Pear-syrup candy

Pear-syrup candy
Alternative names Ligaotang
Place of origin China
Region or state Jiangnan
Created by Wei Zheng
Main ingredients Pear, honey, rock candy
Cookbook: Pear-syrup candy  Media: Pear-syrup candy

Pear-syrup candy, also known as ligaotang (梨膏糖) or liqinggao, is a traditional medicine and confectionary of the Jiangnan areas of eastern China. It has crystal clear color and can be used to help relieve cough, reduce sputum, and stimulate appetite. Its main components are pear juice, honey and various kinds of herbs. With the development of modern medical science, nowadays few people use it to treat cough. Pear-syrup candy has then become a souvenir and a snack, forming as a part of Jiangnan culture.



The history of pear-syrup candy can be traced back to 634 (the Tang Zhenguan Eighth Year). According to legend, the mother of Wei Zheng (a renowned official in Tang Dynasty) suffered from cough, so the imperial court often send imperial physicians to treat her and gave prescriptions to her. However, Wei's mother felt the medicines were too bitter to take, and she failed to take them on time, which led to the result that she cannot be cured in a long period. Due to this reason, Wei Zheng decided to make his own medicine, which was to combine almond, Chuanbei (bulbus fritillariae cirrhosae), tuckahoe, and Juhong (red tangerine peel) together, and then add the combination into pear syrup, and finally decoct the whole thing into paste. Wei's mother took the medicine and was cured soon. After that, Wei shared this prescription to the public, and not only bigwigs but ordinary people tried to produce it, so the method of making the candy became widespread.[1]

In Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) years, the production and sales of pear-syrup candy had been normalized and become a huge industry. In Luoyang, the west capital, there were countless shops selling it, and the production technology was quite mature. After the Jingkang Incident (9 Jan, 1127), plenty of handicraftsmen who worked in its production moved to the southern part of China with the dynastic change. They passed through Yangzhou and settled down in Hangzhou, the capital of Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Thus, pear-syrup candy then appeared in Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, and nearby areas. After that, the candy has always been popular in Jiangnan Areas.[2]


In modern times, pear-syrup candy has developed into Shanghai style, Suzhou style, Hangzhou style, Yangzhou style, and Ningbo style, and each of them mingled and were popular in Shanghai. The prosperity of Shanghai pear-syrup candy started in the mid nineteenth century. In 1855 (Xianfeng 5), Zhupinzhai, the first pear-candy shop in Chenghuang Miao in Shanghai opened. In 1882 (Guangxu 8), Yongsheng Tang, the second pear-syrup candy shop in the Old Chenglong Miao opened. In 1904 (Guangxu 30), Deshengtang, the third pear-syrup candy shop in the north of the Old Chenglong Miao opened. These formed the situation of tripartite confrontation of candy shops, and the fierce business competition stimulated the rapid development of the ligaotang industry, making it reach the peak of manufacture and operation. In the aspect of its producing technology, the shops insisted on producing hand-made products based on the secret recipe of each shop that has homology of medicine and food. In addition to the medical Ligao Tang which can help relieve cough, reduce sputum and stimulate appetite, there were other kinds with mint, pine nut, dried meat floss, or rose. All were popular among audience of story-telling house and tea drinkers.

In 1956, the Communist Party of China put forward the joint venture of government and private citizens (公私合营). Zhupinzhai, Yongshengtang, and Deshengtang were merged and transferred into the Shanghai Pear-Syrup Candy Food Factory (上海梨膏糖食品厂), becoming the leading corporation of China's pear-syrup candy production, which now becomes a holding subsidiary corporation of Yuyuan Tourist Mart, a local listed enterprise in Shanghai. Ligaotang factories adopt modern technology to divide it into two types: food-oriented and medicine-oriented ones. The food-oriented one is consist of Chinese herbs and natural ingredients, with dozens of flavors of mint, Chinese cymbidium, shrimp, walnut, kumquat, dried meat floss, almond, ginkgo, ham, peanut, pine nut, rose, sweet-scented osmanthus, sweet bean paste, etc. The medicine-oriented pear-syrup candy has gained the production validation approved by the[3]Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China (MOH). Pear-syrup candies with colloidal medicine, grain-like electuaries, cough reduction, various herbs, and Sichuan fritillary bulbs all contribute to treating cough, tracheitis, asthma, and other illnesses to some extent.[4]

Medicinal Value

With sweet and juicy pears in pear-syrup candy, people can benefit from it for the candy contains Ca, P, Fe and other microelement that a human body needs. Besides, it also contains nutrients including carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, ascorbic acid, etc.[5] Traditional pear-syrup candy is made from loquat or fresh pear, added with almond, platycodon grandiflorum, tuckahoe, Banxia(pinellia ternata), Donghua(flos farfarae), Qianhu(common hogfenneI root), Juhong, Beimu(fritillaria thun-bergli) and other medicines and sugar. In some recipe, it also contains Pangdahai(scaphium scaphigerum) and honeysuckle, functioning to clearing and nourishing throat, and relieving cough and reducing sputum.[6]

The medical value of modern pear-syrup candy has been reduced. Except those factories with long history which were permitted by the MOH to manufacture, ordinary food factories can only produce food-oriented Ligao Candy. The MOH and China Food and Drug Administration have stipulated that food and medicines must be sold separately. They also pointed out that manufacturers should try to avoid using medical ingredients in food or materials of medicine food homology. In the Law of Food Safety of People's Republic of China (《中华人民共和国食品安全法》) and Measures of Banning Medicine Adding in Food and Health Management (《禁止食品加药卫生管理办法》), it has been stated that food manufacturers cannot add medicines in food although some of the traditional food can be added with medicinal and edible ingredients. In the instructions of pear-syrup candy, it is banned to claim that it has treating or preventing functions of 'relieving cough and reducing sputum', neither terms like 'dietetic food' or 'health food' can be used.[7]

Cultural Influences

Production Process Performance

In the past, pear-syrup candy was sold with two kinds of performances: Wenmai, the art one, and Wumai, the Kongfu one. The former one is called "Cuomu(锉木)", including the performance of producing pear-syrup candy and sometimes with the singing of local music. In this way, it attracted crowds and provided people with a real feeling. Wenmai became a special selling methods among Shanghai retailers.

The "Xiaorehun" Rap

Wumai is also called "Luobang", which is a selling method in the form of rap. Rapping and peddling with dialects, it won the favor of many people. What the vendors rappes include something new when they are selling from streets to streets with lively and interesting languages. Among those vendors, Chen Changsheng(Stage name: Xiao Deli) was the most famous, who was considered as the representative of ligaotang sellers in Suzhou. After him, Du Baolin created something new based on Chen's creation. He added some stories of criticising politics or satirizing officials. To avoid troubles from the government, he called himself "Xiaorehun", asserting that all he said was nonsense and needless for officials to worry about. Du Baolin's "Xiaorehun" rap became popular in Hangzhou. Later, he came to Shanghai seeking new opportunities, and became a famous comedian in Shanghai in 1920s. "Xiaorehun" then became an alternative name for pear-syrup candy.[8] In 1958, Wu Jingshou (Stage name: Xiao Mingli), current Vice director of Changzhou Folk Arts Sodality, and Bao Yunfei(Stage name: Xiao Delin), established a Rap and Candy-selling Cooperation of Street Artists in the East Avenue in Changzhou, which helped spread the "Xiaorehun" culture in Suzhou. Wumai in Yangzhou was also interesting. With every two people worked together, several pair of men and women pushed wheelbarrows and walked along the streets. They sold candies in crowded places and sang Xiaodiao (Yangzhou folk songs) to attract customers. Xiaodiao was clear and easy to understand, a bit like a roundelay, which often won laughters from the audience.

Some folklore experts consider that "Xiaorehun" has greatly contributed to the forming and development of Shanghai Dujiaoxi(funny drama).[9] And the fact that "Xiaorehun" artists were brave to express their ideas on politics openly can be regarded as the awakening of public awareness of fighting for the right of speech.

Nonmaterial Cultural Heritage

Shanghai City, Jiangsu Province, and Zhejiang Province all listed the performance of "Xiaorehun" or the production process of pear-syrup candy into their provincial level directory of nonmaterial cultural heritage.[10] Shanghai government listed the making process of ligaotang into the Second Nonmaterial Cultural Heritage list of Shanghai. Jiangsu Province listed both Changzhou "Xiaorehun" and Changzhou style making process of ligaotang into the Nonmaterial Cultural Heritage list of Jiangsu Province.[11] Zhejiang Province listed "Xiaorehun" into the First Nonmaterial Cultural Heritage of Zhejiang Province.[12]


Famous brands of pear-syrup candy nowadays include China time-honored brands Caizhi Zhai and City God Temple of Shanghai by Shanghai Pear-Syrup Candy Food Factory.


  1. Wang, Ziqiang (2008). "The Story of Shanghai Ligao Tang". Shanghai Business. 3: 61–63.
  2. Wang, Ziqiang (2009). "9000年的"古酒"复活与1300年的梨膏糖文化". Shanghai Business. 3: 13.
  3. "卫生部办公厅关于上海梨膏糖食品厂梨膏糖生产经营有关问题的复函". 国家卫生计生委食品安全标准与检测评估司. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  4. "上海梨膏糖食品厂:秉承传统 不断创新". 慧聪网-食品安全. 2005-12-22. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
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  6. "How long can Ligaotang be kept selling". Gusu Evening News. 2008-01-07.
  7. "Measures of Banning Medicine Adding in Food and Health Management". National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Rebulic of China. 1987-10-29. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
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  9. "Baicaoxiang Ligaotang". Changzhou Evening News. 2009-06-04.
  10. "上海市人民政府关于公布第二批上海市非物质文化遗产名录和第一批上海市非物质文化遗产扩展项目名录". Shanghai Municipal People's Government. 2009-11-03.
  11. "江苏省文化厅关于公示第二批省级非物质文化遗产名录推荐项目的公告". Xinhua Daily. 2009-04-25. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  12. "第一批浙江省非物质文化遗产代表作名录·杭州篇". 中央文化管理干部学院. Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
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