Stories You Never Knew About Chinese Dumplings

Chinese New Year, The Year of the Rooster, begins on Saturday Jan. 28th 2017, with festivities kicking off the  27th, and continuing until February 15th, 2017。 The Lunar New Year is the most important festival for Chinese people both in mainland China, and around the world. And eating dumplings is a Chinese New Year tradition stretching back thousands of years. But have you ever heard the stories of how dumplings were invented?

The Story of Chinese Dumplings (Jiao-er)


Dumplings, formerly known as “Jiaoer” (translates directly as “charming ear”)

According to legends, dumplings were originally invented by the Chinese medical sage Zhang Zhongjing. In the last years of the Eastern Han Dynasty, plagues were prevalent, many people were affected by severe diseases.zhangzhongjing

Zhang Zhongjing was a famous doctor who possessed exceptional healing skills. He had the power to cure any diseases he came across.

Moreover, because of his noble ethics, he would dedicate himself to every one of his patients, regardless of their income or social status.

After he was relieved from his position, he returned to his hometown. As he was walking along the White River shoreline, he saw countless people suffering from hunger and extreme cold, with their ears being severely frostbitten. Moved by profound compassion for their suffering, he resolved to cure them.

After he arrived home, there were so many people coming to him for medical attention that he was kept extremely busy. However, he couldn’t not banish the memory of those people who had had frostbitten ears and had been suffering from hunger and cold.

So he asked his student to set up a tent on a vacant piece of land, along with a giant cauldron. Following the winter solstice, they began offering medicines to the poor people of the village.

The name of Zhang Zhongjing’s concoction was “Cold Dispelling Jiaoer soup”

He put mutton, pepper along with a variety of cold dispelling herbs and spices into a pot and start boiling the mixture down. After the meat was fully cooked, he fished out the large chunk of cooked mutton, and mince it up. After adding oatmeal to the mutton meat, he wrapped the stuffing in dumpling wrappers, and boiled them again in the pot with the previously saved broth.

Every patient was allocated with two “Charming Ears” and a bowl of soup. After people had the soup, they begun to feel warmth seeping through their core, their blood circulation increased, and in turn warmed up their ears. Over time and with many servings of soup and dumplings, the patients’ ears were entirely cured from frostbite.

Zhang Zhongjing’s act of kindness to give out medicine lasted from winter solstice, all the way until Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Ever since that time, in order to celebrate New Year’s day and the remarkable healing of frostbitten ears, people would prepare food that emulated the appearance of “charming ears” dumplings as part of their New Years foods, to be enjoyed the first day of the New Year.


The Story of Nuwa

There are many other interesting tales regarding dumplings for New Year’s Day celebrations. One of which is related to NuWa’s creation of Humans.xiaoyuncong_nvwa

NuWa originally created humans out of mud.

However, in wintertime, many humans’ ears would fall off easily, because of the frostbite. So, NuWa came up with a solution. She used needle and thread to sew humans’ ears on, and had a person bite the end of the thread, thus preventing people’s ears from falling off in the extremely cold weather.

Subsequently, at the end of every year when it’s terribly cold outside, people would eat “charming ears” sewn with thread, which are precisely stuffed dumplings.

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