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(4 pages total)

Page 4 - Ginseng the Mysterious Root of Heaven

Ginseng Woodcut

This folk papercut depicts Sun Liang, the legendary ginseng-searching master. It is told that he came to the Changbai Mountains in search of ginseng, overcoming all kinds of hardships on his way. By the time he reached the River Lagu, he had not eaten for three whole days. In his hunger, he was forced to eat some crickets. The Ginseng god was moved by his tenacity in his search and permitted him to find a ginseng. Note the enormous ginseng in the center of the papercut.

Chicken Soup with Ginseng

Ginseng is the most celebrated medicinal herb among the cultures of the world. It has a rich history and is extensively used as a restorative and preventer of disease. No other natural product can match its reputed healing powers.

An aromatic relative of wild sarsaparilla, Ginseng imparts a special taste to any dish, especially one which combines hearty flavors. Whatever its medicinal properties, this is a delicious traditional Chinese soup.


  • 2 pounds of chicken pieces or small game hen

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • 2 slices fresh ginger

  • 4 scallions, white part only
  • 1 ounce ginseng root, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

  • salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

  • Blanch the chicken pieces in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. In a large pot, combine the chicken stock, chicken pieces, ginger, scallions and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover, simmer for 2 hours, adding water when necessary. Add the ginseng, cover and cook for 1 more hour. Remove the ginger, scallions, and skim off all surface fat. Add rice wine or sherry, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Stir the soup and serve at once.

    Serves 4 to 6 as part of a Chinese meal, or 4 as a single dish.

    In "Shennong's Classic of Herbology", compiled during the Han dynasty (206 BC), ginseng is listed as a non-toxic herb. At that time, ginseng was already considered important in vitalize the five organs, calming the nerves, brightening vision, increasing the intellect, and with long-term use, prolonging life and making one feel young. Much the same as is claimed for it today.

    Soviet scientists who have conducted research into the ginseng root in recent years have coined the term "adaptogen" as the best way to describe its properties, defined as a substance which can increase the body's resistance to outside stresses of various types without making it deviate to any extent from its normal functions.

    Ginseng takes six of seven years to mature. Since ginseng guzzles every particle of nutrient in the soil, if grown domestically, it has to be transplanted every three years.

    Wild ginseng is highly prized and can demand an astronomical price. While a large cultivated ginseng costs only a couple of dollars, an old wild one of the same size might well cost $5,000.

    In 1989, a farmer in China dug up a 500-year-old root weighting over 16 ounces, reportedly worth over US$100,000! A find such as this is as rare as winning the lottery.


    Adapted from "China Tourism", 1990. Ginseng articles reprinted from "Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness", Spring 1991.

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