Across China: Colorful steamed buns, tasty art at fingertips-Xinhua

Across China: Colorful steamed buns, tasty art at fingertips

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-08 14:38:45

TAIYUAN, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- As the Chinese Lunar New Year draws closer, the bustling preparations for the festive season have kept 78-year-old Dong Qiaolan from Wenxi County, north China's Shanxi Province, busier than ever.

In her hometown, renowned for its diverse wheat-based dishes, the age-old tradition of crafting "hua mo" (flower-shaped steamed buns) took center stage.

"This year, the dragon element has seized the spotlight as we welcome the Year of the Dragon," said Dong, a national intangible cultural heritage inheritor of creating "hua mo", while engaged in the process.

"Crafting a dragon poses challenges, particularly in shaping the head," she said. Within 20 minutes, a vivid and colorful dragon-shaped artwork was created by Dong.

Wenxi, located at the northern end of the Yuncheng Basin, boasts a moderate climate and distinct seasons, creating ideal conditions for growing high-quality wheat, the primary ingredient for steamed buns.

"As the residents rely on buns for three meals a day, the art of crafting 'hua mo' has evolved into a distinctive local culture with a history of over 1,000 years," said Zhi Jiankang, the former curator of the county's cultural center and a provincial-level inheritor of intangible cultural heritage.

With its origins dating back to the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907), the thriving social norms and unprecedented growth in cultural arts set the stage for the prominence of Wenxi's colorful steamed buns, Zhi said.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), the steamed buns were served in the imperial palaces for sacrificial ceremonies and festive occasions, Zhi added.

Today, the ceremonial role of Wenxi buns has waned over time, with their artistic, aesthetic, and useful features gaining increased popularity. "Generation after generation of artists have infused profound cultural connotations, making it an art at our fingertips, and a culinary delight on our tongues," said Zhi.

For instance, during weddings, a pomegranate-shaped "hua mo" is gifted, symbolizing fertility and prosperity, said Dong. Additionally, on the Double Ninth Festival, or China's Seniors' Day, the elderly receive chrysanthemum-shaped steamed buns, conveying wishes of happiness and longevity.

Dong said her current focus is on mentorship to ensure the ongoing of "hua mo." Over the past year, Dong has mentored over 40 apprentices, mostly university students, and conducts classes at nearby elementary schools.

As Wenxi's cultural symbol, "hua mo" has ventured beyond Shanxi, reaching international audiences. In late February, the artworks created in Wenxi will once again embark on a foreign journey for overseas exhibitions.

"In the new year, I hope to mentor more apprentices, enabling more people to appreciate the charm of Wenxi 'hua mo' and ensure the continued prosperity of this intangible heritage," said Dong.