New Film Showing in the CHOP Series

Photograph of a scene from the film Soul of a Banquet, depicting a kitchen with cooks making dumplings

A scene from the 2014 Wayne Wang film Soul of a Banquet

The next entry in the CHOP (China Ongoing Perspectives) film series will be screened on Thursday, December 5, at 6 pm on the 10th floor of Weiser Hall (500 Church St.). There will be refreshments and a Q&A with discussant Sean Chen, cultural historian of Chinese foodways.  

In his 2014 documentary film Soul of a Banquet, Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) takes us into the world of Cecilia Chiang, the woman who introduced America to authentic Chinese food. Chiang opened her internationally renowned restaurant The Mandarin in 1961 in San Francisco and went on to change the course of cuisine in America. The film is equal parts a delectable showcase of gastronomy and a touching portrait of Chiang’s journey from a childhood in Beijing before the Cultural Revolution to a career as an accidental restaurateur on the west coast of the United States. Soul of a Banquet features interviews with Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Cecilia Chiang herself.  

Our discussant, Sean Jy-Shyang Chen, is the translator and annotator of the seminal Qing Dynasty manual on cookery: Recipes from the Garden of Contentment (Suiyuan Shidan, 隨緣食單), which provides technical details on ingredients and culinary techniques crucial for understanding the 18th century work. He has a lifelong interest in foodways and Chinese history and is currently working on a translation of a Song Dynasty culinary work. He posts his translations and other scholarly works on Chinese cuisine on his blog:  Sean holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering from McGill University and is a senior research engineer for computer vision and machine learning in medicine.

CHOP (China Ongoing Perspectives) is a curated series of documentary films that view greater China through the eyes of overseas Chinese, immigrants and travelers, focusing particularly on slices of life realted to transitional/transcultural events and memories. The series is co-presented by the Asia Library and the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies.