Sean J.S. Chen is a scholar and translator of Chinese food culture and gastronomy and this website is where he expresses and posts various matters on the subject. He is an Associate at the University of Michigan Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and his books have won acclaim both internationally and in Canada..
Sean and his works have appeared on various media including: China Daily, CNN travel, Grist, National Geographic, NPR, OMNI Television, PBS, and SCMP among others. He was also a consultant and co-presenter for the award-winning PBS television series: Confucius was a Foodie.
In real life, Sean holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. He works in developing of medical image processing and recognition techniques, as well as various medical devices and informatics technologies
My blog Way of the Eating provides publicly available translations of the Suiyuan Shidan as well as other Chinese language works.
The complete translation of the Suiyuan Shidan, heavily edited with new annotations and retranscribed from the original 1729 Chinese texts (generously provided by the Harvard-Yenching and Princeton Libraries), was published and launch in October 2018 under the title: Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy. Since then, it has garnered accolades including Gourmand International‘s Best in the World in 2019 under the category of translations and National Post‘s Best Cookbooks of 2018.
In February 2019, the English trade edition of the translation was published: Way of the Eating: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy. In 2020, it won Best in the World from Gourmand International under the Special Awards Category.
How this all started
Way back, I heard about the Suiyuan Shidan, and how it was one of the most influential and important treatise on Chinese cuisine. Being one of those less capable Classical Chinese readers (or indeed even normal Chinese for that matter), I automatically looked for the English translation of the work and found…next to nothing. Sure, Fushia Dunlop in her great memoir, Sharks fin and Sichuan pepper had a translated blurb on congee, and a writer by the name of Nicholas Richards offered translations of several recipes in English, but other then these few sources that was pretty much it. From Google’s results in 2013, it appeared that THE treatise on Chinese cuisine had no complete English translation.
So one night I sat down to slog through the Classical Chinese text available at wikisource, taking notes, looking up phrases and words along to way, and noting everything down in a MS word document. Then a thought hit me; instead of keeping it on my own computer to gather dust, why don’t I post it all on-line in the spirit of sharing? This way those who want it can have access to an English translation of the Suiyuan Shidan. With everything online, I can also look it up whenever I want. Plus, it’ll be a good motivation to keep me moving forth on this little project instead of eventually letting “real life” take over and forgetting about it altogether.
And that’s that. Stick around!
All work in this site is under the Creative Commons License:
Way of the Eating by Sean J.S. Chen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.