A Bite of China : A Taste of China

A Bite of China (舌尖上的中国shé jiān shàng de zhōng guó) is a seven-episode Chinese documentary television series on Chinese cuisine, produced by China Central Television (CCTV) in 2012. It first appeared on CCTV in May 2012, and quickly gained popularity. The documentary introduces the diversity of Chinese food and cooking methods, told through stories of ordinary Chinese people with each episode focusing on a particular food-related topic. The production team of about 20 people visited more than 60 places across China in 13 months and shot more than 80 kinds of food for the seven episodes. Through the topics from characteristic ingredients to various cooking techniques, the documentary reveals a time-honoured history of Chinese cuisine.

The series has stirred heated discussions both online and offline. The episodes have been watched millions of times online and attracted an unexpectedly high TV audience. In a country famous for its delicious food, audiences were initially drawn to the series by the good-looking food, but were later impressed by the human dimension. The documentary tells stories about the most ordinary people in the most remote corners of China. These stories remind modern people of how their Chinese ancestors treated traditional food in a natural and harmonious way.

The programme not only shows audiences the value and quality of Chinese food, but also the changes in Chinese society today. The programme revolves around two major themes: on the one hand, it is about food and how it tastes on the tongue; and, on the other hand, it is about the changes that have been taking place in China over the centuries. Food and changes in China are closely connected. As Chen Xiaoqing (陈晓卿), the general director of the documentary, puts it: “We expect that audiences will learn about the love that Chinese people have for food and about the fast development of the Chinese social economy”.

A Bite of China is a pleasant way to make the world understand China a little better. The aim of the programme is to show the real and true China. According to Chen Xiaoqing, the programme is about food, but that is not all there is to it. It allows people all over the world to learn about Chinese food and Chinese culture. It takes you on a culinary journey, at the same time demonstrating China’s vast and colourful ancient cultural heritage.

Aside from food culture, A Bite of China also focuses on food safety, ways of living and inheritance of tradition. According to Yu Dan (于丹), a famous scholar, and a professor of media studies at China's Beijing Normal University (北京师范大学běijīng shīfàn dàxué), “In a time when food safety is becoming a hot topic, A Bite of China offers a sense of modest trust and relief, that when there have been no chemical additives and modern procedures, Chinese people could also eat very well. It shows confidence in Chinese way of living”. At the same time, traditional methods of cooking are demonstrated, that might otherwise be lost. Some of the people cooking in this programme are the last in their generation who cook the way they do. Their children have moved to big cities, and have no interest in learning their parents’ traditional cooking ways. Without this programme, “their craft will be lost in the river of history”.

The second season of A Bite of China was launched by CCTV-9 in Beijing in January 2013. In this second season local food customs and social realities in Shandong (山东), Henan (河南) and Ningxia (宁夏) will be shown.

Episodes Season 1


  1. Nature’s Gift (自然的馈赠zì rán de kuì zèng)

  2. The Story of Staple Foods (主食的故事 zhŭ shí de gù shì)

  3. The Inspiration of Transformation (转化的灵感 zhuăn huà de líng găn)

  4. The Taste of Time (时间的味道shí jiān de wèi dào)

  5. Secrets of the Kitchen (厨房的秘密chú fang de mì mì)

  6. Balancing the Five Tastes (五味的调和wŭ wèi de tiáo hé)

  7. Our Rural Heritage (我们的田野wŏ men de tián yĕ)

References
A bite of China. (2013). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Bite_of_China

A bite of China season 2 launched. (2013). Retrieved from http://en.gmw.cn/2013-02/18/content_6722266.htm

A bite of China’ sparks Chinese culture and cuisine. (2012). Retrieved from http://english.cntv.cn/program/cultureexpress/20120601/108556.shtml

Documentary ‘A bite of China’ to Hit on CCTV. (2012). Retrieved from http://english.cri.cn/7106/2012/05/11/102s698860.htm

Ji, S., Wang, J. and Zhang, Y. (2012). ‘A bite of China’ fills viewers’ hearts and stomachs. Retrieved from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2012-05/28/c_131616036.htm

You are what you eat? Try a bite of China!!! (2013). Retrieved from http://www.a-bite-of-china.org/

By Hao Cui (郝翠)

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