Viewing Gastronomy from the Garden of Contentment

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Chinese gastronomy, as delineated in the seminal Qing dynasty cookery manual Suiyuan shi dan (隨園食單, or Recipes from the Garden of Contentment), is carried on the shoulders of three entities: the cook, the critic, and the ecosystem in which they exist. Using the culinary guidelines laid out by the manual, we examine the roles and dynamics between these three entities and offer a framework for broadly understanding Chinese cuisine, its dishes, and how they change. We then apply this framework to Chinese Canadian cuisine as a case-study to demonstrate how it can be used to understand the historical development of the modern cuisine from its Southern Chinese working-class roots. 

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Dr. Sean Jy-Shyang Chen is the award-winning translator of the Recipes from the Garden of Contentment (Suiyuan shi dan, 隨園食單), thoroughly annotating the text with details on ingredients and culinary techniques crucial for understanding the 18th-century work. He has a lifelong interest in food-ways and Chinese history and is currently working on a translation and annotation of a Song Dynasty culinary work. His other interests include using computational techniques to analyze recipes and cuisines to better understand their common roots. He holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from McGill University, Canada, and is a senior research engineer for computer vision and machine learning in medicine.


Professor Graham Sanders is Professor of Classical Chinese literature at the University of Toronto. His work focuses on narrative depictions of the composition, performance and reception of poetry in pre-modern China. His publications include a chapter in Idle Talk: Gossip and Anecdote in Traditional China (2013), an annotated translation of Shen Fu’s Six Records of a Life Adrift (2011), and a book on poetic performance, Words Well Put: Visions of Poetic Competence in the Chinese Tradition (2006). His annotated, bilingual translation of the two most important collections of Tang poetry anecdotes is forthcoming as a volume in De Gruyter’s Library of Chinese Humanities.


Professor Linda Rui Feng is a cultural historian of premodern China, and her research is focused on the interconnections among cultural technologies, forms of knowledge, and the various senses. Over the past few years, she has taught two courses related to food: “Cultural History of Food in East Asia” (EAS219) and currently, a First-Year course “Consumption, Taste and Culture in East Asia” (EAS196).

Event date: 
Friday, February 28, 2020
1 - 3 pm
Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library