Buwei Yang Chao

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Buwei Yang Chao (née Buwei Yang; Chinese Traditional: 楊步偉, Simplified: 杨步伟, Pinyin: Yáng Bùwěi) (1889–1981) was an American Chinese physician, writer of recipes, and wife of the eminent linguist Yuen Ren Chao.

She was born in Nanjing into the Yang family but was looked after by her aunt and uncle. She was sent to Japan to attend the Tokyo Women's Medical College. After graduating as a medical doctor, she returned to China where she met her future husband. They married on June 1, 1921. They had four daughters; the eldest, Rulan Chao (趙如蘭), helped in the writing of her book of recipes.


At very young age she was sent to a school in Nanjing. The entry exam of the school asked her to write about the benefits of a girl been educated. She wrote: " Women are the mother of all the citizens". which is unusual at that time. She already understand the equal right of women and the right os free marriage at very young age. Later she went to a single sex catholic school in Shanghai. She was sent to Tokyo to study to become a medical doctor. Later she claimed that she only get interest in cooking after she find that the Japanese food is "uneatable".[1]

In 1920 she met and subsequently married the linguist Y.R. Chao. The ceremony was simple, rather than the noisy traditional wedding. The only witnesses were Hu Shi and one other friend. Hu's account of this simple ceremony in the newspapers the next day made the couple a model of modern marriage for China's New Culture generation. [2]


Buwei Yang Chao wrote two notable books: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese and An Autobiography of a Chinese Woman. How to Cook and Eat in Chinese was written when Buwei and Yuen Ren lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts during World War II. Yuen Ren was conducting language training for the US Army and Buwei would prepare meals for the instructors using local ingredients. [3] The wives of other prominent academics encouraged her to publish a book which would share these recipes. With the help of her daughter Rulan she prepared over two hundred and thirty recipes. Some came from her travels with her husband as he collected dialect data from across China and often they stayed with their language informants. Though the recipes from those days were not written down, she often recreated them from memory of their taste.[4] When the recipes had been worked out, Yuen Ren wrote the text based on his wife's experience. He coined the terms "pot sticker" and "stir fry" for the book, terms which are now widely accepted. Jason Epstein of The New York Times, who met the couple as editor of a reprint of the book, observed that Mrs. Chao admitted that she could hardly speak, much less write English, so it must have been her husband who wrote in her name.[5]

In her second book, An Autobiography of a Chinese Woman: Put Into English By Her Husband Yuenren Chao, she detailed the eventful life she led prior to her meeting her husband, and afterward in their travels together. Both books were first published by The John Day Company, New York.

She also wrote a third book: How to Order and Eat in Chinese to Get the Best Meal in a Chinese Restaurant (1974).


  1. ^ Colleary, Eric (June 11, 2013). "Buwei Yang Chao and the Invention of 'Stir-Frying'". The American Table. 
  2. ^ Feng (2011).
  3. ^ Hayford (2012), p. 67-68.
  4. ^ "Author's Note," How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (New York: John Day, 1946).
  5. ^ Epstein, Jason (June 13, 2004). "Food: Chinese Characters". New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2013.