Ancient Chinese Food: The history of Chinese food comes from back to about 5000 BC. Over this broad period of time, Chinese people have evolved their own exclusive way of making food. Their ways of determining ingredients to make superb combinations, their multi-phased cooking styles, and their administering of multi-phased condiments have all been progressed regularly. The ancient Chinese had a very healthful diet, and from historical information, we can see that agriculture in China seems to have started approximately 5,000 years ago.

Chinese cuisine is indicated by both variety and change. Since ancient times, food has been at the center of social communication, and many present-day dishes with their categories of aroma and taste can be determined back to ancient Chinese food traditions. The Chinese have always recognized food as an art, placing the strength on the preparation of food as well as how it is served.

Traditional Ancient Chinese Food

Many people want to read about ancient Chinese Food so they can find out what is distinctive between this and the Chinese food from an outcome. Ancient China was very different from the current factory in the world that we know today. It was the ancient Chinese faiths to live with the land and let it provide food for you.

Ancient Chinese Food
Ancient Chinese Food

Millet is a type of grain that has been grown by farmers ever since the 5th century BC. Rice is another very routine crop that has been cultivated since the 4th century BC. The ancient Chinese rapidly found that good food is the basis for a healthy life.


There were not many variations of vegetables in ancient China, but nevertheless, vegetables were a necessary part of people’s diets. When they could afford it, they ate vegetables with their food staple, rice. The major vegetables during that span were soybeans and cucumbers, and the eating of soybeans can be detected back to 1000 BC when the soybean became the staple grain in ancient China.

The character shu, meaning soybean, introduced showing on bronze crafts from the early Zhou period. Soybeans were also mentioned in the fifth century BC in the Analects of Confucius or the Lunyu.


China is considered as one of the first countries in the world to have made wine. Since its initiation, the wine was not just a drink but was also enabled with a spiritual and cultural sense, reflecting social and political life and creative ideas, and cropping up in contemporary information as well.

During the Shang dynasty (16th to 11th century BC), people began to drink wine and used it to worship the gods; yellow rice wine is recognized as the first of this kind. All other categories of wine are assumed to have been developed after the Han (206 BC–220 BC) and Tang (618 BC –907 BC) dynasties. Years later, millet wine was brought in and it was a big hit, even more, popular than tea.


Sorghum (also known as milo) is known as “the camel of crops” because it doesn’t require much water and grows in soil where other grains won’t. The seed and manure costs for sorghum are also lower than for other grains. The use of sorghum comes from back to the Neolithic period. A large amount of carbonized sorghum was revealed from the Warring State Period (475 BC–221 BC) in Shijiazhuang. Corresponding to the Genetic Resources Center, “China is the oldest and the largest center for the genesis of sorghum.”


Pork is the most commonly eaten up meat in China, among other kinds such as beef, mutton, chicken, duck, pigeon, etc. The Chinese people were eating pork, which was native to China, from 4000 or 3000 BC, but sheep and cattle were not native and reached China from West Asia later. As meat was so costly and because Buddhists don’t eat meat, many people used tofu, or bean curd, in their diet as a source of protein instead.


The history of Chinese tea can be discovered back over 4,000 years. The Chinese regard the drinking of tea as a perfect art form with many systems and rituals connected to it. Tea is the national drink of China at the present time and one of the three most popular soft drinks in the world along with coffee and cocoa.

Ancient Chinese Food - Importance Of Tea
Ancient Chinese Food – Importance Of Tea

China proudly considers itself as the birthplace of tea as China was the first country to bring in its planting techniques, processing, and drinking methods to the rest of the world.


Tofu, or bean curd, is also of Chinese origin and is made from soya milk, water, and a curdling agent. Being prosperous in supplements, low in fat, and high in protein, calcium, and iron, it has been a predominant food in Chinese and Asian meals since ancient times. Chinese doctors invented that meat was a necessary food because it was a prosperous source of protein, but only the wealthy could afford to eat it.


Noodles are also ancient Chinese food. The history of noodles goes back to as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 BC) when noodles became a necessary staple ingredient in a Chinese meal. In ancient times, noodles were made from wheat. During the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) noodles were so popular that noodle shops remained open all night. In the year 2002, an earthenware bowl having the world’s ancientest noodles was found at the Lajia archaeological site in China.


By around 2500 BC, people in China introduced growing and eating wheat, having formerly depended on imports from West Asia, and wheat rapidly became the main source of carbohydrate. Ancient Chinese people ate porridge but they didn’t make wheat into bread. The major reason behind this was that the charcoal they used as fuel was too costly to bake the bread.


Wheat was not primitive to China and it took longer to become the main source of food, but people have been farming millet in northern China since about 4500 BC. Millet grew wild in China and was used as a large-scale source of food even before it was farmed. During the Han dynasty, millet was also used for making wine, and later on, millet oatmeal became a popular foodstuff in northern China.


Like millet, wheat, and other grains, rice is also a valuable source of carbohydrate. The history of rice in China comes from the late Stone Age (about 3000 BC). The farming of rice is recognized to have introduced in Thailand but it was surely Chinese farmers who invented the rice paddy. Rice paddies are the system of growing rice in muddy, artificial ponds. Since old-fashioned times, rice has been adopted as a staple in China, and when you think of Chinese food, most likely the first thing that you think of is rice.

Even though rice has been grown in China for a long time, in northern China, it was too cold to farm rice so they farmed millet and sorghum rather. People commonly cooked rice by boiling or steaming it to make it soft, and rice was also used for preparing a type of wine called rice wine, which still is drunk in China today.

Farming in Ancient China

Life in Ancient China was tough. Most farmers were poor. They kept chickens and pigs and sometimes an ox or mule. In the North, people grew crops of wheat or millet while in the South they grew rice. (Growing rice was a backbreaking worker as the fields had to be soaked and rice plants were planted by hand).

Ancient Chinese Food Farming
Ancient Chinese Food Farming

In the 16th century, new crops such as sweet potatoes, maize, and peanuts were brought in. Other crops included tea, sugar, and cotton. (Traditional women worked in their homes creating cotton). On the coast and on China’s many rivers people fished.

Cormorants were trained to catch fish but they had rings or strings around their throats to prevent them from inhaling the catch! Rich people owned vast residences but they usually rented them out as parcels of land. Rich people preferred to live in towns and rarely dwelt in the countryside.

Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China

  • The Chinese world-view was very disparate from the Western world-view. The Ancient Chinese Kingdom was a kind of universal force. Heaven chose the emperor to rule but it was a principled force. If the king or emperor were evil heavens would send natural failures as a warning. If the emperor failed to heed the warnings heaven would depart its command. Social and political order would break down and there would be a revolution. Heaven would choose someone else to rule.
  • Chinese culture was massively prompted by a man named Kong-Fuzi, known in the West as Confucius. Kong-Fuzi tutored that everybody should obtain their role in life and duties towards others. Rulers had a duty to be generous while subjects should be respectful and devoted. Children should honor their parents and everybody should honor their forefathers. Kong-Fuzi also understands that rulers should set a good example for their people.
  • Most of all Kong-Fuzi tutored deliberation for others. At the heart of his guidance was ‘ren‘ which is usually translated goodness or benevolence. Kong-Fuzi said ‘do not do to others what you do not want to be done to yourself’. Kong-Fuzi also tutored the importance of generosity and fairness in all things. Kong-Fuzi also taught that women should submit to their father when young, to their husband when married and to their son if widowed. Later women in China have tutored values such as humility, submissiveness, and industry.
  • The religion of Taoism was begun in Ancient China. Confucianism was a system of morals but Taoism is a religion. Taoists believe in the Tao, which means the way. The Tao is an indescribable force behind the environment and all living things. Taoists hold in Wuwei or non-action, which means going with the natural flow or way of things like a stick being carried along on a flow. Taoism also tutors humility and compassion. Taoists idolize a pantheon of gods. Buddhism showed China in the 1st Century AD.
  • The Ancient Chinese also believed in Yin and Yang. They considered that all matter is made of 2 opposite and complementary principles. Yin is feminine, soft, gentle, dark, receptive, yielding, and wet. Yang is masculine, bright, hard, hot, active, dry, and aggressive. Everything is a mixture of these 2 opposites. The ancient Chinese also accepted there were 5 elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. During the Zhou span, the Chinese art of acupuncture was originated.
  • Ancestor worship was an important part of life in Ancient China. Each family had a household shrine where they burned incense and made offerings. People regarded the dead could help the living and prayed to them. The Chinese also believed in ghosts.

Society in Ancient China

  • In a Chinese family, the father had right over his wife and children. Marriages were arranged by parents with the help of the mediator. However many well-to-do men kept courtesans.
  • Children were expected to be obedient. In China, male heirs were very important as they brought on the family. Girls were valued less than boys and baby girls were sometimes left outside to die or were immersed. In any case, newborn mortality was high. People would have many children but not all would live to adulthood. Some boys went to school. There they received the teachings of Confucius by heart. They also learned calligraphy.
  • Of course, only a few boys went to school. Most did not. Rather, they worked in the fields from an early age. Foot binding became familiar in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). When they were 4 or 5 girls sometimes had their feet constrained. If that was done ultimately the girl’s feet became skewed so they had difficulty walking. However ‘lily feet’ were considered men.
  • In Ancient China the upper class was administrators called mandarins. To become a mandarin you had to pass definite exams. The exams were, in theory, open to approximately all men. However Chinese vendors were held in low esteem.
  • Imperial China formed some great women. Among them were the great women poets Xue Tao, Yu Xuanji, Shangguan Wan er, and Li Qingzhao. Liang Hongyu was a Chinese Woman General.


  • The Chinese prepared rice into wine.
  • The earliest Chinese cooking method is broiling. Surprisingly, potato is used usually in Chinese dishes.
  • In ancient times, chopsticks were called “Zhu”.
  • During the ancient Chinese New Year, they ate dumplings at midnight.
  • Chinese food has served to shape many Chinese myths, folklore, rituals, and religious observance.
  • Unlike most places, the soup was always served after the main meal in ancient China.
  • Most foods in ancient China were made in bite-sized pieces so that people could pick it apart.
  • People suppose that ice cream originated in China in the 2,000- 3,000 B.C.
  • Anise and ginger are spices native to China. Fortune cookies are not traditional Chinese food. Millet was a replacement for rice in Northern China.


We can see that China has been prosperous in food culture ever since ancient times. We can also note that there is a diversification between farming and food manufacturing in the south of China and the north, which gives rise to the territorial variations in cuisines. Agriculture seems to have played an important role in China’s history, and the agricultural processes of the ancient times played a key role in the political, economic, social, and ideological advances of China.

FAQ’s About Traditional Ancient Chinese Food

What Did Ancient Chinese Eat For Breakfast?

Chinese People Usually Eat Soybean Milk And Deep-fried Dough Sticks, Steamed Buns, Tofu Pudding, Wheat Noodles, Or Rice Noodles For Breakfast.

What Did Ancient Chinese Drink?

For Drink In Ancient China They Mainly Had Tea. Although During The Han Dynasty Millet Wine Was More Popular To Drink Than Tea. The Chinese Are Famous For Tea And Are Believed To Have Been Drinking It For Thousands Of Years. Tea Is So Old That Its Original Discovery Can No Longer Be Traced.

Where Did Ancient China Get Their Food?

Rice And Millet: If You Eat Rice, Then It Probably Comes From China. Ancient Chinese Began Farming Rice Over 9,000 Years Ago. Farming Made Life Easier Because People No Longer Had To Travel To Hunt Animals, But Could Grow Their Food Where They Lived. Rice And Millet Were The Two Main Crops Grown In Ancient China.

Why Do Chinese Eat Snakes?

It Is Also Widely Believed Among The Chinese People That Snake Soup Is A “Warming” Food, Which Heats Up The Body (Or Gives It Yang Which Can Balance The “Cooling” Yin During The Winter Season.