Yi Yin: the chef of Shang Dynasty

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Yiyin Temple

Yi Yin was the first virtuous prime minister in Chinese history recorded in historical books. He assisted Shang Tang to destroy the Xia Dynasty and end the brutal rule of Xia Jie. With his efforts, the state machinery and political system in the early Shang Dynasty were improved, the economy and culture were greatly developed, and the society was relatively stable. Yi Yin is also a great pharmacist in the history of Chinese traditional medicine and a folk Kitchen God. After his death, he was buried in Nanbo (now in Yucheng County, Shangqiu City), which has a history of about 3600 years.

Born in kongsang and buried in Nanbo

Weidui village, about 20 kilometers southwest of Yucheng County, lies a great figure in Chinese history. He assisted four Shang kings and laid the foundation of the Shang Dynasty for more than 550 years. He is Yi Yin. Yi Yin’s tomb is 3 meters high and 46 meters long. The tombstone has a dome and square seat. The inscription is: the tombstone of the saint of the Yuan Dynasty. There is Yiyin temple in front of the tomb, surrounded by red brick walls, ancient cypresses and lush trees. The flower theater not far away is a two-story building, with green glazed tiles on the top dotted with animals, and symmetrical round windows on the two ear buildings.

Speaking of Yi Yin’s tomb, old man Li Ronggui, who is over 80, is very familiar. After his retirement from Yucheng County Library, he has been committed to collecting historical materials, legends and relics about Yi Yin. The old man said that there were sacrificial halls, rolling fences, bell towers, auxiliary rooms, gates, walls, etc. in the front yard. The existing Yiyin temple was rebuilt by Zhang Yuanzhong and Hou Youzao of the Yuan Dynasty. In addition, the flower theater was also damaged during the “Cultural Revolution”. The current flower theater was later built with the help of the masses and the government.

Weidui village is under the jurisdiction of the former Shangqiu County. According to the records of Shangqiu County annals, “Gushu used to be a famous town, which is one of the sanbo ancient ruins.” “Yi Yin died at the age of 100, and Emperor woding was buried in Bo, that is, his land.” “Guide Fu Zhi (Yuan Dynasty) Hou Youzao’s reconstruction of Yiyin hall” says: “the Nanjiu County of Gushu, that is, the ancient Bogu ruins. There are more than 32 mu of tombs, which are for Yizhong, in front of which a temple is built and its image is set.” There are few written records about Yi Yin in history, which are mainly sorted out by later generations according to legends. The legend about Yi Yin’s birth has a strong mythological color. According to “Tongjian waiji”, he was born in kongsang and died in Nanbo The “empty mulberry” mentioned here is basically the same as the records in the spring and Autumn Annals of the Lu family and the notes to the water classics: “a woman in the state of Shen picked up a baby boy in the tree hole (empty mulberry) of a large mulberry tree, took it back and presented it to the emperor, who gave the baby to his chef to nurse.”

Then someone traced the origin of the baby: the mother of the baby lived by Yishui and dreamed that the God told her that if she saw the water coming out of the stone mortar at home, she should hurry to the East and never look back. The next morning, when she saw the water coming out of the mortar, she hurriedly called her neighbors to flee. She walked 5 kilometers eastward and couldn’t help looking back. Her home was already a vast ocean. It didn’t matter to look back, and her body became empty. So the emperor let the baby boy take Yi as his surname, which is Yi Yin.

Yi Yin was intelligent and diligent since childhood. He not only learned good cooking skills from his adoptive father, but also resourceful, extremely smart and ambitious.

There are several theories about how Yi Yin stood out. The first one is familiar: his erudition and strategy are famous all over the world. Shang Tang was thirsty for talents. He sent people to invite him three times, which finally moved him; The second statement is a little romantic: in order to get him, Shang Tang didn’t hesitate to use the “beautiful man plan”, married the princess of Youshen country, and let Yi Yin come to Shang country as a slave dowry; The third statement may be the most true: Yi Yin is just a dowry slave and is very good at cooking, but for a period of time, the rice he cooked for Shang Tang was either salty or light, which attracted Shang Tang to ask him, so he said “taste of soup”, from cooking to governing the country, a high opinion, let Shang Tang look at him differently, promoted the chef beyond his level, and directly appointed him as Xiang.

In either case, it was clear that the separation of monarchy and prime minister began in the late summer and early Shang Dynasties. Moreover, the importance of prime minister strengthened the position of prime minister. No matter how well Yi Yin and Shang Tang knew each other, the subsequent result was undisputed: Yi Yin gave advice and tried his best to help Shang Tang defeat Xia Jie, establish the Shang Dynasty, and successively assisted four Shang kings, laying the foundation of the Shang Dynasty for many years.

Due to the long history and the lack of written materials at that time, there are different versions of Yi Yin’s birthplace. Some people say that he was born near Chenliu in Kaifeng, while others say that he was born in Heyang, Shanxi. But it is undeniable that Yi Yin has been sleeping in Shangqiu forever and has become a part of history.

Auxiliary soup extinguishes summer, and is highly respected

The Shang state, located in bodi (today’s Shangqiu) in Eastern Henan Province, became strong during the Xia Jie period. Xia Jie didn’t realize the threat from Shang Tang. “Taxes are excessive, and the people are very bitter”. He brutally oppressed and enslaved the people and their tribes, causing widespread hatred and opposition.

At the same time, with the assistance of Yi Yin, Shang Tang became more and more famous, and people under Xia Jie’s tyranny “aspired to him”. “Book · biography” records: “Xia people drink wine, and those who are drunk hold those who are not drunk, and those who are not drunk hold those who are drunk, and sing with each other. They say: Li belongs to Bo? (why not go to Bo land) Li belongs to Bo? Bo is also big!” Shang Tang’s action aroused Xia Jie’s vigilance. He called Shang Tang to the capital and imprisoned him in xiatai (today’s Yuzhou City). Yi Yin and others were busy sending 10 beauties and a large number of treasures to Xia Jie. Xia Jie was happy to see the beauties, so he put the soup back.

Shangtang returning to Shangqiu is like a dragon returning to the sea, stepping up the expansion of its own power. Under the plan of Yi Yin and others, Shang Tang formulated the strategy of eliminating Xia Jie’s wings one by one from near to far.

After years of painstaking efforts, the power of Shangtang has grown. About 1600 BC, Shang Tang destroyed Xia. On the ruins of the Xia Dynasty, a new dynasty, the Shang Dynasty, was established. According to the records of “poem Shang song Yin Wu”, the new dynasty “governed the people with mercy”, with political stability, economic development and growing national strength, which made the world return to its heart. “In the past, there was a soup, and since the di Qiang, no one dares not to enjoy it, and no one dares not to come to the king.” As a result, many ancient countries gradually merged into an integrated national system, and the Chinese nation gradually formed.

In the political arena in the early Shang Dynasty, Yi Yin successively assisted four Shang kings, Shang Tang, Wai Bing, Zhong Ren and Taijia. He often used the history education king of “when virtue is clear, the world will survive, and when virtue is lost, the world will perish”. After the fourth Shang King Taijia ascended the throne, he did not practice morality and misdeeds. Yi Yin exiled his monarch Taijia, which made him think about it. According to records of the historian, Yin Benji, “emperor Taijia was established for three years. He was unknown, tyrannical, disobeyed the Tang law, and disordered morality, so Yi Yin was released to the Shang Tang cemetery in tonggong. In three years, Yi Yin took the administrative power to govern the country and Dynasty the princes. Emperor Taijia lived in tonggong for three years, repenting of his sins, opposing the good, repenting of his sins, and following the good, so Yi Yin was the government of emperor Taijia. Emperor Taijia cultivated morality, the princes returned to Yin, and the people were at peace.” This is the only story of “releasing the king by his ministers” in history. The records in Mencius, Zuo Zhuan and other books are basically the same. It can be seen that this story has been widely spread in ancient times. The essence of Mencius’ thought lies in “the world is for the public”, “great benevolence” and “great righteousness”. Therefore, Yi Yin became a respected figure of Confucianism in later generations, and was honored as the “saint of the Yuan Dynasty”.

With the efforts of Yi Yin, the state machinery and political system in the early Shang Dynasty were improved, the society was relatively stable, and the economy and culture had great development.

When Yi Yin died in the fifth Shang king woding, woding was buried as the son of heaven. In the Shang Dynasty, Yi Yin was ceremoniously sacrificed by the kings. The oracle inscriptions of Yin Ruins contain inscriptions to sacrifice Yi Yin, which shows his high status.

Pharmacist, folk Kitchen God

Yi Yin is not only an outstanding politician, but also a folk Kitchen God. According to legend, his cooking skills are very excellent. “Lu’s spring and autumn · this flavor chapter” says that the dishes he cooked will not rot after a long time, be ripe but not rotten, be sweet but not too sweet, be sour but not strong, be salty but not astringent, be spicy but not excessive, be light but not tasteless, and be fat but not greasy.

“Lu’s spring and autumn · Ben Wei chapter” is the earliest document in the history of Chinese cooking, which records the discussion between Yi Yin and Shang Tang about how to reconcile the five flavors. Therefore, today’s chefs still miss this “promising” old man and respect him as “the grandfather”. The fourteenth volume of Lu’s spring and Autumn Annals, Ben Wei Pian, records the story of Yi Yin saying soup with “extreme taste”. By saying how to make soup, he made Tang understand that only by appointing talents and promoting the way of benevolence and righteousness can he win the world, and those who win the world can enjoy all the delicious dishes in the world. The food and flavor he advocated at that time was also the oldest cooking theory in China and even the world. Yi Yin often borrowed soup to ask him about the food and put forward his own ideas for governing the country. Once, he said to Tang, “cooking can’t be too salty or too light. It’s necessary to adjust the seasoning. Governing the country is like cooking. You can’t rush or relax. Only when it’s right can you do things well.” Shang Tang was very inspired to hear this, and he came up with the idea of reusing Yi Yin. When Yi Yin was a cook, he saw that it was difficult for people to eat the leaves, roots and trees of Chinese herbal medicine for medical treatment, so he used pottery to decoct herbal soup to help people cure diseases. The book of traditional Chinese medicine said, “Yi Yin Shichuang Decoction of Shang Dynasty has remarkable curative effect, is convenient to take, and can reduce the toxic and side effects of drugs.” Since then, it has become a commonly used dosage form of traditional Chinese medicine, which has been widely used and continues to this day.

Yi Yin is also a great pharmacist in the history of Chinese traditional medicine. According to some books on Chinese medicine, Yi Yin initiated the decocting of Chinese herbal medicine with pottery, which not only makes it convenient to take Chinese herbal medicine, but also reduces the toxic and side effects and increases the curative effect.

Ancient trees are green, witnessing the vicissitudes of life

There is also a beautiful legend in the cypress forest next to Yi Yin’s tomb. The villagers nearby always enjoy talking about this legend. 500 meters east of the tomb of Yi Yin, there is the tomb of the prime minister Wei Zheng of the Tang Dynasty. According to legend, Cheng Yaojin, a famous general of the Tang Dynasty, once led his soldiers here at night. He heard that his sworn brother Wei Zheng was buried here. Seeing that the tomb of Yi Yin was very large, he mistook it for the tomb of Wei Zheng and ordered his soldiers to plant Berlin for his brother overnight. After planting, I heard that it was planted in the wrong place. I was so angry that I screamed. Then I grabbed a cypress tree in front of the tomb and pulled it out. Unexpectedly, the cypress tree had taken root. It took nine cattle and two tigers to remove a layer of skin from the tree, but I couldn’t pull it out.

Later, a blister formed at the chest level of the tree, so people named the tree “luohanbai”. Other famous cypresses here include “Acacia cypress”, “Wulong cypress”, “bird cypress”, “mother and son cypress”, “Chuang Wang cypress”, etc., which are in a variety of forms and are worth pondering. Each tree has a legendary story. Since trees are planted at night, it is difficult for future generations to count how many trees there are.

Times have changed. Although Yi Yin died, his name has been handed down from generation to generation. Nowadays, there are temple fairs here on the second day of February, the eighth day of April, and the ninth day of September in the lunar calendar. Hundreds of thousands of people from local and nearby Anhui, Jiangsu, Shandong and other places will come to this pilgrimage meeting.

Villagers nearby said that on Temple Fair days, many people would take pancakes and smear them on Yi Yin’s tombstone, and then take them back to the pregnant woman to eat. I heard that if you get pregnant after eating such baked cakes, your baby will be very smart and make a lot of achievements when you grow up. In 1984, the government rebuilt the tomb of Yi Yin, which is now listed as a provincial cultural relics protection unit.

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