The fancy buns of Huanghua are a type of sweet and soft buns native to the northern part of the county of Huanghua, more specifically, the town of Yang Erzhuang, where they are an old tradition.
According to historical annals of the county, at the beginning of the 14th century, the soldiers of emperor Zhu Di from the Ming Dynasty killed a lot of the inhabitants of this area during a campaign to fight the Jingnan rebellion, leaving the territory deserted. A few years later, people migrated from the county of Hongdong and repopulated the area of the Bohai sea coast.
The Huanghua Yang Erzhuang area is a saline-alkali dry land where a local type of wheat is grown. It has very low need for water. Thus, it is rarely irrigated. The Huanghua wheat has a low yield and traditionally the inhabitants of this region lived in poverty. In fact, on holidays and religious celebrations, they didn’t have much to make offerings to gods and ancestors. So, they started using the rare, local, but very nutritious wheat to make fancy shaped buns and used them as offerings to gods and ancestors to pray for harvest, happiness and luck for the coming year.
In order to make the buns they would first mill the wheat and make the flour into a dough. The dough was placed it into hand-carved, wooden molds and then the buns would be steamed. The buns could thus be made into various elaborate shapes inspired by nature such as fish, hedgehog, chicken, flowers or fruit, all things that should have been given as offerings.
The carving of the wooden molds is a family tradition and nowadays it is still being passed on by a family in Gao Guan Zhuang village who started crafting them in the middle of the 19th century.
Carving the wooden molds and then preparing the buns requires craft and is a real artisanal work that today few are ready to take on. In the Huanghua county a few families still make them for traditional celebrations and there is a factory that makes them as well. But since most of the steps require manual work, it remains an artisanal production.
黄骅市羊二庄区域是一片盐碱旱地，在这片土地上生长着一种本地小麦。 这种小麦对水的需求非常低。 因此，不需要太多灌溉。 黄骅小麦产量低，所以本地区的居民一直都生活在贫困中。 事实上，甚至在节日和宗教庆祝活动中，他们都没有太多的食物来祭祀神灵和祖先。 于是，他们开始使用罕见的、当地的但非常有营养的小麦来制作形状奇特的馒头，并用它们来祭祀神灵和祖先以祈祷丰收、幸福和来年的好运。
在制作这些面花时，他们会先研磨这些小麦并将面粉制成面团。 然后这些面团被会放在手工雕刻的木制模子中，再上锅蒸。 因此面团可以被做成很多和大自然事物一样复杂的形状，如鱼、刺猬、鸡、鲜花或水果，即所有那些用于祭祀的供品的形状。
雕刻木制模具和之后准备面团都需要特殊的工艺，这是一个真正的手工制作工艺，今天已经很少有人愿意来传承下去。 在黄骅县只有很少的家庭仍然会使用他们来庆祝传统的节日，而且已经有工厂来制作这些面花。 但是因为其大多数的步骤还是需要手工制作，所以它仍然是一个手工产品。