Tag Archives: PA DeVoe

The Imperial Coroner

MOVIES: HISTORICAL CHINESE MYSTERIES

Chu Chu and An Jun Wang

If you’re looking for a mystery that’s challenging and doesn’t cheat by jumping to a conclusion that’s not supported by clues in the story, this is the series for you. The cases are complex from both the point of view of the underlying conspiracy and the clues left behind—notably also including the dead body.

#御赐小仵作 #TheImperialCoroner #TencentVideo

ENG SUB [The Imperial Coroner] EP01——Starring: Su Xiao Tong, Wang Zi Qi, Yang Ting Dong, Zhao Yao Ke, and Wang Yan Bin

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrFYLbM5HDU&list=PLuidrAcAGAOO3BJx21z2D0Wg1mCxi_Up-

Premiered: 2021

Captions in English & Chinese

Set in the imperial capital of Chang’an during the Tang Dynasty

Chu Chu (Su Xiao Tong) is an aspiring coroner with keen observational and technical skills. Having grown up in a family of coroners, she has experienced the prejudice that comes from being from a coroner family but, nevertheless, is driven to be the best at applying her skills in order to bring justice to those who have died. Her medical findings are ingenious and logical. The audience is brought along through a combination of visual displays of Chu Chu’s medical observations and re-enactments of the crime by Chu Chu and the male protagonist An Jun Wang (Wang Zi Qi), the head of the office that oversees the Ministry of Justice, the Court of Judicial Review and the Office of the Imperial Censors.

These two work together in close consort with their three friends, each with their own highly developed skills, to solve the intricate cases, regardless of who is behind the crime.

The Imperial Coroner

The characters are well drawn and complex in their own right. None appears to be a cookie-cutter portrayal of an arch-type. Plus, they change and develop as individuals and as a cadre of friends through their experiences in searching for truth and impartial justice.  

The Imperial Coroner is a top of the line historical mystery with a beguiling and endearing cast of characters.

Vegetarian Baozis

FOOD: Making your own Chinese vegetarian, oil-free dishes

Baozis (steamed buns or dumplings) have been a popular food in China for hundreds of years. In the Mei-hua trilogy, it is Guei-lung’s favorite snack. In the trilogy, as is probably true today, the most popular baozis are meat filled. Usually stuffed with pork. However, it can also be vegetarian, as many who practice Buddhism or who have given up meat for various reasons would prefer.

Either way, baozis are not too difficult to make. The most difficult part probably is making the bun look elegant by closing the bun up with a series of pleats! You can see these pleats in the picture on the dumpling flour package below.

Here’s a recipe for a batch of vegetarian dumplings for you to try.

Dough:

I used a package of dumpling flour that I found at a local Asian market. I followed the directions for making the dough printed on the back of the package–except for omitting the oil recommended. This made 8 large buns.

If you don’t want to make your own dough, you can also buy a loaf of unbaked bread dough from your local grocery store. I’ve done this in the past, and it works just fine. Plus, it allows you to enjoy your own baozis if you’re short on time. There will be some differences in the final product, but not much.

Vegetarian filling:

660 grams finely chopped green veggies. I used bok choy

 60 grams finely chopped mushrooms.

I used rehydrated xianggu mushrooms. After rehydrating them, squeeze out all excess water or they will be too moist and make your buns sloppy.

   3 slices of ginger

   ½ tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp sugar

   1 Tbl soya sauce

   1 Tbl corn starch  

Prepare the filling:

Mix the salt, sugar, corn starch and soya sauce together in a small bowl.

Stir-fry the mushrooms and ginger for a few minutes in a non-stick pan, adding a Tablespoon of water as needed to keep the mushrooms from sticking.

Add the salt, sugar, corn starch and soya sauce mixture to the pan and blend.

Add the finely chopped green veggies and cook for several minutes. Until the greens wilt and are well mixed with the mushrooms.

Remove the 3 slices of ginger.

Put aside to cool.

Prepare the dough:

Roll your dough into a log shape and cut into 8 equal pieces. This will give you a large sized baozi. Shape each into a ball.

Flatten the balls into a disk shape 5-6 inches in diameter. The edges, which will be pulled up and together around the filling, should be thinner than the middle or the filling might break through the bottom.

Form the baozi:

Spoon a generous teaspoon of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the dough up over the filling and pinch together in pleat-like fashion completely enclosing the filling. Let the buns rest for 30 minutes.

To cook: Place the filled buns in a steamer (either seam side down or up). The buns may double in size, so leave a space between each one. Steam for 15 minutes. Remove the steamer from the heat and let it sit another 5 minutes before removing the lid.

To reheat leftover buns, microwave for 30 seconds or re-steam.

If you give this a try, let me know how it turned out for you.

Enjoy!

The Eight Immortals

RELIGION & THE SUPERNATURAL: Chinese supernatural beings

Immortals are beings who once lived as humans on earth, but now inhabit the upper stratum (sometimes called Heaven or celestial level). They have supernatural powers, can assume human shape, and are able to do anything people do—including eating and drinking.

From: Werner, E.T.C. (1922) Myths & Legends of China (Project Gutenberg)

The Eight Immortals were well-known figures by the Ming Dynasty, and remain important Taoist figures today. Even the number eight itself holds great symbolic significance. Specifically, it represents the stages and conditions of human life: age (young and old), status (low and high), fortune (poor and wealthy), and gender (male and female). The Immortals, therefore, include among their number men and women, young and old, rich and poor, simple and educated.

The Eight Immortals are:

Li Tie-guai, identified by his iron crutch and calabash (bottle gourd)

Lan Cai-he, the youngest of the eight immortals, perhaps mid-teens

He Xian-gu, the only female

Cao Guo-jiu, a mythological figure often seen with a paiban (clapper)

Lu Dong-bin, a real historical scholar and poet from the Tang Dynasty

Han Xiang-zi, identified by a dizi (Chinese flute)

Zhang Guo-lao, a real historical figure associated with old age

Zhong-li Quan, AKA Han Zong-li, often seen carrying a large fan

As with humans, these supernatural beings have frailties as well as strengths, and can both enjoy and abuse worldly delights. In Warned, the second story in the Mei-hua trilogy, the immortal Iron Crutch Li (Li Tie-guai) reveals his knowing, benevolent nature by descending to earth in order to warn Mei-hua. And yet he also enjoys his liquor a little too much—which is why he appears carrying a gourd filled with wine. Similarly, Lan Cai-he, who also comes to warn Mei-hua in Warned, holds castanets because he loves to sing and dance. In the story, Iron Crutch Li and Lan Cai-he come to help Mei-hua by alerting her to danger. At the same time, they do not solve her problems for her. That’s not their job.

While immortals and other spirits were believed to be able to  play powerful roles in the natural world of Ming China, they did not control human behavior or determine a person’s destiny. Instead, supernatural beings such as the Eight Immortals operated as additional, influential actors who needed to be watched for, guarded against, or listened to.

Can you identify each of the eight immortals in the picture above?

Did You Know

Did you know that for hundreds of years during the Imperial Period China’s magistrates embodied the entire judicial system in the area they served? That they were the crime investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury?

Magistrates were appointed to their office and generally served for only three years before being moved on to another location. This short-term service was designed to avoid corruption. The idea was that in three years, the magistrates would not be able to become too closely aligned with the elite of the area. The emperor wanted his representatives to remain distinct and isolated from the people they served. This was because the magistrates had immense authority and power. A close relationship with local influential families could pressure the court to act more as a personal judicial arm for them and their interests versus the emperor and his government.

 

Another critical element in keeping the short-term magistrates from becoming closely aligned with the local elite was that sometimes magistrates would serve an area where they didn’t know one or more of the local languages. Chinese writing is not phonetic and, therefore, could be read by anyone, whether they spoke the dominate Chinese language or not.

 

What we think of as spoken Chinese, however, is not really one language. One language means those who speak it must be able to understand each other—their words are mutually intelligible. Spoken Chinese can differ significantly from region to region. The language spoken in one area may be not understood by their neighboring area. Think of the difference between Spanish and Italian. Both are Romance languages but they are quite distinct from each other. They are mutually unintelligible.

 

This was the situation Chinese magistrates faced. They had a three-year appointment with heavy responsibilities and were often placed in an district where they could not understand the local language(s).

 

Such a situation meant that, in spite of the emperor’s desire to keep the court separate from the local power sources, the day-to-day running of the judicial system depended on local people to fill the positions needed: the jailer, runners, police, scribes, etc. Magistrates sat as an outsider on a pyramid of staff that they had not chosen, did not know, and could not necessarily trust.

 

That is why magistrates often brought their own court reporters. The court reporter played a key role in making sure the documents were accurate and not manipulated in one way or another. The magistrates also often brought a couple of his own personal guards. Men he chose himself, who depended solely on him, and who, therefore, he could trust.

 

I invite you to come and explore the tensions and challenges faced by a magistrate, Judge Lu, as he brings justice to those under his protection—in spite of countervailing forces which could destroy him at any moment. You’ll find a collection of these stories in Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China. Available as e-book, paperback, or hardback.

Cover Reveal for Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China

My collection of Ming Dynasty Judge Lu short stories is coming together and will be out April 4th. This is the cover for the book Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China—I hope you like it.

Judge Lu’s Case Files a collection of short stories

In traditional China, owls were considered a bad omen. The bird represented mystery and secrets–but also death. Owls appear on burial ceramics as far back as the Han Dynasty. They were thought to be capable of stealing a person’s soul and their arrival near a particular home forecasted an illness or death in the family. Such a harbinger of evil made the owl seem like the perfect symbol for Judge Lu, a magistrate in the early Ming Dynasty, in his quest for justice and his battle against crime.

I just found out that this collection, Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China,  is up for pre-order NOW. If you would like a copy of 12 short stories about the intrepid Judge Lu GET IT NOW AT Amazon and you’ll get a book the day it launches!

Sad Beginning for Year of the Rat

Today is the second day of the two week long Chinese New Year’s holiday. Normally, this is a time of joy, bringing family and friends together.

I’ve read that at this time–because people want to celebrate in their ancestral homes–the movement of people returning to be with their families causes the largest migration in the world. That is, several hundred million travelers are on the move. All within a couple of weeks. Amazing.

Unfortunately, this year, due to an outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus, this tradition was curtailed. The Chinese government has quarantined large areas of the country, particularly in the Wuhan region. All public transport, including airports and train stations, have been closed–essentially freezing people in place. This directly impacts tens of millions of people. Most may simply be unable to travel outside of the city where they are working in order to share the holiday with their loved ones. Others may be trapped mid-route. Many cities have cancelled their New Year celebrations.

This is a sad time for the Chinese nation. We can only hope that these drastic measures to contain the virus work, and that next year the people are able to celebrate the New Year fully.

Chinese New Year Paper Cuttings

January 25th 2020 is Chinese New Year day. A typical, happy greeting is:    Gong Xi Fa Cai!       恭喜發財            Wishing you happiness and prosperity!

In decorating their houses at this time, people like to paste Paper Cuttings on their windows and doors. This enduring and cheerful tradition goes back at least 1500 years. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is one of the main times of the year when fresh paper cuttings will decorate houses.

Red paper is preferred and is the most commonly used because red symbolizes happiness but, really, any color can be used.

Since 2020 is the year of the rat, many paper cuttings will have its image either cut out in the center or drawn on the paper. If the latter, a border will be cut out around the square, forming an elaborate frame.

A couple of other very popular images on these red squares are:

  • the character chun for spring—which is a positive word because spring suggests a new beginning and growth—and
  • the character fu for good fortune, happiness, and luck.

If chun or fu are written on the paper, they will often be pasted upside down on the window or door. Being upside down symbolizes the dumping out of the character’s goodness and blessing the house with prosperity and luck.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! 

 

 

Image is a free stock photo from rgbstock.com

CHINESE NEW YEAR 2017, WHAT DO PEOPLE DO BESIDES EAT?

First, before I go into this New Year’s blog. I am so excited because yesterday I found out that Trapped, a Mei-hua Adventure, the thirIMAGE fireworks landscape-1435678244-fireworks-4d novel in the ancient China trilogy, has been nominated for an Agatha Award. The Agatha Award is given to mysteries that hold to the standards of Agatha Christie and her work. I am honored to be among such a wonderful group of other nominees for this award.

Now for this week’s New Year’s blog.

Before New Year arrives, the house is cleaned from top to bottom. By cleaning the house, the family is getting rid of any bad fortune they may have had last year. BUT they do not clean the house during the first couple of days of the New Year because then they could be sweeping away the New Year’s good luck. So: once the New Year comes it’s time to relax and enjoy, their work is done!

Some things people do to celebrate:

WHAT TO DO IMAGE red Chinese envelopes il_fullxfull.193993600

  • Adults give red paper envelopes to children. Inside the envelopes is a New Year gift of money. How much isn’t important, but it’s always in a red envelope.
  • Everyone wears new clothes.
  • People decorate their homes and buildings:
    • At the entrance people hang long red paper strips with good luck sayings written on them. The good luck couplet is also visually balanced by being divided into two strips, one on each side of the door. and the saying is usually visuallyIMAGE red good luck strips in Taipei 95cb871170d1383cf52fc12e9ba0ef8d balanced, too.
    • Red paper-cuts (usually square in shape) with the year’s animal—the rooster this year—or other good luck symbols (wealth) are pasted on the windows and doors. A popular word is fu for good fortune or happiness and it’s hung upside-down to represent the good things flowing into the house.
  • Families go to temple fairs where they can watch puppet shows. These shows can be seen almost every day throughout the New Year period.
  • Setting off firecrackers—much like our 4th of July on steroids. Both public and private fireworks are set off all over. Everyone participates.
  • On the more serious side, is when the family comes together to honor their ancestors. They may clean the tombs, and they may also cluster together before pictures of their deceased relatives to show honor and respect. By participating in these activities as a family they are stressing that they are united by blood and are a cohesive unit.
  • People greet each other by saying gongxi (恭喜), which is a way of saying “Best wishes in the New Year.”

WHAT NOT TO DO

Don’t give anyone:

  • A scissors or a knife because they are sharp and it means you’re cutting off your relationship with them;
  • Anything with the number 4 in it because 4 sounds like death and is, therefore, an extremely unlucky number.
  • While fruit is usually a good thing to give as a gift, you should avoid pears. The word for pears is homophonous with “leaving” or “parting.”
  • Cut flowers because these are generally given at a funeral, so—obviously—not auspicious!
  • White or yellow flowers, which represent death. Just choose a plant in another color.
  • Mirrors are thought to attract malicious ghosts—something no one would want to do. Plus, mirros are easily broken and anything broken is a bad omen.

This is a time of great celebration and joy, just avoid anything that implies death, breaking relationships, or bad luck.

Enjoy!

Other quick resources: http://www.chinahighlights.com/festivals/things-not-give-chinese-new-year.htm; https://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/new-year/customs.htm; http://www.chinesenewyears.info/chinese-new-year-traditions.php; http://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-new-year-traditions.html; https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/chinese-new-year-games; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year

Images:

the door in Taipei = interest.com/pin/80361174572834867/; the red envelopes = I couldn’t find the source again; fireworks = pop.h-cdn.co.

Chinese New Year 2017, The Year of the Rooster

2017 Chinese Rooster Jan 12th

from Pinterest

We’re almost at the beginning of a new Chinese year! Lucky us. We get to celebrate New Year’s twice: once on January 1st and a second time on the first day of the first lunar month—which this year is January 28th.

As many of you already know, every year in the Chinese Zodiac is represented by an animal — each with special, auspicious qualities. This year, 2017, is the Year of the Rooster.

Why the rooster? What does it symbolize?

The rooster is a strong yang symbol, going back many hundreds and hundreds of years.

  • The crown on its head (the rooster’s comb) show that it supports and encourages civil society.
  • When a rooster finds food, it is said to let others know about it. Therefore, roosters are considered benevolent.
  • Because it crows in the morning, marking the break from darkness to a growing sun light, it is important as a symbol for chasing away negative forces and what is evil.
  • And, finally, because a rooster has razor sharp claws to fight against its enemies, it is considered courageous.

All of these positive symbols represent one side of a coin—the other side is the personal side. For those people born in the year of the rooster, this will not be such a good year. That’s because the year of one’s birth is usually considered an unlucky year for the person.

Whatever the year brings, New Years is a time of celebration. In times past, and perhaps today if jobs permit, people celebrate for at least a week with special dinners and visiting family and friends.