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TOPICS INCLUDE: Persimmon, Death, Songs, Spring Festival, Jewish Population
Letters to the Editor
Fall Volume: 2018 Issue: 25(3) pages: 5 to 7
The article about unusual fruits was great! We need
help with one of them, the persimmon. Neighbors
made great persimmon noodles and other items, but
they moved and left no forwarding address. Can you
find such recipes?
Louisa: Here is the requested recipe and another that
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 persimmons, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
½ pound fresh shrimp. Shells and veins discarded, cut in half the long way, then each in four
½ cup snow peas, strings and ends discarded, each cut in six pieces
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup fried shallots, sliced
½ pound wheat noodles, cooked and drained
3 sprigs fresh coriander coarsely chopped
1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, then stir-fry the
persimmons and carrots for one minute.
2. Add the shrimp and snow peas, and stir-fry one minute
more, then add lemon juice and stir well.
3. Next add the shallots and the cooked drained noodles
and stir, then half the coriander pieces.
4. Put into a pre-heated bowl, add the rest of coriander
on top, and serve.
3 persimmons, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 small chili pepper, seeds discarded, then minced
3 slices fresh ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon almond slices
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
20 spring roll wrappers
1 cup vegetable oil
1. Put persimmon pieces in a medium-size pot, add the
honey, lemon juice, chili pepper pieces, and the ginger
and stir well.
2. Mix in cornstarch with one tablespoon cold water,
heat and stir this until it thickens, about one minute,
then remove to an empty bowl and allow to cool.
3. Put three tablespoons of the cooled mixture on one
wrapper, fold in the edges, then roll and seal with a few
drops of water. Place the wrapped item seam side down
on a clean plate.
4. In a clean wok or fry pan, add the oil and deep fry
these packets until they are golden on all sides, then
drain on paper towels, cut them in half on an angle, and
stand them on the folded end, and serve.
Lu Ying’s article in Volume 23(3) was a good
introduction for me about the Book of Songs. Can
you add more about that important volume?
Nelson: Our knowledge is not a good as hers, nor do
we read Chinese. Suffice it to say that this is a collection
of three hundred five ancient items, songs or what some
say are poems or lyrics from the early Zhou Dynasty
times (1100 - 771 BCE) to those in the middle of the Spring
and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BCE).To our knowledge
and hers, it it is the world’s earliest anthology. They are
in three sets of metaphors and similes, fu or tales, and
xing which she translates as feng, ya, and song. They
are associations with images of different social classes,
as can be gleaned from her translation in that issue. We
once read elsewhere they were to give voice to or about
ordinary folk. Also read that Confucius (551 - 49 BCE)
perhaps with a group of court musicians and/or other
court folk did compile them probably over many years to
inspire, reflect, communicate, even to admonish people
to do good and their rulers do no harm. The first or feng
means elegance; it includes one hundred and five items.
The second or ya, has forty of them; all are sacrificial
odes. The third or song has one hundred sixty more, all
are folk odes from different states along the Yellow River.
From Ming in Chicago:
What do the Chinese know and practice about death?
Ming: Never did read much about that topic other
than someone did check the character or word count for
the word death in the Confucius’ Analects; it is thirty-eight.
For the Chinese, life after death is similar to life
on earth so they give the deceased things they liked in
life, many of them paper and they do burn these, the
smoke going upwards to their souls. At funerals, family
and some close relatives wear white, never red clothing.
They do like elaborate funerals, if affordable, and they do
use wooden coffins preferring wood from Luzhou. Once a
year, during the Qing Ming Festival, they go to family grave
sites, sweep and clean-up around them, and there do like
to feast with the deceased. They bring cold foods the
deceased did love, and share it with them; or they leave
it there for their souls. They believe the dead rule the
living in thought. Many, elders particularly, fear calamity
should they not honor the deceased appropriately. They
used to wail and march through the streets following
their coffin to their burial place.
Many elders do continue to mourn for three years. Before
burial, considering feng shui, some coffins remain in
their homes until an appropriately selected day and time
for burial. This can be up to three years.
Most burial places are under earth mounds, tombstones
or markers. The very rich might have stone guards
nearby to watch over the deceased, as are the Terra Cotta
warriors for Emperor Qin. Many actual burial places are
often unmarked. In their homes after many are cremated
or left outdoors for vultures, their souls go, they say, to
live in another world. When visiting their grave site, they
bring paper money called ‘Notes of Hell’ to burn and other
paper replicas to burn for their souls believing these are
things they want or need in their after life. At their burial
place, most chant prayers, kow tow to the souls, and later
in their homes, will have a ‘spirit tablet’ made of wood
or have one in their ancestral hall engraved with their
name, date of birth and death. Feasting at their grave site
is the happiest part of ancestor worship, the cold foods
they bring often include a roast pig, chickens, and ducks
eaten by the worshipers after their ‘spiritual content’
was recognized. This respect is not just at the Qing Ming
Festival in early April, but for the very religious, can be at
Ghost Festival on the 15th day of the 7th Lunar Month, and
Sending Winter Clothes Day which is the first day of the
tenth Lunar Month.
What special foods are eaten at Spring Festival and
what do they represent?
To All Who Asked: Fish represent fortune
or surplus. Having a whole fish means no one is cutting
into your luck. This surplus means they will get more
money, of course. To the Chinese, good luck almost
always means money while long noodles means long
life. Sweet rice balls represent family and harmony;
and sweet rice cakes are hopes for promotion. There
are regional and minority differences; but these foods
are most popular among most Chinese for this and for
From Lee in Hong Kong:
Liked your article about things Jewish.
Lee: According to the Cambridge Encyclopedia of
China, the earliest evidence of Judaism in China is
during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE). In 878 CE, in
Canton, Jews were slaughtered. They and Muslims were
forbidden to circumcise, slaughter ritually, or marry a
paternal cousin. Marco Polo and others mention Jews
in Hangzhou, Beijing, and Guangzhou. In Kaifeng, they/
left records of their presence including a synagogue
thought built in 1163 CE by immigrants from Iran. That
community flourished until the 18th century. Some
did survive until the 20th century but most already
moved to Hong Kong. These earlier Jews became
officials, doctors, and army officers. That synagogue
was destroyed by a flood in 1642, as was another in the
The Chinese then and since did call the Jews tiaojinjiao;
which translates to: ‘the religion that extracts the sinew.’
In 1850, the second synagogue was still standing but
dilapidated. By 1866, it no longer existed. There are
rubbings of Jews in China located in the Vatican, and in
the Bibliotheque Nationale; and they are mentioned in
Jesuit letters by Ricci. These do attest to their presence
in China, as does a Chinese-Hebrew Memorial Book of
the Dead obtained by Protestant missionaries in 1850.
Then later, they gave it to Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union
College. From the 1840s onward there are records
of Jews from Baghdad and elsewhere, most settled in
Shanghai, some in Hong Kong. They were probably
traders as were a few in Harbin and Tianjin.
In the 1930s, the Japanese had a Fugu Plan to encourage
German Jews to develop Manchuria. Most did not
want to go there. By 1959, some few hundred Jews had
already settled in Hong Kong, a few others elsewhere in
China. Recently, we met a female Cantor who said there
were several hundred Jews in Hong Kong now. She did
show pictures officiating at the first Bar Mitzvah there;
the son of a friend of hers. She gave an exceptionally
well-attended talk about that and other things Jewish in
China and in Russia. It was at the Jewish Y’s Community
Center in Commack NY.