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Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 7:45:29 AM
Philosofood: A Confucius cuisine chef with a shrimp dish at a restaurant in Jinan, Shandong Province. — AFP
QUFU (China): Revered for centuries but reviled in recent decades, Confucius is making a comeback in China – and on its dinner plates.
“Confucius cuisine” is a fine-dining trend that reflects how the ruling Communist party – which long saw the sage as a reactionary force – has drafted him into its modern campaign to boost what President Xi Jinping has called China’s “cultural soft power”.
One of the few ancient Chinese names to have global recognition, the philosopher highlights bonds with overseas Chinese and other Asian nations, and his moniker has been adopted for more than 300 language-teaching “Confucius Institutes” in 90 countries.
The authorities are “going back and finding certain elements that existed before the 20th century” and “exploiting Confucius as a brand”, says Thomas Wilson, a professor at Hamilton College in New York.
Among restaurants in Qufu in the eastern province of Shandong – where the philosopher known in Chinese as Kong Zi lived from 551 BC to 479 BC – the cuisine is an edible symbol of the way the writer has been reworked.
“Book of Odes and Book of Rites Ginkos”, a dense, mildly sweet dessert named after two Confucius classics, is a yellow pea flour “book” topped with nuts and drizzled with honey.
In another dish, radishes carved into exquisite trees reflect his saying that “food can never be too fine and cooking never too delicate”.
The philosopher’s teachings of hierarchy, order and deference had deep resonance in the feudal societies of China and the region.
Tens of generations of his descendants lived at the sprawling Confucius Residence complex in Qufu, enjoying close ties with a succession of emperors, along with ever bigger land grants and hereditary titles.
They regularly feted all manner of dignitaries with elaborate banquets, over time developing an exquisite cuisine, say the chefs promoting it today. — AFP
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