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Audible | Yongchuan Douchi (fermented Soybean) Producing Techniques —Magical Transformation of Soybeans

Editor’s Note:  This article is produced in collaboration with the Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies as part of a series of ongoing reports exploring the city’s abundant resources in intangible cultural heritages.

The fermented soybean. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

In China, the fermented soybean is a condiment known as Douchi(豆豉) or Youjiao(幽椒). It originated from the Qin(秦) Dynasty (221B.C.-207B.C.), dating back over 2,000 years according to historical records, and has been well-loved by the Chinese for its unique flavor.

According to the microbes used in fermentation, Douchi can be divided into three types: traditional mucor-fermented soybean, aspergillus-fermented soybean, and bacteria-fermented soybean.

Yongchuan District, Chongqing, a far-famed home of Douchi, produces the mucor-fermented soybean. 

According to the Annals of Yongchuan County, in 1644, the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the war was frequent, and life was tough, a woman surnamed Cui threw a basketful of soybeans into backyard firewood in panic for fear of being stolen by passing soldiers.

Later, as she came to carry the firewood, the original golden soybeans turned into fermented "moldy beans" with black mold. In sadness, she picked out the "moldy beans," washed and salted them, then put them into a jar as condiments for her family to survive the famine.

One day, when Cui brought these "moldy beans" to the dinner table, her family found that these beans were so tasty and flavorful that they all rushed to take them. Even the merchants who traveled there praised them.

Since then, Yongchuan Douchi has begun to gain popularity.

On June 7, 2008, "Yongchuan Douchi Producing Techniques" was officially listed as one of the second batches of National Intangible Cultural Heritage. It has been in demand both domestically and overseas.

Zeng Fanyu--a representative inheritor of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage of Yongchuan Douchi producing techniques: "Douchi is animate. They start as golden soybeans, ferment with a layer of snow-white mold and finally turn into moldy black beans, which are exactly the development of life." 

The production of Douchi involves over a dozen processes, including screening, rinsing, soaking, steaming, airing, making a starter, and so on. Each process will be confronted with obstacles.

How can we resolve these obstacles? Inheritors have drawn experiences through constant experiments and observation. For instance, keep the doors and windows closed if there is no need for ventilation; turn over the starter in the dustpan after coagulation to get the mold fully exposed to oxygen to get an even starter; invent a new way of ventilation to shorten the time of making a starter.

How can we inherit them? Making development and progress is the best way of inheritance.

Song Jun, another inheritor of the techniques, has developed an all-in-one machine for soaking, steaming, and making starters with his computer expertise and the help of an enterprise.

"To develop and rejuvenate the traditional technique, we should keep the high quality of Douchi as usual with the help of tools and machines. Therefore, the processes have been integrated and optimized to better carry these precious treasures from our ancestors." Song says.

Chinese script: Xie Haifeng

Tutored by: Tang Ruohan

Translation: Wan Fengsha

Tutored by: Cao Li, Wu Shulin

Voice-over: Dong Qiling

Tutored by: Ren Yi


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