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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.

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