Boys’ urine-soaked eggs listed as local specialty, intangible cultural heritage
March 11, 2011Jing Gao25 Commentsboiled egg, chinese medicine, chinese superstition, cultural heritage, custom, Dongyang, peasants, prepubertal boy, tong zi dan, tongzidan, tradition, urine, weird, Zhejiang
Every early spring, a foul odor fills the air of Dongyang, Zhejiang Province. Dongyang people call it “the smell of spring.”
Yuck, it’s actually the smell of urine. And prepare yourself for this: Dongyang people boil eggs in boy’s urine and sell them at 1.50 yuan (23 cents) apiece. It sells like hot cakes.
The convention of eating such eggs, called tong zi dan (童子蛋) in Chinese, literally Boy Egg, is so deeply entrenched that the city of Dongyong listed it as local intangible cultural heritage in 2008.
Boy egg vendors go to local elementary schools to collect urine from prepubertal boys, preferrably under the age of 10, with buckets.
School boys are programmed to the collection mechanism. When nature calls, they go out of the classroom and urinate into a plastic bucket placed on the aisle. Teachers at most schools acquiesced to such behavior. They even remind kids from time to time to avoid peeing inside if they have got a fever. Kids heed what teachers say.
Ms. Li introduced her tip of boiling eggs in boys’urine: first, soak eggs in urine and heat them over the stove. After it boils, get all eggs out and crack their shells before putting them back. After a while, pour in new urine. Repeat it and simmer eggs for an entire day.
Many customers came to Ms.Li’s for the eggs. “It is so yummy. I can eat 10 within a day,” Ms Liu came to Dongyang with her husband several years ago. “I’d never tried it before. After my first taste of it, I’ve become addicted to it,” she said.
A net user who goes by the name “xingdande” (姓蛋的, literally Surnamed Egg) summed up Dongyang people’s love of boy eggs in his microblog: it tastes like spring.
Of course, not all people in Dongyang find the idea fascinating. Mr. Li, a native-born Dongyang resident, has never tried it in the past 30 years. “The smell kills me. I feel like throwing up at the thought of it. It stinks.”
In the eyes of many Dongyang people, eggs boiled in boys’urine is a must-have nourishment in spring. Vendors will always tell you, after eating it, you won’t feel sleepy during spring or get a heat stroke during summer.
Wu Yunhua (吴允华), a doctor practicing Chinese medicine, said that, the food has a time-honored history. When living standards were much poorer before, egg was the only nutritious food for peasants, who labored on farms. Urine crystalizes after standing for a while. The crystal is similar in terms of efficacy to a kind of Chinese medicine called renzhongbai. It can treat yin deficiency, decrease internal body heat, promote blood circulation and remove blood stasis. However, she stressed that not everyone is suitable for consuming it. It depends on the individual body nature.
However, Huang Jian (黄坚), director of Department of Nephrology at Central Hospital in the city of Jinhua, said that urine is waste expelled from human body and basically contains no substance conducive to human health. Therefore, he discourages people from eating those eggs.
Jia Suqing (贾素庆), a doctor at Chinese Medicine Hospital in the city of Jinhua, said that in ancient times, prepubertal boys’ urine was often used as an ingredient to enhance efficacy of medication. But from modern-day point of view, it is rather unsanitary. “However, it has become a local custom. I don’t encourage or object to it,” he said.