Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

Origins of today's You Tiao


Recommended Posts

Today's everyday Chinese breakfast food, You Tiao, had its origins dating back to the story of Yue Fei during the Southern Song dynasty. Every Chinese is familiar with this food. For non-Chinese who have not heard of it, it is basically two long fried sticks attached together, made up of flour and cooked in vegetable oil. It is often served with Dou Jiang, a soybean milk.

Almost all of us has heard of Yue Fei, one of China's most beloved heroes, a general whose patriotism was rooted in his childhood. He was born in a poor and humble family. When he was young, his mother tattoed on his back these 4 words.


As a young man, Yue Fei witnessed the fall of the northern Song dynasty to Jurchen invaders. As a general during the southern Song dynasty, he was determined to prevent the Jurchens from advancing into the south, and launched offensives to recover the former northern Song territory. The soldiers who fought under Yue Fei highly respected him for his intelligence and integrity. His words to his soldiers became famous: "Do not tear down houses because you need firewood, even if you are freezing; do not steal from the people, even if you are hungry."

Yue Fei won many victories against the Jins and once defeated an enemy force of 500,000 strong with only 800 men. The Jin commander sighed that it is easier to shake Mount Tai than Yue Fei's army.

At that time, China was divided as to how to deal with the Jins. Many people wanted continued resistance and others wanted peace at all costs. Although Yue Fei, along with another general, Han Shizong, had recovered a large part of Song territory, the capitulationists dominated the court and had the real power. As Yue Fei was about to recover Kaifeng, the former northern Song capital, the emperor Gaozong recalled him back to Hangzhou. Yue Fei could not believe what he saw and thought the order was a fake. He at first ignored it, but then Gaozong sent repeated orders telling him to come back to the capital. Yue Fei had to come back because to not do so would be insubordination. Of course he did not know the devious intentions of Gaozong and Qin Hui.

Imperial order that Gaozong gave to Yue Fei:


Qin Hui the prime minister persuaded Gaozong that it would be better to make a peace treaty with the Jins rather than fight them. Qin Hui and his wife then thought of a scheme to get rid of Yue Fei. Yue Fei was thrown into jail based on fabricated charges and then executed.

Although Qin Hui's act was despicable, I would say Gaozong was the real bad guy here. He held the ultimate authority and did not have to listen to Qin Hui. He listened to Qin Hui because that would alleviate his insecurity of having to face the possibility of Yue Fei accompanying the two captured Song emperors back to the capital. Gaozong feared for his job and was willing to appease the Jin and keep his throne, rather than lose it by reestablishing Chinese sovereignty.

The people hated Qin Hui afterwards. A dough maker took two pieces of dough, shaped them into Qin Hui and his wife, dipped them in boiling hot oil, and invited people to take bites out of his new delicacy. People began to call this food "You Zha Hui". This is said to be the origins of today's You Tiao.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

满江红 -岳飞词

怒发冲冠, 凭阑处, 潇潇雨歇. 抬望眼, 仰天长啸, 壮怀激烈. 三十功名尘与土, 八千里路云和月. 莫等闲, 白了少年头, 空悲切.

靖康耻, 犹未雪; 臣子憾, 何时灭. 驾长车踏破, 贺兰山缺. 壮志饥餐胡虏肉, 笑谈渴饮匈奴血. 待从头, 收拾旧山河, 朝天阙.

Man Jiang Hong

Nu fa chong guan, ping lan chu, xiao xiao yu xie. Tai wang yan, yang tian chang xiao, zhuang huai ji lie. San shi gong ming chen yu tu, ba qian li lu yun he yue. Mo deng xian, bai liao shao nian tou, kong bei qie.

Jing kang chi, you wei xue; Chen zi han, he shi mie. Jia chang che ta po, he lan shan que. Zhuang zhi ji can hu lu rou, xiao tan ke yin xiong nu xue. Dai cong tou, shou shi jiou shan he, chao tian que.

The River All Red -by Yue Fei

The wrath hath set my hair bristling in my helmet,

By the rails I stand, the drizzling rain hath ceased.

My eyes I raise, to the skies I shout in my vigorous aspiration.

An age of thirty, fame and heroic deeds are nothing but earth and dust;

With the clouds and the moon,

Over eight-thousand miles long, my battles have covered.

Tarry not,

For the hair of a youth grows white, and then nothing but empty regrets.

The shame of Emperor Jing Kang, hath not been wiped.

The sorrows of the Emperor's subjects, when will it end?

In our long chariots, let us tread through He Lan Pass.

With soaring aspirations, let us feast with hunger on the barbarians' corpse,

With ridicule,

let us drink with thirst on the barbarians' blood.


Let us recover mountains and rivers that belonged once to us,

Then will we pay tribute to the heavens.


-Shibo 8)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Korea's Admiral Yi Sun-shin is equally revered among Koreans as Yue Fei is to China.

During the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597, the Koreans were outmatched by Japanese weaponry on land. Their only hopes in defeating the Japanese were at sea. This is where Admiral Yi came into the picture.

There are strikingly similar parallels between General Yue Fei and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. Both were unyielding men of integrity known for their military genius, intelligence, and patriotism; and both commanded the respect of their men. Both came from poor families whose mothers helped shape their destinies. It was due to his mother's influence that Yi was able to rise up from a poor family to accomplish great achievements for his country. In 1594 during a visit to his mother, she sent him back to war telling him "Go quickly to your sea camp and vindicate the national honor."

Ironically, both suffered torture at the hands of their own countrymen, yet are revered today. General Yue Fei was thrown into jail, stripped naked, tortured, and then strangled by the orders of Qin Hui. Admiral Yi was also serving an unscrupulous king and many people within the Korean government were jealous of Yi. After defeating the Japanese in 1592, Yi was demoted, thrown into jail, and tortured. The Japanese struck again in 1597 and although they were less successful on land than in 1592, they badly beat the Korean navy. The Korean king had no choice but to reinstate Yi. Yi, with only 12 turtleboats under his command, smashed a Japanese fleet of 133 ships.

Admiral Yi continued to inflict defeats on the Japanese navy. In the climactic battle of Noryang, Yi was struck by a stray Japanese bullet. As he lay dying, he said to his son: "Continue fighting on and don't report the news of my death until the battle is over." Yi's men kept his death a secret and smashed the Japanese navy that day. However sadness at Yi's death overshadowed the victory. Upon hearing of the news, the Ming Chinese naval commander Chen Lin slipped from his chair and began to cry.

General Yue Fei and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin died with a fighting spirit and both are revered today in their respective countries, almost to the level of worship.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree in that Qin Kuai was not entirely wrong in suggesting a peace treaty with the Jurchens. Making peace with the Jurchens does have its advantages, and would be less costly in terms of manpower, casualties, and strife. Qin Kuai rightly viewed Yue Fei as an obstacle to peace with the Jurchens. But Yue Fei, Han Shizong, and Zhang Jun were winning and on the brink of retaking Kaifeng. By pulling back right on the brink of victory, you forever forfeit the opportunity to defeat the opponent.

It is true that making peace with the opponent does have its advantages. For example, the third Han emperor Wendi decided to appease the Xiongnu because he rightly felt that China was not strong enough to fight them. So he sent gifts and Han princesses to the Xiongnu in return for peace. If Wendi had decided to fight the Xiongnu during that critical time he came to power, China would have laid in ruins. This appeasement strategy allowed Wendi and his successor Jingdi to focus on domestic policies and lay the foundations for a strong economic and political state. By the time Wudi came to the throne, China was strong enough to expand. So Wudi began launching offensives against the Xiongnu, which severely weakened the Xiongnu and pushed them back across the frontier.

This has similar analogies to Yue Fei's case. Yue Fei had warned that 1140 would be the only opportunity the Song could ever have in pushing back the Jurchens and recovering the northern territory. It looks like he was the right man at the right time, and if Song was to make a comeback, it was at that moment. The Song army would never be stronger. After Gaozong and Qin Hui passed from the scene, their successors tried to revert to a lesser version of Yue Fei's aggressive policy, but failed. An attack towards the north after 1200 again failed.

I think by falling back when you are strong, you forever lose your chance. The military spirit was high, but with decades of "peace" with Jurchens occupying Chinese territory, you lose your muscle and the will to fight future invaders like the Mongols.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think by falling back when you are strong, you forever lose your chance. The military spirit was high, but with decades of "peace" with Jurchens occupying Chinese territory, you lose your muscle and the will to fight future invaders like the Mongols.

Well, let's not make this such an ethnical issue. Most northern Chinese have some Jurchen blood. Remember, Han is a concept and a culture.

Haha, the northerner Yue Fei's Man Jiang Hong 《满江红》 doesn't rhyme in Mandarin. It rhymes in Wu Chinese.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People began to call this food "You Zha Hui".

油炸檜 is an example of expression which Vietnamese has borrowed directly from Chinese.

Pronounced in Hán Việt it would have been du tạc cối (秦檜 Tần Cối). But instead, it has given "dầu cháo quẩy" (d= english z) , a phonetic transcription (from Cantonese I think) and abbreviated into bánh quẩy, much appreciated too.

For those who are interested, here is the transcription in Hán Việt of

满江红 Mãn giang hồng 岳飞词 Nhạc Phi từ

Nộ phát xung quan, bằng lan xứ, tiêu tiêu vũ hiết.

Đài vọng nhãn, ngưỡng thiên trường khiếu, tráng hoài kịch liệt.

Tam thập công danh trần dữ thổ, bát thiên lý lộ vân hòa nguyệt.

Mạc đẳng nhàn, bạch liễu thiếu niên đầu, không bi thiết.

Tĩnh Khang sỉ, do vị tuyết, thần tử hám, hà thời diệt.

Giá trường xa, đạp phá Hạ Lan sơn khuyết.

Tráng chí ngạ xan Hồ lỗ nhục, tiếu đàm khát ẩm Hung Nô huyết.

Đãi tòng đầu, thu thập cựu sơn hà, triều thiên khuyết.

It's no coincidence that the rhymes are kept. :wink:

(Btw 笑谈 should not be "with ridicule" , but something like "While chatting and laughing"

渴饮 = to quench one's thirst.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Hong Kong , we call it as 油炸鬼 that implies Qin Kuai et al as horrible as ghosts.

Ironically Mr. Qin died gloriously. He got numerous honorable titles and flattering euology in the funeral.

It was only until decades later, when Gaozhong's grandson succeeded the throne did the verdict reverse.

That is why I always wrote that historical criticique can only be correctly assessed until hundred years later in regard to Taiping, Sun, Chiang, Mao, Zhou and Deng.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How does 满江红 sound in Wu? I think that when he said these words, his native tongue is Hakka. But he spoke 官话Guan when he went to the Song court. Moreover, "Mandarin" did not exist at that time. 官话 then, 中古Middle Chinese, had very different pronounciations.

-Shibo :mrgreen:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

gaozhong's grandson had to cover up for him. so qinkuai is the scapegoat :D

i think '鬼' and '桧' sounds alike in cantonese. in mandarin both are 'gui' presently, thou i still preferred the old pronouciation of 'kuai' for the latter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Who and who in Chinese history resembled General Yue Fei most?

General Yuan Chonghuan

In the last days of Ming Dynasty, it was only General Yuan who could thwart the thrust of Manchu outside the Great Wall.

General Yuan even used the "Red Cloth Cannon" developed by the Jesuits to kill Manchu's unifier, Nuerhachi.

But what happened afterwards? The utmost stupid Ming Emperor was deceived by the "Double-cross trick" adopted from the "Romance of Three Kingdoms" by the Manchus and ordered to kill General Yuan.

Moreover, the Ming Emperor ordered the most brutal form of execution -- slice his flesh piece by piece.

And the super-dumb Beijing populace believed that stupid Ming Emperor's verdict and really thought that General Yuan was a traitor. Many of them mobbed to get a piece of General Yuan's flesh to eschew.

Of course, the stupid Ming Emperor deserved hanging by himself and the ignorant Beijingers deserved losing their country first out of whole China.

Only until 150 years afterwards when Emperor Qian Long declassified the archived secrets did every Chinese realize that General Yuan was a super patriot.

One of General Yuan's retainers secretly picked up what was left of General Yuan's corpse and buried it somewhere in Beijing. More overwhelming story is that the retainer asked his sons, grandsons, grand grandsons to take care of General Yuan's grave.

His descendants didn't break the promise and kept looking after the grave. Until today they still live beside General Yuan's grave. But the saddest thing is that in the '90s, Beijing Municipal government ordered to demolish General Yuan's grave for the sake of urban renewal.

By the way, General Yuan was a Cantonese. His hometown was Dongguan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...