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5 Interesting Facts About Chinese Food History

Chinese cuisine is rarely just food, but has a blend of art, philosophy, and deep cultural meanings for the people. With centuries of history, anyone is guaranteed to be fascinated and intrigued by Chinese food facts. We are no exception as we eagerly share some of the most interesting findings about Chinese food history.

1. How It All Started

In the long Paleolithic Period (3 million years to 10 thousand years ago), human beings in the primitive society of China mainly lived on hunting. They had no knowledge on fire food, much less about fine food or cooking.

Chinese food history

Until about 50,000 years ago, Chinese ancestor Suiren, who was the head of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, invented “manual wood drilling to make fire”, which started the era of cooked food.

2. Dynasties of Food

The progression of food as a necessity to a form or art happened during the reign of the Zhou Dynasty. Initially, foods were cooked but still in a very modest way, but historical records showed the coming of “ Ba Zheng” or Eight Treasures during the era which remains an influential dish until today.

What followed next in the Qin Dynasty was the introduction of sour flavor, then salty flavor in the Han Dynasty. During the opening of the Silk Road in the Han era, more and more cooking materials and spices were introduced which laid a firm foundation for the next dynasties : The Tang and Song.

Chinese food history

By the time of the Tang dynasty, Chinese cuisine had really developed to a quality level. Food was a form of enjoyment for many, including banquets and feasts. It reached climax in the Song dynasty with appearances of cold dishes, hot dishes, soup and colorful dishes from all corners of China and various cooking styles- all the way to Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

3. End of Dynasty

The end of the Qing dynasty brought along the four regional cuisines that we’ve known today : Zhejiang, Fujian, Hunan and Anhui. The Eight Cuisines were further shaped with the previous 4 gems of cuisines namely : Shandong, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Cantonese.

After the establishment of PRC, we saw the innovative sides of Chinese cuisines with exciting results. Restaurant cultures also began to flood modern China with an endless competition of color, aroma, flavors and designs.

4. The Food Philosophies

It was Confucious who established the standards of cooking and table etiquette, for example using bite-sized portions of meat and vegetables and avoiding knives at the dining table for good manners. He also encouraged a harmony of flavors, importance of presentation, texture and decoration.

Chinese food history
Chinese food history

Most importantly, cooking became an art rather than a task to be endured and certainly he was instrumental in promulgating the philosophy of “live to eat” rather than “eat to live”.

5. Chinese Food Today

Foreigners are often shocked by what Chinese eat. Many Chinese dishes make foreigners feel weird or squeamish, like dog hotpot, insects, scorpions, snakes, rats, pig’s ears, heads, feet, hearts, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, and boiled blood.

But modern Chinese food also encompasses a range of healthy, clean and conscious food in different restaurants all over the globe. Whatever you’re looking for in a Chinese meal, there’s more than a dozen way to cook it, with crazy amount of healthy vegetables, and flavorful yet symbolical result that makes your meal, extra memorable.

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