Caixin
Feb 12, 2022 10:00 AM

Weekend Long Read: How Mouth-Watering Foreign Delicacies Pepper China’s Classic Novels

The “four great classical novels,” must-reads for every schoolchild in China, are deeply rooted in people’s hearts. I like to see them through the lens of a particular Chinese obsession — food.

As a child, the strategy in “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (三国演义) washed over me, as did the brotherhood and passion portrayed in “Water Margin” (水浒传), the fusion of Western and Eastern fantasy in “The Journey to the West” (西游记) and the romance of “Dream of the Red Chamber” (红楼梦). All I could think about was the delicacies the characters were eating. The novels span centuries, from the Three Kingdoms, through the Tang and Song Dynasties and into the Qing Dynasty, witnessing to huge changes in the China diet, including the introduction of important crops from abroad.

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