“Eat dumplings on Start of Winter Day, or your ears will be frostbitten”  


It is believed that most people from the northern areas of China have heard this old saying, while those from the south, where it is warm on Start of Winter Day, may feel puzzled by it. It is simple to explain: please observe the dumpling with its curling ends and round stomach carefully… Isn’t it like some physical organ of our body? Yes, it is the ear. It is said that the dumpling had appeared early in the period of the three kingdoms. At that time, it was more like the wonton today, and served with soup in a bowl. Then, during the Tang Dynasty, the wonton turned into a dumpling just like today. It is said that the dumpling, or “Jiao-zi” in Chinese, was once called “jiao er” (“er” means ear), and was created by the "Medical Saint" Zhang Zhongjing of the Han Dynasty. The story of his “dispelling cold jiao-er soup” has spread among the people.

According to legend, at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, "Medical Saint" Zhang Zhongjing used to serve as prefecture chief of Changshi. On his way home after he resigned, he met many people in Henan province whose ears had been frostbitten on Start of Winter Day. At that time, the Typhoid epidemic was prevalent and lots of people died of it. Thus summing up the clinical practice of more than 300 years of Han Dynasty, Zhang Zhongjing built a medical shelter at the local area and set up a big pot to cook mutton, hot peppers and herbs to dispel cold and increase the body heat. He wrapped these ingredients into dough skin and made them into an ear shape. After boiling, he donated them with soup to the poor. The local people ate them from Start of Winter Day to the eve of Spring Festival. The typhoid fever was resisted and their frostbitten ears were cured. Since then, the village people and their later generations learned to make the food, which became known as “jiao-er,” or “dumpling.” It is also called “bianshi” or “tang mian jiao” (hot dough ravioli).

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