Last night I ate out with a friend at a restaurant in Qingdao called Din Tai Fung (鼎泰丰) in Marina City (Bai Li Guang Chang/百丽广场). On the table when we sat down was a tiny dish of shredded ginger. During the meal, my friend asked, ”don’t you want your ginger?” Ginger? I suddenly realized what the golden shreds at the edge of the table were. ”Er…no, thanks”, I answered, ”there’s an old saying which goes, ‘In all the year, do not take ginger in Autumn, in a whole day, not at night’ (一年之内,秋不食姜;一日之内,夜不食姜).”

This saying relates to the ancient medical books wisdom that ”eating ginger in the morning is better than taking ginseng soup but eating it at night equals to taking poison (早上吃姜,胜过吃参汤;晚上吃姜,等于吃砒霜).”

Is ginger really such a magical spice? We’ll have to talk about it from the dichotomy of Yin and Yang, Han and Re (阴阳寒热). In traditional Chinese culture, Yin and Yang are opposite forces interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. They give rise to each other in turn. As for the day, it’s also divided into Yin and Yang. Yang will rise from midnight and reaches a peak at mid-day, then gradually declining and reaching its low ebb at the following midnight. This cycle repeats itself each day.

Traditional Chinese medical science believes there exists a definite correspondence between man and the universe.

Humans should be active during the day when yang is rising and we should take some heat inducing food to help as well. Two such foods are ginger and red ginseng. At night, when yang declines and yin rises, we are not so excited as by day. It may cause insomnia or a metabolism disorder if we take much heat filled food. So we should eat heat causing food in the morning or during the daytime, then we can be vigorous by day. Food of coldness should be taken in the afternoon or at night, so that the body can prepare for sleep.

This is why it is not advisable to eat ginger in the evening. I love you ginger, and I love you not.

Relevant Links:
Din Tai Fung
Yin Yang Han Re on Wikipedia

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