An introduction to Chinese cuisine

To the Chinese, eating is a very important part of life. It is a social activity and helps to break the ice. In Chinese society, food is also a measure of success.

More than just eating, the Chinese also love to cook as it is seen as an art in itself. Chinese cuisine places emphasis on colour, aroma and flavour. Not only must a dish taste good, it must also appeal to the senses to be able to whet the appetite.

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Cooking methods

There are countless ways to cook the same ingredients, and each way of cooking imparts its own unique flavour to the food:

  • Steam
  • Boil
  • Double-boil
  • Stew
  • Poach
  • Braise
  • Stir-fry
  • Shallow-fry
  • Deep fry
  • … and many more!

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Eight main cuisines

  • Sichuan, with characteristic rich and spicy dishes like Gongbao diced chicken
  • Shandong, with dishes like Dezhou braised chicken
  • Suzhou, with its carefully presented steamed crucian carp
  • Guangdong, with distinctive sweet and crispy dishes like roast suckling pig
  • Fujian, famed for Buddha Jumps over the Wall
  • Zhejiang, which emphasises fresh food and natural flavours, particularly seafood
  • Huizhou, which favours delicacies from the land and sea
  • Hunan, which features rich foods with strong colours like cured meats

Now, tell us, which is your favourite?

 

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A myth on how the Chinese language came about

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Legend has it that the written language was created by Cangjie, a subordinate of the Yellow Emperor. Cangjie was in charge of managing livestock and food supplies. As the animals and grain kept increasing, it became impossible to keep count. Hence, he made knots in different coloured strings to represent the numbers of different animals and food.

Seeing Cangjie’s ability, the Yellow Emperor put him in charge of many more things. Cangjie racked his brains as strings were not sufficient now.

One day, Cangjie went hunting. He observed the animal footprints on the ground and got a revelation: “If one type of footprint represents one kind of animal, why don’t I just indicate the different items with symbols?”

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Hence, Cangjie began to come up with different symbols based on the shapes of animal footprints and the natural environment. Later, others also adopted these symbols and started to communicate with them.

However, of course, this remains just a myth as the development of a written language is usually influenced by many social factors over a long period of time.

A walk down memory lane

As you might already know, it’s Asiapac Books’ 35th anniversary this year. Having been in the book industry since 1983, we want to showcase just a bit of our catalogue of out-of-print books. Perhaps you’ve seen these before back in the day?

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Labour Pains was the first book published by Asiapac Books. It is a comedic book on gender inequality illustrated with cartoons and comic strips.

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These four titles are examples of paperback classics and Asian literature published by Asiapac Books in the 1980s.

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Two award-winning titles illustrated by renowned Chinese artist Lu Yuan Guang.

Check out more of our publications both old and new at our 35th anniversary comics exhibition today (it’s free)! We’re located at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from now until 9 December 2018. Oh, and don’t miss out on our upcoming events (updated list on Facebook or Eventbrite)!

Get to know: Feng Zikai

Born in Zhejiang, China in 1898, Feng Zikai (豐子愷) was one of the first artists to specialise in caricatures and comics. His works span a wide range of topics, from classic Chinese poetry depictions to observations of day-to-day life. Although they are informed by deep and profound concepts, his comics are idyllic, light-hearted and relatable to all types of readers.

As our 35th anniversary flagship publication, Asiapac Books will be publishing Feng Zikai’s selected comics in collaboration with Dolphin Books (China), in a set of five books titled Selected Comics of Feng Zikai.

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An embodiment of the fine balance between intellect, artistry and child-like wonder, Feng Zikai is a key inspiration for our work. Some of his artworks masterfully depict classic Chinese verses, while others muse about everyday village sightings. Regardless of their inspiration, all of them carry a sense of peacefulness and serenity, painting a blissful picture of life.

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Occasionally, Feng Zikai approaches situations with humour, keeping his drawings light-hearted and cheerful. As many of his illustrations portray everyday situations, even contemporary viewers will find them relatable. Other illustrations make more profound observations that reflect upon humanity and its inadequacies.

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Having lived through the 20th century, it is not unusual to observe external influences in Feng Zikai’s work. Sometimes, they portray non-Chinese characters. Other times, the works themselves bear English words. These illustrations juxtapose traditional living with new concepts, creating a fresh blend of cultures.

new doc 2018-06-06 15.43.11_3 copyWe hope to bring joy to a new generation of readers by sharing Feng Zikai’s timeless classics. His work is a constant reminder of the immense beauty and tenderness that still exist in our everyday lives.

Look out for the book launch details soon!

 

Unearthing the Roots of Chinese Medicine

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Image: Pietro Jeng

Most of us have heard of yin and yang – the two forces that, in Chinese philosophy, power the natural world. Our understanding, however, is often limited to a vague impression of their exact roles; many don’t realise how the forces, as a fundamental part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), continue to thread through modern thinking.

TCM itself is still very much an active part of life today – a tenet of Chinese history and tradition, it is also something many Singaporeans continue to turn to when ill. Learning about TCM is thus about both the past and present, something that we recognise in our Essential Chinese Medicine series and Essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine comic book.

 

 

Essential Chinese Medicine features four titles, each covering different aspects of TCM: Health Tonics, Improving Blood CirculationRelieving Wind and Restoring Balance. The books describe the most well-known herbs used in each field, going into incredible detail about medicinal effects, purchasing and storing methods, and easy recipes – Health Tonics alone, for instance, describes 54 popular herbs! The books cover both the therapeutic and practical effects of TCM, providing a truly well-rounded look at the subject.

All four Essential Chinese Medicine books are edited by Professor Zhang Bao Chun and Professor Chen Yu Ting, postgraduate instructors at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. They draw on their wealth of knowledge to shed light on an otherwise complex topic, carefully clarifying and simplifying information for readers. The books are especially relevant for Singapore readers too, as the featured herbs are amongst the most commonly used right here on our island.

Essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine is even more accessible, employing illustrations, diagrams and comics to explain the text. It spans from ancient Chinese theories about the human body to the modernisation of TCM, proving how this branch of medicine has both survived and evolved.

Whether you are simply a curious beginner or a TCM-enthusiast, our two series are refreshing, informative takes on a truly fascinating subject. Learn about the lives of famous Chinese physicians from light-hearted comics, or try your hand at a few simple, wholesome recipes. TCM, after all, has become much more than just a matter of health, but a philosophy and spirit with far-reaching influences.

Getting to Know China

It is impossible to know everything about China and its sprawling history. A civilisation spanning thousands of years, its present day state is the result of countless political, social, artistic and scientific milestones. There will always be new facets about Chinese culture you have yet to come across – exactly why getting to know China is so exciting.

Celebrate Chinese Culture is a series (nearly) as epic as Chinese history itself. It contains six volumes, each focusing on one aspect of the culture: Chinese Literature, Chinese Science & Technology, Chinese Fine Arts, Chinese Eminent People, Chinese Folk Customs, and Chinese Auspicious Culture. Together, they provide a comprehensive insight into this incredible civilisation. Vivid photographs and illustrations throughout each book help illuminate each point, and to make Chinese culture feel more alive than ever.

 

Meet some of the greatest writers of all time in Chinese Literature, and learn how reading and writing has long formed an integral part of Chinese society – from the development of literature pre-Qin Dynasty to the last monarchy of the Qing Dynasty. Make new discoveries in Chinese Science & Technology, particularly how one of today’s most technologically advanced countries was also responsible for ground-breaking inventions like the seismograph.

 

In Chinese Fine Arts, you will be introduced to the other side of Chinese culture: calligraphy, painting, music, dance, theatre and sculpture. Even the smallest brushstroke in calligraphy is an art form, imbuing Chinese artistic mediums with both skill and passion. Meanwhile, Chinese Eminent People will have you encountering China’s most prominent leaders, celebrities, artists, musicians and scientists; while they may be noted for their public achievements, the book also delves into their personal stories of love, sorrow and joy.

 

Chinese Folk Customs takes you to the roots of Chinese society: the folk beliefs that have influenced and defined practices of birth, coming-of-age, marriage and death. Understanding these beliefs – such as the auspicious use of red and important mythological creatures – will enhance understanding of the Chinese psyche. Chinese Auspicious Culture rounds up the series with an examination of the way folk customs have evolved over time. Customs which we might now take for granted, like the making of glutinous rice dumplings and choosing of auspicious wedding dates, were actually carefully developed as a way of maximising fortune and prosperity!

Getting to know China doesn’t end with these six books, of course, but Celebrate Chinese Culture provides an easy way to begin. Grab a copy – or all six! – to learn more about the deep history powering the global power today.