Module 7: Ancient Chinese Agriculture & Livestock

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Digging deep into the history of Chinese food culture is difficult since most archaeological sites within China have been severely disturbed through millennia of agriculture, flooding, and tomb digging, which have confused the archaeological record of these sites.

Pigs were domesticated at Zengpiyan in Guangxi nearly 7,600-9,000 years ago. The East Asian pig, however, had independent domestication. Prior to 6,000 BCE, larger agrarian societies that produced an abundance of domesticated rice were mostly settled in the Yangzi Valley. Chinese cabbages, dogs, pigs, sheep and chickens were found all across China by 4,000 BCE. Native to southern China and Southeast Asia is the chicken. However, the first archaeological presence of the chicken, indicated by older bones of wild chicken or pheasant-type birds, were found near Xian, and it may have been native to the area. Another possibility is that the chicken was domesticated in the south and spread to the north. It is also possible that sheep were domesticated independently in China and near eastern areas. By 4,000 BCE, the Neolithic cultures of China developed drastically. Large agricultural sites can be found in the modern provinces of China, as well as the surrounding areas. Modernly, China has 22 provinces, but traditionally, it only had 18 provinces. From this point, agriculture spread quickly to Southeast Asia and farmers settled in Taiwan, where the pig became the most common livestock. Around 3,000 BCE, Taiwan began supplying 90% of the meat and does still to this day.

Goats were not found as a wild species anywhere near or in China, but somehow also cropped up in the area around this time as well. Water buffaloes, which were likely domesticated in or near the Yangzi Valley and independently in India, may have been available at this time as well however, the archaeological evidence has been unable to confirm. It is also likely that other varieties of cattle arrived in China from the near East around this time. Although the exact timeline of animal domestication is unclear, it is also probable that the horse arrived in China by 2,000 BCE, which was originally domesticated in the steppes of Ukraine and western Russia by 4,500-4,000 BCE.

Peanuts are a New World crop that was brought to China between the 16th and 17th centuries, and archaeologists only know this, likely due to seed-burying rodents at archaeological sites within the Han dynasty. Although written records became available by 1,500 BCE, but these records only really speak about grains and livestock. In the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1,000 BCE-221 BCE), Chinese plant domestication became evident, due to the Book of Songs, which was a compilation of Zhou poetry that contains a record of dozens of plants. The book includes 305 songs that speak of more plants than were mentioned throughout the entire Bible, as well as 88 animal species, with some being mythical. Since the book was written in northern China, its songs reflect societies that are wholly dependent on millets, with wheat being mentioned briefly, in passing. The book mentions cabbages, beans, gourds, melons, and many other varieties of fruits and vegetables. At this time, China was still heavily dependent on fish and game, but pigs and chickens were considered animals of daily use. The Book of Songs was actually edited to its final form by Confucius in the 5th century BCE. The book mentions 44 vegetables and herbs, including Chinese cabbage and celery, plums, apricots, bamboo, peaches, hazelnuts and pine.

The dawn of agriculture was only able to occur in Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, as a result of their heavy reliance on the Euphrates, Tigris, and the Nile river. Aside from the ancient world’s other ancient agrarian societies, China is essentially the originating source of most of the modern world’s agriculture. The Chinese invented irrigation by building canals and taking advantage of sloped lands to develop agriculture, as well as other methods and farming techniques. And although the agricultural society of Ban Po was reliant on the Huang He or Yellow River, China was the first ancient society to develop irrigation techniques for agrarian societies that were not strictly based on the banks of rivers or other water sources.

Botanists suggest apples arose in central and southern China. This field is home to around twenty species of Malus, whose seeds steadily disperse throughout the Northern Hemisphere through birds. Tian Shan (Heavenly Mountains) on the western China-Kazakh frontier is the progenitor of all current apple cultivars. These Tian Shan forests were isolated around 4.5 million years ago by biological and climatic shifts and developed in isolation. Juniper theorizes that when bears and wild pigs, horses and donkeys eventually started to inhabit the field and consume the most prominent and sweetest fruits, they helped pick bigger, sweeter fruits naturally. Since apples do not breed "true to type" from seed, these scattered seed wild plantings eventually led to various apple varieties from this one species. Later, around ten thousand years ago, people started to migrate through the region, consuming these fruits and taking them westward. China is the world's biggest apple producer.

Cabbage and kale spread from Europe and the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia and Egypt. These crops subsequently dispersed throughout the Old World along trade routes, ultimately reaching China, where distinctive kale and broccoli varieties contrasted with B. rapa cabbages.

Rice-fishing agriculture has a long tradition in China and may have originated from pond culture. Numerous eggs develop in a successful year with adequate rainfall and mild conditions. The ricefield fish could have grown better than those in the rivers, and the tradition of growing ricefield fish emerged. The archaeological and written documents do speak on the almost 2000-year-old rice-fish culture. In 1964-65, Mid-Eastern Han Dynasty tombs excavated near Hanzhong City, in Shanxi Province unearthed two clay models: a pond model and a ricefield model. Discovered in an Eastern Han Dynasty brick tomb in 1977, in Emei County, Sichuan, was a stone carving of a pond and ricefield model. Half the stone carved into a pond containing frogs, fish and ducks. The other half, carved into a ricefield with an inlet and outlet, with two farmers employed on one side and two manure heaps on the other. In 1978, Mian City, Shanxi Province excavated four mid-Han Dynasty tombs with 200 relics. One of the intact relics was a model of 18 pottery miniatures of marine plants and animals: sculptured snakes, eels, spiral eggs, crucian carp, grass carp, common carp, and turtles. Another winter ricefield showed farmland with a pond containing trout.

These artifacts indicate that rice-fish culture emerged close to Hanzhong and Mian Counties in Shanxi Province and Emei County in Sichuan Province and was prominent at least 1700 years ago. The ricefield fish species were common carp, crucian carp, grass carp, silver carp. The bamboo fish trap and sluice gate built at the inlet and outlet suggest that a primitive rice-fish community model existed at the time. Recipes for Four Seasons, published in the Wei Dynasty (220-265 AD), is the oldest written record of rice-fish culture: a tiny fish with yellow scales and a red tail grown in the ricefields of Pi County northeast of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, may be used to create a sauce.

The next written document identified was during the Tang Dynasty's latter half. Liu Xun (about 889-904 AD) wrote about in the Wonders in Southern China: As spring rains arrive, water pools around houses in fields. Introduced to the flooded fields are Grass carp fingerlings. One or two years later, once the fish mature, they consume the plot's grassroots. Not only does this fertilize the fields, but it also produces more fish. With this method, rice is grown without weeds.

Rice-fish culture evolved rapidly after establishing the People's Republic of China in 1949. In 1954, the fourth National Aquaculture Meeting suggested establishing country-wide rice-fish culture. From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, many causes, including the intensification of rice processing and the large-scale usage of chemical insecticides, impeded rice-fish farming. The trend has now extended to all rice-growing areas in China by modifying rice-fish techniques to meet local agroecological conditions.

The modern idea of mutualism in rice-fish culture, which is different from traditional methods, increases rice production by encouraging herbivorous fish to eradicate weeds that interfere with sunlight, fertilizer, and space for growing rice plants. Simultaneously, ricefield fish feed on weeds, plankton, and benthos, creating an ideal ecological structure that supports both fish and rice. Traditionally, the plan was to grow fish alongside rice as an additional food supply. The definition now involves mutualisms for both fish and rice species. Rice-fish farming has two primary methods: rotating rice and fish crops and growing fish and rice together. Rice-fish rotation requires the rice to grow from one season to the next. Farmers often use this method for winter ricefields, water-conserving regions, and low-lying areas in Sichuan Province. The fish raised are mostly adult or larger fish varieties.

By allowing fair use of rice and fish's reciprocal advantages, the latest paradigm offers a modern biological strategy to improve China's agriculture. The focus is on increasing rice, and fish's job is to enhance rice plant development. However, the overall aim is to improve rice and fish production in rice-growing areas. Farming rice fish has many advantages: fish can increase rice yields, fish feed on weeds and worms and loosen soil, fish sustain and enrich the soil and water fertility, eradicate insects and pests, consume mosquito larvae. In ancient times, ricefields stored fish species were: common carp, crucian carp, grass carp, silver carp, bighead carp.

The rice-fish culture practiced in shallow-water ricefields, deep-water rice fields and wild rice fields, but in brackish waters along coastal reclamation zones, they use a rotational method; rice crop develops one year, and mullet grows the next. Rice-fish culture is a common way for people to cultivate fresh fish supplies in mountainous regions. Farmers in these areas conduct rice-fish culture to collect fish for personal use, but it needs intensive maintenance and produces a weak yield.

Because of China's huge population and scarce agricultural space, agriculture is heading towards the intensification of traditional rice-fish culture. It is an efficient way to improve ricefield production by growing rice and fish simultaneously and is the optimal method of improving ricefield economic productivity, allowing farmers to increase profits.

Rice-fish farming is an ecological process combining rice processing and aquaculture that enhances rice and fish growth, maximizes the use of field and water supplies, and effectively increases harvests. Several scientific and technical advances have occurred due to Chinese rice-fish techniques.

Historical documents indicate that Chinese farmers began fishing in ricefields about 1700 years ago. Nevertheless, rice-fish culture has not advanced for several years, and feudal ties have hindered its growth. Farmers grew ricefield fish to augment their meals.

Under the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the rice-fish culture eventually evolved into a significant rural practice. However, it did become a structured methodology due to certain constraints. Fields were scattered, and little knowledge was available; thus, approaches and yields differed considerably in various regions. Yields were low, the size of the operations remained small, and techniques did not advance.

Before the People's Republic of China, the Kuoming-Dang Government's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry encouraged rice-fish culture production by stocking fingerlings in Sichuan ricefields. The Rice Experiment Station in Shong Jiang District also offered technological guidance to local farmers. These activities encouraged rice-fish culture locally, but prohibitions restricted its effects on the rest of the country.

During the early People's Republic of China, rice-fish farming flourished as these aids restored agricultural production. Farmers traded information about their rice-fish culture, and more districts started implementing the methodology. By 1959, small-scale fish harvested with conventional tall rice varieties was grown on level land without pesticides. A few farmers dug fish ditches, which occupied just 1% of the field. Fish were not fed, with only weeds available. Despite modern innovations, rice-fish culture stayed conventional. The rice cultivation scheme was reformed in later years, utilizing vast amounts of manure and poisonous pesticides. The rice-fish culture declined, and modern methods only became established after 1978.

Guizhou has conducted rice-fish farming for over 1000 years. It is most common in eastern Guizhou (bordering Hunan and Guangxi provinces), where national minority communities reside. The most widely grown species are common carp "Gaopo," common carp "river." Farmers catch and hatch fish eggs from wetlands, ricefields, and waterways. Because of climatic factors, most regions have just two crops a year and one rice harvest. Usually, fields do not get drained, and farmers in south-east Guizhou also raise fish in winter water fields. Rice-fishing has been in Chongqing Region for over 1000 years.

However, long-term fish yields were low and unpredictable for a long time due to intensive cultivation, conventional techniques, and other restricting circumstances. Advances in science and technology, fish industry growth, improvements like rural economies, and a rise in the market led citizens to explore new ways to exploit the water supply. They pursued innovations that transformed the conventional rice-fish culture structure, creating economic, social and ecological benefits. In eastern Sichuan Province, Hongqing has a subtropical monsoon environment with ample heat and rainfall during the warm season. These conditions are ideal for fishing. Chongqing, situated in Sichuan Basin's hills and low mountain regions, has broadly scattered ricefields and varying natural conditions. Several rice-fishing methods evolved to suit local conditions. Rice-fish farming is a successful way to optimize ricefield profits by simultaneously producing freshwater fish to augment the food supply and profits.

Rice-fish culture provides impressive advantages: it does not need other land and water sources, it provides a quick crop cycle, needs minimal capitalization, produces rapid returns and profits, is easy to operate and utilizes basic technologies. It also entirely exploits the potential of the ricefield's water capacity.

Substantial advances in rice-fish farming occurred in Jiangsu Province, and the farmers are getting more acquainted with the latest practices. Integrated rice-fish production provides commercial, social and ecological benefits. It has been an effective way to raise household revenue, diversify single-product economies in rural areas, and provide animal protein.

Sunflower, corn and soybean augmented conventional oilseed, oil cabbage. Historically, vegetables were often tiny. In winter, there was nothing except Beijing's cabbage—the cylindrical-headed type of Chinese cabbage, with pale leaves and broad, crisp leaf bases. Recently, deliberate attempts to diversify the winter vegetable supply have occurred. Melons were prevalent in summer for their cooling and diuretic qualities as well as their sweet taste. Their seeds became a common snack, to the extent where certain watermelon varieties were raised only for seeds, many large seeds and very little meat. Peaches and jujubes were abundant when they were in season. Walnuts, lotus seeds, fruits and nuts became luxurious products. The pig was the principal meat source, as in most inland China, but beef and lamb (or mutton) were frequent, particularly in Hui neighbourhoods, which are extensive and renowned for their food. Chicken and duck were popular, but only on exceptional occasions.

Wherever practical, fish and poultry are sold alive, as well as some larger animals. A fresh load of vegetables or fruit demands a high price that may slip by the hour if the sun weeps the crop.

Restaurants in China tend to specialize in one form of cuisine, usually focusing on a specific province or ethnic group's cuisine. Several classic Beijing dishes are so intricate and famous that restaurants solely depend on them. The most popular was and is Beijing duck. Ducks originated as a domesticated species in northern China, and the "white Pekin" remains the most famous variety globally.

Producers feed Beijing ducks to allow the perfect amount of fat and meat taste, and they are treated carefully from the moment they hatch. After being slaughtered in its third month of life, Beijing ducks are hanged and inflated to detach the skin and meat. Preparation is simple: seasoned and grilled. As with ducks and marinated pork slabs in the rest of China, Beijing duck is hung on a roasting hook so that both sides cook equally. The flesh and skin are cut into small chunks, rolled into wheat pancakes with fermented sauce and slivered scallions. Some epicures would only eat the skin, leaving meat for servants.

From afar come dishes like Hebei's sweet-sour fish. Made from freshwater fish, usually a carp species, it is considered China's best variant of the dish. Shandong restaurants serve the province's top dumplings and fish dishes.

Starting from 135 B.C.E., during the founding of Min Yue state in Fujian province, ancient Fujianese cuisine developed food origins with ancient Hakka refugees from northern regions, native tribes, and local Han communities. Only 10% of the land in these regions was farmable, so the remaining heavily planted areas produced a fair amount of corn, wheat and sweet potatoes. They also grow fruits, soybeans, peanuts, and other oil seeds and people eat these crops year-round, including fruits, since they are skilled in drying and storing them. Sweet potatoes were not an essential dietary ingredient until they helped relieve famine in Sung times (960–1280 C.E.) and the late 1500s. A lack of rice sparked curiosity in this tuber, shredded and called "sweet potato rice." Wheat foods have replaced rice and are now significant dietary components in China. Roasted, cooked, and dried sweet potatoes are used as snacks and meal ingredients and made into flour. They are consumed in proportions comparable to rice and used to make pasta, pancakes, dumplings and other items. Wheat and sweet potatoes can transform noodles into any conceivable form. Wheat and sweet potato consumption are higher in this area than in any other Chinese province, but they are mostly served in soups once their solid material is exhausted. Noodles are eaten plain in stir-fried dishes and stews and turned into batters called "swallow skin," consisting of thin poured noodle batter. The batter, or kuopien, is baked in a wok, incorporating soup while creating a soft crust. Swallowskins can be plain, contain powdered pork or wine lees, or used as wrappers for dumplings and fried foods. Some batters are just egg whites, called kao li.

Other favourite Fujianese foods are fish balls, turtle meat, and a broad range of mushrooms, including black or silver cloud ears called mo-er or yin-er. They make dishes with coagulated pig or chicken blood, seafood, chicken, pork, duck, and goose. Unlike other provinces but similar to the practices in Guangzhou, tea is popular at meals. They sweeten local dishes with sugar cane produced in the south, vegetables harvested anywhere they can be grown, and animals raised where crops do not flourish.

Fuzhou was established in 202 B.C.E. meaning "happy city," and this provincial capital on the Min River has over a hundred distinct freshwater fish varieties. Citizens love Fujianese and Fuzhou dishes fried with fermented red wine lees, dumplings covered in swallow skin, noodles made with powdered pork, and dishes including both meat and fish, sometimes dishes that contain one ball in a soup made with meat-filled fish balls.

The Zhou texts also suggest that China, like other ancient cultures, was dedicated to killing and consuming livestock. Elites appear to have run across pigs, goats, sheep, wolves, and even horses. Pig, sheep, and cattle trinity appears to have been prevalent in sacrifice, suggesting a possible indirect association with the Romans and their suovetaurilia. Chickens and ducks weren't overlooked. Older people were honoured with fatty, readily digestible meat cuts, and respected gods and ancestors received the same favours. Li Ji has lengthy passages on cultivation and conservation. New crops, especially grapes, came from West Asia. Broad regional types have long been consequential—meat-eating northwest, for example, contrasted with fish-eating east and south—but now each town and several towns have established distinctive dishes and food specialties.

Away from the coast, pork is the staple meat, with poultry reserved for festivities and other meats being relatively uncommon. Dogs, cats, and game species are consumed, although not regularly. The most plentiful vegetables are Chinese cabbages and the onion kin, containing five species: onions, green onions, garlic, garlic chives, and Chinese leeks. Lettuce, tomatoes, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, bamboo shoots and other food products are also essential. Freshness, tenderness and delicate tastes are virtues. Relatively young species are preferred over elderly ones, as well as fresh products. Not only are fish kept alive when feasible; it is preferred they are kept alive in clean ocean water rather than tanks and often brought quickly to the kitchen, not missing a moment outside of the water. Traditionally, poultry is raised on a high-quality diet.

Typical food processing involves salt-curing fish and vegetables. Tiny shrimps, salted and self-digested, create a paste. Various pork sausages are prepared; the most common laap cheung, usually made with rose-flavoured alcohol. Pork, roasted and marinated in a tandoori-like clay oven, is unique to Cantonese cuisine. Usually cooked in a more western way, this dish now preserves the name ch'a siu, meaning "fork-roasted."

Regional varieties of Cantonese cuisine are often coterminous with Cantonese language dialects. For example, the T'ai Shan area is home to the Toisan dialect and such dishes as tsap seui, meaning "miscellaneous leftovers," which became the famed "chop suey" of the western world's Chinese restaurants, but it began life as a modest dish among the area's specialist vegetable farmers. They would stir-fry the tiny shoots, thinnings, and unsold vegetables leftover at the end of the day. Dramatic shifts have occurred in recent decades, however. Prosperity has reduced famine instances that forced many to survive on sweet potato plants, outer cabbage leaves, and small shellfish picked at low tide. There is a wider variety of foods that are more readily available now. Standardization has meant healthier, cleaner ingredients within processed foods. Meat is comparatively inexpensive and is now used more frequently. Alternatively, industrial development in agriculture and volume feeding in large restaurants and chains has been disparaging to the world of high-quality products. More sugar, oil and salt are used in cooking and food processing today than 40 years ago. Monosodium glutamate expanded to Cantonese cuisine through restaurants abroad and is now practically universal.

Several Tibetan-related ethnic groups in mountainous Sichuan express dairy avoidance, although some, mainly those close to Tibet who are reliant on herding, use dairy products heavily.

Vinegar is a Shanxi's specialty, which is Shaanxi's eastern neighbour. Central Asian influences were strong during the Tang Dynasty and are still noticeable, especially with the value of lamb, although the popularity of dairy products that was evident in texts between 400 and 900 C.E, has significantly declined. The western Chinese cuisine is that of the densely populated urban and agrarian areas of the middle and upper Yangzi River drainage and the plateau region south of Yunnan and Gueizhou. The Yangzi Valley, Dongting Lake region of Hunan and Hubei, Red Basin and Min River outwash plains of Sichuan are the most heavily populated and farming-rich. Culinary activists were the towns of Changsha in Hunan; Zhongqing and Chengdu in central Sichuan's Red Basin, named for its red sandstones; and, Kunming in Yunnan. Trade and communication have long united these regions.

Moreover, they have long-established links to the north. For thousands of years, passes from Sichuan to Shaanxi have been significant communication passages. Sichuan's centre was Shu's ancient independent state, and Hunan [hoo-nan] was part of Chu's great state. Chu, whose populace probably spoke mostly Thai languages, was one of the Warring States' most influential. Under the Han dynasty, it long-held significant municipal control. Han tombs show diets closer to those of the later periods, with maize, wheat goods, vegetables, and many fruits and nuts being consumed. Yunnan joined history as the Ancient state of Tian, perhaps a Tibetan-Burman society, with a lifestyle linked to China and Southeast Asia. Most of what is now Yunnan was Nanzhao's autonomous empire, a non-Chinese state with Thai and Tibeto-Burman inhabitants. Nanzhao peaked in the Tang dynasty.

Agriculture is widespread across the country, particularly in Hunan and Sichuan, around the Red Basin and surrounding mountain terraces. Potent fertilizer and compost usage have become typical, and sophisticated irrigation techniques are standard. The Yangzi region has acquired new crops from outside the area for a long time. Near-Eastern foods, including beans, sesame, and walnuts, were influential in medieval times. After New World food crops invaded China, the area's corn, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes exploded. White potatoes, brought by Catholic missionaries, grow better at higher elevations and are more critical in this area than in the rest of China.

Another characteristic flavour ingredient of Sichuan cuisine is dried tangerine peel, most commonly used in mixed stir-fried dishes with rich, complex sauces. The area is more pig-dependent than other Chinese provinces. Pork is the predominant meat. Yunnan produces hams that are considered the finest in China and are somewhat close to Spain's mountain (serrano) hams. Such hams' consistency is due to the cold, dry montane regions in which they are produced. Some Yunnan minority groups manufacture a cured pig commodity consisting of a whole fat hog with discarded meat, bones, and intestines, leaving just fat in the hide, and is sewn up. The pig wind-cures in the mountain air. Ducks and chickens are plentiful. Fish are present mainly in rivers and streams, abundant in Hunan, but comparatively less elsewhere. Sheep and goats are raised. Cows and buffaloes are typically working animals but uncommon as food.

Han Chinese and certain minorities make and eat yogurt in Yunnan, a remarkable case of Han peoples' conventional dairy use. The tradition likely spread in medieval times, across Tibet from India. Naturally, mixed livestock herds are standard on the Tibetan plateau, including all western Sichuan, and dairy products are commonly consumed.

A traditional street market vends many varieties of fungi and mushrooms. Bamboo shoots, herbs and other native plant foods are abundant. Game was once plentiful but depleted due to overhunting and habitat loss.

Several Sichuan dishes are well-known around the globe. Duck smoked over smouldering tea leaves and camphor chips is an opulent example. During cooking, it is briefly smoked but not smoke-cured for prolonged preservation. Hot and sour soup (suan la tang) is even more popular, usually made with dried daylily buds, montane mushrooms, slivered bamboo shoots, coagulated chicken or duck blood or meat, sesame oil, white grain vinegar, chillies, white pepper, and occasionally other ingredients. It is a fluid formula, differing considerably by taste and situation. Chicken is also sliced into tiny cubes, stir-fried with chillies and vegetables. A version of this with peanuts from the New World, which usually includes dried tangerine peels, is Gung Bao, named after an officer who claimed to have developed or enjoyed it. There is no need to fear, though; we have an entire episode in the works devoted to kung pao chicken.

The hypotheses surrounding its name are countless; however, the most believable is that the dish was created by women from the Ma ("hemp") family. Hunan's cuisine has the same simple taste combination as Sichuan's but utilizes more chicken and fish. Fine-cut pork, flavoured, then steamed in a bamboo tube, is a typical meal. Yunnan's has a less complicated cuisine. Yunnan's recognizable ham plays a significant role within the cuisine and is seen as a seasoning than a main ingredient. Considering its expensive price point and robust flavour, limited quantities of chopped ham are applied to dishes. Most popular and spectacular is a dish where oil is heated in a pan until it catches fire; then fried lima beans, garlic, chillies, and ham bits are tossed into the scorching oil and quickly cooked.

Fujian province is a somewhat different linguistic and cultural body, but its cuisines collapse into a wide-eastern trend, integrating towards the south into more Cantonese-oriented foods. The region's cultivation is more intense than any in the world. Multiple cropping, heavy fertilizer, systemic intercropping and unique processing systems allow farms as tiny as an American suburban lot to generate a sustainable living. An example of one of these systems is defined by writers like F. H. King, Fei Hsiao-Tung and Philip Huang, which involved rice and silk production where mulberries rose along the dikes between the ricefields, retaining the soil while producing silkworm leaves.

Zhejiang is known for its wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Particular fruits produced include giant pears, listed by several writers, including Marco Polo, which can weigh several pounds. Specialized gourmet varieties of Chinese cabbage and snow peas are among the vegetables cultivated in the area. The tender tips of pea vines are preferable to pods, and the seeds can be the most expensive products on the market. Because of their delicate flavour and cuei texture, they are the pinnacle of elegance. This quintessentially Chinese word is the highest praise for vegetables because it applies to foods that provide initial bite resistance, immediately give in and are juicy and succulent. It is usually translated to "crisp." Pea vines now appear in the United States, and their seeds can also be purchased.

Pigs, chickens and ducks are plentiful, but sheep and cattle are scarce and seldom consumed. The primary source of animal proteins, though, is from the water. Zhejiang is as amphibious as the Netherlands, interpenetrating fresh and saltwater in dynamic patterns. As Wu flourished, the river held enormous fertilizer volumes. Currents and waves carried yet more seaward nutrients. The effect was a high-energy, high-nutrient climate, and one of earth's most bio-productive. Vast fish schools moved upstream or around the shore. Alligators, river dolphins, and multi-species turtles were abundant, and large shellfish beds existed. The land was rich with game. Today, it has almost all disappeared. Yangzi flow has reduced, and the water is highly contaminated. Overhunting, overfishing, deforestation, and land reclamation killed almost all game and large water species and most fish populations. However, the delta area is still reasonably rich in seafood, particularly cod, crabs and shellfish. A significant extension of aquaculture compensated for the overfishing of wild stocks. It has been practiced since ancient times, and fish farming now provides much of China's fish and is concentrated in the Yangzi Basin. Wu's reliance on water foods used to be subject to ridicule. Northern and especially northwestern Chinese, from drier and more grazing oriented areas, laughed at the "southern" taste for frogs and snails, just as English laughed at the French for the same. Wu's people reciprocated, ridiculing the Northwest's rank-mutton and "barbaric" yogurt.

The abundance of seafood is used primarily for fish in sweet-sour or thick brown sauces, for West Lake fish (from Hangzhou's West Lake), braised eels, softshell crabs, breeding season roe crabs, limitless shrimp dishes, stir-fried frog legs, plus several snail and clam dishes, and even the smallest shellfish are not wasted. Among local dishes, beggar's chicken is perhaps the most interesting and is synonymous with the Shanghai region. A whole chicken is filled with aromatic leaves, buds and spices, then covered in leaves, enclosed in clay, and cooked in a fire. The clay is split, often done today with a soft drink bottle, and the chicken is served. Like similar preparations, this dish supposedly started among robbers needing to conceal their stolen fowl.

Throughout history, watermelon was spread globally as the exchange and central African awareness grew. By 800 C.E., watermelon was grown in India, and grew in China by at least 1100 C.E. Three-fourths of the world's watermelon is grown in Asia, with China leading the production region.

Diverse cucumber production centres occur in China and the Near East, with approximately 80 percent of the world's cucumber production in Asia. Linked species include Chinese and African Cucumis hystrix, such as melon, gherkin and other wild species.

Melons need a long growing season of humid, sunny days and cold nights for optimum quality. Seeds or containerized plants form plants after the frost passes. High yield and efficiency need rigorous plant pest control. Like other cucurbits, a broad honeybee population is required to promote pollination. Asia provides about two-thirds of the world's supply, China being the primary producer.

Records from China and Egypt indicate that fowl were domesticated and laid eggs for human consumption around 1400 B.C.E., and there is evidence of egg consumption dating to the Neolithic period. Hen's eggs are the most popular egg-related source of nutrition.

Asia generates 90% of the world's aquaculture, with China generating over two-thirds. In China, fish consumption is closely associated with economic development, and freshwater aquaculture responds rapidly to demand stimuli. Many Chinese aquaculture companies are family and cooperative farms, mostly utilizing interconnected multi-species systems to farm lower value, herbivorous species for household consumption and local markets. If rivalry for land and water resources rises, the further the operations intensify, and some have begun generating higher-value carnivorous or omnivorous organisms like shrimps to be exported.

Asia already has an old, powerful history of building and stocking fish ponds. These are for freshwater fish, mainly carp and tilapia. Since the beginning of civilization, fish have been a significant source of food, oil, fertilizer, and domestic animal feed. Efforts to propagate fish as a high-grade protein source for human consumption were more modern, though they also date back to ancient China and the Roman Empire.

Ayu, also known as sweet fish in Japan and aroma fish in China, is a prevalent freshwater fish in many Asian countries. Historically, Japanese fishers captured it using trained cormorants, a large bird species, with rings around their necks to avoid swallowing. Today, it is harvested by sport and industrial fishers in rivers or grown commercially for restaurant use and home use. Ayu is typically sold live, on ice, or frozen. Wild-caught ayu's food quality is highly attractive, distinguished by a sweet, delicate flavour and cucumber or watermelon-like odour. Carp is the minnow family's largest member and can comfortably exceed ten kilograms or more. While underused in North America, the common carp has always been a widespread freshwater fish in the rest of the world. History records that carp was raised in ancient China's food ponds in the fifth century B.C.E. The world's leading producer is China, where carp is mostly farmed in rotational or simultaneous rice paddies.

Overall, however, China provides over 70% of the world's eels, and many rice paddies have been transformed for eel farming.

Traditionally fish cages were made of bamboo and reeds. Fish were put within the cage, immersed in water to hold them for sale.

In Asia, much fish smoking is done on a small-scale artisanal basis, and a considerable number of species are involved. The smoked snapper is excellent. In China, especially south, smoked pomfret is an essential delicacy.

Like the ambrosia in classical mythology, the peach was a sign of immortality in Daoism, and peach flesh was immortalized in the Shijing (the book of odes) in the first millennium B.C. In pre-Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.) texts, fruits to make the most regular appearances are peaches, pen and jujubes; and after those come pears, sour plums, apricots, hazelnuts, persimmons, melons, hawthorns, and mulberries; making uncommon appearances are Chinese wolfberries, Chinese crabapples, and cherries. These fruit trees are endemic to northern China's temperate regions or were planted in prehistoric China. Peaches, plums, jujubes and chestnuts were used as ritual offerings. Peaches were shipped from northwestern China through Central Asia to Persia, and from there, the peach came to Greece and other European countries. So, unlike the Europeans' assumption, peaches developed in Persia. Many other native fruits in southern China, including tangerines, shaddock (pomelo), mandarin oranges, lychee, longan, Chinese crabapples, loquat, red bayberries and more, are increasingly eaten in more expansive areas. During the transition from a fishing-and-hunting culture into an agricultural society, meats were once also a significant component of the Chinese supplementary diet due to underdeveloped vegetable-growing technology. The Chinese found the three superior domesticated animals goats, sheep, and pigs, dubbed "three sheng," or sacrificial animals in the agricultural period. When conducting sacrificial rites, the three creatures became the highest grade of all sacrifices.

Horse, cow, sheep, chicken, dog and pig were called "six chu" or domesticated animals. Under the impact of increasingly high population density and constraints in the natural climate and other causes, horses and cattle were more frequently called key assistants in livestock and were not fed and raised as animals for food. Thus, before the Song Dynasty, the Chinese found beef an uncommon delicacy, whereas mutton was considered a rather popular meal. Lamb (meat from a young sheep) was deemed a sheep's top-grade meat. Chinese script's character mei, meaning elegance, is synonymous with eating mutton in its meaning and shape. Often, pigs and chickens were some of the first livestock domesticated and used as food. Due to poultry farming's early history, eggs are the Chinese's most frequently consumed animal-related product. A typical characteristic of the Chinese countryside is that pig-raising families (excluding Islamic believers) are the most common Chinese cuisine meat. Of the same mentality towards lamb, the ancient Chinese claimed that piglet meat tastes better than a fully grown pig. In China's history, dogs were creatures that could be slaughtered as food at any moment. While not as popular as pork and poultry, there were specialist dog butchers' occupations. The Chinese invented the primitive incubator, breeding cell, and many other feeding devices for poultry.

China is a significant producer of citrus fruits worldwide. Initial wild orange forms emerged in Hunan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Yunnan, Jiangxi, Tibet, and more.

Since the pre-Qin Dynasty, Chinese food has been mostly grains, so meats were scarce and cereals plentiful. With the advancement of vegetable growing methods, crops were no longer the wealthy's good pleasure. The Chinese vegetable catalogue is probably the world's most significant variety. Popular vegetables include Chinese cabbage, eggplant, cucumber, peas, Chinese chive (leek), wax gourd, edible mushrooms, plant shoots, and numerous beans, as well as edible wild herbs grown in limited amounts. Wild herbs are supplemental foods that enable people to swallow foods, which forces the culinary techniques to evolve continually. The numerous vegetable roots, stems and leaves could be consumed fresh or baked, dried for transportation, or cured for creating different kinds of appetizers. The aim is to deliver as much texture and flavour as possible. Compared to the dietary composition of excessive animal-based foods, many nutritional scientists agree that the Chinese tendency towards grain as the primary meal, with fish, poultry, eggs, milk and vegetables as complementary dietary components, leads to a healthy nutritional intake and health benefits, and is also in line with the global energy conservation call.

According to estimates, 70 to 80,000 edible plants exist on Earth, including 150 species cultivatable in significant amounts. Today, however, only 20 of these species are commonly used in cultivation but still makeup 90% of the world's total grain supply. Domesticated animals and plant species are the foundation of global agricultural development. The fishing sector, which depends on biodiversity as a primary supply, provides about 100 million tonnes of food annually for global consumption. Since ancient times, the exchange and spread of fruit, edible plants, and animal species in China have been a non-stop operation. This exchange increased the Chinese food resources and made Chinese cuisine much more full of delicious dishes, but it also induced improvements in Chinese eating patterns and introduced more life and diversity into Chinese food culture. Besides a limited number of food species introduced in China during the pre-Qin dynasty, more generously-scaled food trade and spreading occurred about 2,000 years ago during the immensely wealthy and influential West Han Dynasty. Grape, pomegranate, sesame, lima bean, walnut, cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon, carrot, fennel, celery, Chinese parsley (coriander) and other food species originating in China or Western and Central Asia's Xinjiang (Uygur) area reached central Han Chinese territory through the Silk Route.

Moreover, the Chinese and international communities witnessed more contact as the days went by. Many non-Chinese dishes started to surface on Chinese dining tables. The maize, originating in the Americas, was brought to the East through Europe, Africa, and West Asia. The potato, a cross between essential food and vegetable, came to China through China's southeast coast; it was first only planted in Fujian and Zhejiang regions. During the 17th century, sunflower seeds reached China from America; 200 years later, cooking oil was extracted from it, rendering the Chinese oil line-up much more complete. The mung bean (gramme) of the pod-bearing crops were rooted in India and travelled to China in the Northern Song Dynasty, between 960-1127 A.D. Spinach came from Persia during Emperor Taizong's reign (627-649 A.D.) of the Tang Dynasty. The eggplant was first discovered in India, and Buddhist teachings spread to China in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.). Foreign foods substituted many unmistakably Chinese native crops like peanut, garlic, tomato, balsam pear, pea, and other foods. Early fruits mostly came from West Asia like grapes, Central Asia like ancient apples, the Mediterranean like olives, India like oranges and Southeast Asia like coconuts and bananas. Other fruits including pineapple, tomato, persimmon, cherry, apple, durian, grapefruit and more were introduced from Southeast Asia, America, or Australia/Oceania.

Meat dishes are traditionally divided into four types, "chicken, duck, fish and meat." However, with advances in modern breeding industries, pork has replaced chicken and has become the most popular meat for most Chinese nationalities, mainly the Han Chinese. In the past, pork was not as available. Now, there are more cooking techniques for pork than any other meats, including stir-fried, simmered, white-cut with sauce, twice-cooked, steamed with sauce and flipped upside-down, steamed with ground rice, cooked in hot oil, and more. Many people prefer starch for home-cooked pork so that pork stir-fry is even more tender.

Chinese have a long history of raising poultry. Since ancient times, the Chinese have considered chicken of great taste and consider chicken soup a great tonic drink. Chicken may be steamed or stewed in clear soup, simmered with soy sauce, white-cut with dipping, or stewed in yellow wine, with no fewer than a dozen preparations.

Often, low-cost, good-value vegetables are a preference. Turnips or radishes, green vegetables, and bean curd are almost indispensable in most households. Green turnip, white turnip, radish and carrot are available year-round in China. They can be consumed raw, baked, stir-fried, pickled, and more. "Green vegetables" include Chinese cabbage, lettuce, rape, celery, Chinese chive (leek), mustard and more when including their consumable leaves and stems. Popular forms of cooking green vegetables are cold plates with dressing, cooked or stir-fried, boiled or stewed. Sometimes small amounts of meat or eggs may be mixed into the rice for stir-frying as well.

The number of chicken recipes alone could be collected into dense books. In northern China, ducks are valued even higher than poultry. However, ordinary northern families seldom cook duck, so the famous Beijing (Peking) roasted duck is typically enjoyed in select restaurants. The most professional spot to produce duck dishes is Jiangsu-Zhejiang. Salty Watered Duck and Laobao Duck are not only restaurant-recognized delicacies; many homemakers will also create them. There are several methods for preparing tuna. Fresh fish is steamed or fried in a simple broth, but less fresh fish can be braised or have sugar and vinegar added for sweet and sour fish. Beef and mutton are Western Chinese minority nationalities' primary foods, with the most popular being beef or lamb barbecue. But in most Han Chinese households, apart from fast-fried, stewed in soy-sauce or simmered, the most common way to prepare beef and lamb is to "rinse" it in a boiling hotpot. Eggs are a significant Chinese animal protein source, as is bean curd cooked by braising it in soy sauce or frying it with ma la flavours, among other cooking methods.

Lotus root is a food product that is specific to Chinese cuisine.

Large bread, typically chemically leavened, was called mantou, meaning "barbarian heads." It used to apply to filled dumplings, but the Chinese word came to refer to firm wheat loaves. Big filled dumplings, typically made with leavened dough, are called paozi. Smaller loaded dumplings are jiaozi.

Hangzhou's famous West Lake Fish with Vinegar uses grass carp from local freshwater lakes. Though the fish is tasty, its meat is loose and has a slight aftertaste of soil. Therefore, before being cooked, it must be placed in a specially made bamboo basket to be kept alive without feeding, so its meat becomes tender and full of fresh flavour when prepared.

Sweet potatoes are popular crops widely planted in China. China's overall yield amounts to 80 percent of global yields, but consuming sweet potatoes accounts for just a small portion of modern Chinese daily diet.

Combining trends presented by numerous scholars, studies indicate that large domestication occurred between 9,000–12,000 B.P. in Southwest Asia or the near East of wheat barley and lentils. Rice was domesticated in Thailand between 12,000 and 8,000 B.P; and millet, soybeans and rice were domesticated in China ca. 9,500 B.P.

Buckwheat was likely domesticated in northwest China’s mountainous regions, centuries prior to the Common Era of China and Japan. Wheat and barley spread throughout Asia from the Fertile Crescent. The arrival of wheat and barley in China is hard to pin-point with dates, based on archaeobotanical research, but we do know that these grains were established as major crops in the area by 2,000 BCE. Wheat revolutionized ancient Chinese food culture, but barley only became an important crop in Tibet.

Around 8,000 BCE in the Yangtze Valley, rice was domesticated. Around 5,000-6,000 BCE, the rice became a staple crop and other varieties were also domesticated, such as the long grain “indica” varieties and the shorter-grain “japonica” rice, along with sticky rice. The sticky rice was considered “glutinous,” but is actually just sticky due to starch amylose.

By 6,000 BCE, foxtail millet was domesticated slightly farther north. This foxtail millet became the staple cereal grain for lands that were too dry to be suitable for rice growing. Panic millet was domesticated around 4,000 BCE and also appeared in Eastern Europe, presumably having travelled across China into Central Asia. Foxtail millet grows the best in hot summers, but it is also capable of growing in different types of soils with different irrigation techniques. As a result, it was much easier to grow than rice. Although rice is less affected by high heats, it is considered a photosynthesizer and could have large crop yields even in overcast conditions. Rice has a metabolic pathway that will cause it to grow more quickly in warmer weather however, cool weather will slow down the metabolic pathway, slowing its crop growth.

Several species of millet grow in China, but the word “millet” itself, referred to any grain with small seeds. By AD 2, China has a population of 60 million people. Historians believe that Chinese and Mesopotamian agriculture began independently, due to the Chinese cultivating millet, which was an unknown grain to the Middle East. This was also around the same time that wheat was domesticated in the Middle East.

Archaeologists found perfectly preserved millet noodles in 2005, which sparked the debate between who invented noodles first: China, or Italy? The debate began as a result of the writings of Marco Polo, who will be discussed further in another episode. The Italian claim is that noodles are completely different from pasta, which is made of wheat.

By 5,400 BC, the Yellow River area had foxtail millet and had begun storing their crops in underground caves. Along the Yangtze River by 4,800 BC, its regions were growing rice. Since China developed agriculture, it has had a largely grain-based diet, which was supplemented with meat, and in most regions of China today, this is still the case.

There is a Chinese writing by the title of Huangdi Neijing, which describes, “The Five Grains as life support, the Five Fruits as a complimentary aide, the Five Meats as added benefits, and the Five Vegetables as substantial fill.” In ancient China, grain crops were called, “The Five Grains” or “The Six Grains,” and typically included shu, ji, mai, dou, and dao. Shu means broomcorn millet, which is sometimes called “yellow rice”. Ji is what we modernly consider millet. Shu and ji were the main grains of Northern China. Mai included wheat and barley, whereas dou was a general name for any form of pod-bearing crop, which typically grows in wet lowland regions and was often the majority source of protein. Ma is an edible variety of hemp and was the main crop for farmers, and dao means rice. Shu and ji are indigenous to China and happened to find their way to Europe during prehistoric periods. However, mai and dao are not indigenous to the region. It is believed the rice originated in India and Southeast Asia, based on archaeological sites that displayed rice cultivation in the early Neolithic Age. Wheat arrived in China during the Neolithic Age but originated from West and Central Asia. Sorghum is a native Chinese crop, and in the 1st century AD, travelled to India and Persia. Persia is what we now know as modern Iran.

All Chinese noodles use wheat, rice, bean starch and coarse grains, but wheat is the most popular. Noodles sliced from a dough sheet are ejected into boiling water through a colander or pulled and spread by hand. North-central China's specialization is the swung noodle. A lump of dough is rolled out and swung like a jump-rope until the dough elongates and becomes thinner. It is folded back and swung repeatedly. This process requires a professional hand to prevent the dough from breaking. However, with proper technique, ordinary wheat flour develops a similar texture to durum wheat pasta.

Soybeans join the early Zhou Chinese archive, supplementing adzuki beans grown for centuries or millennia. Soybeans arose in far north China and Manchuria, and there appeared to have been domesticated by non-Han cultures, probably the bearers of the enigmatic Hongshan civilization around 2000 B.C.E. By this period, brewing was a significant art type. Chinese jiou, pronounced "wine," but beer or ale was invented well before the Shang dynasty. It was made of millet and made of rice in the south (at least later). Shang wine vessels were of heroic dimensions, and both accounts accept that feasting went with intense consumption. Histories say that Xia's last emperor was a debauchee with a wine lake and a meat forest (i.e., a forest where meat strips were wind-cured hanging from trees—a sight one could still see in living memory). Shang propagandists usually take this as an exaggeration after Shang overthrew Xia. However, intense drinking was part of Shang feasting and is well known for Zhou. An excellent food guide is Zhou ritual texts, Zhou Li and Li Ji. These compilations from destroyed documents in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.) presumably represent Zhou's food truth. These references affirm wine's value, citing several styles, including herb-flavoured ones. Elites appear to have run across pigs, goats, sheep, wolves, and even horses. Li Ji has lengthy passages on cultivation and conservation. New crops, especially grapes, came from West Asia. More specifically, food technologies grow. Flour milling and oil development advanced significantly. Around this time, bean curd and soy sauce development appear to have begun. Later, Han seems to have developed alcohol distillation. Han has developed the concept of using food as medicine. China's oldest preserved medical books are Han date, and they have plenty to tell regarding nutrition and diet therapy, which is often significant in starving China. Central Asian forces were high after Han, and a wave of western foods reached China. The Silk Path, the main trading route through Central Asia, connected East and West; its golden period spread from Han through the Tang (621–960), Sang (960–1279) and Yuan (1279–1368). Persian pasta, lettuce, walnuts, large beans, and even dark herbs such as fenugreek and cumin came to China with Galenic medicinal principles and Indian Buddhist foods. Maybe the most significant was spectacular wheat development. China, fed with millet mush and boiled rice before Han, became a land of noodles, bread, filled dumplings and countless other complicated wheat preparations. Gradually, during this time, wheat replaced millet as a northern staple. The pinnacle came in the Mongol Empire—Yuan China's Dynasty (1279–1368)—when the Beijing court served dishes from Arabia, Persia, Turkistan, Cashmir, and the whole Mongol-dominated world. Nomadic Mongol dishes such as the roast wolf and Arabic delicacies such as saffron and rosewater racks (Buell and Anderson). The planet would not see such diverse eating until the twentieth century. A nativist backlash in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) rehabilitated a Chinese cuisine much more refined and nuanced than Han or even Tang's.

The growth of an affluent middle class, particularly in Sung, led to haute cuisine creation. Merchants and bureaucrats rivalled feasting. Stores stocked well; domestic and foreign commerce flourished. Broad regional types have long been consequential—meat-eating northwest, for example, contrasted with fish-eating east and south—but now each town and several towns have established their distinctive dishes and food specialties. Tea and distilled liquor followed alcohol as popular beverages, and tea and wine gourmets took drastic types. For example, tea produced with water from melting snow falling on flowering-apricot blossoms, which delicately perfumed tea.

Chinese foods depend heavily on soybean goods. Soybean appears to have been borrowed by the Chinese in the Zhou Dynasty from non-Chinese communities in northern China. It was a poor man's food from which cooks learned to profit. The first gourmet usage was in thick fermented sauces (jiang). At some early stage, brewed liquid soy sauce (dou yu) and ordinary black-fermented soybeans in south China came to fruition. These simple goods have spawned a range of local fermentation products, sometimes utilizing wheat flour, other bean varieties, vegetables, chillies, spices, or other ingredients. Soy ferments were sometimes the only supply of vitamin B12, a required nutrient in bad diets. Scholars argue that bean curd (tofu, doufu) originated in the Han Dynasty; however, there are no unambiguous sources, but recent data confirms Han date. Tofu is produced by grinding soybeans with water, boiling the resulting milk, and coagulating with calcium phosphate, alum, or a related coagulant. The result is exceptionally healthy and produced with calcium, it is nearly always a significant source of calcium. The oil and some diet inhibitors leave a low-calorie high-nutrient substance of wastewater. It has served the poor's protein supply over much history. All skin forming on boiling milk, lees, and other related products are used, particularly in vegetarian cuisine. With increasing income, tofu consumption has decreased in China—but rising explosively in the health-conscious western world. H. T. Huang presents China's authoritative history of soybean goods. Ming's most significant food case was the growth of sea travel, particularly interaction with the New World.

Much of China, particularly the south, was unfit for rice or wheat. Millet was a bad replacement. Suddenly corn, white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Maize was pre-1600 popular. The remarkable distribution of New World crops arrived in the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). By the late 1600s, sweet potatoes entered China, white potatoes by 1800. Peanuts, tomatoes, chiles, guavas, and other Modern World crops revolutionized agriculture by bringing nutrient-dense, productive, easy-to-grow foods. In particular, chillies are incredibly abundant in vitamins and minerals; they and other New World crops were crucial in making the population boom that brought China from 50 million citizens in early Ming to 1.25 billion today. China remained the "land of famine." Deforestation and consequent floods, hunting, overfishing and other natural destruction culminated in disasters. Unfortunately, the speed of violence increased tremendously over the twentieth century.

Most Asians perceive food as having either "hot" or "cold" properties, fulfilling both medicinal and nutritional purposes—three meals a day each with tea and flatbread (nan or naan). The main meal had at night.

Flatbread is baked either at home or in communal ovens. Bread, which is considered sacred, accompanies each meal. Most baked goods use wheat flour, but mung bean and cornflour are also common. The transformation of a ball of dough into noodle threads in a matter of minutes is both convincing performance art and a dying culinary process.

Since 4000 B.C.E. in Dawenkou, Shandong, alcoholic drinks appear to have been available in China; the earliest written records come from the Shang dynasty, 1324–1066 B.C.E., written by Du Kang, documenting the manufacture of jiu. Jiu meant all alcoholic drinks, typically 10–15% alcohol, obtained by fermenting cereals, millet and wheat. The procedure was first to create a fermented cake, which produced moulds and yeasts that began fermentation in a mash of cooked cereals. During the T'ang dynasty, 618–907 C.E., cereals were either glutinous millet or glutinous rice. China had the first lager, Tsingtao, in 1904.

For birthdays, wheat noodles, a sign of durability, are extended to considerable lengths and served as a soup for birthday celebrations in Northern China.

Millet is a word used to describe several species of the small-seeded grain. World trade's prominent millet is proso millet, mainly produced in northern China. Foxtail millet and pearl millet are also commonly grown on subsistence farms in Asia and Africa. Foxtail millet is one of the world's oldest crops. Its planting was recorded in Chinese documents as early as 2700 B.C.E. Foxtail was the most significant plant-based food in China's Neolithic communities. Its domestication and production were the earliest recognizable expression of this culture, the beginning of which was estimated more than four thousand years ago. Buckwheat is native to Eastern Asia, and it grew in China before 1000 C.E.

Over the last fifty years, the average yield per unit of cereal land has risen by more than 50%. Maize and rice rises were more drastic than other cereals, but both saw gradual changes. The drastic increases in maize yield also contributed to the expanded maize output region at the detriment of oats, millet, rye, and barley. In China, millet production moved to more marginal areas with the best land allocated to corn and rice, with higher yield capacity.

Monumental in North China's long food history is Beijing cuisine. As China's capital for much of the last eight hundred years, Beijing has an imperial court cuisine, and as China's political hub, Beijing has become a draw for citizens worldwide. The Mongols who founded their court in the Yuan dynasty brought barbaric delicacies like wolves and swans, but the more famous MacDonald's hamburgers are now available. Beijing's simple foods exemplify the North Chinese cooking style, with excellent substyles in Shandong, Hebei and Beijing. China's simplest cuisine is the most simple in the northwest—especially in Shaanxi and Shanxi. These regions were and still are, starvation zones in certain areas, highly affected by drought. They ate two meals a day, and coarse grains such as maize, sorghum, buckwheat are often essential foods. They also have their specialties, like Shanxi's excellent vinegar. Until recently, North China grew very little rice. Wheat, soybeans and early millets, particularly foxtail millet, were staples. Maize eventually replaced millet. This New World crop came from southern China during the Qing dynasty but was rare and not preferred. People reasonably saw that millet was healthy. However, in the twentieth century, massive improvements in maize production tilted the balance; foxtail millet did not profit substantially from Green Revolution studies. Nevertheless, maize is still unpopular as food and typically reserved for livestock. Today, rice is also grown far north of its traditional range, becoming more familiar in the region.

The rich had rice congee: rice boiled in water to produce a thin porridge. The poor had a millet porridge equivalent, soybean meal, or wheatmeal. Millet porridge was an ancient food product, prepared since the earliest Neolithic times. It was always simple but flavoured with sweet or savoury ingredients. Cornmeal cakes were at the bottom of the prestige scale.

Maybe the most significant result of the Silk Road was the spectacular wheat development. China, fed with millet mush and boiled rice before Han, became a land of noodles, bread, filled dumplings and countless other complicated wheat preparations. Gradually, during this time, wheat replaced millet as a northern staple.

Some flatbreads include carrots, bits of sheep's fat, or even beef. Others include kalonji, anise, poppy, or sesame seeds. In Xinjiang, round plump bread mimics New York City bagels.

Cantonese cuisine has drawn the world to its consistency and variety. A Chinese proverb says one should "marry in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, dine in Guangzhou, and die in Liuzhou," as these cities have the prettiest ladies, the best sights, the best cooking, and the best woods for coffin making. The Chinese claim the Cantonese "eat everything with legs except a table, and everything with wings except an aeroplane." Cantonese food is, generally speaking, Cantonese speakers' food. Cantonese is a distinct language (though not dialect; there are, rather, many Cantonese dialects) spoken in much of Guangdong province and far into Guangxi, and even by migrants radiating throughout the country. More narrowly, Cantonese cuisine is the food that achieves its maximum degree of production in Guangzhou (Guangdong's capital) and late-twentieth-century Hong Kong. Guangdong's northern sections are populated by Hakka and Teochiu people who speak other Chinese languages and have distinctive cuisines. Much of Guangxi, especially in the west and south, is populated by Zhuang and other Thai-speaking minority peoples with specific cuisines. About fifty million citizens partake in Cantonese cuisine and language.

In China, rice farming has always been the most intense. Lowland paddies grow up to three crops a year after imperial days. Today, with modern varieties and extensive fertilization, yields are four to five times greater. Rice historically provided around 90% of calories in the modern diet and was the staple food. Other starchy foods, such as sweet potatoes and maize after their Modern World launch of the seventeenth-century, were merely famine backups.

The Cantonese diet centred on rice consumed with an extensive range of vegetables and livestock. The simple dietary distinction was between faan, cooked rice, and sung, a term special to Cantonese, relating to something cooked with or on rice. Rice is deemed the ultimate food, a genuine "cultural superfood," and the traditional Cantonese greeting around mealtime is "have you eaten rice yet?" One often responds 'yes,' and if one says 'no,' the greeter is more or less obliged to provide food. This tradition dates back to ancient days when hunger was prevalent, and eating was by no means a daily occurrence. Foods not eaten with rice are simple snacks, often called siu sik, 'small feeds,' such as bananas, candy, and elaborate snacks called tim sam, 'dot-the-hearts.'

The only substantial dishes that do not contain rice are noodle dishes, made with wheat and wheat-and-egg noodles, although they sometimes contain rice noodles. Typically, noodles are boiled in broth or boiled, then stir-fried with vegetables and meat - the popular ch'ao mien or "chow mein." The regular breakfast is tea, fried pastries or juk (congee), a tiny volume of rice cooked in plenty of broth, producing a thin mush. It is served with blended peanuts, salt vegetables, soy sauce, or other highly-flavoured foods.

The Yangzi drainage intensively cultivates rice. Locally, in areas too high and rugged for rice, buckwheat becomes essential, and it was the main crop of Sichuan's Liangshan Mountains, Yi nationality. Maize proved perfect for the Yangzi region climate and rapidly replaced millet. It is also nicknamed "Sichuan millet" or Shu shu, utilizing Sichuan's ancient name. Sadly, maize is a big feeder and weak soil defender, and its production has contributed to significant deforestation and erosion.

Several Tibetan-related ethnic groups reside in mountainous Sichuan. Many depend on buckwheat, maize, or other montane grains. North of Sichuan, Shaanxi has its own food culture. It is simpler than Sichuan's and dominated by wheat products such as pasta, dumplings, buns, and more.

Shaobing is a tiny raised sesame bread, usually baked in Iranian style in a small tandoor oven. They are similar to Iranian nan and appear to have been implemented in the Tang dynasty when the Iranian court took shelter in China from the Arab empires that conquered Iran. Iranians were seen everywhere on street corners in Xian, selling these loaves of bread, which became adopted into the Chinese food culture. In Beijing today, they are sometimes filled with slivered beef that is grilled or stir-fried.

In Yunnan, noodle dishes are plentiful, and the noodles are always just partly cooked, then at the table, slipped into a boiling soup so that the noodles finish cooking in the soup while the diner is waiting. These are called "cross-the-bridge noodles."

Zhejiang's markets were once famous for their scale and range of products available. The staple foods in Zhejiang and most of Yangzi are rice and wheat. The rice grows in the summer, and the wheat grows in the winter. Both were and still are essential in a regular diet. Foxtail millet was once popular but was recently replaced by maize. The rich consumed three meals a day, plus snacks, and the main-meal design was rice with one to three topping dishes. Wheat was the foundation of minor meals and snacks, including packed dumplings, noodle soups and assorted cakes.

Zhejiang was formerly a Buddhist centre, resulting in the establishment of outstanding vegetarian cuisine. Centred on soybean and wheat gluten preparations, it also spreads to involve oysters and similarly sedentary shellfish that may not seem alive. Imitation meats are produced from bean curd skin and wheat gluten, using thick sauces to mask their flavours. On the other end of the puritan spectrum is a northern-Fujian-centred meal, "Buddha Jumped Over the Wall," composed of long-simmered innards and rough meat cuts. It smells so good as it cooks that a meditating Buddha would jump the wall surrounding his temple to get it.

Around 2200 BC, in a tiny village in the Dzungar Mountains of northern Kazakhstan, a family of farmers and herders consumed bread produced from grains that possibly developed in a nearby field: broomcorn millet, a crop that had been domesticated many centuries ahead in northeastern China, and wheat, a crop first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent of southwest Asia. Discovering this pair of grains together presented the earliest proof of a food system spreading over a continent.

Until the fourteenth century, the Silk Road remained a medium for combining cuisines from various East and Central Asia regions. Broomcorn millet moved west along this corridor and gradually became a big crop in the Roman Empire and Europe. Contrarily, wheat was taken to East Asia and turned into noodles and dumplings, influencing Chinese cuisine.

Millet became the Persian Empire's summer grain and Rome's low-class crop, and wheat became the Han and later China's winter crop. Seeds were kept warm at high elevations during cold winters, irrigating some of Asia's driest sands. Due to their thirst for knowledge and ability to adjust to some of the world's harshest climates, prehistoric Central Asians dispersed the allele for a significantly compressed wheat morphotype. They played with dry-tolerant millets from East Asia, introducing the first peach tree to Southwest Asia. Peaches that began in the Yangtze River Valley marshes in Zhejiang, China, travelled to Europe by the Hellenistic era.

The Chinese consume beans, rice, broomcorn millet, millet, and other foods high in proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates. Grain foods come in many variations and take many types. Northern Chinese's primary food was barley. Therefore, most dishes are forms of pastry or pasta. Wheat flour is used to make buns, rolls, pasta, filled buns, dumplings, wonton, and more. On the other side, the essential food in southern China is rice-based.

Aside from plain rice, there are thin rice noodles, dense rice noodles, rice cakes, filled glutinous rice balls in broth, and other rice-based foods. Rice spread from south to north, with barley and wheat passing west to east, therefore, Chinese dietary habits have been greatly influenced by rice. Bing, or Chinese pancakes, are one of the first pastries. The traditional way to make bing is to grind the grain to a powder, apply water to the dough, then boil in water until it is cooked. Steamed, baked, toasted, fried and other varieties of pancakes are common. Bing has the most variations compared to all other Chinese dough foods. It appears in all shapes, and some are stuffed. Even stuffing itself appears in several hundred variations. The pancakes can be single or multi-layered. Skilled cooks can make dozens of layers in a single pancake, each as thin as parchment. Sesame seed cake is the most common baked pastry and is found both in the north and south. Noodles are also a form of conventional flour food. The first cooking technique for noodles was to prepare them in boiling water or soup. It was just after the song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) that there came to be meat or vegetarian pasta sauce. While the art of producing noodles can seem simple, it is a complicated activity that involves several different skills such as rolling, rubbing, stretching, kneading, curling, pushing, and slicing.

Plain steamed rice is the most popular form of rice food and is Southern Chinese's main food. However, more characteristic of Chinese rice food is always zhou, or Chinese porridge (congee). Porridge has had thousands of years of tradition in China, and consuming porridge differs from region to region. There are also countless Chinese porridge types, where the essential ingredients are grouped into six major classes, including grains, plants, fruits, flowers, herbs and meats. Furthermore, the porridge-dressed rice has persisted for quite some time. Thirty years ago, rice and white flour were called "fine foods," which most ordinary citizens could not have at every meal. Its counterpart, "rough foods," were the key dietary ingredients, including maize, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, yams, beans, and more.

Rice is one of the primary foods of Chinese cuisine. From Daxing'an Mountain to places along the Yangtze River and Yungui Highlands to the Himalayan Foot, anywhere rice can be produced, it will appear in people's everyday diets, religious festivals, and wedding banquets or paintings and songs. Rice planting changes the surrounding scenery. Nearly 3 billion people worldwide share rice's history, heritage, and untapped capacity. Stone milling is a historically effective crop processing method. Before the 1950s, stone millings were often significant dowries in many places when girls married. In modern China, more farmers are utilizing mechanical processing techniques.

With pasta, "jiaotou," meaning pasta sauce, is usually a fried bean sauce like usu with minced meat, soy gravy, dipping, or soup stock. The second priority when consuming pasta is shredded vegetable mixtures, and vegetable varieties differ throughout the seasons. The birthplace of Chinese pasta is Shanxi Province, and its cookbooks include at least 280 styles. For homes where rice is a staple food, nothing is more popular than a pot of steamy, savoury rice, but it can become monotonous day after day. So people practice using various techniques, preparations and flavour combinations. Steaming, simmering, stir-frying, roasting, deep-frying, and other cooking methods offer radically different rice texture and flavour. Typically, they would not have many meat dishes.

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