Li Yu-Ying - 1881-1973 - Part 2

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California


Yu-Ying Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Major Books and Articles. In 1910 Li's first book was published. Written entirely in Chinese, it was entitled Da-dou ("Soybeans," written in Chinese characters) and subtitled Le Soja, written in Roman letters. The book was published by the Societe Biologique de l'Extreme Orient (the Biological Society of the Far East) in Paris, but it was printed in Beijing. The 66 pages were divided into 14 chapters discussing all aspects of soybeans and soyfoods, from history, varieties, and taxonomy, to nutrition, types of soyfoods, and soyfoods processing. The chapter on commercial soyfood products included information on soymilk, okara, fermented tofu, tofu, soy sauce, jiang (Chinese miso), soy sprouts, and soy coffee, accompanied by an elaborate chart showing all soyfoods, divided into those made by wet processing versus those made by dry processing. There was a nice photograph of Li's soyfood plant and soy dairy in Paris. The book concluded with information about the Biological Society of the Far East and its publications.

The basic purpose of the book was to inform Chinese of the various new ways that Westerners were using or could use soybeans to make foods, and to encourage Chinese to do more research on soyfoods processing and soybean farming, starting by learning from the West. Li invited his Chinese readers to send him soybeans at the Soybean Research Society, a branch of the Biological Society of the Far East, in Paris. Specific new ideas discussed in his book included production of powdered soymilk, canned soymilk, acidophilus soymilk (the idea came from Metchnikoff), soy protein isolates to make items such as umbrella handles, pressed tofu sheets as an army food, fermented tofu using pure cultures or cheese cultures, soy sprouts for use in place of lettuce in salads, soy coffee as a coffee replacer, etc. Needless to say, most of these ideas were new to Chinese and far ahead of their time. In the back of the book it was mentioned that the Biological Society had also published a booklet entitled "Tofu Will be the Twentieth Century's Universal Big Industry."

During the years 1911 and 1912, Li collaborated with Mr. L. Grandvoinnet (a French agricultural engineer, who worked with Li at his soy plant, described later) to write a series of seven articles titled "Le Soja," published in consecutive issues of the periodical L'Agriculture Pratique des Pays Chauds (volumes 11 and 12, numbers 102-09). This series was both an expansion and a reworking of the ideas presented in the Chinese-language book of 1910, for these articles were now intended to be read by Frenchmen rather than Chinese.

At about?? this time, Li wrote "L'Evolution de l'Alimentation" (ref??) in which he used chemical and physiological studies to argue that soy would play an important role in the evolution of the human diet. In 1910 a Mr. A. Demolon, director of the agricultural station at Aisne and Li's former teacher, wrote a letter to the Journal d'Agriculture Pratique, stating that he did not think the soybean held the promise for agriculture that Li and others attributed to it. In 1911 Li wrote back an outstanding rebuttal, discussing Demolon's critique point by point, then adding much new information about soybeans and soyfoods. Demolon replied that he did not think the term "milk" should be used to refer to soymilk, which was "but a very imperfect imitation of cow's milk."

In 1912 the pioneering series of articles was published in Paris by A. Challamel (unchanged) as a 141-page book titled Le Soja; Sa Culture, Ses Usages Alimentaires, Therapeutiques, Agricoles et Industriels. It was published by A. Challamel in Paris. Extremely well researched and packed with original information and creative ideas, this book was the first of its type and it had a profound effect on future thinking about soybeans and soyfoods in Europe and America. Only Haberlandt's Die Sojabohne (1878) and Paillieux's Le Soya (1880) can rival it in influence, but not in scope concerning soyfoods. In researching the book, Li read and summarized a large number of old and new documents about soybean agronomy and soyfoods production, nutrition, and history, from France, the US, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, England, Manchuria, and Japan. The book, thus, gives an unusually good picture of soy at that early period, especially in Europe. Since the book is extremely difficult to find in the US (the USDA National Agricultural Library has lost their only copy) and since it is in French, we will take a rather detailed look at its contents.

Introduction. Li noted the rapid increase of interest in soybeans in Europe starting in 1906, with the adoption of soy as an oilseed by English oil mills, followed by huge imports of soybeans from Manchuria and recognition of the potentially great industrial role of the soybean for oil and meal. He acknowledged the help of Mr. Chi and Mr. Tsu "who helped us to organize the practical teaching at the School of Soy Industries in China and the Caseo-Sojaine in France."

The Origin and History of Soybeans and Soyfoods. After referring to the work of de Candolle, Li noted:

In effect the soybean had already been referred to in the celebrated Materia Medica of She-non. According to the historian Sma Quang, this book was written/edited by Honadai. The soybean has therefore been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. The famous dictionary of Sui Sham described the soybean under the name of `tchouan.' Another old dictionary writer, Kouang-ia, described it under the name of ta-teou or sou. This Han dictionary was written during the Latin epoque. Thus it is very probable that the words soi, soya, and soja derive from the Chinese sou. Numerous old books attribute the invention of soy cheese to the great philosopher Hainintze, a Han prince.

This was the first?? time the early history of soybeans had appeared in a European language. Piper and Morse repeated this history in The Soybean (1923), and thereafter it was repeated over and over, uncritically, until it was finally challenged by P.T. Ho (1969, 1975) and by Hymowitz (1970). Univ. of Mich guy?? After this early history Li gave an excellent history of soybean and soyfoods in Europe.

Part I: Soybean Culture (47 p.). In seven chapters Li summarized the latest research findings on species and varieties of soybeans, requirements of the soybean, soybean seeds, the plant during vegetation, harvesting and yields, atmospheric nitrogen fixation and soil improvement, and intercropping soybeans. He urged the French to learn how to grow soybeans.

Part II: Chemical Composition of Soy (18 p.). A short chapter discussed the composition of the entire plant and a very long chapter summarized research (including original research done at Li's laboratory of the Biological Society of the Far East) on the soybean's chemical/nutritional composition. Many studies from the 1800s were cited and many nutritional analyses given, as for example, a comparison of soymilk and animal milks, and of soy and mung bean sprouts.

Part III: The Soybean as Food for Man and Beast (16 p.). After a short chapter on livestock feeding, Li discussed the soybean as human food in terms of its physiological, economical, and gastronomical advantages. He then discussed soyfoods in vegetarian, diabetic, and dairy-free diets, and for "remineralization." He noted that in 1912 100 calories in the form of beef cost 30 times as much as the same number of calories from soybeans.

Part IV: Food Products Based on Soy (48 p.). This longest and most original section of the book was divided into seven chapters: (1) "Soymilk and its Derivatives," including lactic-fermented soymilk products, tofu (which Li called fromage de soja or Caseo-Sojaine), rennet-coagulated tofu, fermented tofu in European cheese flavors, pressed tofu sheets, smoked tofu, tofu pate, tofu sausage, and soy protein isolate (which Li called caseine de soja). Note the many early "meat analogs" pioneered by Li; (2) "Soy Flour and its Derivatives," including a soy-fortified diabetic bread and a soy-whole wheat bread, plus soy flour in soups, pates, biscuits, and cakes; (3) "Soy Oil and Meal"; (4) "Soybeans Used as a Legume," including whole dry soybeans, soy sprouts, and fresh green soybeans; (5) "Fermented Soy Condiments," including natto, miso, tao-tjiung (Chinese miso), shoyu, chiang-yu (Chinese soy sauce, tsiang-yeou), ketjap (Indonesian soy sauce), tuong (Vietnamese soy sauce), and tao-yu (a Southeast Asian soy sauce described by Prinsen Geerligs in 1896); (6) "Soy Confectionery Products," including a soy-based sweet paste resembling chestnut butter (creme de marron), roasted (and plain) whole soy flour, and soy chocolate; (7) "Soy coffee"; and (8) "Soy-based Ferments or Starters," including Cantonese Kiu-tsee and lactic ferments.

Part V: Industrial Usage of Soy (1 p.). Soy oil for soap, illumination, paints, and artificial rubber, and soy protein isolate for rock-hard sojalithe, electrical insulators, glue, etc. are discussed.

Conclusion. Six reasons are given for believing that soybeans and soyfoods will become popular in Europe and the West, ending with an optimistic quote from Paillieux's Le Soja.

This remarkable book deserves to be in every library related to soybeans and soyfoods. It is interesting to note how closely the structure of Piper and Morse's The Soybean (1923) corresponds to Li and Grandvoinnet's Le Soja (1912). Piper and Morse quoted Le Soja in seven places.

Part 2
Yu-Ying Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4