The World of Chinese
TICKET TO TOMORROW AND OTHER STORIES
An Wei, Chi Hui, Fei Dao, Han Zhiliao, Kang Fu, Li Angao, Ma Er, Qitongren, Tagexing, Wang Shuo, Zhao Ankang, Zhu Yue
It’s a not-so-distant era, when people pay top dollar to freeze themselves and hope to wake up in a more prosperous and ecological decade. Two friends take different paths to the future— but only one will make peace with the present. In other stories, the human race rebels against alien overlords who ban flying on Earth; a lost traveler is trapped in a deserted monastery haunted by swallows; and two men fight to survive a literary epidemic…this speculative fiction anthology includes work by twelve established and up-and-coming young Chinese writers, translated into English for the first time—a ride into a wild fantasy world.
Receiving friends with my cheap wine/ With turnip soup in hand, its taste rivals the venison (茅柴酒与人情好，萝卜羹和野味长),” the literatus Chen Zhu (陈著) thus praised, of all things, the pungent turnip in the 13th century.
Cheap but nutrient-rich, the turnip was an all-purpose vegetable enjoyed by commoners and nobles alike. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought to balance the qi in the stomach and aid digestion.
Even the commonest root vegetable, though, can be made to look and taste good with help from a skilled chef: mudan yancai (牡丹燕菜), or “peony and swallow dish,” is a nourishing soup made of steamed turnip arranged around a blooming peony flower made of egg or tofu skin. As the opening dish to the Luoyang Water Banquet, a famous spread of 24 mainly soup-based dishes from one of the ancient capitals of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907), mudan yancai is considered a perfect fusion of color, aroma, and taste.
Mudan yancai was originally known as yicai (义菜), the “righteous dish,” as the female emperor Wu Zetian, before she came into power, allegedly lived on turnips during a brief demotion at court and almost starved to death. After she ascended the throne, a Luoyang farmer gifted the emperor with a large turnip weighing some 60 taels. Royal chefs creatively matched it with delicacies like swallow’s nest and pine mushrooms, and the dish caught on across restaurants in the capital as both common folks and nobles vied to follow the royal trend.
It’s not clear how the dish came to be connected with the peony, but its flower-like appearance is certainly its best selling point. The peony is also the official flower of Luoyang. As the Tang poet Liu Yuxi (刘禹锡) once commented, “Of all flowers, in my mind, only the peony can represent the beauty of the nation. The whole capital is amazed when it blossoms.” The dish is seasoned to taste both sour and spicy, and the turnip feels refreshing and smooth on the tongue.
In October 1974, when Premier Zhou Enlai received Canadian mudan yancai,