There is an account of the traditional way of making (‘swinging’) noodles by hand in ‘Classic Food of China’ (1992) by Yan-Kit So: from dancing the dough to splitting it into noodle strands takes a noodle master about fifteen minutes, ‘but it takes him about two years before he succeeds in harnessing the spontaneous energy’ to perform the various procedures. Chinese noodles are typically made from rice in the north, and from wheat in the south, but are also made from mung beans and tapioca. They can be wide like fettucini, or narrow like vermicelli, and are usually eaten in soup. Noodles came to symbolise (by their length) life longevity, and are eaten on special occasions such as birthdays (See ‘The Oxford Companion to Food’ by Alan Davidson, 2006, for extensive noodle details).
There are two fine photographs of noodle making and drying in Szechuan (Sichuan) by Cecil Beaton in his ‘Chinese Album’ (1945). However the photo above (Pa02-006) has movement. Some commentators are dismissive of the ‘Western gaze’ of foreign photographers in China. However their photos are pertinent precisely because they were taken by foreigners sensitive to differences from their home culture. Just like any tourist, they were keen to record ‘things Chinese’ – characteristic, everyday things that would otherwise barely merit a second glance, let alone be photographed.