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料 can mean 'ingredient', which is clearly relevant to cooking. But 理 seems abstract -- 'the logic/theory of ingredients', almost like the name of a science (ingredientology'?).

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    Are you asking, knowing that 料理 is a Sino-loanword? – l'électeur Feb 1 at 8:07
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    @l'électeur Chinese didn't use 料理 to mean "cuisine" before Japanese used it in that way. When it means "cuisine" in Chinese, it is considered a wasei-kango. I'd consider this question to have a Japanese etymology. – droooze Feb 1 at 9:06
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Well,「料理」in the sense of cuisine didn't come from Chinese.「料理」in Chinese originally meant management, while the classical Chinese word for dish (i.e. a type of food) is「肴饌」.

In Modern Chinese we normally just say「菜」or「餐」;「日本菜」means Japanese cuisine, and「西餐」means Western cuisine.「料理」is not common in Chinese, and is usually used to refer to Japanese and Korean cuisine, probably as a direct transcription of the Japanese word「日本料理」and Korean word「[韓國料理]{한국요리}」.

This means that「料理」in the sense of cuisine probably came from Japan (or Korea).


Dai Kan-Wa Jiten's entry for「料理」provides a quote from an essay by the Edo period Confucian scholar Majima Shounan (摩島松南).

娛語卷之四、八〇』

吾邦市井間。酒店食樓。必以料理字爲標。猶言調烹也。料理字雖出諸書。其義大異。不知其所由。偶讀游仙窟。有料理中堂。將少府安置之語。按中古以來。{{kr:漢}}土小說書未來。人人以此書爲新奇。學士大夫亦往往誦之。當時錯會料理中堂之字。爲調烹之義。俗間相傳到今耳。


My translation:

The [restaurants]{酒店食樓} [in]{間} the [marketplaces]{市井} of [my]{吾} [country]{邦} are [labelled]{爲標} [with]{以} the [characters]{字}「料理」[on street signs]. This [word] is what's [known]{言} [as]{猶} ["cooking or cuisine"]{調烹}. [Even though]{雖} the [word]{字}「料理」[appears]{出} in [many]{諸} [books]{書}, [its]{其} [meaning]{義} is [greatly]{大} [different]{異} [from "cooking"], and [I] [don't know]{不知} its [origin]{所由}. [I] [occasionally]{偶} [read]{讀} [the book]『游仙窟』 (famous Tang Dynasty novel), which [has]{有} [the words]「料理 [central hall/courtyard]{中堂}」. [Here, this word] is [used]{將} as a [term]{語} for "a [resting/settling/sleeping]{安置} [place] of an [official]{少府}"; [Looking at]{按} [medieval]{中古} times, this meaning (referring to "cooking") [didn't come]{未來} from [Chinese]{漢土} [literature]{小說}. [Everyone]{人人} [treats]{爲} [this]{此} [book]{書} (referring to『游仙窟』) [as]{以} [refreshing/exciting/new]{新奇}, [and]{亦} the [scholars and literati]{學士大夫} [often]{往往} [quoted]{誦} [it]{之}. At [this]{當} [time]{時}, the [words]{字}「料理中堂」were [mistaken]{錯會} [for]{爲} the [meaning]{義} ["cooking or cuisine"]{調烹}, and through the [common folk/public]{俗間}, this [meaning] has been [passed down]{傳} [to]{到} the [audiences]{耳} of [today]{今}.

If this explanation is to be believed, then「料理」is derived from

  1. Chinese for managing/taking care of > resting;
  2. A place where sense (1) is done (料理中堂);
  3. Japanese folk reinterpreting a resting place as an eating place > cooking, cuisine.

  • In English (from French) 'restaurant' comes from 'restore' (one's strength). – Mathieu Bouville Feb 1 at 12:00
  • @MathieuBouville There was a kind of soup that was named "restauro" which was served at the first establishments; the name of the soup is the thing that means to restore one's strength, so there was a direct connection between food and restaurant already. Not quite so in this kanji word. – droooze Feb 1 at 12:29
  • I'm curious as to why you used furigana only on the Korean reading here. I don't think there's a problem with it, but I'm curious as the use of ruby texts on Korean Hanja isn't very common. – samuraiseoul Feb 1 at 16:07
  • @samuraiseoul I did that for any Korean readers because I was under the impression that Koreans weren't very literate in hanja. I didn't do it for Japanese because Japanese people normally don't have a problem with kanji. Anyway...have a look at kore.wikia.com/wiki/%EB%8C%80%EB%AC%B8 – droooze Feb 2 at 1:40
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in chinese 理 means logic (like in reason, physics, etc) and also means 'sequence'. A recipe is composed of ingredients and a sequence I guess. What do you think ?

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