In China Kung Pao Chicken is called Gongbao Ji Ding. The word ji means Chicken. The word ding means cut into small cubes or diced.
在中国Kung Pao Chicken叫做宫保鸡丁。"ji"的意思是鸡。"ding"是指切成小方块或切块。
Though Gongbao Ji Ding is a favorite dish served though out most of China it is considered a traditional example of Sichuan Cuisine. According to Du Fuxiang in his book Chinese Culinary Culture the dish originated in the late Qing Dynasty and was first prepared by the family chef of a man Ding Baozhen. While Gongbao Ji Ding is strongly associated with Sichuan cuisine, In Chinese Culinary Culture Du Fuxiang listed it as an example of Shandong cuisine. There is a good reason for this.
Ding Baozhen was originally from the province of Guizhou which is south of Sichuan. He was a public official who served for a number of years as governor of the Shandong province which is on the east coast of China just south of Beijing. He was later appointed governor over Sichuan province.
Du Fuxiang states that the dish in it's original form was always served at family banquets during the time that Ding Baozhen served as governor in Shandong. When Ding Baozhen was made governor of Sichuan he introduced the dish there. In Sichuan, Ding Baozhen modified the dish by adding peppers in order to please local people who enjoyed spicy foods.
The word Gongbao was a tittle that was given to Ding Baozhen by the Qing court during the time that he served them. Gong was a tittle given by royal families to men who served as governors of provinces. Essentially if you were to translate the name of the dish Gongboa Ji Ding literally you would have "Governor Bao's Diced Chicken."
Gongbao Ji Ding quickly became a favorite among the people of Sichuan province. From there it spread all over China. Like many popular Chinese dishes it was introduced to North America in the 1800s by Chinese emigrants who worked on the construction of Central Pacific portion of the American transcontinental railroad. Most of the Chinese railroad workers were brought from the province of Guangdong which is populated by Cantonese people. The Cantonese people who introduced this dish to America would have altered the dish to their own tastes as well as to ingredients that they could easily find in America. The version of Kung Pao Chicken that is served in most of the Chinese restaurants across America reflects the changes that were made during this time.