The traditional flowery steamed bun known as the huamo is not only a popular food but also a main feature of folk art in northern China. It’s especially important when it comes to ceremonies and festivals like the Lunar New Year.
In the ancient city of Hancheng in China's northwestern Shaanxi Province, Yan Qiuyun is one of the makers of huamo. She knows all the secrets of this folk art.
Locals in Hancheng, northwestern China's Shaanxi Province make huamo for the Lunar New Year. /CGTN photo
In preparing the gifts for the New Year, she said that there are many important steps to making flour into delightful and appetizing huamo. First of all, repeated kneading and rolling, as saying goes, will make the fermented dough white, smooth and pliable.
Shaping is another essential skill. It requires imagination and some simple tools.
For skilled makers, it never takes too long to create a huamo in shapes such as birds, fish, tigers, and other little animals, as well as flowers.
Huamo have many forms, and cats and tigers are very popular blessings for children for locals believe they have the power to protect the young. /CGTN photo
"Huamo are used in festival celebrations, from worshiping to birthday parties for babies and the elderly. During the Spring Festival, it's a must for sending gifts and stands for a thriving life," Yan said.
Making huamo, particularly for ceremonial events, requires a flair for painting and coloring.
During the Spring Festival, people in the north country would mainly make huamo for gifts among each other. The flowery steamed-buns would only have various shapes but not be colored for health concerns. Those huamo for ceremonial events will be painted and colored like decorative cakes. /CGTN photo
"Just try to make an appropriate color scheme, get a good contrast between light and dark, and good perspective," according to Yan.
Of course, huamo are mostly for eating during the Spring Festival. After being steamed for half an hour, they become fluffy white and smell sweetly of wheat.
Locals in Hancheng keep the tradition of sending "Huamo" to each other during the Spring Festival. /CGTN photo
When the delightful and appetizing huamo are made. People send them as gifts to express their good wishes for each other in the Lunar New Year.
For many in the ancient city of Hancheng and the larger areas in northern China, huamo remain a symbol of good luck, fortune and happiness, and pass on the ancient Chinese tradition to the younger generations.