Jiaozi, a kind of dumpling, is a favorite food of Chinese people. It is usually a semicircular wheaten food with stuffing. In most areas of China, jiaozi is made when people celebrate the Spring Festival or other festivals and entertain relatives and friends.
Jiaozi dates back many centuries. It originated in the Yellow River valley where wheat was grown. During the spring and Autumn Period, about 2,500 years ago, people already knew how to grind wheat into flour, make wheaten food with stuffing and steam it in bronze pots.
The earliest jiaozi known was made more than 1,300 years ago and was found in a tomb of the Tang Dynasty unearthed in Urumqi, Xinjiang in the 1970s. The semicircular jiaozi was about five centimeters long. The wrappers were made of flour and the stuffing was made of vegetables. It was almost the same as the jiaozi of today.
The Chinese love jiaozi not only because it has a great variety of tastes. The main reason is that over the centuries it has become a kind of food implying the auspicious.
The jiaozi wrapper is “yuan” (circular). The Chinese hope for “tuan yuan” (reunion) and “yuan man” (perfection). Jiaozi is oblate, similar in design to a shoe-shaped gold or silver ingot in ancient times. When a family gets together to bid farewell to the old year and usher in the new, they enjoy reunion and eat jiaozi to imply that they will acquire more wealth and have a better life in the new year. Jiaozi are filled with stuffing to contain various auspicious messages. When a couple gets married, the jiaozi are filled with peanuts and chestnuts to express the hope that they will soon have a baby.
The little jiaozi carries with it so many auspicious messages so it has close ties with traditional Chinese customs. Since ancient times, people have followed the traditional custom of eating jiaozi on the eve of the Spring Festival, on the fifth day of the first lunar month and on the day of the Winter Solstice.
In present-day society, great progress has been made in the making of jiaozi. People have more options ranging from quick-frozen jiaozi to a rich variety of jiaozi feasts. As it is a kind of food with uniquely Chinese characteristics, jiaozi is also enjoyed by people from other countries.
As a carrier of culture, jiaozi is typical of traditional Chinese cuisine culture. It is different from Western food. A hamburger is sandwiched with beef or an egg. It can be seen clearly from the outside. But jiaozi is quite different. You can’t know its stuffing from the outside. You can only find out when you eat it. It is identical to the spirit of traditional Chinese culture, especially the reserved and moderate character fostered by Confucianism.
Jiaozi is probably not the representative of delicious Chinese food, but the psychological enjoyment is just as important, if not more so. This aspect cannot be displaced by any other food. Jiaozi has been with the Chinese people over so many auspicious occasions and it has become the most representative example of Chinese cuisine.