Sean Chen is a research scientist working in medical image processing and recognition technologies. One of his major side interest is Chinese food culture and gastronomy and this website is where he expresses and posts various matters on the subject. He grew up North America knowing Chinese cuisine as only the home-style fare along what existed in Chinese American restaurants, but learned about the cuisines of the China and the diaspora in his university years. This quickly developed into an obsession with Chinese cuisine and food history, from which his has never truly recovered.
Much of the site is devoted to providing an publicly available and Open Access translation of the Suiyuan Shidan (隨園食單). When time allows, he tries to post other things pertaining to Chinese gastronomic culture and history.
The complete translation of the Suiyuan Shidan, heavily edited with new annotations and retranscribed from the original 1729 Chinese text, was published an launch in October 2018 under the title: Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy.
In February 2019, the English trade edition of the translation was published: Way of the Eating: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy.
How this all started
A while 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 (粥), chaxiubao has a section in the preface of his blog, and a writer by the name of Nicholas Richards offers translations of several recipes in English, but other then these few sources that was pretty much it. From Google’s results, it appears that THE treatise on Chinese cuisine has 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.
So in short, the initial purpose of the blog is to provide a publicly available translation of the Suiyuan Shidan, to give some possibly relevant notes on the side on translation, and my own random thoughts on various stuff associated with the text. With the completion and publication of the two books, I will nevertheless keep posting the rest of my Suiyuan Shidan translations until it’s all done (early 2020?). After that, I will likely be posting things relating to future projects here.
Where this blog will eventually go, no one knows.
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.