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Food for Thought: Archeological Findings Point to Chinese Dietary Culture

Pottery kettle

Chinese archeologists have made many important discoveries in the 20th century, such as the fossils of Peking Man, Mawangdui Site, the Yin Ruins, Sanxingdui Site, and so on, which provide some clues into the long-lost Yangshao Culture and Longshan Culture. From these findings we have learned a lot that cannot be found in documents, like the many long-forgotten historical stories that were unveiled. From these findings, we have also learned something about the lifestyles of Chinese ancients, even very detailed aspects of their lives -- including their dietary cultures.

  Cooking methods and cookers

First, let's take a look at cooking skills and traditional cookers of ancient times. Cooking, roasting, steaming, rinsing are the four basic ways of Chinese cooking.

** Cooking

Cooking originated in the New Stone Age more than 10,000 years ago when pottery was first invented. Pottery kettles and dings (ancient cooking vessels) were mainly used to cook food. Prehistoric cooking vessels unearthed in China have several notable characteristics. Take the ding for example, which is actually a tripod kettle. The nine-ding tripod was once the symbol for central authority and whoever possessed a tripod, seized sovereign power. It is said that the nine-ding was lost during the reign of Emperor Qinshihuang, the first emperor that unified China.

Cooking is prevalent both in China and abroad, but it was first practiced in China over 10,000 years ago. For example, a porcelain kettle from the New Stone Age site of the 10,000-year-old Fairy Cave in East China's Jiangxi Province, which features a very simple design and a round base at the bottom, is the oldest cooking vessel known to man. Other findings at the Hemudu Culture site include kitchen ranges and kettles -- both made of pottery and featured advanced craftsmanship. In fact, kitchen ranges were portable and are believed to be the origin of today's famous hot pots.
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