History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in China and Taiwan, and in Chinese Cookbooks, Restaurants, and Chinese Work with Soyfoods Outside of China (1024 BCE to 2014)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 9781928914686

Publication Date: 2014 June 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 7730

Earliest Reference: 1024 BCE

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Brief chronology of soy in China:
       China is the home of the soybean. It was domesticated in the eastern half of north China around the 11th century BCE (Hymowitz 1970, p. 417).
      More precisely, it probably originated in Liaoning province because the wild soybean grows everywhere and the stages of evolution are apparent (Fehr 1980, p. 3-4).
      Manchuria / Northeastern China has been the center of soybean production in China since at least 1915.
      Soybeans (and wheat) are much more widely cultivated and used as food in north China compared to south China.
      From ancient times to well into the twentieth century, China was by far the world's leading producer of soybeans. In 1910 China proper produced an estimated 71% of the world's soybeans, and Manchuria, then an independent nation, produced another 16%. As late as 1929 the two nations produced 87% of the world's soybeans, and in that year their combined production reached a pre-war peak of 11.89 million tonnes (metric tons). The soybean was Manchuria's most important agricultural and export crop, and during the 1910s and 1920s huge amounts of soybeans, soy oil, and soybean meal were shipped from Manchurian ports to countries around the world – above all to Japan.
      In the chronology that follows, BCE stands for “Before the Christian era” and CE stands for “Christian era.”
      Occasionally in this book you will see a “+” before a date; it also stands for CE and a minus sign stands for BCE.
1024 BCE – The ancient character for soybean (shu) appears on four early Zhou dynasty bronze vessels, indicating that the soybean plant was already of some importance by this time (Hu Daojing 1963).
1000 BCE – The soybean is mentioned in four different odes in The Book of Odes / Songs (Shijing). The earliest mention is thought to date from about 1000 BCE. The earliest ode / poem (Mao Heng 300, 11th to 10th century BCE) states: Prince Millet (Hou Ji) sent down to the people a hundred blessings, the glutinous millet and the panicled millet, the grain that ripened quickly and that which ripened slowly, the grain that was planted early and that which was sown late, the soybean (shu), and the wheat.
509 BCE – It is recorded that a heavy frost killed the soybeans, indicating that the crop was now important in China and probably cultivated (Dinggong section of Chunqiu Zuozhuan, ca. 360 BCE).
475 BCE – Analects of Confucius (Lunyu) is the earliest document seen stating that the soybean was one of the five staple grains (wugu) of China. We later learn (from Zheng Xuan, 2nd century CE) that the five staple grains were foxtail millet (ji; Setaria italica), broomcorn millet (shu; Panicum miliaceum), rice (dao), wheat and barley (mai), and legumes [mainly soybeans] (shu).
400 BCE – The Book of Master Mo (Mozi) states that horses eat soybeans (shu) and foxtail millet (ji).
325 BCE – The Book of Master Kuan (Guanzi) first calls the soybean dashu (“large shu”) in contrast with xishu (“small shu,” probably azuki beans).
300 BCE – The words dou and (by inference) dadou are first used to refer to soybeans, and the term daxiaodou is first used to refer to “soybeans and azuki beans” (Rites of the Zhou Dynasty; Zhouli). Increasingly soybeans and azuki beans are mentioned as a pair.
      This is the also earliest document seen that uses the word qu ("mold ferment," called koji in Japanese) – but it does not describe what it is or how it is made. The invention of qu is a milestone in Chinese food technology, for it provides the conceptual framework for the three major soyfood fermentations: jiang / miso, soy sauce, and fermented black soybeans (shih).
      This may be the earliest document seen that mentions roasted soy flour (douxie).
250 BCE – The Book of Master Ho Kuan (Heguanzi) states that it is “raining soybeans” (dou). This term, which appears in many subsequent early documents, may refer to hail with hailstones the size of soybeans.
240 BCE – The Book of Master Xun (Xunzi). Master Xun was a philosopher and this is a very well-known work. Chapter 4 mentions soybean leaves (shuhuo). It also compares millet and rice to the meat of livestock, but soybeans and soybean leaves to bran and fermentation dregs. Thus, soybeans are considered a coarse and inferior food.
      This same book mentions first soybean congee (chuoshu, literally "suck soybeans"). "Suck soybeans" means consuming soybeans that have been cooked with excess water for a long time until very soft. This is part of a new phrase: chuoshu yinshui ("suck soybeans and drink water"), which also appears in Discourses on Salt and Iron (Yantie Lun, 60 BCE) and in the Book of Rites (Liji, 100 CE). Soybean congee is depicted as the ultimate hardship food, the last thing left to eat when things are really bad. By 270 CE soybean congee was called douzhou.
245 BCE – Lost Records of the Zhou dynasty (Yi Zhoushu) states that the Mountain Rong (San Rong; Wade-Giles San Jung) is another name for soybeans – as (notes the editor) is Jung Shu.
220 BCE – The Record of the Warring States Period (Zhanguoce) states: In the kingdom of Han [near today’s Korea]… The five grains (wugu) are grown. They do not grow wheat; they grow dou (soybeans). The people eat mostly whole dry soybeans cooked into granules like cereal grains (doufan) and soybean leaves in a soup (huogeng). Cooked like cereal grains (doufan), soybeans are said to be quite hard and difficult to digest.
Former / Western Han dynasty begins (202 BCE – 23 CE). Capital at Ch'ang-an.
200 BCE – The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal medicine: Questions and answers (Huangdi Neijin Suwen) explains the complex relationship between the various colors, directions, five organs, five elements, five grains, etc. Black is the color of the North; it pervades the kidneys... its taste is salty; its element is water; its animals are pigs; and its [curative] grain is the soybean (gudou); it conforms to the four seasons and corresponds to the morning star.
200 BCE – Prescriptions for Fifty-Two Ailments (Wushi'er Bing Fang) is the earliest document seen that mentions jiang (Chinese fermented soybean paste) made from soybeans. It states that jiang is one of the foods found in pottery jars and listed on bamboo strips discovered in 1972 in Han Tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui (W.-G. Ma-huang-tui) near today’s Changsha, Hunan province. Previously in China, jiang had been made out of meat and shellfish. These Han tombs were sealed in about 165 BCE. Also found in this tomb were fermented black soybeans (shi) and koji (qu).
120 BCE – The Book of The Prince of Huai-nan (Huainantzi) mentions in several chapters that the soybean is a crop that should be cultivated, but it does not mention tofu. Liu An, later regarded by some (but without evidence; see 1180 and 1475 CE) as the inventor of tofu, was a real person and this is an important book.
100 BCE – The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal medicine: The Vital Axis (Huangdi Neijin Lingshu) is the first to mention soybean sprouts and their medicinal value. Chapter 56, titled the "Five flavors," states that the nature of soybeans is "salty" (xian). If you have an illness of the kidneys, you should eat dried soybean sprouts (dadou huangjuan; literally "soybean yellow curls") and pork...
      At first used mainly as a medicine, soybean sprouts did not become popular as a food until the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE).
90 BCE – Records of the Historian (Shiji) by Sima Qian mentions that soybeans (shu) were transported [as a commodity] and that soup was made from soybean leaves (huo). Chapter 69, titled "Economic affairs" (Huozhi liezhuan, a famous chapter) refers to one thousand earthenware vessels of mold-fermented cereal grains and salty fermented soybeans (fermented black soybeans) (niequ yanshi qianhe) as articles of commerce. Soybeans and fermented black soybeans have now clearly become major commodities in the Chinese economy.
59 BCE – In Contract between an Indentured Servant and His Master (Tongyue) one of the hardships inflicted on the servant by the contract was to eat only cooked soybeans (fandou) and drink only water. Upon hearing of this the poor man broke down and wept.
The key point: Before and during the Han dynasty, wheat and soybeans were often mentioned together as inferior or undesirable foods.
      But when the hand-turned stone mill was introduced (shortly before the Han dynasty), Chinese learned to grind hard-to-cook wheat into flour. This transformed wheat into a very desirable, superior grain whose flour could be used to make a variety of delicious breads, steamed buns, noodles, etc. This development took place during the Han dynasty.
      When Chinese stopped trying to cook soybeans like cereal grains (fan) or congee / gruel (zhou) or other beans and instead started to experiment to find other ways to transform them into entirely new foods, they first began to realize the great potential of the soybean as a condiment and a protein-rich food.
      Using fermentation, early Chinese developed fermented black soybeans (chi), fermented soybean paste (jiang), soy sauce, fermented tofu, etc.
      By sprouting they made soy sprouts for use as a medicine or food.
      By grinding they created soymilk, yuba, and tofu. These developments were well under way during the Han dynasty, but they continued into the 10th century with the creation of tofu and of soybean oil and cake, into the 16th century with yuba, and on to the 20th century with the concoction of such condiments as black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, jiang-based sauces, etc. Only in the form of green vegetable soybeans (maodou) are soybeans still cooked whole.
40 BCE – Handy Primer, or Dictionary for Urgent Use (Jijiu Pian), by Shi You is the earliest document seen that describes a method for making jiang (Chinese-style fermented soybean paste) in which a significant amount of wheat (or wheat flour or barley) is mixed with the soybeans before fermentation begins.
10 BCE – The Book of Fan Shengzhi (Fan Shengzhi shu), by Fang Shengzhi is the earliest Chinese book by an individual author devoted solely to agriculture. Very interesting and important, it is also the first book to refer consistently to the soybean as dadou (the modern term) and to discuss in detail soybean farming methods and yields. An excellent English-language translation, with facing Chinese text, was published in 1959.
Later / Eastern Han dynasty begins (25-220 CE). Capital at Luoyang.
50 CE – Extensions to the Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu Wei) states: Soybeans (shu) are either red or black in color (shuchihei). This is the earliest document seen that mentions black soybeans, or that clearly mentions red soybeans.
82 CE – Discourses Weighed in the Balance (Lunheng) states: Rice and millets taste good; they are sweet and delicious. Even though soybeans and wheat / barley are coarse, they can alleviate hunger.
100 CE – Classical pharmacopoeia of Shennong, the Heavenly Husbandman (Shennong Bencao Jing, often abbreviated as Benjing) is a very famous and important book, widely reputed to be the first Chinese pharmacopoeia (Bencao). The book contains instructions on how to prescribe, administer, and process 365 drugs that are divided according to their strength / toxicity into three categories: superior, common, and inferior. Soybeans are mentioned twice among the "common" drugs. First mentioned is yellow curls from the soybean (dadou huangjuan; very short soy sprouts): The flavor is sweet and neutral / mild / balanced [on the heating-cooling or hot-cold foods and medicine continuum]. They are used to treat numbness in the joints, muscles, and knees.
160 CE – Monthly Ordinances for the Four Classes of People (Simin Yueling), by Cui Shi is the earliest document seen that mentions soy sauce, which it calls qingjiang. By 220 CE a close relative is developed named fermented black soybeans sauce (shih-you).
346-379 CE – The Record of Fermented Black Soybean Wine (Shijiu), by Wang Hsi-chih states: When I was young I drank fermented black soybean wine (shijiu). It was very good.
390 CE – Extensive Records of Remarkable Things (Guangzhi), by Guo Yigong is the earliest document seen that discusses many different types or varieties of soybeans, or that mentions white soybeans (baidou) or yellow soybeans (huangdou).
450 CE – History of the Later Han dynasty (25 to 220) (Hou Hanshu), by Fan Ye, is the earliest document seen concerning soybeans and famine, or soybeans as a famine food. At such hard times, soybeans were used to make bean congee (douzhou).
      Since long before the Han dynasty in China, the government maintained granaries in every district of the empire for use in times of famine. A district (xian, like a U.S. county) was the basic administrative unit; there were many districts in each province.
500 CE – The Book of Master Lie (Liezi), by Lie Youkou, is the first to mention empty, dry soybean pods (jia) or a use for them – as insulation in clothing. If you wear the pods it will be as warm as foxes' fur. If you consume the soybeans, they will taste as good as rice and millet.
510 CE – Informal Records of Famous Physicians (Mingyi Bielu), by Tao Hongjing, a typical pharmacopoeia, is the first to use the term heidadou to refer to black soybeans. They are used to make sprouts (nie). When the sprout is five inches (cun) long, you dry it; it is called "yellow curls" (huangjuan). After you cook it, it can be eaten. It adds: The leaves can be used to feed livestock. The pods can be used to feed cattle and horses. The stems can be used as fuel to cook food.
530 CE – Food Canon (#1) (Shijing): Contains the earliest known description (it is very detailed) of how to make soybean koji, which is called unsalted / bland fermented black soybeans (danshi).
544 CE – Important Arts for the People’s Welfare (Qimin Yaoshu), by Jia Sixie, is the world's earliest encyclopedia of agriculture. H.T. Huang (2002) adds: "This is the most important book on agriculture or food technology ever published in China. At a remarkably early date it gives both general information and great detail about agriculture and food processing." The work is divided into 10 books / fascicles (juan), and subdivided into more than 91 consecutive parts.
      A partial English-language translation of the "original material" and commentary by Shih Shêng-han was published in 1958 (2nd ed. 1962). Chapter 6 is soybeans – review of earlier literature (including many books that have now been lost), cultivation, and processing.
      The Qimin Yaoshu is the first to describe how qu (koji) is made. It gives details on making jiang (Chapter 70), unsalted and salted fermented black soybeans (shi) (Chapter 72), and various types of soy sauce (Chapters 70, 76. 77, 80, 82, 87 and 88).
Tang dynasty begins (618-906). The two capitals and main cities are Changan / Xi'an (west) and Luoyang (east).
659 CE – Newly Improved Pharmacopoeia (Xinxiu Bencao), compiled by Su Jing et al. contains the world’s earliest known illustration of a soybean plant.
Song dynasty begins (960-1279). Northern Song (960-1127) had its capital at Kaifeng. Southern Song (1127-1279) had its capital at Hangzhou.
965 CE – Anecdotes, Simple and Exotic (Qing Yilu), by Tao Ku is the earliest known document to mention tofu, which it calls doufu. This is the earliest document seen that advocates both vegetarianism and soyfoods, and that recommends the use of soyfoods (tofu) as a replacement for meat.
980 CE – Treatise on the Mutual Responses of Things According to Their Categories (Wulei Xianggan Zhi) by Lu Zanning (Se Shi) is the earliest document seen that mentions soybean oil or fried tofu. It states: Soybean oil can be mixed with tung oil for use in caulking boats / ships. It also states that frying tofu in soybean oil produces a flavorful dish.
      Even though soybean cake / beancake is not mentioned, it must have existed in China by this time since it is always a by-product or co-product of the process for making soybean oil.
1061 – Illustrated Pharmacopoeia: Or, Illustrated Treatise of Pharmaceutical Natural History (Bencao Tujing), by Su Song et al. contains a wealth of information about soybeans and soyfoods. This may be the earliest document seen that mentions roasted soy flour (tangmo).
1080 – New Handbook on Care of the Elderly (Shouqing Yanglao Xinshu) by Chen Zhi describes a recipe containing fermented black soybeans titled “Heart of fermented black soybean congee.” This is the earliest document seen that contains a recipe related to soy – not including documents that contain recipes for preparing basic soyfoods such as jiang, fermented black soybeans, soy sauce, tofu, etc.
1175 – Poems of Lu You (Lu You Shiju) contains five poems that mention soybeans in the pods (doujia = beans + pods). This is the earliest Chinese-language document seen that mentions doujia, which probably refers to green vegetable soybeans cooked and eaten in the pods (in Japanese: edamamé).
1176? – The term liqi (Wade-Giles Li ch'i) – an early Chinese term for tofu – is used in a poem by the Song dynasty poet Lu Yu who lived 1125-1210 CE. After Su Tung-p'o, Lu Yu is probably the best known poet of the Song dynasty.
1180? – Poems of Zhu Xi (Zhu Xi Shi) contains a poem titled “Tofu” (doufu) extolling tofu and the virtues of a vegetarian diet. After mentioning soybeans, two of the lines state: “If only I had known Huai Nan's art, / I could just sit idly and reap my gains." Although it does not actually use the word for tofu, it obliquely links Liu An (a real person) and tofu. Liu An, Prince of Huai Nan, lived during the Former/Western Han dynasty from 179 to 122 BCE.
1200? – Basic Needs for Rustic Living (Shanjia qinggong or Shanjia Gongqing), by Lin Hong is the earliest document seen (one of two documents) that uses the modern Chinese word jiangyou to refer to soy sauce. It is also the first that describes how to grow and cook “swanlike yellow bean sprouts” as a food. And it includes two recipes for tofu dishes.
      The other document is Madam Wu's Recipe Book (Wushi Zhongguilu or Zhonggui Lu). It is a cookery book of broad scope, containing many recipes.
1228 – The Buddhist monk Kakushin returns to Japan from Song dynasty China having learned the method for making fermented Kinzanji miso. While fermenting the miso in Japan, he discovers that the liquid tamari which gathers on the bottom of the vats can be used as a tasty seasoning. This tamari is considered Japan’s first soy sauce (Nakase 1977).
The Mongols under Kublai Khan conquer China and start the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368) with Mongol emperors. China is in turmoil during most of this occupation.
1271 – Marco Polo, age 17, an early foreign traveler to China, sets out from Venice with his father and uncle on a trip that would last 24 years. He met the Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan, and traveled throughout China. In the account of his Odyssey, neither soybeans nor soyfoods are mentioned.
1273 – Fundamentals of Agriculture and Sericulture (Nongsang Jiyao), by Meng Qi. The section on crop plants in this important work describes the various main crops (including soybeans) grown in China’s nine provinces.
1275 – Dreams of the Former Capital (Mengliang Lu), by Wu Zimu. This important work is a reminiscence of Huangzhou, the Song capital, towards the end of the Southern Song dynasty. Young soybean congee (douzizhou) is sold in the early morning markets and pan-fried tofu (doufu) is sold in noodle shops. The section describes soybeans of different colors: black (doudahei), purple (dazi), white (dabai), yellow (dahuang) and green (daqing).
1301 – Essential Arts for Family Living (encyclopedia) (Jujia Biyong Shilei Quanji) describes two methods of making soybean jiang. This may be the earliest document seen that mentions roasted soy flour, or meat alternatives (based on wheat gluten, mianjin), or meatless sausage.
1313 – Wang Zhen's Agricultural Treatise (Wangzhen Nongshu) shows Chinese awareness of growing legumes before cereal grains to increase the yield of the cereals. This is the earliest document seen that mentions a wedge press for extracting oil – but not in connection with soybeans.
1355 – During the Yuan dynasty a Chinese poetess wrote a poem (in non-rhyming free verse) titled: Tofu: Plant soybeans below the southern mountains.
The frosty wind adds freshness to the pods.
Turn the quern and let the jade milk flow.
Boil and let the clear milk flow.
The color is cleaner than the spongy soil.
The fragrance surpasses the solidity of quartz.
The flavor leaves a beauty that is more than sufficient.
It is a delicacy that one should not pass on indiscriminately.
1365 – Remnant Notions from I Ya (Yiya Yiyi), by Han Yi. This is the earliest Chinese-language document seen that mentions soymilk (doufujiang) for use as a beverage; it was not very popular at the time.
Ming Dynasty begins (1368-1644). Capital at Nanjing and Beijing. The last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han. A period of orderly government and social stability.
1405-1433 – Maritime expeditions of Zheng He. China builds the world’s biggest ships and has the largest fleet. Zheng He commanded seven voyages, and his fleet sailed as far as East Africa.
1406 – Treatise on Wild Food Plants for Use in Emergencies (Jiuhuang Bencao), by Zhu Xiao. The most famous “famine herbal,” it described unusual ways of using every part of the soybean plant as human food in times of hunger.
1475 – The Origin of Things (Wu Yan), by Luo Qi. The section titled "Origin of foods, No. 10" states: "Liu An made tofu." This is the 2nd earliest document seen which mentions Liu An in connection with tofu, and the earliest which states clearly that he made tofu.
1500 – Su Ping, a Chinese poet of the Ming dynasty, writes an ode to tofu:
The best is King Wainan's skill, you see the beauty when you peel.
Ground in mortar and milk flows.
Boil in water and it turns to snow.
Soak in the jar and white curds show.
Cut apart with a knife yet the jade is sound.
Who knows the delicacy of the curd?
Only the Buddhist and Taoist.
      Note 1. This is the earliest document seen clearly linking tofu with Buddhism and Taoism. Note 2. This is the earliest document seen that mentions soymilk curds – before they become tofu. First cited and translated by Nganshou Wai (1964, p. 92).
1582 – Jesuits begin missionary work in China
1596 – The Great Pharmacopoeia (Bencao Gangmu), by Li Shizen. This famous, classic work was completed in 1578, but not published until 1596. It describes almost 2,000 animal, vegetable, and mineral drugs and gives over 8,000 prescriptions. A rich source of information, it is still very useful. All foods mentioned are considered as medicines, based on the ancient Chinese saying: "Food and medicine have the same origin." The title might also be translated as “Collected essentials of herbs and trees.” Or, “Illustrated compendium of materia medica.”
      Soybeans and soyfoods are discussed in two chapters of this book. Chapter 24 contains sections on soybeans, soybean sprouts, and yellow soybeans, in that order. Chapter 25 has sections on fermented black soybeans (both bland and salted), yellow molded soybeans (in Japanese, soybean koji), tofu and yuba, jiang, and soy sauce.
      Concerning yuba: If a film should form on the surface of soymilk when it is heated in the process of making tofu, it should be lifted off and dried to give doufu pi (yuba), which is itself a delicious food ingredient. Note: This is the earliest Chinese-language document seen that mentions yuba, which it calls doufu pi. It is also the earliest document seen that describes yuba as being removed at the start of the tofu-making process. If this description is correct it could help explain the deep and ancient connection between making bean curd (Chinese: doufu; Japanese: tofu) and making bean curd skin (Chinese: doufu-pi; Japanese: yuba).
      This is the earliest document seen that describes the basic process for making tofu (in six basic steps), either at home or on a commercial scale. Four possible coagulants are mentioned: nigari / bittern (yen lu), leaf of the mountain alum tree (shan fan), vinegar, or powdered gypsum.
      This is the earliest document seen that uses the term dounie to refer to sprouted soybeans, the earliest that uses the term huang dadou to refer to yellow soybeans, and the earliest that uses the term douyou to refer to soybean oil. A special issue of this work is the earliest document seen that uses the term furu to refer to fermented tofu.
      This is the earliest document seen that describes a method for making Chinese-style soy sauce, and the first describing a significant amount of wheat (or wheat flour or barley) being mixed with the soybeans before fermentation begins. The ratio by weight of wheat to soybeans in this early Chinese soy sauce is about 13 to 1, whereas the ratio in modern (early 21st century) Japanese soy sauce is about 1 to 1.
1609 – Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Three Realms (Sancai Tuhui), by Wang Qui is the earliest document seen which states that soybeans, and especially black soybeans, are used for medicine.
1610 – Night Discourses by the Penglong Mountain (Penglong Yehua), by Li Rihua, is either the earliest or 2nd earliest document seen that mentions fermented tofu, which it calls hai fu. Also contains a literary description of making high-quality tofu in Anhui province.
1620 – An Account of the Vegetable Gardens at Runan (Runan Pushi), by Zhou Wenhua contains a section titled Maodou. This is the earliest document seen that clearly mentions green vegetable soybeans (in Japanese edamamé) in China, or that uses the word maodou (“hairy beans” or qingdou (“green beans”) to refer to green vegetable soybeans.
1621 – The Assembly of Perfumes, or Monographs on Cultivated Plants (Qunfang Pu), by Wang Xiangjin is the earliest document seen concerning the use of soybean presscake (zhi or cake or beancake – the residue from pressing out soy oil) as a fertilizer, and the earliest document seen that mentions okara, the residue of dietary fiber that is a by-product of making soymilk or tofu, which it calls zhi (meaning "residue"), and the earliest document seen concerning the use of okara (residue) as a feed for pigs or other animals. In times of famine, people also eat this okara.
1637 – Exploitation of the Works of Nature (Tiangong Kaiwu), by Song Yingxing is a very important book, containing many illustrations, showing the advanced state of Chinese technology. It is the earliest document seen that describes the feeding of defatted soybean cakes to livestock – in this case pigs. It contains the earliest illustrations seen that show clearly the koji-making process for regular or red koji.
Manchu (Qing) Dynasty begins (1644-1912) as Manchus invade and conquer China, overthrowing the Ming dynasty. Capital at Beijing. The last dynasty in China.
1647 Oct. 16 – A Dutch-language letter titled “In the office of Nagasaki” (In't Comptoir Nagasaekij) stating that a ship of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) is carrying 10 kegs of soy sauce from Nagasaki, Japan, to Taiwan (Taijoan) is the earliest document seen concerning soy and Taiwan.
1664 – Mini-Encyclopedia of the Principles of Things (Wuli Xiaoshi) is the earliest document seen that mentions use of a wedge press in connection with soybeans.
      Note: The famous poem titled "Tofu" (Doufu), by Zhu Xi (ca. 1180) appears in this work, which is widely cited as the source of the poem, since it is hard to find it in Zhu Chi’s collected works.
1665 – Friar Domingo Fernández Navarrete (born in 1618 in Castrogeriz, Spain, and he died in 1686 on the island of Santo Domingo) writes in his journal, in Spanish, about tofu: … the most usual, common and cheap sort of food all China abounds in, and which all men in that empire eat, from the emperor to the meanest Chinese, the emperor and great men as a dainty, the common sort as necessary sustenance.
1680 – Guide to the Mysteries of Cuisine (Shixian Hongmi) is the earliest Chinese-language document seen that mentions frozen tofu, which it calls dong doufu. This is also the earliest document seen that refers to fermented tofu as doufuru, and it may be the earliest document seen that mentions “stinky” fermented tofu – now called chou doufu.
1744 May 16 – “Japan and Chinese Soy” appear in a classified ad in the Daily Advertiser (London). This is the earliest document seen that refers to soy sauce as “Chinese Soy.” Moreover, soy sauce is now being sold in Europe.
1745 March 1 – Joseph Delaporte, an early French traveler to China, writes a detailed description of tofu in China. The book, Le Voyageur François, comprised of his collected letters, … is published in Paris in 1772.
1759 – Samuel Bowen, a British seaman, sails from London to China on the ship Pitt. He later claims that he was made a prisoner in China for nearly four years and was carried 2,000 miles from place to place through the interior of the country. While in China he obtains soybeans and learns how to make soy sauce. Bowen returns to London in late 1763. In 1764 he arrives in Savannah, The Colony of Georgia, and in 1765 marries the daughter of the collector of customs (Hymowitz and Harlan1983).
1764 March – “On Chinese Soy Sauce” (Om Chinesiska Soyan), by Karl Gustaf Ekeberg, is a detailed description in Swedish of how the Chinese make soy sauce, written with the intent that Europeans would start making it themselves (Kongliga Vetenskaps Academiens Handlingar) [Transactions of the Royal Academy of Sciences] 25:38-40. Jan/March.
1765 spring – Samuel Bowen introduces the soybean to North American from China. In the spring of 1765, Samuel Bowen did not have land available to sow seeds. Therefore he asked Henry Yonge, the Surveyor-General of Georgia, to plant the seed that he had brought from China on Yonge’s farm just east of Savannah. Bowen calls his soybeans “vetches” or “Chinese vetches” (Hymowitz and Harlan 1983).
      Bowen later uses his soybeans to make Bowen’s Patent Soy [sauce], which is ready by May 1766. This is the first commercial soy product made in North America.
      By 3 March 1769 Bowen’s soybeans had been distributed to eight farmers who probably lived in Pennsylvania.
1765 Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, by Denis Diderot, an early French encyclopedia, has a long and favorable entry for soy sauce (Soui, or Soi). He notes that: The Chinese also make soy (souï), but that of the Japanese is regarded as superior.
1790 – Recipes from the Sui Garden (Suiyuan Shidan), by Yuan Mei is the most famous recipe book of its day. Most of the soyfoods available at the time appear in recipes in this book. It is the earliest document known to mention fresh tofu curds which are called funao (“tofu brain”) and douhua or doufuhua (“tofu flowers”) – or to use the curds as a recipe ingredient. His recipes include frozen tofu, pressed tofu (doufugan), smoked tofu (xun doufu), and white fermented tofu (furu).
      Huang (2000, p. 372) has a full-page table showing the great diversity of condiments / seasonings used in this book: Seasonings based on jiang (fermented soybean paste) are used in 48 recipes: jiang itself in 15, soy sauce made from jiang named qingjiang in 24 recipes, soy sauce named jiangyou in 2 recipes, soy sauce named jiangzhi in 1 recipe, and soy sauce named jiangshui in 6 recipes. Fermented black soybeans (shi) are used in 2 recipes, and a new type of soy sauce named qiuyou (Wade-Giles ch'iu yu) is used in a whopping 62 recipes. This is the earliest document seen in which a soy-based seasoning named qiuyou is mentioned.
      Yuan Mei (lived 1716-1798) was one of China's four most famous "literati gourmands;" they “exerted a considerable influence on the development of a higher cuisine, especially when they compiled their own cookbooks..." (Wilkinson 2000, p. 647-49). A well-known poet, he retired in 1749 to his “Garden of Contentment” near Nanjing.
1790? – An undated painting, by Yao Wenhan, shows hawkers selling soymilk in China. It was probably becoming increasingly used as a beverage or recipe ingredient by this time.
1793 – Lord Macartney’s trade mission arrives in Beijing, but it is rebuffed by the Qianlong emperor (ruled 1735-1796).
1795Travels in Europe, Africa, and Asia, Made between the Years 1770 and 1779… by Charles Peter Thunberg focuses on Japan more than China. He says (p. 107) the soy [sauce] made in Japan “is much better than that which is brewed in China.”
1804 – Michael de Grubbens gives an excellent description “Of the Manner of Preparing China Soy” [sauce]. de Grubbens lived for 5 years in China. He prepared soy sauce in Canton and brought some bottles of soy that he made to Sweden. This is the earliest document seen that uses the term "China soy" to refer to soy sauce.
1800-1820 – Opium becomes the leading Chinese import commodity – forced on China by British merchants as imports of Chinese tea threaten to bankrupt Britain.
1819 – An article titled “On China” in The Port Folio (Philadelphia and London) is the earliest document seen that mentions dried yuba sticks, which it calls foo chack [elsewhere spelled foo jook or fuchu]. It states (p. 105): “The Chinese make great use of beans, not only to feed their sheep and cattle, but also as food for themselves, in what they call, thow foo [doufu; tofu], and foo chack” [dried yuba sticks].
1821 – Anthony Willich of Philadelphia, writes in The Domestic Encyclopedia:… “Sooju, or Soy [sauce] is a dark coloured sauce, which is prepared from the seeds of the Chinese plant Dolichos soja,… The Soy-bean bears the climate of Pennsylvania very well. The bean ought therefore to be cultivated” (Vol. 3, p. 264-65).
1832 July 3 – The term “Canton Soy” first appears in an ad in the Salem Gazette (Massachusetts) in the phrase “Canton and Japan Soy” [sauce].
1839-1842 – First Opium War is provoked and won by Britain as China tries to stop illegal British imports of opium into Canton.
1842-1843 – The Treaty of Nanjing ending the war forces unequal treaties on China, including huge financial indemnities (punitive payments of money to Britain), the opening of five treaty ports (Shanghai, Canton, Ningpo, Fuchow, and Amoy) to foreign trade and residence, allowing Western missionary activity, and ceding the Island of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in perpetuity.
1844 – Ridgway, in “Letters from Hong Kong and Macao (Concluded from page 313)” is the earliest English-language document seen that uses the term "bean cakes" (or "bean cakes" or "bean cake") to refer to ground, defatted soybeans (New Monthly Magazine and Humorist,70(279):353-84. See p. 369).
      “The sugar plantations in the subtropical regions [of China] had for centuries drawn upon the northern bean cake for fertilizing, and beans were needed also for the southern mills where their oil was extracted and used as a substitute for ground-nut oil...” (Adachi 1925, p. 240-41).
1845 April 1 – The earliest document seen concerning soybean products in Hong Kong is an ad by Samuel Lyons titled “Ex Kestrel from Hongkong” in the Sydney Morning Herald (NSW, Australia) (p. 1). The ad mentions "12 cases soy [sauce], 1 dozen each."
      The soy sauce being shipped was probably made in Hong Kong. If it was, this would be the earliest document seen concerning soybeans in Hong Kong, and this document would contain the earliest date seen for soybeans in Hong Kong (1845).
1848 – Illustrated Investigation of the Names and Natures of Plants (Zhiwu Mingshi Tukao; Wade-Giles Chih Wu Ming Shih T'u K'ao, by Wu Qijun (W.-G. Wu Ch’i Chün), a famous compilation of earlier material, contains a section titled “Soy bean” (dadou) which reiterates earlier material and contains two illustrations.
      This book and section become especially important when, in May 1917, H.J. Hagerty, Chinese Translator, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Crop Physiology and Breeding investigations, does an English translation of the soy bean section.
1850-1864 – The Taiping Rebellion, led by a Chinese Christian religious fanatic, is fought against the Qing dynasty. Rebels gain control of a large swath of southern China before being defeated. At least 20 million people died, mainly civilians, making it one of the deadliest military conflicts in history.
1854 – The Imperial Maritime Customs Service (from 1912 known as the Chinese Maritime Customs Service) is created in China (starting in Shanghai) as a result of the two Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion; it was intended to replace the pre-existing Chinese Customs Service, which was one of the catalysts of the Opium Wars. Most of the detailed statistics concerning exports and imports of soybeans and soy products were compiled by this British-run Customs Service.
1855 Aug. – A First Flora of the Amur River Basin (Primitiae Florae Amurensis. Versuch einer Flora des Amur-Landes) by Carl Joh. Maximowicz (1859) states that his friend Carl von Ditmar found the soybean cultivated on the Ussuri River at Aua in Chinese gardens on 10 Aug. 1855, and on the upper Amur River near Aicho where entire fields were planted with it, 19 July 1856.
      This is the earliest document seen concerning soybeans in Manchuria, or the cultivation of soybeans in Manchuria.
      Note: Bunge (1833) may have found soybeans cultivated in Manchuria as early as 1831, but we cannot be sure.
1856-1860 – Second Opium War. Britain and France win. The Treaty of Beijing forces additional concessions from China, including the opening of diplomatic missions and 11 additional treaty ports. China is deeply humiliated.
1882Botanicon Sinicum, by E.V. Bretschneider is the first accurate and thorough introduction to the ancient botanical literature of China. He is an M.D. and Physician of the Russian Legation at Peking, China.
1885 Official Report of the Calcutta International Exhibition, 1883-84 states, concerning the soybean: "This pulse is an important article of food in Tibet… The advisability of extending its cultivation on the Himalayan tracts was pressed on the Government of India in 1882 by Professor Kinch, and the attention of local Governments also was called to it."
      This is the earliest document seen concerning soybeans and perhaps the cultivation of soybeans in Tibet. This document contains the earliest date seen for soybeans in Tibet (1885) and perhaps the cultivation soybeans in Tibet. The source of these soybeans is unknown – as, unfortunately, is the author's source of this information about soybeans in Tibet. Note that in 1885 Tibet was much larger than it is today, extending much further to the west and somewhat further to the south, for example in the area named Kham. The temperatures in these areas are warmer and the altitudes are lower than in Lhasa.
1887 July – The earliest proof of the soybean being cultivated in Hong Kong is a specimen of the Hong Kong Herbarium, “Herb No. 7442.” The caption reads: "Ex Herb. Hongkong No. (Glycine hispida, Maxim.) Cultivated in H.K. Bot. Gard., 14-6-87” [14 June 1887]. Under the caption is written: "Soja hispida, Moench." This is crossed out, and under it is written "Glycine soja (L.) S&L." It has since been re-identified as Glycine max.
      It seems likely, of course, that soybeans were cultivated centuries before this date, but we have no proof. See also 1845 April 1.
1893 Aug.Report by Mr. Hosie on the Island of Formosa with Special Reference to its Resources and Trade, by Alexander Hosie of Great Britain (26 pages) contains an abundance of early information about soybeans and soybean products in Taiwan. This is the earliest document seen concerning soybeans (not including wild soybeans) in Taiwan, or the cultivation of soybeans in Taiwan. This document contains the earliest date seen for soybeans in Taiwan, or the cultivation of soybeans in Taiwan (Aug. 1893).
      Cheng Chien-pan (1972), without citing any source, states in an article “Current situation of food legume crops production in Taiwan, The Republic of China” that peanut and soybean “were introduced from the China mainland by Chinese immigrants at the end of the fifteenth century.” This may be true, but without a source we cannot be sure.
1895 April 17 – The Treaty of Shimonoseki ends the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95); Japanese victory establishes Japan ­­­as a regional power. China is obliged to cede Taiwan (Formosa), the nearby Pescadores Islands, and the Kwantung Peninsula in South Manchuria to Japan; recognize Korea's independence; pay 200 million taels indemnity; open more ports; and negotiate a commercial treaty. The latter, signed in 1896, gives Japan all the privileges that the Western powers had in China and adds the further privilege of carrying on 'industries and manufactures,' using the cheap labor in the treaty ports. The Kwantung Peninsula (in southern Manchuria) soon becomes an important source of soybeans for Japan.
1908 – The first trial shipment of soybeans from Asia to Europe was made in 1908 by the Mitsui firm of Japan, being sent from Dairen to Liverpool. This was the beginning of a new industry in England, Germany, Denmark and Holland. The major portion of the beans destined for Europe was for the mills at Liverpool and Hull, England; for those at Copenhagen, Denmark, and Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Holland.
1910 March 10 – Henry Sagnier in Le soja et ses produits states: The soybean was a curiosity in Europe until 2-3 years ago, when large amounts started to be imported. The prince A. d'Arenberg, president of the Suez Canal Society, told the National Society of Agriculture, that prior to 1908 no soybeans had passed through the Suez Canal, yet in that year 35,000 tons passed through it. It seems that the new commerce has been stimulated by the expansion of the crop in Manchuria and Korea, under Japanese influence. Most of the imports have gone to England and northern Europe.
1911The Soya Bean of Manchuria, by Norman Shaw (32 pages) is filled with early and very valuable statistics based on customs reports. For example: 1860 – The earliest available import returns for Swatow show 379,009 piculs of beancake, valued at $783,762 and 61,154 piculs of soya beans valued at $107,235.
      Note: 1 picul = 132.27 pounds weight.
1925Manchuria: A Survey, by Kinnosuke Adachi (xvii + 401 pages) is a very rich source of history and statistics concerning soybeans in Manchuria. For example: "The Treaty of Tientsin of 1858 opened the port of Newchwang to foreign trade. In 1861 the British established a consulate at Yingkou under the name of 'Newchwang Consulate.' It was the only seaport opened to international trade in all Manchuria. From then on the Liao [River] entered the period of its greatest glory and activity.”
      “In 1864 the import of beans from Newchwang to Swatow had risen to more than double that of four years previously... In 1861, the first year in the port's history, only thirty-four foreign ships visited Newchwang, but four years later 271 – most of which were engaged in the pulse trade – entered and cleared.”
      “When one comes to the export tonnage out of Dairen, respect for the humble bean increases mightily: out of the total of 4,081,431 tons exported, bean, bean cake, and oil made up pretty nearly half –
to be exact, 1,927,803 tons. And the most eloquent part of the story of the soya bean is that not half – not one hundredth – has ever yet been told.”
1929 Feb. 18 – P.H. Dorsett (age 67) and W.J. Morse (age 45) leave Washington, DC, by train, heading west, for a 2-3 year expedition to the Orient. Two of the main goals of the expedition are to collect soybean varieties and soybean products, and learn as much as possible about growing and processing soybeans in, Manchuria, China, Japan, and Korea. On March 1 the group sails from San Francisco for Japan on board the President Grant. They arrive in Tokyo on March 18, set up headquarters there, and spend most of the first year in Japan. At the end of each day they type up their notes and add original photographs to their trip report.
Major accomplishments of the expedition:
     (1) Soybean varieties: They collect and send back to the USA 4,451 soybean varieties (PI numbers) of which 986 (22.2%) were still in the USDA germplasm collection in 1981 (R. Bernard, 1981). However none of these are major ancestors of soybean varieties grown in 1972 (National Research Council, 1972, Chap. 13).
     (2) Soybean products: Morse collects, Dorsett photographs, they describe and send back more than 300 soybean products.
      (3) Trip report: The typewritten Log of the Dorsett-Morse Expedition to East Asia, which fills 17 volumes and contains more than 8,818 pages plus about 3,200 glossy black-and-white photo prints, is now at the USDA National Agricultural Library (Beltsville, Maryland) in Special Collections.
1929 – The peak year for exports of soybeans, soybean cake and soybean oil from Manchuria.
1931 Sept. 18 – The Manchurian Incident (also called the Mukden Incident) is used by the Japanese as an excuse for occupying all of Manchuria. For Japan, “the prize” in Manchuria is soybeans, soybean cake and soybean oil, which they export to Japan.
1933 – Exports of soybeans, soybean cake and soybean oil from Manchuria collapse – and do not recover until after World War II (Hsiao Liang-lin. 1974. China's Foreign Trade Statistics, 1864-1949. xvi + 297 pages).
1937 July 7 – Second Sino-Japanese War starts as Japan invades and occupies North and East China. Initially the Japanese scored major victories in Shanghai after heavy fighting; there the first bombing of civilians in a war took place. By the end of 1937 Japan captured the Chinese capital of Nanking, where the Nanking massacre (“Rape of Nanking”) took place; an estimated 200,000 Chinese were killed and many women were raped.
      After failing to stop the Japanese in Wuhan, Chiang Kai-shek’s central government relocates to Chongqing in the Chinese interior. By 1939 the war had reached stalemate after Chinese victories in Changsha and Guangxi. The Japanese were also unable to defeat the Chinese communist forces in Shaanxi; the Chinese performed harassment and sabotage operations against the Japanese using guerrilla warfare tactics. The war ended on 9 Sept. 1945.
1940 March 9 – The Hong Kong Soya Bean Co. Ltd. (renamed Vitasoy International Holdings Ltd. in Sept. 1990), founded by K.S. Lo, starts making soymilk at Great George St., Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, for refugees streaming in from China.
1941 Dec. 25 – Hong Kong surrenders to Japan after 20 days of fighting. Rape by the conquering soldiers is a major problem (Li Shu-fan. 1964. Hong Kong Surgeon).
1949 Oct. 1 – Mao Zedong announces the birth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In December Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang retreat to Taiwan.
1958 spring – “Great Leap Forward” begins in China.
1958 – “China's postwar production of soybeans has fallen well below the average prewar output of 10 to 11 million metric tons annually (in the neighborhood of 400 million bushels)” (Soybean Digest. Feb. p. 22).
1959-1961 – The Great Leap and three hard years bring widespread famine to China. Scholars have estimated the number of famine victims to be between 20 and 45 million.
1966 May – The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution begins in China. Its peak is in 1966-67. It has died out by 1976.
1969 Nov. – American Soybean Association (ASA) establishes an office in Taiwan; Dr. Steve Chen is the first country director in Taipei.
1973 March – The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), founded in 1971, begins its soybean improvement program.
1976 – The world is astonished to learn that Brazil has surpassed mainland China to become the world's No. 2 producer of soybeans (after the USA) with a record harvest of 426 million bushels (11.6 million metric tons). In 1969 no one thought of Brazil as a producer of soybeans (Soybean Digest Dec. 1976, p. 20-21).
1978 Dec. – Deng Xiaoping announces official launch of the four modernizations to strengthen the fields of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology in China. This is a turning point in the modernization and strengthening of China.
1979 – The book Horseman in the Snow: the Story of Aten, an Old Khampa Warrior, by Jamyang Norbu states (p. 39): “Our usual crops were wheat, peas, soya beans, buckwheat, potatoes, radishes, turnips and red pimentos. Our most important crop was the barley. It was roasted and ground to make Tsampa, which is the staple diet of all Tibetans.” These soybeans were grown in Nyarong, in what was traditionally Eastern Tibet, but which the Chinese government now says is in eastern Sichuan province.
      This is the earliest document seen concerning the cultivation of soybeans in Tibet. This document contains the earliest date seen for the cultivation of soybeans in Tibet (1979 at Nyarong). The source of these soybeans is unknown. See also 1885.
1980s to 2000s – Taiwan becomes a major producer of edamamé, including organic edamamé, largely for export to Japan.
1982 Aug. 17 – American Soybean Association (ASA) establishes an office in China; Terrence Foley is the first country director in Beijing.
1995-1996 – China begins importing U.S. soybeans, starting with 12 million bushels. “Between 1995 and 2000, China went from being self-sufficient in soybeans to being the world's largest buyer, importing over 40 percent of its supply” (Kluis 1996, p. 54; Lester Brown 2002, p. 48).
      For about 3,000 years, China has produced enough soybeans for its own needs. But since about 1995, China has emerged as the world's largest net soybean importer – by far. Three main forces have driven this change: (1) As Chinese workers become more affluent, their appetite for meat increases; therefore more soybeans are needed as animal feed. (2) Fresh water in China has become increasingly scarce. In northern China, where soybeans have traditionally been produced, water tables are dropping at a rate of 3-10 feet/year. "It takes a thousand tons of water to produce one ton of grain," says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, a U.S. environmental research and advocacy group. "So the most efficient way to import water is in the form of grain." (3) China's population, the largest in the world at 1.3 billion people, continues to grow. (Barrionuevo, Alexei. 2007. “To Fortify China, Soybean Harvest Grows in Brazil.” New York Times. April 6. p. A1, C7.).
1997 July 1 – Britain returns Hong Kong to China, along with the New Territories and Kowloon Peninsula.
2004 – China’s soybean production peaks at 17.4 million metric tons.
2014 – China: Current Status. “Four numbers tell the story of the explosive growth of soybean consumption in China. In 1995, China was producing 14 million tons of soybeans and it was consuming 14 million tons. In 2011, it was still producing 14 million tons of soybeans – but it was consuming 70 million tons, meaning that 56 million tons had to be imported.” Most of these soybeans were used to feed hogs, poultry, and fish. “China's neglect of soybean production reflects a political decision made in Beijing in 1995 to focus on being self-sufficient in grain.” (Lester Brown. 2013. “China's rising soybean culture reshaping Western agriculture.” www.earthpolicy.org ).
      Yet most of China’s soybeans for use as human food are still grown in China.

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