Suiyuan shidan

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The Suiyuan Shidan (隨園食單/随园食单) is a work on cooking and gastronomy written by the Qing dynasty poet and scholar Yuan Mei, known in English as either the Food Lists of the Garden of Contentment,[1] Menus from the Garden of Contentment,[2] or Recipes from Sui Garden.[3] It was published in 1792 (the 57th year of Qianlong Emperor) and contains instructions and critiques on Chinese cuisine as well as a large number of recipes of dishes from the period.


The work reflects Yuan's "orthodox" literati stance on Chinese cuisine, which derided the opulent displays and dishes in banquets of his time. Yuan also resented what he regarded as the corruption of Chinese food by Manchu cooks.[4] The work contains a preface, two chapters on gastronomy, and 12 chapters on recipes using various ingredients:

  1. Preface (序)
  2. Essential knowledge (須知單): 20 sections
  3. Things to avoid (戒單): 14 sections
  4. Seafood (海鮮單): 9 sections
  5. "River food" (江鮮單): 9 sections
  6. Sacrificial animal (pork) (特牲單): 43 sections
  7. Various animals (雜牲單): 16 sections
  8. Poultry (羽族單): 56 sections
  9. Scaled Fish (水族有鱗單): 17 sections
  10. Scaleless Fish (水族無鱗單): 28 sections
  11. Various vegetarian dishes (雜素菜單): 47 sections
  12. Small dishes (小菜單): 41 sections
  13. Appetizers and Dim Sum (點心單): 55 sections
  14. Rice and Congee (飯粥單): 2 sections
  15. Tea and wine (茶酒單): 16 sections

Foods and theory[edit]

A wide variety of foods and recipes are presented in the Suiyuan Shidan that show the gustatory preferences of Yuan Mei and people during the mid-18th century. For instance, a particular recipe to imitate roe-filled mitten crabs, shows that the demand and intense fondness for crab and crab-roe in Chinese cuisine goes back several centuries,[5] and that people have also actively attempted to find a substitute for it when it is unavailable:

Annotated Manuscript[edit]

More than half a century after the publication of the Suiyuan Shidan, Xia Chuanzheng (夏傳曾, 1843-1883) annotated and expanded the contents of the original work and published it as the Suiyuan Shidan Buzheng (隨園食單補證, lit. "Extended and rectified Suiyuan Shidan"). The modified work contains two additional chapters on:

  • Sweeteners and colourants (糖色單)
  • Condiments (作料單)

The original text was also thoroughly annotated with reference to Chinese historical and philosophical works, and listed therapeutic effects of the food based on Traditional Chinese medicine. Correction to errors in the Suiyuan Shidan were also provided by Xia along with sometimes humorous anecdotes to the foods.[7]


  1. ^ Dunlop, Fuchsia (2008), Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 9780393332889
  2. ^ Gunde, Richard (2002), Culture and Customs of China, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 9780313308765
  3. ^ Waley-Cohen, Joanna (Winter 2007), "Celebrated Cooks of China's Past", Flavor and Fortune, Greenwood Publishing Group, Institute For The Advancement Of Science & Art Of Chinese Cuisine, 14 (4), archived from the original on 2015-04-02
  4. ^ Lin, Hsiang-Ju; Lin, Tsuifeng (1969), Chinese Gastronomy, New York: Hastings House, pp. 44–45, 47.
  5. ^ Dunlop, Fuchsia (15 December 2012). "The Chinese delicacy of hairy crabs". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  6. ^ "River Delicacies 6: Imitation Crab (假蟹)". Translating the Suiyuan Shidan. 2014.
  7. ^ 夏, 傳曾. 隨園食單補證. Archived from the original on 2005-05-07.

Further reading[edit]

  • Liang, Yan (2015). "A Recipe Book for Culture Consumers: Yuan Mei and Suiyuan Shidan". Frontiers of History in China. 10 (4): 547–570. doi:10.3868/s020-004-015-0030-7.

External links[edit]