In Chinese, guangbing
, Wade-Giles kuang-ping
, Gwoyeu Romatzyh guangbiing
Flat and round, with a hole in the middle, a 3-inch wide wheaten savory cake eaten in China's Fujian province, especially in the area around Fuzhou. Guangbing are baked but I have not been able to tell if they are actually boiled first or not (a necessary feature of the true bagel); the texture makes me think they may be. I have seen them plain and with sesame seed, and there is also a version with chopped scallions and salted pork skin on top (no hole in this version).
The name looks like it means "cake of light" or "shiny biscuit". But the story is that these biscuits were introduced to the Fujian coast by Qi Jiguang, the 16th century northern Chinese general who came south to fight the Wokou pirates. According to this explanation, the name actually means "Qi Jiguang's biscuit". Linguistically, this story is not highly plausible. But as an origin myth it explains two puzzles about the guangbing: its shape and its provenance.
Baked wheaten foods are not native to Fujian, where rice and rice-doughs are the cereal staples. But wheat is native to north China, and Qi Jiguang and his army cooks would have known it well.
As for the shape of the guangbing, the story is that the hole enabled it to be strung, and that soldiers were issued a string of several dozen at a time. They wore these "bagel necklaces" as part of their basic kit. I kid you not.
And as for the question whether the Polish-Jewish bagel might be related in some way to the guangbing, there is no firm answer. Certainly there was contact across Central Asia between northern Chinese and eastern Europeans by the 16th century. Jews, among many others, traded across the Silk Road. But it seems to me that the central fact about the guangbing is its militarily useful hole, and until shown other factual information I am inclined to think it was a local invention for the Fujian army.
Another possibility is that because boiling and baking gives the bagel its shiny surface, the name really does mean no more than "shiny biscuit" and General Qi actually has nothing to do with it.