before meals.
To get the full benefits, the wine should be consumed regularly.
The yunluo (云锣) is a traditional Chinese musical instrument. It was also called yún’áo (云璈) in ancient times. The yunluo is a set of usually ten small tuned gongs mounted in a wooden frame, with each gong being about 9-12 cm in diameter, and the height of the frame being about 52 cm. The yunluo’s gongs are generally of equal diameter but different thicknesses; the thicker gongs produce a higher pitch. It is often used in wind and percussion ensembles in northern China. Old drawings also depict a smaller yunluo with just five gongs, which was held by a handle by one hand and played with the other.
Yun Luo (云锣)
A modernised yunluo has been developed from the traditional yunluo for use in the large modern Chinese orchestra. It is much larger with 29 or more gongs of different diameters. Its height is about 2m including its two legs on which it stands on the floor (the frame itself is about half its height); its width is about 1.4 m.
The traditional yunluo is sometimes referred to as the shimianluo (十面锣) to distinguish it from the modern redesigned yunluo. A very similar instrument called the ulla, which is derived from the yunluo, is used in the music of Korea.
Wang Wei (701–761A.D) was a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty. He once took the position of Shanshu Youcheng. He has been regarded as the greatest poet when he was alive. He was not only good at poetry, but also he was a representative painter of the “Pomo Landscape (Pomo Shanshui)“ school. People also called him “Buddha of Poetry“, for his sincere cultivation in Buddhism.
Among his 400 poems preserved, the most representative ones are those to describe the natural beauty of mountains, water and gardens and his reclusive life. He inherited and developed the tradition initiated by Xie Lingyun, who wrote landscape poems, and absorbed the fresh, natural style from Tao Yuanming’ pastoral, making the landscape pastoral reach a higher level. His works like Thinking of My Brothers in Shandong on the Double Ninth Festival, Red Bean and Composed in Wei Town are all widely spread among the Chinese people.
Wang Wei was also a painter and a horticulturist. Su Dongpo once remarked that there is a picture in Wang’s poetry and there is a strong poetry of his paintings. After the “Anshi Insurgence (Anshizhiluan)“, Wang Wei lived a reclusive life and cultivated himself sincerely according to the Buddhism doctrine. Wangchuan Villa, a garden built by Wang Wei for his reclusion, was one of the most famous gardens of the Tang Dynasty, and, at the same time, was the earliest landscape garden in China. He gained many creation inspirations in this villa, and created a lot of landscape poems and paintings, such as Picture of Snow and River (Xuexi Tu), Picture of Meng Haoran reciting on the horse and Picture of Snowy Mountain. Dong Qichang of the Ming Dynasty remarked Wang Wei as “The ancestor of Nanzong“ and thought “Wang Wei was the initiator of the literati painting.“
Guo Degang Phenomenon
From the third to the eighth day of the first month in China’s lunar calendar in the year of the dog (January 31 to February 5, 2006), people from Tianjin Municipality and Hebei and Shanxi provinces as well as every corner in Beijing flocked to the Guangde Lou teahouse inside Beijing’s Qianmen Gate – just to enjoy the New Year Show of the Deyun group, a batch of artists dedicated to the time-honored art form of xiangsheng (comic dialogue). Before the performance, the ticket prices were three times higher in the hands of scalpers – rare for a traditional art form performance in recent years.
Even after the performance began at 7PM, many fans were still lingering outside the small theatre. “So are the tickets for standing room available? If not, are any tickets for hanging room available? Because one nail could hang two guys,” joked a spectator waiting outside the theater. At the very moment, the atmosphere in the theater was rather raucous. The performers on the stage personified hilarity, causing the audience to split its pants in laughter. “This is more than just a xiangsheng performance, but rather like a Spring Festival Party,” said a young man, no older than 25.
It has just been this winter that Guo Degang has become a new household name in China, quite on a par with Zhang Yimou, Gong Li, and Zhang Ziyi. Off the screen, however, Guo has risen to popularity by word of mouth in teahouses, such as Beijing’s Tianqiao Le and Guangde Lou, where he gives live performances of xiangsheng, a traditional Chinese comic talk show.
Guo Degang (left)
It has become a fashion among a lot of young people to go to the teahouse to enjoy to Guo’s xiangsheng. What’s more, mass media, whether TV, newspaper, or radio, have spared no effort in reporting about Guo. Websites about Guo also abound. People pay to listen to his comic dialogues because he and his colleagues make people relaxed, according to Guo. Today, his fans have to book tickets a few weeks in advance.
In Beijing, a regular ticket for a teahouse xiangsheng performance is 20 yuan (US$2.5 dollars), and in Tianjin it is only 10 yuan (US$1.2 dollars). Such a performance, lasting for three hours or so, usually consists of seven or eight pieces.?
All these, as summarized by media, are known as the “Guo Degang phenomenon.”
In Beijing, Guo Degang started small, in teahouses, but has now achieved nationwide fame. Today, not only are his performances in the Tianqiao Le Teahouse always booked full, but also his shows at big venues such as the Tianqiao Theater are also quickly sold out.
Hardworking and persistent artist
Guo’s success did not come by luck. Neither did he achieve fame overnight. Previously, Guo had been performing in Dazhanlan in Beijing for 10 years.
Guo began to learn storytelling at the age of eight in 1981 from storytelling artist Gao Xiangkai in Tianjin. Later he learned xihe dagu, a folk art form popular in Hebei and Henan provinces till he was 15. Guo values very much those years of learning.
Just like many other noted xiangsheng performing artists, Guo also went to Beijing in the hope of pursuing a better career. However, he couldn’t get enrolled into State-run troupes, and had to do various odd jobs to survive for a period of time.
Guo said he almost forgot about his own vocation, until one day he passed a teahouse where there was a xiangsheng show by some unknown performers.
From then on, he often went there to listen to the performances and later began to perform with them. That was in 1996. The first few years were very difficult for Guo. In the most embarrassing situation, there was only one person in the audience. Guo and his companions persisted. He did other jobs to support his performance.
Even though he has studied xiangsheng since childhood, Guo finds it very difficult to keep up with. “A master may trigger people to laugh with some words, but a student may fail even if he says the exact same words,” said Guo.
“There is something ‘hi-tech’ about it,” he said, adding, “Xiangsheng is in my blood. I’m full of gratitude to it, for all my other work benefits from it.”?
Thirty-three-year-old Guo belongs to the young generation who are more adaptable to their times. Today, the performances of his Deyun group have not only won acclaim from common fans, but have also attracted white-collar workers and people from cultural circles.
Busy as he is with various invitations, Guo still has many plans, such as opening his shows at universities, compiling a collection of traditional xiangsheng works, and putting on a play in the style of folk comedy dialogue.
“Modern people are often under much pressure, and need to relax,” said Guo. “Everybody can speak, but why do you pay to listen to me? Because I can make you happy with my xiangsheng,” Guo said.
Old comedy stirs up new laughs
Comedians are attracting an increasing audience not only with low prices but also with their ingenuity in poking fun at everyday incidents. And if visitors happen to be in a taxi in North China’s Tianjin from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, they will very likely be listening to a radio program called “Everyday Xiangsheng.”
Xiangsheng is one of the best-liked forms of entertainment in North China, and “Everyday Xiangsheng” is among the most popular radio programs in Tianjin. “I tune in to the program every day,” said taxi driver Liu Xingyi. “Listening to xiangsheng makes me relaxed, even when I work for long hours.”
For Yin Xiaosheng, 68, lead performer with the popular Zhong You group in Tianjin, there was a time in the early 1990s when he thought his beloved traditional show was dying. The comic talk show, which appeared in teahouses in the late 19th century Beijing, was turned into a stage art as part of variety shows in theaters after New China was founded. The performers became theater artists, while the number of teahouses also dwindled, as the catering business was not encouraged.
Comic talks enjoyed some popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but still as a part of TV or theater variety shows. And in the 1990s, “very few even talked about xiangsheng,” Yin recalled, as many younger performers became TV hosts or played roles in short comic theatrical skits.
But Yin and a few of his elderly colleagues decided they must not give it up. They returned to a small teahouse called Yanle in Tianjin in 1999, not to make money but to continue the tradition of xiangsheng. Yin also co-founded the troupe, Zhong You. To his surprise, their performances were warmly welcomed, and they were soon invited to perform in other teahouses such as Mingliu and Qianxiangyi.
At first, their audiences were mostly senior people, but young people gradually took more seats. Today, listening to xiangsheng has become chic for many young people in Tianjin. It is even hard for elderly people to go to Mingliu and Qianxiangyi, where young people often book all the tickets.
Now Yanle is Tianjin’s only teahouse where mainly senior audiences frequent the comic talk shows. This is fitting, because Yanle is located at Nanshi, an old area of Tianjin that was once the center of xiangsheng in the first half of the 20th century. Moreover, Yanle charges only eight yuan (US$1) for a show ticket plus a cup of tea, which is cheaper than the regular price of 10 yuan in other teahouses.
Yanle can only hold about 100 people, and after paying the venue’s rent, the performers have very little left for their income.
“We had thought of giving up Yanle several times, but we couldn’t make the decision,” said Yin. “Zhong You means ‘friends of the audience,’ and we should serve all kinds of audience, including senior people.”
Zhong You offers a repertoire of mostly traditional works. In contrast, Haha Xiao, another well-known group in Tianjin, has come up with more new works to keep up with the times.
“Xiangsheng is a most up-to-date form of performance,” said Ma Shuchun, director of the Haha Xiao group. “We pay much attention to creating new works and injecting new elements into traditional works.”
While the performers are writing new works, more people have come forward to offer ideas for original works on the Internet. Ma and his partner Tong Youwei won the first prize in the first Internet Xiangsheng Competition of China in 2004 with a new work titled “The Olympic Dream,” written by Lila, host of a BBS at the “Zhonghua Xiangsheng Net” (www.xiangsheng.org).?
Guo Degang (left) and His Partner Yuqian
Tong and Ma have performed a number of works posted on the Internet by amateur writers. Most of them are about contemporary life, such as “Western Food” and “Artificial Beauty.” After Tong and Ma’s amendments, some of these works have been welcomed by the audience and have become part of the duo’s standard repertory.
Offering new works is not the Internet’s only contribution to xiangsheng. Ma said he had benefited more from the Internet. “The Internet provides substantial information, which helps me greatly in researching and writing works,” said Ma. “Sometimes I also post my recordings on the Internet for netizens to comment on, so that I can keep improving.”
Now the Haha Xiao group gives 13 performances in teahouses every week, which tops all the folk talk show groups in Tianjin. “Among theaters, teahouses, and the TV, I like to perform in teahouses the most,” said Ma. “The close distance between the performers and audience provides much room for interaction, and the performers can improvise sometimes according to the situation.”
Fall and rise of comic talk
Xiangsheng originated in Beijing in the second half of the 19th century, when the performers began to appear and attract audiences at Beijing’s Tianqiao area. Usually only two people perform xiangsheng, though sometimes one person or even a trio can perform it.
Beijing and Tianjin have been the two most important bases for the show. Beijing has given birth to such great performers as Hou Baolin (1917-1993), while Tianjin has contributed masters like Ma Sanli (1914-2003).
In the first half of the 20th century, xiangsheng was mainly performed in teahouses. After the founding of New China in 1949, most of the comedians were recruited into State-run performing arts troupes, and comic talk shows in teahouses gradually disappeared.
However, with teahouses mushrooming in recent years, there has been a revival.
Here’s a fun and delicious recipe made with the traditional symbol of Halloween – pumpkin. Wonton are a perfect appetizer for dinner parties. They’re easy to make and you can stuff them with practically anything, from seasoned ground pork with vegetables, cheesy mixtures to fruit fillings.
Our recipe of these savory cheesy fortune bags are great served with a tart sauce like raspberry puree, made from stewed raspberries with sherry, cinnamon, sugar and water. Cool the sauce, puree and pour into a squeeze bottle (see recipe below). Wonton freeze well, so you can store the extra ones to enjoy later.
Dust pie tins or dinner plates with flour before lining wrapped wonton to prevent them from sticking. After the wonton are frozen, remove them from the plates and store in heavy-duty freezer bags.
If you think 100 wonton are too much, scale down to 50 and just cut all ingredients to half. Happy Halloween!
Pumpkin, mascarpone and caramelized onion wonton
2 cups of mascarpone cheese
2 cups of cream cheese
1 package of fresh wonton skins (about 80-100 sheets)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium pumpkin
3 large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 leaves sage, finely minced
2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A pinch of sugar
Oil for frying
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Half the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet cut side up, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool, scoop out the roasted pumpkin, roughly mash and set aside.
2. In a sauté pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and throw in the diced onions and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Sauté until onions are caramelized and fragrant, which should take about six minutes.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the mashed pumpkin, sautéed onions, minced sage, Mascarpone, cream cheese, cayenne, Tabasco, Worcestershire, lemon juice and
salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients well together.
4. Wrap filling in traditional Chinese wonton skins. Deep fry the wonton until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with raspberry sauce.
2 cups of raspberry (fresh or frozen)
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of sherry
1 2″ cinnamon stick
2 cups of water
1. In a sauce pan, bring all ingredients to a boil then immediately turn down to a very small simmer. Reduce to half, about 35 minutes. Watch it closely so you don’t burn the sauce.
2. Cool the raspberry sauce and purée in a blender. Pour the sauce in a squeeze bottle. Decorate the sauce over the plate in whatever fashion you like.
Chinadaily [2013-02-05 16:18:07]
Pan-fried nian gao, or glutinous cake, which is homophonic with “higher every year” in Chinese. [Photo by Fan Zhen / China Daily]
China is huge enough that regions in the north and south seem like two different worlds. Yet, no matter northerners or southerners, all Chinese believe you are what you eat – and that is why the naming of the dishes for the all-important Spring Festival dinner is so important.
And when it comes to that Big Meal of the year, aptly named delicacies from all parts of the country happily appear on the table. We recently saw exactly such an example on the menus of the Shang Palace at Shangri-La Beijing.
Almost all set menus start with “lo hei”, Cantonese for “tossing up good fortune”, manifesting itself in a plate of colorful salad ingredients in individual piles – thinly sliced fresh raw salmon, shredded white radish, carrots and jellyfish, pickled Chinese leeks and a host of other symbols of good health and wealth.
The cornucopia of ingredients, all fresh and enticing on their own, is only part of the ritual, which involves chanting the appropriate mantras as you prepare the salad for the final toss.
As the special dressing is poured on, it is “golden liquid lubricates your way to great fortune”, a squeeze of lime is all about “big fortune descends upon us”, lime being homophonic with fortune.
The mandatory sprinkle of five-spice powder (representing gold dust) comes in red packets, which usually hold the “lucky money” given out to the elderly and the young.
Shang Palace’s Cantonese executive chef Sham Yun Ming makes sure it is well distributed so his diners enjoy good luck throughout the year.
Another auspicious southern tradition comes in a large basin, although it is presented in more delicate porcelain tureens at therestaurants. Pen cai, originally fromHong Kong’s New Territories, is rich and indulgent in a similar vein.
Sauteed broccoli with dried scallop. [Photo by Fan Zhen /China Daily]
“Pen”, or the basin, is filled to the brim with whole abalones, chunky mushroom, hefty tenderloin cuts and solid meatballs braised in sauce. Traditionally, the hearty pot caters to a happy family clan or sometimes a village. The oversized heap represents a bountiful year ahead.
There is a full-fat dish from the north, too, which also augurs well for the year’s prosperity. This is the braised pig trotter, trimmed to a barrel shaped roundness that represents family’s reunion. In the north, there are also plenty of silver ingots in the house, in the guise of dumplings.
And that’s why jiaozi also appears on Chef Sham’s menus, a nod to the northern fondness for ingots in abundance.
But both north and south demand a fish on the table. Fish, rhyming with “more”, is believed to bring an excess of blessings.
And then there is the special steamed sugared glutinous cake, or nian gao. Again, nian gao is homophonic with “higher every year”, reflecting the collective ambitions of the diners.
At Chef Sham’s table, the golden slices are coated in an egg batter and fried to a tender sweetness inside with a crisp coating outside.
Finally, the meal ends with fresh kumquats, little golden fruits that represent good luck and auspicious good fortune. And that is the perfect happy ending.
Shang Palace’s popular starter is the salad of lo hei, Cantonese for “tossing up good fortune”. [Photo by Fan Zhen / China Daily]
The festival features activities such as the ancestor-worship celebration of the Liao Dynasty, the lake-worshipping to ensure an ample first batch of fish, the hooking of the fish in nabo (an iced wooden house and a temporary camp used by the Liao emperors during their nomadic lives) and the tasting of fish heads. These activities are the remainders the Liao Dynasty fishing activities, which have in modern times again become a phenomenon of the winter tour of northern China.
On the banks of the Liao River, a principal river in northeastern China (1,430km-long), lies the Wolong Lake Nature Reserve which has preserved the thousand-year-old fishing and hunting culture of the Liao. There are also ancient ruins in Kangping County, where man could find the only road to Beijing during the Liao Dynasty.
Winter fish-catching is a popular tradition in northern China, especially along the Liao, Songhua, and Heilongjiang River Areas. When the net falls down, thousands of fish jump up out of the icy surface and swish their tails. This extraordinary scene remains an important cultural continuity to this day.
People start their winter fish-catching by digging holes in the ice at intervals of eight or nine meters. After digging about 100 holes for one net, people then stick the poles and track cables down the holes. As the net is so large — about four or five meters wide , it requires horses to be pushed forward. The net-casting process can last for about eight or nine hours.
Horses are also needed when hauling in the net. The net, now fully stocked with fish, is dragged onto the surface from the one-meter-wide and two-meter-long holes. Fishermen then bag the fish as they haul in the net.
Shanghai, being a relatively new city in China, does not really have a cuisine of its own, but successfully refines all the work of the surrounding provinces such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu. Through years of culinary practice and the assimilation of the art in other styles of cuisine, Shanghai chefs have also created a style of cuisine peculiar to the region. Shanghai dishes are usually characterized by the use of heavy and highly flavored sauce.
The use of sugar is another uniquness found in Shanghainese cuisine and, especially when used proportiaonally with soy sauce, the taste created is not so much sweet but rather savory. My chef friend told me that this is mainly due to the fact that sugar neutralized the sourness found in soy source. Household in Shanghai would consume as much soy source as sugar. Visitors are often surprised when the “secret ingredient” was revealed by local Shanghainese.
Some tasty Shanghai Food:
Xiao Long Bao (Little Dragon Bun):
The little dragon bun is one of my favourite dish. Unlike the buns in northern China, these buns are very small and easy to swallow. The buns are usually steamed in containers made of banboo. The skin of the buns are very thin and the bun is very juicy. The dish is now popularized and consumed widely throughout China as a Dim Sum.
Chou Dou Fu (Smelly Tofu):
When first smelled, one would naturally hold their nose, not to mention give it a try and swallow a piece. The smelly tofu is a popular local food mainly found on Shanghai streets. The tofu is fermanted with many ingredients before fried. Old ladies usually serve them on their liltte trolley. Dispite their odour, most foreigners love it after tasting it. It is dirt cheap too!
Da Zha Xie (Hairy Crab):
Da Zha Xie is a special type of crab found in rivers, and is normally consumed in the winter. The crabs are tied with ropes or strings, placed in bamboo containers, steamed and served. There is little artificial ingredient added to the dish yet it tastes fantastically good. Da Zha Xie is usually consumed with vinegar. Locals are also quite fussy about when to consume male crabs and when to consume female crabs.
Pi Dan (Preserved Eggs):
Preserved duck eggs are a traditional Shanghainese delicacy, and although known as “1000-year-old eggs” they are rarely more than 100 days old. It is done using a traditional method. Pidan is now very common in China, and is sometimes consumed with congee.
Names are stand for the meaning of things, and a suitable name could make people easy to remember. If you have ever ate in Chinese restaurant，you might found that each dish has a meaningful name in the Chinese food menu. Do you want to know why do Chinese named the Chinese food like this?
In China, people think that a good name which is auspiciouscan lead everything goes well, or at least can removes the obstacles. Because of the traditional cognition as well as the custom, it is widely acknowledged that names are of significance and importance, hence the restaurant host enjoys to spend much time naming the dishes and design the Chinese food menu. The reason why Chinese dishes surprise so many people may not merely because of its delicious，but because of the meaningful names as well.
In terms of the design of the Chinese food menu, since the red stands for festival, Chinese prefer red or golden as the ground of the menu card, and write the words with golden or black. When you read these menus card, you just feel happy and think they are full of happiness.
Chinese food menus are not just a commen card, it contain the Chinese traditional culture, which forms values and attitudes. When you order for dishes in Chinese restarant, you can pay more attention to the menu if you have never noted it before, and you will find the names in the menu card are so meaningful.
- Beijing Travel
- Chinese Food
- Chinese Spring Festival
- Customs and Traditions
- Shanghai Food
- Shanghai Travel