What Did the Ancient Chinese Eat?

The ancient Chinese ate rice, millet, sorghum and tea. Rice was the staple grain in southern China, with evidence that it was farmed as early as 5000 B.C. It was boiled in water and made into rice wine.

Although rice was the main food for the ancient Chinese in southern China, it was too cold and dry in northern China to grow it. For centuries, the people in this area lived off of wild millet and sorghum. By 4500 B.C., the Chinese began farming millet and eating it as porridge or making it into millet wine. Tea, originally found in the wild, was also a popular food among the ancient Chinese from at least 3000 B.C. onward. Wheat did not reach China until 1500 B.C., when it was brought from western Asia by travelers.

The ancient Chinese also ate soybeans, cucumbers, bok choy, ginger, oranges, lemons, peaches and apricots, all of which are native to China. Soybeans were the main source of fat and protein in the ancient Chinese diet. Meat was a rare treat. The Chinese first started eating chicken around 5500 B.C., and beef around 4000 B.C. Neither of these is native to China. The only native meat source was pork.