“Buddha Jumps over the Wall,” also known as “Fu Shou Quan,” a wish for good fortune and long life, is a well-known Fujian dish that originated during the reign of Qing Emperor Daoguang (1821—1850). It was created by Zheng Chunfa, celebrated chef and proprietor of the Ju Chun Yuan Restaurant in Fuzhou, Fujian province.
Zheng was private chef of a senior local official in the early years of his career. On one occasion the official, Zhou Lian, was invited to a banquet held by the financial authority of Fuzhou, and was particularly impressed with one tasty dish. When he got home, Zhou immediately asked his chef Zheng Chunfa to make it. After several failed attempts, Zheng went to the financial bureau to observe exactly what ingredients it contained and how it was prepared. Eventually he successfully created his own version of this culinary delight by adding more seafood and other delicacies that enhanced its alluring aroma and toothsome flavor.
After leaving his job at Zhou Lian’s household and opening his own restaurant, Zheng Chunfa’s dish, with its 18 main ingredients, along with a variety of supplements and seasonings, all stewed in a pottery jar, became the house specialty. People came in hordes to sample it. One day, the appetizing aroma lured in a group of passing scholars. After tasting the dish, they waxed lyrical on its excellence and began lauding it in verse. The poem that became most famous vividly described a monk that jumped over the temple wall to the local neighborhood and gorged on this lay cuisine, so disregarding his vegetarian vows. The name of the dish hence changed from “Fu Shou Quan” to “Buddha Jumps over the Wall.”
The dish has been a delicacy at state banquets for decades, including those for Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and Queen Elizabeth II of the U.K. It is now celebrated throughout the world.