History of Chinese Cooking
The Chinese nation has a civilized history of 5,000 years and has
created a splendid traditional culture. Cooking has occupied a lofty
position in Chinese culture throughout the history. Thus, to regard the
Chinese cooking culture as an art, or a science is entirely justifiable.
The great Chinese philosopher Lao Zi once said of the cooking art:
"Governing a great nation is much like cooking a small fish."
The Chinese culinary culture has a distant source and has been
developed for many centries. The legend has it that the Chinese cooking
culture originated with Yi Yin, a virtuous and capable minister of the
Shang Dynasty(ca. 15th to 11th century B.C.). It can be seen that China
initiated the culinary art as early as the Shang and Zhou (ca. 11th
century to 221 B.C.) times. With the growth and development of
productivity and economy during various periods,
people have been always exploring new cooking techniques
----from brevity to variety, from rudimentary to advanced stage, from
day-to-day snacks to feasts, even to palatial
dishes and delicacies. During the period from the Spring and
Autumn Period(ca. 770-476 B.C.) and the Warring Stated
Period(ca. 475-221 B.C.), to the Sui-Tang period, the Chinese dishes
began to be separated by Southern and Northern tastes. In general, the
southern dishes emphasize freshness and tenderness. While due to the
cold weather, northern dishes are relatively oily, and the use of
vinegar and garlic tends to be quite popular.
During the period of the Tang (618-907 A.D.) and the Song(960-1279
A.D.) dynasties, people went in a great deal for nutritional medical
value of different plants: fungus, herbs, vegetables. Many varieties of
"medicinal food" have been cooked for prevention and cure of diseases,
or for health care and recovery.
As time goes by, distinct local flavors were added to the Chinese
dishes, such as the Northern food("Lu" or the Shandong dishes), the
Southern food ("Yue" or the Cantonese dishes), the Chuan food (Sichuan
dishes), Huai Yang (Yangzhou) and the vegetarian foods and records
respecting each kind of dishes have been handed down. There are four
oldest types of Chiness food: the Sichuan, Cantonese, Northern(Beijing)
and Huaiyang. Later on, eight types gradually evloved after the Tang and
Song Dynasties (the Sichuan, Cantonese, Shandong, Yangzhou, Beijing,
Anhui, Zhejiang and Hunan groups). Each of these groups has its own long
history and characteristic traditional techniques.