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A China-Mesoamerica Connection?

Friday, December 19, 2008

While getting dressed this morning, I was watching an episode of Iron Chef–the joys of YouTube!–and discovered that the Chinese likely have similar kinds of beliefs about hot and cold as Mesoamericans seem to have. In the episode–the Horsehair Crab Battle–Iron Chef Chen Kenichi prepares gyoza stuffed with boiled crab meat, crab liver, and ginger; you can see them preparing them here (starting around 1:25):

At 1:50, the color commentator, Dr. Yukio Hattori (“always a pleasure”), mentions that he can tell us why Chen has included ginger in the dish. He notes that the Chinese have a belief that crab meat takes heat away from the body, while ginger has a thermal effect on the body, warming it up. So, many Chinese places, he notes, serve tea with ginger to warm people up. Combining ginger with the crab balances out the heat transfer, I suppose.

This actually sounds very similar to the beliefs people have here. Certain items are cold (“taking heat away from the body”), which is the case for fish here, even though they may be cooked and served warm. Other items, by contrast, are warm–chilis for example–bringing warmth to the body, regardless of the temperature they are served at.

Now, I don’t expect there may be any direct connection between the Chinese and Mesoamerican beliefs (one borrowed from the other, or handed down from common ancestry), but I do wonder if this might be a fairly common belief around the world, independently invented and developed. It will be interesting to find out. I need an ethnomedicology course.

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