The Soybean Plant: Botany, Nomenclature, Taxonomy, Domestication, and Dissemination - Page 3

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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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, Californi

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Noting that there was little doubt that the soybean was indigenous to China, Ho then cited three lines of evidence indicating that the soybean was domesticated during the Chou dynasty: (1) the character for "soybeans" ( shu ) first appeared in The Book of Odes (Shih-ching) during the Chou dynasty. (2) At about the same time the character appeared in bronze inscriptions. (3) Paleographic analysis of the character shu done by T-C Hu in "Discourse on the Character Shu (Soybean)" (1963) indicated that the character (logograph) dated from the early Chou period. Ho noted:

Unlike the early Chinese logographs for other cereal plants, which emphasize the stem and leaves, the emphasis of the new character shu (soybean) was on the nodules of its roots. Since the numeral three symbolizes many, the three elongated dots at the lower left half of the character pictographically represent the roots bulging nodules caused by rhizobium.

The horizontal line in the middle of the character symbolizes earth. The lines above it are the main stem and a branch. He showed the following characters.

(characters go here)

Based on this evidence, Ho drew the very important conclusion that the soybean "was probably first domesticated successfully in the eastern half of North China, probably not much earlier than the eleventh century BC." He continued:

The effect of the domestication of the soybean on Chinese agriculture and on the nutrition of the ancient Chinese cannot be exaggerated. At long last, the Chou Chinese had found a food plant that, instead of causing soil exhaustion, actually helped to preserve and enhance the fertility of the soil. The soybean supplied all classes of the population with cheaper and more abundant protein . . . Not until the soybean was domesticated did the ancient Chinese cropping system become well balanced. Once the benefits of the soybean became known, its subsequent dissemination was fairly rapid. The various works written or compiled during the fourth and third centuries BC usually mention the soybean and millets as the two most important sources of food.

In 1970 Theodore Hymowitz, then Assistant Professor of Plant Genetics at the University of Illinois wrote his now classic monograph "On the Domestication of the Soybean," in which he drew together and concisely summarized (with 131 references) much of the previously mentioned information on the soybean's domestication. (He did not mention and was presumably unaware of the work of Nagata, Brandemuhl, plus a few less important sources.) Before Hymowitz's article the various articles cited above were scattered in various (often obscure) journals representing a host of disciplines from East and West, and were thus largely unknown to Westerners interested in the soybean's early history. After Hymowitz's article, the larger picture, free of errors, myths, and misconceptions, came into clear focus; thus the article came to be widely quoted. While working with the basic evidence cited by Ho (1969) for the antiquity of the soybean, Hymowitz presented new information concerning the taxonomy and geographic distribution of the wild and domesticated plants, the physio-agricultural geography of China indicating that the soybean was domesticated in the winter wheat-kaoliang region (which was also the geographic area covered by The Book of Odes ), the fact that the character shu appeared in six odes covering four time periods between the 11th and 7th centuries BC, the myth of the emperor Shen Nung, and the expansion of the concept of the soybean gene center developed by de Candolle and Vavilov adding Manchuria as a secondary gene center. Hymowitz also cited evidence against Fukuda's 1933 theory that soybeans were first domesticated in Manchuria, arguing that (1) prior to the Han dynasty, the area was sparsely populated by nomadic tribesman rather than agriculturalists, (2) the intensive cultivation of soybeans in Manchuria is a recent phenomenon, and (3) Glycine gracilis , the weedy soybean form, is not an intermediate form that evolved from the wild soybean into the domesticated soybean but rather a cross between the wild and domesticated forms in areas where they overlapped. Concluding, like Ho, that the soybean first emerged as a domesticate around the 11th century BC in the eastern half of north China, Hymowitz added:

The emergence of a domesticate carries with it the connotation of a trial and error process. This process for soybeans book place during the Shang dynasty (ca. 1700-1100 BC) or earlier. The migration of the soybean from the primary gene center to South China, Korea, Japan and South Asia probably took place during the expansion of the Chou Dynasty.

The above work was but the first of many important and original contributions that Hymowitz would make to the field of soybean history. His interest in using his background in plant genetics to study the history of plants originated in the early 1960s (1959-62??) when he was in India as a Fulbright scholar doing research for his doctoral dissertation on guar (a legume used to produce a gum). While preparing his chapter on the history of guar, he conducted an extensive search through Indian agricultural and tax records, diaries and travelogues of merchants, soldiers, sailors, clerics, and tourists who had visited the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent from the time of Alexander (4th century BC) to the 17th century, plus the classical and medieval literature in central and northern India . . . No small task. After showing the inadequacy of existing theories to explain a number of puzzles concerning the origin and domestication of guar, he formulated the highly creative and solidly supported trans-domestication concept (with 110 references) suggesting that guar had actually originated in Arabia, was brought from there inadvertently by Arab traders in the 9-13th centuries to the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent as fodder for horses, and was then domesticated there (Hymowitz 1972). He would soon apply his interest in the early history of plants to the soybean. After two years collecting legumes in Brazil, he accepted an offer to do basic studies on soybean genetics at the University of Illinois. From May to November of 1967 Hymowitz found himself back in India, this time working on a University of Illinois soybean project while stationed at the Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar, north India. While collecting soybeans in the nearby Kumaon Hills and studying their uses in food, he began to wonder: Where did these soybeans come from? When did they arrive in India? Who brought them here? Using some of the same techniques developed during his historical studies on guar, Hymowitz began to pursue these questions, looking for clues of the use of soybeans in traditional religious ceremonies and systems of medicine, and studying the spread of the soybean's vernacular names. This work led to his first publication on soybeans, "The Soybeans of the Kumaon Hills of India" (1969). He concluded that the soybean was a recent introduction to India, probably introduced into India via the Naga Hills and Minipur, at the far eastern tip of India. Probably?? His curiosity aroused, Hymowitz began to dig for more information, primarily by an exhaustive search of the literature on soybean history. In November 1969 he presented a lecture to the American Society of Agronomy entitled "The Origin of the Soybean." and in 1970 his pioneering "On the Domestication of the Soybean was published."

In 1968 Hymowitz had started a major genetic project, screening the USDA germplasm collection at the University of Illinois in search of soybean varieties that lacked the Kunitz trypsin inhibitor, an antidigestive enzyme. A soybean lacking this trypsin inhibitor would be a boon for use in both human foods and animal feeds. It took 2-1/2 years to develop the analytical techniques, then 5-1/2 years to screen the collection, and finally 4 years to work out the genetic inheritance; 12 years total. For this screening Hymowitz and co-workers used a technique called polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE; explain??), which had been used as early as 1966 by Eldridge, Anderson, and Wolf to study soybean trypsin inhibitors. In 1967 Larsen of the USDA had used this type of electrophoresis to study the variation and inheritance of a soybean seed protein, which was later shown by Hildebrand and Horowitz (1980; Ref??) to be the enzyme beta-amylase. This protein was found to have two forms, which, in a column of the gel appeared as either of two distinct bands at fixed locations. In 1969 Singh and co-workers at the University of Illinois had done electrophoresis studies on soybean trypsin inhibitors (SBTI), showing that they also formed distinct bands in a column of polyacrylamide gel. One band was shown to contain the Kunitz in SBTI and the other to contain a variant SBTI. The authors hypothesized that the production of the trypsin inhibitors was genetically controlled. In 1970 Clark, Mies, and Hymowitz used electrophoresis to analyze the distribution of SBTI in 294 US soybeans introduced from East Asia. They found that 93% of these contained the Kunitz inhibitor and only 7% contained the variant inhibitor. Only soybeans from Japan and Korea contained the variant inhibitor; none of the 153 soybeans from China contained it. More specifically the variant inhibitor was found to be highly localized in Japanese and Korean soybeans grown in US maturity groups I and II. The potentially great significance of this sort of observation did not escape Hymowitz who noted in 1971 (Ref??) in his first article as senior author in this field. "Perhaps electrophoretic banding patterns of soybean seed proteins could be adapted to determine the movement of soybean germplasm from North China to Africa, Europe, North and South America." He also noted that soybeans containing the variant inhibitor tended to be larger seeded but lower yielding (like vegetable type soybeans). In 1973, in a screening of 1,595 soybeans in the USDA germplasm collection imported from East Asia, Hymowitz showed that 79% contained the basic Kunitz trypsin inhibitor, 21% contained the above-mentioned variant, and two seeds contained a second variant. The following percentages of the soybeans from various countries contained the first variant: Japan 37%, Korea 30%, northeast China 9%, south and central China 8%, and Indonesia 3%. Clearly the Japanese and Korean populations, with respect to frequency of the variant inhibitor, were more closely related than the other three populations. It was noted that since 85% of the US soybean acreage was seeded to soybeans that had at least 1 parent tracing to northeast China, one would expect the frequency of the trypsin inhibitor variant in these US soybeans to be approximately the same as in those from north China. This was borne out by the 9% figure cited immediately above and the 7% figure found by Clark, Mies, and Hymowitz in 1970. It was also noted in addition to looking for soybean varieties free of the Kunitz trypsin inhibitor, the investigators were now also looking for additional variant forms and studying the geographic distribution of the two forms. Hymowitz had begun to realize an entirely new potential of the germplasm collection as a powerful tool for plotting the paths of dissemination of the soybean. The patterns were like "silent fingerprints" or an invisible code useful in identifying the movement of germplasm from one region to another. Here was a new technique to add to the more traditional techniques utilizing historical linguistic, and archaeological evidence, as well as techniques pioneered by Vavilov and Nagata measuring characteristics of the plants themselves such as seed size, growth habit, flower color or plant height.

In 1977 the first article appeared using electrophoresis to chart dissemination. Skorupska (of Poland) and Hymowitz analyzed seed protein extracts from European soybeans in the US germplasm collection, and Kaizuma (of Japan) and Hymowitz analyzed seed protein extracts of Japanese soybeans. By matching the frequency distribution of common Mendelian characters (alleles), they were able to demonstrate that most of the soybeans in Europe were probably introduced from the USSR (the Asian portion) and from northeast China; Swedish soybeans, however, were shown to have originated in northern Japan.

In 1978 (card??) Hymowitz and co-workers, in "Screening the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection for Kunitz Trypsin Inhibitor Variants" studied the distributions of the protein in soybeans introduced from various parts of China and other countries.

In 1979 Hymowitz and Kaizuma wrote an article on dissemination of soybeans to and within Japan, again based on seed protein electrophoresis techniques and analysis of the frequency distribution of the five forms of the two proteins in soybeans of Japanese origin. They arrived at conclusions remarkably similar to those of Nagata (1960). They showed that what Nagata termed the full-season crop cline most probably came from northcentral China through Korea to Japan. The short season crop cline, which Hymowitz called the summer-season type soybeans, appeared to have evolved in either Korea or in Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island.

In 1981 Hymowitz and Kaizumu published the culmination of their work to date as specific hypotheses on the paths of dissemination of soybeans from China, based on electrophoretic analysis of Asian soybeans combined with available historical, agronomic, genetic, and biogeographical data. More than a decade's work of painstakingly slow and exacting screening of the US germplasm collection and equally slow searching through old documents (from ships logs to personal correspondence) and modern literature on soybean history from East and West located in libraries around the world, had yielded firm, scientific evidence to answer the questions raised and the hypotheses proposed in the early articles on the soybeans of the Kumaon Hills of India and on the domestication of the soybean. To unify time and space relationships concerning the domestication and dissemination of soybeans, Hymowitz proposed adding to Vavilov's concept of a primary gene center, where soybeans originated, the notion of secondary and tertiary gene centers into which soybeans moved as dissemination and genetic change took place. Within these three centers, Hymowitz and Kaizuma identified seven germplasm pools, areas where significant genetic development and differentiation had occurred: northeast China and the USSR, central and south China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, north India and Nepal, and central India. They acknowledged that their ideas on dissemination were based partly on the pioneering studies of Nagata (1960) discussed above. It is interesting to compare their two maps of soybean dissemination.

The primary gene center, as Vavilov had proposed, was considered to be China, specifically a circle about 500 miles in diameter directly south of Peking; here the soybean emerged as a domesticate in about the 11th century BC. According to Ho (1975) the soybean did not move out of its home area for 400 years, until the seventh century BC. Soybeans probably reached south and central China by the first century AD as civil wars in the north at the beginning of the Han dynasty caused the first of four major southward migrations. They probably also reached the Korean peninsula by the first century AD (Kwon 1972). The movement of the soybean within China was associated with the development and consolidation of territories, the degeneration of dynasties, and mass migrations caused by civil wars, barbarian invasions, and rebellions.

During the period from the first century AD until the Age of Discovery (15th century) soybeans moved from their primary into their secondary gene center, consisting of Japan, Southeast Asia, and southcentral Asia??. Because soybeans are sensitive to daylength, their freedom of movement is limited; they tend to move and disseminate much more easily between east and west than between north and south. Thus, according to Hymowitz's theory, the dissemination from northern China down the Malaysian peninsula to Indonesia must have taken a long time. The movement of soybeans during this period of time was based on the establishment of sea and land trading routes, the emigration of certain tribes from China, and the rapid acceptance of soybeans as a staple by certain cultures outside China. Thus the soybean moved west along the Silk Road (perhaps with silk) from K'aifeng, Honan province, in eastcentral China, to northern India and eventually to Europe. With emigrating Thais and silk it moved down into Thailand. It moved up and down the coastal areas by ship and with traders from south China over to Indonesia, where south Chinese soyfoods were quickly accepted. The earliest mention of the soybean in Japan occurs in the Kojiki (AD 712). Within the secondary gene center, Japan is considered a very active microcenter, since the soybean was modified extensively there by man; northern India, where the soybean was modified only very slightly, is considered a passive microcenter.

Hymowitz and Kaizuma considered central India to be a recent or tertiary soybean gene center. Another tertiary gene center lies within the US, while incipient tertiary centers are being established in South America and Europe.

In July 1981 Hymowitz presented a paper entitled "The History of Soybeans in the West" at the annual Soyfoods Conference. In it he gave the most complete and unified presentation to date of his genetic and historical findings. Another good published summary is Hymowitz and Newell's "Taxonomy of the Genus Glycine , Domestication and Uses (1981). Hymowitz is presently writing a book of essays that chart the history of the soybean and summarize his findings; he is also drafting a history of the soybean in Illinois prior to 1920 (Leviton 1981). Although Hymowitz's historical work is only a minor part of his overall work (which includes research in soybean genetics, taxonomy, chemical composition, etc.), in little more than a decade it has radically altered the Western understanding of the early history of the soybean. We expect even more changes to come.

During the years that the research of Hymowitz and his co-workers was moving forward, other works attempting to elucidate the origin and dissemination of the soybean were also appearing. In 1971 Leppik argued (unconvincingly) that the central area of distribution of the genus Glycine is tropical southern Asia, where the greatest number of endemic species still live. The milder coastal areas of Southeast Asia enabled the wild soybean ( G. ussuriensis ) to move northward and settle in northwest China and the Ussuri River basin of Manchuria. There it formed a secondary gene center for the genus, from which Glycine max was domesticated.

In 1973 Hunan Sheng (in Chinese, cited in K.C. Chang 1977) described the spectacular archaeological discoveries from the Western Han Tomb No. 1 at Ma-wang-tui, located at Ch'ang-sha, Hunan (in south China). The tomb, sealed in 168 BC, contained the earliest finds or written records of soyfoods in China; shih or soy nuggets. Also found in the tomb were soybeans plus 312 inscribed bamboo slips describing various foods and seasonings, including chiang (Chinese miso). The existence of fermented foods in south China at this early date would seem to indicate a much earlier domestication of the soybean.

In 1975 Ping-ti Ho wrote a major book, Cradle of the East , in which he expanded, and to some extent modified the historical observations he had made in his pioneering work of 1969. He first noted the work of Sun and Keng (1959; Ref??) showing that although wild soybeans are found in many parts of China, they are concentrated mostly in the eastern provinces north of the Yangtze River. He then introduced the I Chou-shu ("Lost History of Chou"), a late Chou Dynasty compilation describing tributes brought to the Chou royal court by various peoples shortly after the Chou conquest of the Shang dynasty in about 1122 BC. It mentions that the Mountain Jung ( Shan Jung ), a proto-Tungusic people who were the ancestors of the early non-Chinese Tungus tribes inhabiting Manchuria and who had expanded to northeastern Hopei by eighth and seventh centuries BC, offered Jung-shu (literally "the beans of Jung,"[repeat??] but actually soybeans) as their special tribute. Ho noted that "The special significance of the I Chou-shu account is its precision about the geographic and ethnic origin of the domesticated soybean." Ho then cited other early works that confirm that cited above. In the Kuan-tzu , a work attributed to a statesman of the 7th century BC but not actually compiled until Han times, it is stated that an army sent to punish the Mountain Jung brought back "winter onions and soybeans ( Jung-shu ) for dissemination throughout the various states." This expedition is known to have taken place in 664 BC. Finally the Ku-liang commentaries on the Ch'un-ch'iu (Spring and Autumn Annals) contain an entry for the year 663 BC, in which the lord of Ch'i sent some newly acquired soybeans to the lord of

Lu as a personal present. Ho noted:

These additional accounts are valuable in showing that, although soybean was known to the Chou royal court shortly before 1000 BC, it did not become widely disseminated in North China until after 664 BC. These facts explain satisfactorily why, in various works of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC soybean and millet were almost unanimously regarded as one of the two most important food crops.

From these remarkable Chou records it is fairly certain that the plains of Manchuria must have been the area of greatest concentration of wild varieties of soybean. The area inhabited by the Mountain Jung was hilly and on the fringe of the area of concentration. It was probably because the land of the Mountain Jung was not ideal for the natural propagation of wild soybean that the people had to resort to domestication in which they succeeded after prolonged trial and error. Despite the association in Chou works of the Mountain Jung with the soybean, one cannot rule out the possibility that the soybean may have been domesticated by other proto-Tungusic tribes in the Manchurian plains centuries before the Chou conquest of Shang. In any case, that the soybean was an important contribution to Sinitic agriculture made by proto-Tungusic people is beyond doubt.

Ho had now clearly come out with Makino and Nemoto (1931) and Fukuda (1933) in supporting a Manchurian center of origin, different from the more southerly center in eastern north China proposed by Nagata and Hymowitz. The distance between the two centers is about 700 miles.

In 1978 Initials?? Lu (Ref??; cited in Keightley 1982) proposed that domestication appeared to have taken place in several areas of China??

In 1982 H-L Li (T.T. Chang?? (in Keightley 1982) proposed the Gondwanaland theory, stating that the genus Glycine appears to have had its origin in the eastern half of Gondwanaland, a name he gave for the southwest region of China and its adjoining areas.


Having discussed the broad outlines of the soybean's dissemination from China to other Asian countries, let us now look more specifically at evidence from various countries concerning its time and circumstances of entry. It should be noted, however, that very little archaeological or documentary evidence on this subject has been published in English. This is a fertile area for research within each country.

China. We have previously discussed mention of soybeans (shu) in The Book of Odes and in bronze inscriptions from the 11th century BC, of Jung-shu ("beans of the Mountain Jung people" Rep??) in the I Chou-shu from about 1100 BC, in the Kuan-tzu related to events of 664 BC, and in the Ku-liang commentaries on the Ch'un-ch'iu containing an entry for the year 663 BC. In addition, the Ehr-ya, a dictionary from 200-300 BC mentions Jung-shu, Jen-shu, and ta-tou (soybeans). (If so, first one??) The Huai-nan tzu (c. 120 BC) from the court of Liu An (legendary inventor of tofu), mentions ta-tou. The Fan Sheng-chih Shu of the first century BC has the first detailed information about their planting and harvest. It noted that "Soybeans can easily guarantee a good harvest, so that they were what the ancients used to guard against a bad year. They would take care to plant soybeans in proportion to the number of people in each household, in general 5 mou (3 hectares or 7.4 acres) per head. Beans were the staple of the peasants" (Bray 1982??). The Tsa Yin Yang Shu, an astrological work of the first century AD noted that "Soy beans begin to grow when the locust tree comes into leaf. In the fourth month after 90 days they flower, and seventy days after flowering they are ripe" (Bray 1982). Ts'ui Shih, in an agricultural treatise of the second century AD, said that soybeans may be planted in the second month (of the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, i.e. April), but "In the third month Orion is in the sky at dusk; when the almond flowers are thick and the mulberries are dark red, you should plant soybeans. This is said to be the best time" (Bray 1982). The Kuang Chih of c. AD 290 mentions various varieties of soybeans. The Ch'i-min yao-shu (AD 535, in which many of the above sources are quoted) contains an entire chapter on soybeans and their cultivation, by far the most detailed information to date.

Japan. Chinese culture began to influence Japan even in the prehistoric period. Early Chinese histories (such as the Wei chih, compiled before AD 297) show that there had been considerable direct contact between China and Japan as early as the first century AD. Chinese officials and traders had visited Japan and an envoy from Japan had visited the Han court in AD 57. Japan had a foothold in Korea from the fourth to the seventh centuries. During the fifth and sixth centuries a steady flow of Koreans, many of Chinese ancestry emigrated from Korea (an area permeated with Chinese influence) to Japan, thus further the spread of the higher continental civilization. The Chinese writing system was known to the Japanese by at least the fifth century AD.

In 1977 Sadaaki Ikata wrote a major book in Japanese entitled Research on the Ancient History of Grains in Japan. In the chapter on soybeans he summarized archaeological finds of soybeans made from 1933 to date. The earliest find, dated at the beginning of the first century AD, was from the Iba ruins in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka prefecture (central Japan), as reported by S. Sekine in "Study of the Eating Habits During the Nara Period" (Nara-cho Shokuseikatsu no Kenkyu). The next earliest, dated from the first to second centuries AD, was charred soybeans found in a pit with husked rice in a Neolithic dwelling at Komoriyama ruins in Akita prefecture (northeast Japan) as reported by Morimoto (1933) and dated by Dr. Nobuo Ito of Tohoku University. The most recent of the three finds, dated from the third century AD was from the Yasuda Okayama ruins in Mioka Village, Yamaguchi prefecture (southwest Japan), also reported by Sekine. Unfortunately Ikata did not discuss the quality of the evidence associated with these finds (whole beans, hulls, drawings, etc.)??. He noted, however, that since in Mioka Village, Yamaguchi prefecture, also reported. The author noted that since these dates are several centuries earlier than the earliest documentary or archaeological dates from Korea, that soybean cultivation seems to have started earlier in Japan than Korea, indicating that soybeans were not imported but were probably domesticated from wild Japanese soybeans. Today wild soybeans grow widely in Japan. They are most widely known as tsuru-mame ("vine bean"), but also as no-mame ("field bean) and yabu-mame ("underbrush bean").

The earliest mention of soybean in Japanese literature appears in the Kojiki ("Record of Ancient Matters") compiled in AD 712 (Philippi 1968) and in the Nihonshoki ("History of Japan") in AD 720 (Ref??). These are accounts of the early history of Japan "woven together out of a variety of myths, legends, genealogies, vague historical memories, and borrowings from Chinese philosophy and history" (Reischauer and Fairbank 1960). In the Kojiki account, Susa-no-wo, the god of the sea, asked Opo-ge-tu-pime, a food goddess, for food. When the goddess took food out of every aperture of her body and presented to Susa-no-wo, the latter killed her, thinking that she was polluting the food. "In the corpse of the slain deity there grew various things: in her head grew silkworms; in her two eyes grew rice seeds; in her two ears grew millet; in her nose grew red beans (azuki); in her genitals grew wheat; and in her rectum grew soybeans." Then another god had these taken and used as seeds (Philippi 1968). A related origin myth for grains and beans appears in the Nihonshoki compiled in AD 720. This time soybeans, wheat, and red beans grew from the genitals of the slain food deity Uke-moti-no-kami. These two accounts are similar to those in the Chinese P'an-ku creation myth and in similar myths in Taiwan and the Philippines, none of which, however, mention soybeans.

In 1955 Hamada reported the discovery of soybeans and the characters daizu (soybeans) on a wooden tube in the Shoso-in, a large imperial storehouse built of great logs in about AD 756 to house Emperor Shomu's belongings and legacies from the Nara period. The soybeans, found with medicinal herbs introduced from China, were found to be akin to those grown in Kyushu and the Ryukyu islands as a short season crop (Nagata 1960). A document, the Todaiji Shosoin Monjo (730-748), still preserved in excellent condition in the Shoso-in, is the first?? to mention soyfoods in Japan. It states that in 730 taxes were being paid in miso and hishio, and contains tax receipts from the following year for soy nuggets.

Soybeans and azuki beans were mentioned as an emergency food used to relieve a food shortage in 840 in the Zoku Nihon Koki (Trans?? Ref??) (Vol. 9) and Reishukai (Trans?? Ref??) (Vol. 13). They must have been grown widely at this time since they were offered by farmers to the government in place of millet when the latter was in short supply. The Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (Trans?? Ref??) (Vol. 14) reported that in March 867 Japanese farmers burnt a holly mountain in order to grow soybeans. In the eighth and ninth centuries soybeans were widely grown in provinces around the Inland Sea area of central Japan. (Who said so??)

Korea. The earliest known mention of soybeans in Korean literature dates from the middle of the third century AD, whereas the earliest Korean archaeological find, from the southern Korean peninsula, dates from the middle of the seventh century AD (Ikata 1977??; See also Kwon 1972). The first mention of soyfoods (soy sauce and miso) in Korean literature appeared in AD 683 (J.R. Wang and Lee 1978).

Indonesia. The earliest known mention of soybeans in today's Indonesia was by Rumphius in Herbarium Amboinense, completed by 1673 but not published until 1747. He found them growing on Amboina (today's Ambon). In 1853 Miquel (Ref??) reported soybean cultivation in Java on Mount Gunung-Gamping by Junghun, and in 1855 near Bandung. The first?? mention of soyfoods in Java was by Prinsen Geerligs in 1895 who discussed tempeh, tofu, taucho (a sort of miso) and soy sauce. In 1935 Burkill reported that soybeans were cultivated throughout Java except at the humid western end of the island. He surmised that the soybean probably came to Java from India, "for the name by which it is most known in Tamil?? and the seed is flattened as are North India races, while the Manchurian races have round seeds."

India and Sri Lanka. Although soybeans were apparently introduced to India in relatively recent times, they have been cultivated for food for some time in the foothills of the Himalaya region of north India. A large percentage of India's soybeans are black seeded; in central north India farmers prefer to grow good tasting black soybeans for food use (Hymowitz 1969). The earliest known reference to soybeans in India was by Roxburgh who, in 1832, described a variety growing in the Calcutta Botanical Garden. Later research by Watt (1890), Hooper (1911, 1912; Ref??), and Woodhouse and Taylor (1913) showed that the soybean was widely cultivated in the northern part of the country and, since it had numerous vernacular names, even among aboriginal tribes, it had probably been introduced at a relatively early date. The first mention of the soybean in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was by Paul Hermann in Musaeum Zeylanicum (1726), over a century before the first mention in India. For more about the early history in these two countries, see Chapters 6 and 54.

Philippines. The earliest known mention of the soybean in the Philippines was by Pierre (1869), who stated that the plant was cultivated there. Early field tests were done by Layosa in 1918 (Concepcion 1943).

Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, Australia, Hawaiian Islands: Virtually no documentary evidence exists for the introduction of soybeans to these countries. Only Louriero (1793), who worked near Hue, Vietnam, reported that soybeans were cultivated there under the names Dau nanh and Hoam tue.


During the Age of Discovery, the 14th and 15th centuries, the soybeans, compared with other crops, was slow to diffuse out of East Asia, perhaps because in its home territory it was not widely consumed in the form of beans, but rather in the form of foods such as tofu, miso, soy sauce, and tempeh, which bore little resemblance to the original soybean in appearance or texture, and which people in other cultures did not know how to make. The dissemination of soybeans and soyfoods from Asia to Europe can be divided into five phases: (1) European travelers tasting and describing soyfoods in East Asia but without mention of soybeans (1597-1705); (2) European travelers first describing the soybean plant and realizing the connection between the plant and the foods (from 1712); (3) Europeans growing soybeans in botanical gardens in Europe (from the early 1700s); (4) Europeans using domestically grown soybeans as foods (from 1858) and as ingredients to make soyfoods such as tofu (from 1880); and (5) expansion of soybean cultivation as an experimental commercial crop (from 1875).

Phase one is described in detail in Chapter 4. The earliest European travelers to East Asia (such as Marco Polo, who traveled from Venice to China and throughout the Orient between 1271 and 1295) made no mention in their journals of the soybean as a crop, or of soyfoods. The first description of soyfoods by a European was in 1597, when Francesco Carletti, a Florentine visiting Nagasaki, Japan, described miso (he spelled it misol; Weinstock 1964). Between that date and 1705, soyfoods were mentioned by six other Europeans (five Englishmen and one more Italian); the first two mentions were of tofu and the last four of soy sauce. Strange to say, none of these Europeans understood how these soyfoods were produced, nor did they realize that they were made from soybeans (Hymowitz 1970, 1978 Ref??, 1981a).

The first Westerner to understand the relationship between soybeans and soyfoods was Englebert Kaempfer, a brilliant, self-educated German scientist and traveler, who lived in Japan from 1690-1692. His famous book Amoenitates Exoticae?? (Exotic Novelties, also titled Amoenitatum Exoticarum), written in Latin and published in 1712, contains a full-page accurate drawing of a soybean plant followed by a 180-word description of the plant, a fairly accurate 220-word description of how miso was made in Japan, and an equally rough 200-word description of how shoyu was made. These were the first descriptions of soyfoods production by a European. Because of the popularity of Kaempfer's book, the Western world came to understand, for the first time connection between the soybean and soyfoods. The full story of Kaempfer's work is described in Chapter 31. Other early descriptions of the soybean plant (mentioned at Nomenclature, above) were by the Englishman Hermann in Ceylon in 1717, by the Swede Linnaeus in Holland in 1737, and by the Dutchman Rumphius in Amboina (East Indies) in 1747 (Piper and Morse 1923).

It is not known when and by whom the first soybean seeds or plants were introduced into Europe. They were probably introduced in the early 1700s, for the first record we have of their cultivation is in the Hortus Cliffortianus ("Plants Grown in the Garden of George Clifford") published in 1737 by the great Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus, in which he described the soybeans grown in this garden at Hartecamp, the Netherlands (#2 Rep??). Shortly after Compte du Buffon (George Louis Le Clerk; 1707-1788) was appointed superintendent of the Jardin des Plantes and Royal Museum at Paris in 1739, French missionaries in China sent him specimens and seeds of most of the important plants in that country??. Soybeans or their seeds were almost certainly among their shipments, and would have been planted at the Jardin in 1739 or 1740, although there is no firm proof of this. A sachet in the Royal Museum dated 1779 proves that soybeans were definitely cultivated from that date (Paillieux 1880). In 1790 soybeans were planted at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, but merely as a botanical curiosity. No effort was made toward their culture as a crop (Aiton 1812).

The first experiments in using soybeans as food were undertaken by the Society for Acclimatization in France. In 1858 they first used soybeans directly as food, served in the form of fresh green soybeans. In 1880 they first made a soyfood from soybeans, tofu (Paillieux 1880). (Details of this work are given in Chapter 32).

The earliest attempt to propagate soybeans in Europe was made in France by the Society for Acclimatization, under the impetus of Monsieur de Montigny, who began in 1855 to distribute to the members samples of soybean seeds from China. Culture studies were pursued until the War of 1870. Records of this work are found in many agricultural journals of the period, and especially in the Journal d'Agriculture and in the Bulletin de la Societe d'Acclimatation. In 1880 MM Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie introduced in their catalog a variety of soybean cultivated in Austria-Hungary, thus making it easy to order and grow soybeans.

The first large-scale effort to expand soybean cultivation in Europe and to encourage commercial soybean production was undertaken by Professor Friedrich Haberlandt of Vienna. In 1873 at the Vienna Exposition he obtained 19 soybean varieties. In 1875 he planted these at the experimental garden of the Royal Imperial School for Agriculture. Only four varieties matured (all from China), and the seed from them was distributed to various cooperators throughout central Europe, who did yearly yield trials. In 1877 he published a lengthy article ("Cultivation of the Hirsute Soybean") and in 1878 a major book (The Soybean) in which he demonstrated the soybean's agronomic and nutritional value and strongly urged that it be used as a human food and livestock feed. His rather extensive writings on soyfoods are translated in Chapter 33. Following Haberlandt's untimely death in 1878 interest in soybean experiments waned and they did not attain the place in European agriculture that he had hoped for, in part because they were not well adapted to most European climates, other than those of the Balkan Peninsula; Romania and Bulgaria are now large producers. The history of European commercial soybean production is given in Chapters 2 and 6.

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