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The Exploration of Emotion and Memory in the Design of Chinese Everyday Cooking Utensils

Tang Weichen , John Heskett

In this user-centered production age, emotion is a key factor to consider for a design company or a manufacturer to approach consumer's psychology on product choice. The multiplicity of products allows consumers to also choose other elements like the design style (the external appearance in terms of colour or form) or to see if the cultural content conveyed by the product pleases the consumer, or if the product is handy. These soft elements are a human manifestation of psychological needs. A successful product also makes the consumer feel safe, and brings positive emotion to satisfy the consumer's psychological and spiritual needs.

Nowadays in the supermarkets of China, western products are seen everywhere and they are gradually becoming an important part of Chinese daily life. It is easy to find refrigerators, electric cookers, microwaves, or gas stoves in Chinese kitchens. Speed, fast economic development, and admiration of western culture make people desire to use western products. For a time, the Chinese will overlook their emotional needs when using these objects. However, some traditional cooking utensils remain. They seem common, unfashionable or homely, but they tenaciously keep their position and are well used. The reason that they are not replaced by modern products is that they support people with totally different feelings such as familiarity, steadfastness, specific typical identity, and nostalgia.

According to the latest investigation on typical Chinese kitchens in the city, modern products are only a supplement. The mostly used tools for Chinese people are still Chinese traditional tools. Chopsticks, ceramics, cooking utensils used for frying, steaming, boiling, stirring such as an iron pan, casserole pot, steaming pot, and purple bronze pot are still used in their traditional forms. The tenacity of these traditional objects reminds us they are important for Chinese people to satisfy their needs in a deep way. More and more archaeological evidences indicate that two thousand years ago Chinese people had already been using this cooking system in a mature way. In this long history the traditional objects have not changed greatly in shape, function, or even technology. Chinese people rely a lot on common tools in use for more than two thousand years.

This paper is an exploration of how ordinary tools affect Chinese people psychologically, regarding their original form, the underlying culture dynamics and value conveyed. How Chinese people’s affection for them affects their choice of production is also important. The research data examines two groups of kitchen tools, one is mostly used tools from Chinese kitchens, and the other is tools with same function as the first group but from archaeological discovery. The comparison between the two groups tries to uncover the relationship between original cooking tools and present tools, to explore how emotions are built up in thousands of years of use and how emotions continuously influence Chinese people's choice today.

A case study method is applied in this paper through the steps of observation, imagination, documentation and explanation. Two groups of data are set and studied in an historical context and contemporary situation to explore the emotional characteristics of Chinese cooking tools and their consistent influence.


Chinese everyday cooking utensils, emotion, meaning