The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine

The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine

Thomas O. Höllmann

Language: English

Pages: 216


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

World-renowned sinologist Thomas O. Höllmann tracks the growth of Chinese food culture from the earliest burial rituals to today's Western fast food restaurants, detailing the cuisine's geographical variations and local customs, indigenous factors and foreign influences, trade routes, and ethnic associations. Höllmann describes the food rituals of major Chinese religions and the significance of eating and drinking in rites of passage and popular culture. He also enriches his narrative with thirty of his favorite recipes and a selection of photographs, posters, paintings, sketches, and images of clay figurines and other objects excavated from tombs.

This history recounts the cultivation of what are probably the earliest grape wines, the invention of noodles, the role of butchers and cooks in Chinese politics, and the recent issue of food contamination. It discusses local crop production, the use of herbs and spices, the relationship between Chinese food and economics, the import of Chinese philosophy, and traditional dietary concepts and superstitions. Höllmann cites original Chinese sources, revealing fascinating aspects of daily Chinese life. His multifaceted compendium inspires a rich appreciation of Chinese arts and culture.




















could be bought much cheaper in other regions. In the countryside, too, markets were usually held on particular days of the month and followed a set rhythm. The scope could vary greatly. Whereas customers in prosperous regions found plenty on sale at markets with more than 1,000 stalls, in some places only the most important staple foods were available. Still, even the more leisurely markets had their unique charm. Nowadays in big cities it is easier to get an overall picture of the number of

drinking their blood. . . . Men only learned to use fire much later . . . and to fry, grill, boil, and roast. “Liyun,” chapter in the Liji (second century) Hearthplaces can be identified in houses dating as far back as the Neolithic period. They were mostly simple hollows in the middle of the building encircled by raised earth or a low wall, and sometimes containing thick layers of ash. If reconstructions by architectural historians are correct, holes in the roof served as a chimney and were

budget on grains, but only 3 percent on meat and 1 percent on fruit. However, when famine broke out, as in 1920, all that was left to fill the belly was sawdust, peanut shells, and leaves. As we know, even worse was to come at the beginning of the 1960s. Eating the Class Enemy It is a well-known fact that extreme situations can cause people to eat human flesh. In China, a country repeatedly afflicted by natural disasters, there are innumerable accounts of desperate acts of cannibalism, often

the aged. In some regions elementary schools stayed closed for a long period: No pupils were left to teach. The trauma these events caused was intensified because the men in power ordained silence and there was no opportunity to give vent to the pain. Even worse, the “three bitter years” quickly gave way to the “ten lost years.” To be sure, people’s existence during the Cultural Revolution proclaimed in 1966 was threatened less by lack of nutrition than by extreme acts of violence, but the mass

unified standards throughout the country, including a legal code, currency reform, modification of the written language, and standardization of weights and measures. Although it profited the emperor to establish compatibility in his rapidly growing territory, the main objective was probably to demonstrate his claim to supreme power. Archeological finds show that even under the inflexible Qin dynasty the threat of heavy penalties failed to prevent deviations from established standards. For

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