It was Chinese New Year, and I was looking forward to stuffing my belly with dim sum, a cuisine I have had many times before. As I was staring at my first dish, pork shumai, I thought about how peferct dim sum is as an example for a legacy on Anicent China and its beliefs as well as their philosophies. Everything down from the decor of the restaurant to the utensils were related back to the legacy Ancient China left.
Dim sim dates back to a much older tradition, yum cha, which is drinking tea. These tea houses were situated on the Silk Road for travelers needing a rest. Before dim sum people believed that eating with tea would lead to weight gain. Not until later was it discovered that tea did the opposite and aided in digestion. Now tea houses served tea with small snacks.
Yum Cha has now evolved from a quiet and relaxing experience to a loud and joyfull meal. In China dim sum is served usually during the time that westerners eat breakfast.
We ate everything from soup dumplings to chicken feet
Dim sum consists of an extremely wide variety of food including: different types of dumplings, rice noodles, seasame seed balls, spring rolls, chicken feet, vegetables such as Chinese broccoli (known as gai lan), and steamed buns filled with meat or custard. That day our table tried everything the carts showed us. Some dishes were familiar to me such as the fried rice, pork shumai, or the soup dumplings. However, there were many more dishes that I did not recognize like chicken feet, or the spare ribs with rice noodles.
Mr. Brooks showing us a "carrot"
At one point of the meal, Mr. Brooks came over and showed us an odd dish. It was dumpling made to look like a carrot, but it was filled with lotus paste. This dish is related to Confucius due to it relation to the rectification of names. Confucius believed that social disorder came from the failure to call things by their correct names; to understand and deal with reality. This "carrot" goes against his teachings. To Confucius, this dish would be causing social disorder.
Tea, the basis of dim sum, alligns with much of Confucian teachings. In China, it is essential that someone pours tea for you when dining. This also relates the Confucius' Five Great Relationships, and in our case specifically, friend to friend. Correct behavior, good manners, and politeness are all values in Li; one of Confucius' five virtues. Tea is a "ceremony" that emphasizes formality and politeness that people should conduct.
Another Confucian legacy are chopsticks. As many know, chopsticks are used as instruments when eating. A large advocator for the use of chopsticks was Confucius. Confucius believed that instruments such as the knife or the fork were connected to violence. Chopsticks, on the other hand, show gentleness and benevolence, the main teaching of Confucianism, aslo known as ren.
Decoration inside of Jing Fong Restaurant
This octagonal shape symbolizes both Confucianism and Daoism. It is related to Confucianism because the outside is rational, like Confucius's teachings while the inside of the shape is Daoist becasue it pattern inside is erratic much like nature. The restaurant also has many other decorations relating to Daoism, i.e nature. There are bamboo panels along the sides of the restaurant as well as the baskets holding the dim sum, which are made from bamboo as well.
Inside of the Restaurant. On the left is a phoenix while on the right is a dragan
This decoration is the most prominent in the restaurant and on the first things that you notice when you walk into the restaurant. These decorations, however, have a deeper meaning that just statues of mythical animals. They represent Ying and Yang. The phoenix represents the female gender and rebirth, while the dragan repsents wealth and strength as well as the male gender. They are opposites living together in balance.
At the beginnning of the meal we sat down at a table and waited to be served. When our waitress arrived she gave us tea and that was it. When the first cart came around we ordered pork shumai as well as a variation of chicken meatballs. The ball then started to roll and the carts seemed to be coming faster and faster until I couldn't even count how many stamps were on our bill or how many plates were on our table. I was fully satisfied with the meal and I drank a finale cup of tea, knowing that it helped me digest it all.
For incoming eighth grade students I would recommend this specific experince above anything else because I learned about Chinese eating etiquette while having a lot fun with my friends.