According to the tale told to tourists and repeated in countless Chinese cookbooks, the succulent clay-enclosed dish called beggar's chicken was invented accidentally, in the mid-18th century, near the city of Hangzhou in eastern China (though different versions set the story in Shanghai or Beijing—or in the town of Suzhou, south of Shanghai). A beggar, it is said, stole a chicken from a local farm. Carrying it away, he stopped by the side of a pond and built a fire, planning to roast it on a spit. Suddenly, he heard the sound of horses approaching. Fearing capture, he quickly wrapped the chicken in lotus leaves pulled from the pond, buried his prize in the mud near the flames, and ran away. Hours later, he returned and dug up the chicken—to find that the heat of the fire had baked the mud to a hard shell. He cracked it open and discovered a delicious dinner, slow-roasted in its own juices. It is more likely, of course, that some skilled chef of the era simply figured out the cooking process, which parallels the old European methods of baking food in crusts of salt or bread dough. The dish is also known as "rich and noble chicken", suggesting that the folklore of its origins is probably just that.