The Gyoza is a direct descendant of the Chinese Jiaozi dumpling. The Jiaozi is one of the most commonly eaten food items in China and has had a presence in the country for almost two thousand years. According to Chinese folklore, Zhang Zhongjing AD, the same man credited with the founding of Chinese herbal medicine, is credited with inventing the Jiaozi. It has been approximated that Zhang was born in the year 150, so the Jiaozi was invented sometime after then. He wanted to help people suffering from the cold weather, particularly those who were so cold that their ears that were freezing and even breaking. He crafted a food designed to raise people’s body temperatures and he decided to make it in the shape of ears. While people did not place these delicious boiled dumplings directly to their ears, the warm food helped raise their body temperature, thus helping them with their freezing ears.
The Chinese eat Jiaozi all year and at any time of the day. They eat them heavily during the Chinese New Year. Any time they eat the Jiaozi it is a small tribute to the heroic efforts of Zhang Zhongjing, whose ingenuity in creating the dumplings helped many people through harsh winters.
The Gyoza was born after many years of war between China and Japan led to the Japanese being exposed to this variety of dumpling that had not yet earned widespread popularity in Japan. The gyoza minimally varies from the jiaozi and is really the result of the Japanese learning of the jiozi and adjusting it to their tastes.
Japan invaded China in 1937 in what would be called the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japan attacked China in hopes of controlling their natural resources. The two nations were in conflict beginning in 1931 but in 1937 was when war was declared. This was the beginning of several years of Japanese soldiers being present in China. Not only did this conflict play a major role in World War II, but it also changed the world of wrapped and stuffed food forever. China was allied with Germany and the United States at the time. Japan, taking great offense to the United States’ involvement in the conflict, launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. This attack prompted to the US to fully join the war. The conflict between China and Japan became considered part of the Pacific War of World War II. The Pacific war and World War II would both last until 1945.
The most direct contact the Japanese had to the Jiaozi dumpling was during their occupation of Manchuria, a large area in China that they successfully invaded early in their fighting with China and occupied through the duration of World War II. This is where they learned from Chinese people how to make the dumpling, and upon return to Japan they taught their families. Although it is unlikely that this type of dumpling was never before present in Japan, this was definitely the turning point when it gained widespread popularity. The frequency at which the Chinese eat Jiaozi and the nationwide popularity of the food explain why it is no surprise that Japanese soldiers were so frequently exposed to the food during their time at war with China. The Japanese were exposed enough that they became proficient in making them and brought this custom back to their home country. Despite the blood spilled between the two countries, the Japanese still adopted this dumpling, with minor changes, as a common national food item.