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New Year's Day food: dumplings and rice cake

http://www.chinese.cn 18:25, December 29, 2010 CIO

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New Year's Day food: dumplings and rice cake
New Year's Day food: dumplings and rice cake

On New Year's Day, we eat dumplings and rice cake like our ancestors.

Dumplings originate from huntun, a kind of stuffed food made of flour.

Yan Zhitui,a native of the Northern Qi Dynasty (A.D. 550-577) once remarked that "Today's Chinese huntun,which is formed in the shape of a crescent moon,eaten by the people throughout the country."(in Note Quotation by Duan Gonglu in the Tang Dynasty on Bei Hu Lu--Household Records in the Northern Qi Dynasty).

In the Ming Dynasty the Universally Used Standardized Form of Chinese Characters remarks that " The conventional dumpling materials in the present day,are made by powder of rice and wheat, and they vary in dryness, wetness, and size,or the so-called 'powder angle'. The people in the Northern Qi Dynasty said, the angles were like arrow pincers. The people in the Tang Dynasty called this dish the 'firm pills'.

The Food by Duan Chengshi mentions 'Jiaowan in the soup'. Jiaowan refers to the dumpling today. 'Jiaowan in the steam box' refers to today's steamed dumplings. Therefore, we know that laowan is similar to dumplings, which can be boiled or steamed.

The word Jiaozi appeared in the Song Dynasty. In the Yuan Dynasty, people call dumpling 'bianshi', which may originate from Mongolian. Like what the Zheng Zi Tong records, in the Ming Dynasty, dumpling is called Jiaoer, fenjiao, shuijiaozi or zhengtangmianjiao. Some also call it water dim sum.

By the end of the Ming Dynasty,the Brief Account of scenery in the Capital of the Emperor Vol.II noted,on the New Year's day of the first month of the lunar year, "Rising early in the morning, washing face and rinsing mouth, people ate Chinese date cake,also known as New Year cake".In the Qing Dynasty, Manchus in Beijing called dumplings "boiled cake".

Eating dumplings on New Year's Day began to be popular in the north in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. For example, during the Wanli Period of the Ming Dynasty, Shen Bang says in Wan Shu Za Ji that residents in the suburban Wanping County of Beijing "make bianshi and present it to the eldest family member to give them a long life". During the Jiajing Period of the Ming Dynasty, the Quwo County Annal of Shanxi states that people "make bianshi with coins in it the next day and invite the son-in-law to compete for happiness". The word bianshi began to circulate among the people in the Yuan Dynasty.

Rice cake, also called sticky cake, promises a better year. It is made of sticky rice in the south and sticky millet in the north.

Rice cake has a long history. In the Han Dynasty, rice cake was called daobing, gao, er or ci. The cookbook of the 6th century Shi Ci records the way to make rice cake "baijiantang". Major Skills of Qi People of the Northern Dynasties describes how to grind rice into powder and make cake.

Eating rice cake on New Year's Day began to gain popularity in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, especially in the south. In the last years of the Ming Dynasty, Volume 2 of Capital Scenery records that, on New Year's Day, "people eat cake with a Chinese date to hope for a better year". In the North,in Hebei Province,in the reign of Jiajing, Wei County Annals says, the local people ate "steamed New Year cake". In the South, local chronicles of Suzhou and Jiading call it"Festival Cake".

In the Ming Dynasty, in the reign of Zhengde, Qiongtai Chronicle in Guangdong Province noted that the local people ate Spring Cake: Before the "New Year's day, polished glutinous rice powder is mixed with sucrose or lye to steam Spring Cake in steamers, the girth of the cake is about one chi (one third of a meter), and five or six cun thick (one cun equal to one third of a decimeter). The rice is combined together with various kinds of fruits for the yearly offering of sacrifices to the ancestors,and to serve as mutual presents between friends and acquaintances."It's similar to the birthday cakes of today.

The description in Volume 12 of the Qingjia Selection by Ye Gulu is more detailed. It says that the cake is made of millet flour and sugar, and is called rice cake. Some are white and others are yellow. The one-foot-long square cake is called "square rice cake". The gold ingot-shaped one is called "gold ingot cake", which is used to worship ancestors and present to relatives and friends. There are also lathy ones called "lathy cake" and wide ones called "wide cake". During the festival, rich families usually hire others to make cake. Ordinary families usually buy cakes in stores.



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