Tanghulu, which means sugared gourd, is a traditional Chinese sweet of skewered hawthorns coated with solidified sugar syrup. The firsttanghulu had only two haw fruits – a small one on top and a big one at the bottom and thus resembled a hulu, or a bottle gourd.In recent times, tanghulu makers have added variety to this traditional snack by using other fruits such cherries, mandarin oranges, strawberries, pineapples or grapes. The colorful sticks of glistening sugared fruit are a delightful treat for children and adults alike.
The origins of tanghulu date back to the Song dynasty (960-1279) when Emperor Guangzong’s favorite concubine fell seriously ill and the court physicians failed to find an effective treatment for her. The Emperor was so worried that he made imperial announcement inviting all the physicians in the country to find a cure. One of the external physicians volunteered to cure the concubine's illness. After examining the patient, his prescription was simple: “simmer haws in sugar and water and have her eat five to ten of them before each meal, and she will recover in two weeks”. Everyone was skeptical but had no choice but to give the prescription a try. As it turned out, the concubine recovered completely in less than two weeks.
In every child’s heart, there will always be a special place of fondness for the tanghulu. In winter, tanghulu can be found on many street corners and mobile vendors will make their rounds from one neighborhood to another. Children sharing a stick of tanghulu with happy smiles are a common sight. Its sweet exterior and sour center reminds us although life has its ups and downs, contentment is simple, just like the children enjoying their tanghulu.