History of Chinese Food


Historyof Chinese Food


Foodculture in any country is usually determined by traditional heritage,geographical location, economical strength, as well as personaltastes and distaste. The Chinese food culture happens to be one ofthe most interesting in the world and has been highly praised worldover. This paper will provide an overview of the Chinese foodculture. In addition, the paper will address the history of Chinesefood culture and its adoption by the different cultures around theworld. The paper will also look at the various reasons why Chinesefood culture is popular across the globe.

Chinesefood has always varied by region which has been largely affected bythe demographic and geographic aspects. Some of these the majorChinese food styles includes Zhejiang, Szechuan, Jiangsu, Shandong,Fujian, Hunan, Cantonese and Anhui (Liu, 2011). These Chinese foodsare seen as the representatives of the richest heritages and cuisineculture in the world. Chinese diet majorly focuses on taste, aromaand color as some of the key elements of a food item. The Chinesefood culture is also quite complex and involves a lot of complicatedprocedures such as the utilization of food material, invention ofutensils, hospitality services, as well as management. Their foodalso has different connections such as the sphere of life and diet,as well as literary art and diet. The Chinese food culture can alsobe put into different categories according to religion, ethnicity,economics, geography and time. Additionally, Chinese food culturealso focuses on dazzling colors with pictorial detail of the food. Insum, the Chinese food culture represents diversity and a richcultural heritage coupled with a tendency towards vegetarianism. Italso reflects a long period of historical evolution which has takenplace in China within the last four hundred years. Out of curiosity,interest, adventure, and a general liking, a number of otherdifferent cultures have adopted the Chinese food culture after someperiod of interaction.

Historyof Chinese food culture

Chinesefood culture has an interesting history stemming from Chineseinteraction with people from different countries. History of Chinesefood is believed to span more than five thousand years ago. However,it was only after the end of the 4thCentury B.C that such culinary history was recorded by historians. Akey factor which played quite a crucial role in the development ofthe Chinese cuisine is the imperial rule. The imperial determinedwhatever the cooks were supposed to cook and serve them. In addition,China’s variation in terms of cultural, climatic and regionalinfluences led to the introduction of both non-vegetarian andvegetarian diets. In over two thousand years, there was a significantchange of diet across the different Chinese regions starting from thebanks of River Yangtze. Travelers from the European region came withdairy products to China and influenced the local diet in a great way.The geographical and the cultural dynamics in China led to thedevelopment of different categories of cuisines and trends in dietaryapproach. This is what brought about the issue of balanced diet inChina and has been embraced strongly ever since. The centralphilosophy which has influenced Chinese cuisines throughout historyhas been the desire to achieve harmony, balance, and moderation inevery typical meal. This food philosophy can be found in the threereligions in China which include Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism.For instance, Confucius had made a personal principle to eat anddrink in moderation at all times. He also had a liking for rice andwell prepared vegetables which are some of the crucial ingredient inChinese diet. Daoism is also another religion which largelyinfluenced the Chinese culinary cultures especially when it comes tothe issue of food moderation. Further, Chinese cuisine has also beeninfluenced by numerous travelers who have visited the country fromdifferent regions of the world including the United States, Europe,Australia and other parts of Asia.

Chinais a nation where food is prepared and appreciated to the highestlevel. The art of preparing Chinese cuisine has undergone a lot oftransformation for the last 100 centuries. One of the mostinfluential persons in the Chinese history who happen to haveintroduced the art of fishing, growing crops and cooking happens tobe none other than Emperor Fuxi. However, it was only during thereign of Chou dynasty that cooking was deemed an art. Taoism andConfucianism are the two most influential philosophies which haverevolutionalized the art of Chinese culinary. Confucianism mainlyfocused on the cooking and emphasized on the passion for life. Amongthe Chinese people, food and friendship cannot be separated. Taoismon the other hand, was the most influential philosophy specificallyon cooking and hygiene aspect of food. The central objective for thisphilosophy was to emphasize the importance of food in thedetermination of life span. Contrary to Confucianists who emphasizedon the value of food appearance, texture, taste, Taoist was moreinterested in the long term benefits of food. For a long period oftime, the Chinese have sampled a wide of range of natural productssuch as plants, seeds, fungus, herbs, and roots.

Coe(2009) talks about the American experience in the land of China andtheir interaction with local Chinese diet and culinary practices. Hetalks about how a group of sailor from the United States had to adaptto the wide variety of food in China during their period of trading.Coe also traces the events leading to the introduction of Chinesefood culture in the U.S especially after interacting with theChinese. A chief emissary of the U.S in China by the name Samuel Shawhappened to be the first American to have a taste of the Chinese foodculture. One of the first surprises which Americans had to contendwith was the use of chop sticks during meals. Traditionally,Americans were used to forks and spoons as the main utensils to beused during meal times. Americans learnt the Chinese culture veryfast that the Chinese could learn their culture. This saw Americansadopt the Chinese tea as one of their favorite and were even forcedto import it to their countries. The imported was also not drunk incups but rather imported Chinese porcelain, signifying the close tieswhich had been established between the Chinese and the Americans.Some of the odd things which Americans found in the Chinese foodculture were the use of chop sticks, obsession with rice, consumptionof insalubrious food items such as frogs, snakes, cats, and dogs(Anderson, 1988). Americans found the culinary habits in China quiteodd especially considering their love for dirty vermin and domesticpets. Surprisingly, this has not changed a bit as such live animalscan still be found in the markets of China traded as food.

Cheungand Wu (2012) also focus on the spread of Chinese food culture on theglobal context especially in countries such as Australia and thePhilippines. These two authors provide a detailed analysis of thepresence of Chinese food culture in the different parts of the world.They also focus on the Chinese influence on the food culture ofdifferent countries especially as it pertains to the consumption,tastes and food ways. In addition, the authors presents the Chinesefood culture as quite a powerful culture spanning many years ofevolution in history. According to Cheung and Wu (2012),globalization of Chinese food can be traced back in the 17thcentury and is believed to have first spread to Indonesia. A numberof other countries in the world had adopted Chinese food culture intheir diet by the later 19thcentury and had even incorporated it in their main diets. Oneparticularly interesting fact is that aspect of such globalization isthat it has not mainly centered on a specific Chinese cuisine butrather, a number of them. Chinese food culture has been identifiedand conceptualized in the different parts of the world before finallybeing fused into the food cultures of other nations, thereby losingits Chinese identity. An example of such globalization includes theabsorption of Chinese Cantonese cuisine in far away restaurants suchas in Jakarta and Manila. Fried rice and noodles is also part ofChinese food culture which has been adopted in other parts of theworld such as the Philippines. Many people contend that the Chinesefood has some advantages both economic-wise and in terms ofconvenience (Newman, 2004).Most lovers of Chinese food in the U.S, Japan, England and Australiasee it as a cheaper way to eat and dine compared to other types offood. This trend and pattern of eating in the different countries hasbeen particularly popularized by the Chinese Diaspora community invarious part of the American and European continent. This thereforemeans that the Chinese people have a strong passion for their ownfood culture, to a point where they cannot embrace any other culture.

Simoons(1990) mention the different types of regional cuisines which can befound in China. He argues that Chinese food culture revolved aroundfour different cuisines according to region and includes: theSouthern Cuisine, Northern Cuisine, Western Cuisine and the EasternCuisine (Newman, 2004). These cuisines also have their differentnames and include Zhejiang, Szechuan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian,Hunan, Cantonese and Anhui. Apart from the cuisines, Simoons (1990)also talks about the importance of cereals in China. He argues thatcereals have had an important place in China for a long period oftime. Some of the cereals which have had an important place in thehistory of Chinese food culture include broad bean, wheat and barley,foxtail millet, soybeans and rice.

Globalizationof Chinese Foods

Globalizationhas really played a crucial role in the popularization of Chinesefood in Europe and America.Chinesefoods culture has received a global recognition across differentparts of the world. The popularity that the Chinese food enjoys inthe Western part of the globe is quite immense. Currently, the U.S isestimated to have more than 50,000 Chinese food outlets (Mian, 2013).This explains the fact that more and more people find the Chinesecuisine taste good. Mian (2013) goes on to give a list of Chinesefood items which have been embraced in the U.S and other parts of theworld. One of such Chinese dishes is the mixture of vegetables, meatand noodles popularly referred to as “chow mien”. This is apopular crispy Chinese food which is found in most U.S restaurants.Roast duck is also another Chinese dish which has been widelyembraced across the different parts of the world. In fact, people whohave embraced this dish have often referred to it as the “Chinesenational dish”. Other examples include the Kung pao chicken and theXialongbao. The popularity of Chinese food in the U.S started a longtime ago. In the year 1948, the first batch of Chinese immigrantsmoved to the U.S to explore the gold mines. This migration led to thedevelopment of first Chinese restaurant to cater for the large numberof Chinese immigrants who flocked the U.S almost on a daily basis.Afterwards, there was the development of Chinese towns especially inthe East Coast region. However, there was a growing concern among theU.S residents over the quality of the food. This was especially dueto the uncleanness of Chinatowns which made the food unattractive. Infact, there was an act which was passed to limit the number ofChinese immigrants in the U.S. Eventually the Chinatowns were cleanedpaving way for the renewed migration of the Chinese in the U.S(Roberts, 2002). This explains the high number of Chinese restaurantsin the U.S which even surpasses the McDonald’s. It also explainsthe love of Chinese food by the American people. One of the keyfactors which have made Chinese food popular is the belief that theyhave the potential to increase one’s lifespan.

Mostpeople believe that Chinese food has the ability to increase one’squality of life and even improve their lifespan on earth. Chinesefood is also believed to have some incredible amount of dietaryadvantages which are of benefit to the human body. Unlike other foodsfrom different parts of the world which involves intense frying,Chinese foods are in most cases steamed and are therefore a lothealthier than the rest (Roberts, 2002). For this reason, many peoplehave an increasing appetite for Chinese food and would spend whateveramount of money they have just to taste it.


Itis evident that the Chinese food culture has a rich history. The factthat it has been accepted in the different parts of the world is alsoevidence of its quality. It’s a food culture which is grounded onmodesty, balance and harmony. In addition, Chinese food has thebenefit of having low fat and calorific content, further making itmore popular in different parts of the world. Presence of a highnumber of Chinese restaurants and the acceptance of Chinese food inAsia, Europe and America shows that it is a highly preferred cultureand tells a lot about the history of its globalization.


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