A while back I heard about the Suiyuan Shidan (隨園食單), 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 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.

A side note: The Chinese title of Suiyuan Shidan has also been translated as everything from “Recipes from Sui Garden“, “Food list of the Garden of Contentment“, “Cookery list of Suiyuan“, and “Suiyuan Cookbook“. I would translated it as either “Cuisine from the Garden of Leisure” or “The Sui Garden Manual of Cuisine“. Regardless, I think the Pinyin spelling is probably the least ambiguous way of referring to this work and thus I will simply call it “Suiyuan Shidan”. Perhaps the topic of translating the name deserves it own post.

Otherwise that’s about it. I do computer assisted medical technology work/research in real life and all this is purely hobby. It probably shows. If you have any thoughts on the translation, or want to point out grammatical errors or otherwise, do comment. Constructive feedback is always appreciated.

All work in this site is under the Creative Commons License:
Creative Commons License
Translating the Suiyuan Shidan by Sean J.S. Chen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I’m thinking about removing the NC part of this but as of now I’m comfortably sitting on the fence.

24 thoughts on “About”

  1. This is so incredibly cool! Thank you for your public service of posting this as you go, I love your footnotes explaining your thought process as you translate.

    I write for my hobby, and I’m working on a story where a baku (mythical animal that eats nightmares in Chinese folklore) attends a cooking school and your work is so very inspiring.

    If I ever publish it, can I give you credit for your translation? (alexjhano@gmail.com)

    1. Thanks! It’s a pleasure and fun when I have to time to keep on top of it.

      If you want to credit me, just cite the source back to the blog and the entry. 🙂


  2. Dear Ms Chen, I have read with pleasure your translation. I have a rough translation of the text and find what you have published in your blog superior to my own. (I have published an article on other aspects of Yuan Mei’s life.) But a few notes you may find useful. There are annotated editions of Yuan Mei’s text in the Shanghai library that I have used. You can find references to them online in the Shanghai library catalogue. If you need other references I am happy to help. I also know of a publisher that may have an interest in your work.

    1. Wow! This means a lot coming from someone of your experience and background! I will take a look at the resources provided by the Shanghai Library. So far I have mainly relied on the books of Arthur Waley and J.D. Schmid for background information on the life of Yuan Mei. Can you recommend any particularly good annotated texts on the Suiyuan Shidan?

      Publishing the work from this project could be rather fun and satisfying, though I am only a quarter of the way through the translation and it is unlikely that it will be complete anytime soon. That and the work here needs much editing help. However, do send the publisher a link to this blog if you think they may be interested. Thank you for your help and the feedback!

      1. Berkshire Publishing already have the link to your blog. In fact they provided it to me. The Waley and Schmidt books are first-rate. I can send you my article on Yuan Mei at some point. My copies of the annotated texts are at my place in China. I will be there in about two weeks and send you the references then. I look forward to your next installments.

      2. Thank you in advance for references to the annotated text and please do send me your article(s) on Yuan Mei. Our university libraries have some of your work, though since my wife and I stopped being students, I have had little to no access of online and offline scholarly articles. It would be nice to be able to read the Suiyuan Shidan with a bit more context to the Yuan Mei’s life.

        Berkshire seems to be a rather interesting in the types of topics that they publish and their proposed five volume Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines is particularly ambitious. It’s exciting that they have assemble such an impressive group of individuals on their advisory boards. Hopefully the resulting work can rival Huang’s Volume in Food Science in Needham’s Science and Civilization series. It could be a fun read!

        In any case, stay tuned. More translations are coming down the line.

  3. I neglected to mention that, in addition to my article on Yuan Mei that I spoke of previously, I also wrote the entry on Yuan Mei’s life in the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography. I can send you a pdf of that.

  4. Hi there! I, also, am writing a novel, based in 18th C China due to my interest in Pu Sungling’s work among other things, and found Yuan Mei during my research and thus your translations! They make great reading and perfect information for my work, may I likewise reference your blog? I intend electronic publishing in the first instance so electronic hyper links are a synch!

    1. By all means! Just attribute and reference back to anything you quote and use here. And post a link here when you publish your work, I’m always up for other fun reads!

      1. dear sir, I am about to start a “paper” with regard to Yuan Mei and/or the Suiyuan Shidan. Any article or entry that you might have will be a great help to me.

      2. Start by checking out the linked articles on wikipedia for both Yuan Mei and the Suiyuan Shidan. If you have access to a university library, you can probably find many more resources including some of Dr. Riegel’s articles!

  5. Hi There! Your project sounds fascinating! I’m working on a Chinese food documentary and would love to pick your brain. Do you have an email I can contact you with? Thanks!

  6. Hi! I just discovered your work via posting on a full translation of the Suiyuan Shidian done by a student here. I wonder if we could join forces? Yours reads better but hers (Beilei Peng is her name) is pretty accurate. I wonder if we could cooperate and get a finished thing out and publish it. You can find ours on my website, http://www.krazykioti.com. Best wishes, E. N. (Gene) Anderson

    1. Are you THE E.N. Anderson of The Food of China’s fame? If so, this is totally wicked awesome. FoC, along with Needham’s Vol.6, were what inspired me start looking at historical Chinese cuisine and techniques, which eventually led me down the road to do this translation.

      I’m totally up for teaming up and completing the translation and annotation with you guys, though we have to figure out how we combine our work and flesh thing out into something publishable. Also on my mind in regards to the translation is “accessibility”. It would be nice to continues writing and annotating this in a tone such that the material is accessible to those outside of academia. I also believe that the content of the translation should be freely available online such that those interested in the work can find it and access it. That said, I don’t mind a freemium model offering pretty books 🙂

      I hope you guys are cool with that, any case, let’s talk more!

  7. Hi,
    you write:
    As indicated on Wikipedia the Suiyuan Shidan is composed of a preface, two chapters on gastronomy, followed by ten chapters of recipes

    why is it only 13 chapters (1+2+10) when on Wikipedia (and your listing) there are 15 ?

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