Photographer's Note


I shot this picture of a Hani woman baking dumblings in a remote market some 30km west of Yuanyang town.

In China, on New Year's Eve people have a custom to stay up until midnight, preparing a Chinese dumpling called Jiaozi. It is served as soon as it is cooked in the boiling water.

Jiaozi is perhaps the most familiar food in the lives of Chinese people. On New Years Eve, it is served after midnight with a garlic-soy sauce. Also, a coin is hidden in one of the dumplings. The person who finds it or bites the coin will be the luckiest one in the New Year. However this custom has only proved to be efficient in breaking the teeth of an old man. Nevertheless, it has been customary to eat dumplings for breakfast on New Year's Day.

It's hard to say when the custom began, but there are many tales that explain how it began. However, one tale tells that it was spread from a poor farmer's family. One year, a terrible famine took place and many people died of hunger. It was the New Year's Eve and farmer's family had nothing to cook not to mention out of firewood.

All the family members were too hungry to fall asleep at the New Year's Eve. Just when they thought, there came the sound of a drum telling the high point of a new year had come. At that moment both the daughter-in-laws hinted to each other to make a joke over their husbands' poor father; so the elder daughter-in-law said first to him, "Father, what shall we have for the first meal of the New Year?" The old man was quite ready to answer, "gold cornu." "And what shall we have to burn in order to boil the gold cornu?" the younger daughter-in-law asked. "Of course, gold bars." That was the answers of the humorous father. But he wouldn't stop the joke here. So he ordered the two daughter-in-laws: "Go and cook by the recipe I just ordered, would you?" This time both the daughter-in-laws were cornered badly. How could they cook such a meal! Finally they thought of an idea. "Well, I'll wipe off what is left in the flour jar and you have to get some frozen vegetables in the garden. So they managed to make some cornu-like food. "But what about firewood?" the other asked worriedly. "That is easy. Parts of the fence in the garden will do." So the first breakfast of the year was being made like that.

The god in charge of treasure happened to see the poor but interesting family, and he felt sorry for them. So he dropped some real gold corn into their jar and some real gold bars over the firewood secretly. As soon as the able women found the treasure, they cried out happily, which caused all the neighbors to come to see what was happening. When people heard the whole story, they all came to recognize it was the corn-like dumplings that brought the gold. So people began to do the same as the family for the first meal of a new year as early as they could intending to catch more opportunity for treasure from Heaven. That is perhaps the reason why Chinese people have Jiaozi on New Year's Day. (Source)


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