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Max_Writer

Chinese Food Circa 1800

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Max_Writer

I'm working on a Call of Cthulhu scenario involving the Doolittle Raid, the bombing of Japan in 1942 in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.  I've written a few of these but #5 is a little different.  In this case, after crashing in China, the airmen of the B-25 Mitchell stumble across a traditional Chinese courtyard house in the middle of nowhere and are allowed in. 

 

This isn't a real house, however, but an illusion created by the ghosts of a tomb on the spot.  Everything will feel (and in a sense) be real.  There is a fox spirit also taking shelter there for the night and a squad of Japanese soldiers in search of the Americans later show up.  The house is actually created as the group hallucination/illusion/whatever of those interred in the tomb that actually lies on the spot, brought about by the living who have come to the area.  They are actually all from the time of the Qing Dynasty during the time of the Qianlong Emperor (in this case in the late 18th century roughly a hundred and fifty years before the scenario).  At the end of the scenario, anyone who survives the attentions of the various ghosts awakens near the tomb - the house completely gone.

 

I've found a few details on the house (enough to go on) and the clothing of the era.  But I cannot find traditional Chinese food from the late 18th century.  I know it's not terribly important but having a few dishes for when the ghosts have them to dinner and even appetizers would help.

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DrMonster

Ouch!  Finding American food recipes from 1800 might be challenging.  I will see what I can dig up.

 

I can totally see your scenario as a movie.

 

Links:

 

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/authentic-chinese-food.htm

 

http://www.foodbycountry.com/Algeria-to-France/China.html

 

https://www.tripsavvy.com/authentic-chinese-food-1458471

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Chinese_cuisine

 

 

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Max_Writer

That helps.  Thank you.  I've been looking but having a terrible time finding examples of Chinese food.  Everything is American.

 

And thank you for the compliment.  As I said, this is scenario #5 (The Quiet House is the working title).  There were eight aircraft rejected from the original Doolittle Raid due to various reasons.  I figured: what if they went?  So I'm planning eight eight separate scenarios, eventually, wherein the decision was made to take the eight aircraft and put them on the (fictional) USS Brandywine (a Lexington Class aircraft carrier - mis-numbered CV-0 due to clerical error and red tape in the 20s) to be launched right on the tail of the original 16.  So far, the scenarios played include:

 

The Obaka Shima Incident

The Fog Village

That Which Survives

The Demon Procedure

I've used a Japanese vampire, Tcho-Tcho, jiangshi, and Chinese demons at a Unit 731 complex.  I still have plans for terracotta warriors, a penanggalan that immigrated to China from Tiawan, and fox spirits.

I had to improvise a game for a group of about 10 people so I quick rolled up a squad of Japanese soldiers who went to Obaka Shima after the raiders were there to investigate the radio silence.  The Obaka Shima Incident 2 was a lot of fun and saw no survivors.
 

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Shimmin Beg

This looks really interesting and I'd like to see more of these!

 

I can try to get some information for you, as I work in China these days. I'm sure someone can point me towards relevant information, maybe even some menus.

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yronimoswhateley

Wow, the scenario reminds me a lot of some of those classic Japanese ghost movies from the 1950s and 1960s, like Kwaidan, Onibaba, Ugetsu, etc. - I'm a sucker for that sort of thing, great stuff!  (I've never seen any Chinese horror movies of the era, and could only try to imagine what traditional Chinese ghost stories might be like....)

 

In the research I did decades ago on a Call of Cthulhu game where an American "Chinatown" restaurant came up, I was struck by just how much of what Americans would think of as Chinese food are actually American inventions (it was news to me:  at the time, I'd never seen, smelled, or tasted either traditional Chinese or American Chinese food before, and had only the vaguest idea of what any recipes might be, and no idea of how to describe things like ingredients, appearances, tastes, textures, and such.)

 

That's a round-about way of saying that it quickly began to dawn on me that I was getting in over my head!  So, I don't think I could help a lot on the the exact sorts of traditional foods you are looking for, but:

 

China is and has been a very, very big place, with a lot of languages, cultures, ethnic variety, traditions, religions, etc. - a conversation about "Chinese Food" might almost be better thought of as a conversation about "European Food":  the food might differ pretty wildly from province to province.  (To put it in perspective, there are over 50 Chinese ethnic groups, and nearly 300 languages!)  I suppose that naturally, then, there'd be a bewildering range of regional cuisines, each with their own ancient histories, rather than a monolithic Chinese cuisine.  (Perhaps not news to anyone else, but it's something I had never heard of or given any thought to before.)

 

So, I think the food you are looking for might depend on where your airmen have crashed.

 

With that in mind, this map and list of links might help narrow your search down a bit:

 

china-regional-cuisines-map1-624x507.jpg

 

It seems that the most famous regional cuisines are:

 

 

With any luck, there might be some ideas there?

 

 

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Max_Writer

Huge thanks to everyone: DrMonster, Shimmin Beg, and yronimoswhateley!

 

The area the aircraft is heading for and will crash in (as do most of those from the mission) is Zhejiang.  The bombers, after dropping their bombs, headed down to the 29th parallel and then west until they reached China.  Though Zhejiang food isn't in your links yronimoswhateley, a quick google search of it found me even more information.  That map is gold.

 

I'll read up on all of these tomorrow and see what I can put together.  A meal that night wherein they meet the entire family is on the docket (with three daughters and three sons ... all of whom appear to be about the same age ... strange).  I'm also hoping to find something that passes as appetizers for before the meal (which a servant brings and then is run out by the Fox Spirit, who is curious about the Americans and warns them vaguely that all is not right in the house).  

 

I think the ghosts are going to be a mix of a bad spirits and good (or neutral).  I've been reading Pu Songling to get some ideas.  At least one of the daughters will try to seduce an airman, draining him of Constitution or something if he joins her in her bed.

 

I'm also toying with the idea of the ghosts having ghosts.  The family seems real, but the ghost of grandmother might make an appearance in one of the courtyards unexpectedly, with use of the story "Spitting Water" for that.  I need a few other strange and uncanny (and dangerous) encounters before the Japanese soldiers arrive.  The ghosts will mess with them too.

 

The initial idea came from a story in a book called Haunted Houses.  The story was "The House of the Lonely Ghosts" about actors in ancient China going to perform at a home and finding the audience and family quiet and subdued.  They had been told to avoid loud noises and portraying any good spirits.  When they got frustrated at the lack of response from the people watching, they portrayed a good spirit on stage, the diety who was the enemy of uncanny things.  Everything disappeared and they found the sun coming up where they stood or sat on the ground near a tomb.

 

Okay, it's late, I'm rambling.  Thanks again!

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yronimoswhateley

If it helps, I'd just added Zhejiang cuisine in an edit -   Zhejiang (AKA Zhe)  - the Wikipedia page it links to has a list of recipes (and reading them is making my mouth water!)

 

 

 

 

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Max_Writer

LOL.  Thanks for the update.  That's the one I found!

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yronimoswhateley

You're quite welcome!

 

I don't know how I've ended up creating the Wikipedia page for Guangxi cuisine, but I'm part of the way through it - all the other varieties have their own pages, it seemed kind of sad to leave Guangxi out....

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DrMonster

So, when can we meet to try out the scenario ... over dinner?

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Max_Writer

LOL.  I've got to finish writing it first and ran into some bumps this week.  I still haven't even read over the Zhejiang recipes yet.

 

Soon ...

 

Soon ...

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mojoman

For Zhejiang food, go with steamed pork dumplings (Xiao Long Bao), lotus root stuffed with sweet rice and covered in honey, pickled wood ear. A sweet yellow rice based wine would also likely be served. As you know, fox spirits are often portrayed as malevolent tricksters; for a fun twist, have the pork dumplings actually be human meat. Cheers! 

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DrMonster

Not unless the PCs have a reasonable chance to discover what the meat is before they eat.  You’d have some angry players at your table.  Or maybe a chance to learn that their hosts are evil fox spirits.

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DeadCat

In traditional Chinese fantasy novels, travellers are often seduced by fox spirits or ghosts and then invited into decent housings which do not actually exist. The food offered, the furniture, the housing, are just mirages created by the magical power of the fox spirits or ghosts. Most travellers do not realise that they are experiencing dreams or illusions, and they can interact with the ghosts of spirits because they believe their weird dreams are true.

And on the next day, they wake up in the wild and find themselves resting on someone's tombstone or in some long-abandoned house. Then they realise that they spent the whole night with something non-human.

To form such an illusion, ghosts use their own tombs and abandoned houses. Foxes and other animal spirits might use their own cave, but more often they use abandoned houses as well.

 

These ghosts don't have to be evil. The most interesting part is the view that if you treat these spirits or ghost well, they treat you well in return. Many stories feature ghost girls of fox spirit girls who in the end fall in love with mortals. But since their presence is always harmful to nearby human, they might need some help from other sources if they want to stay with their mortal counterparts.

 

Oh, and the big dishes in your dream. Scorpions and centipedes are full of nutrition, as Bear Grylls has proved in his series. It's good to take in some protein for the night.

.

 

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mojoman

These fox spirits aren't "ghosts" per se. Ghosts (鬼) are in a different category than spirits (神).

 

Most fox spirits (狐狸精) in Chinese stories are evil. This holds hold true for fox spirits (hangul: 구미호; hanja: 九尾狐) in Korean stories; Korean fox spirits are, in particular, known to enjoy eating human livers. Japanese Kitsune are mixed bag, but the bad ones are particularly bad, including female fox spirits that brought down entire kingdoms.

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Max_Writer

@DeadCat This is pretty much exactly what I'm going for: the great house in the middle of nowhere, a grand and strange evening, and then, at the end, awakening in the middle of nowhere near Chinese tombs where the family was buried.  I plan for the ghosts to be a mix of selfish, giving, evil, and non-evil, each with their own little agenda or at least needs and wants.  One of the daughters seduces the soldiers for their life force.  Another is wracked with sadness about her death.  Another still acts as she did in life: innocent and caring and might even fall in love with one of the soldiers.  The sons are likewise, one of them even being a cut sleeve (homosexual) who is less aggressive about his needs than his sister.  The house itself is both illusion and real at the same time.  It does not, obviously, exist, but provides shelter nonetheless.  

 

I'm pulling a lot from Pu Songling's Strange Tales form a Chinese Studio for this one.

 

The fox spirit was merely passing by around the same time and sough shelter in the "house" before he realized exactly what happened.  I don't plan him to be malevolent, though he quickly figures out what is going on.  His reaction to the soldiers starts out neutral and, depending upon how they treat him, or if the ghosts manage to trick them into thinking he is responsible for some of the strange events that occur in the house that night, will determine his reaction to them.

 

@mojoman As I wrote above, the fox spirit is relatively neutral to the soldiers.  They are armed and he only has himself and whatever magic he might have at his disposal.  However, when the Japanese soldiers arrive in the early morning hours, demanding shelter and pretty much treating the ghosts as Japanese of the time did, he will not hesitate to do what he can to destroy them.  The soldiers might even be helpful to him in that regard.

 

I have plans for a similar scenario that will focus on the fox spirits, making them the antagonists of the story as well. 

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mojoman

Sounds awesome! I'd love to see this scenario and its companion when it's all put together. 

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Max_Writer

@mojoman That's very possible.  I've unfortunately gotten bogged down lately so it's only half finished at this point.  I'm working on a couple of other projects (including my regular Down Darker Trails game) at the moment but should get back to it soon.  

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