In the feudal regime, Chinese emperors and their royal families are often designed a special diet. In this article, we would like to provide you with some knowledge of the special diet of the ancient Chinese emperors under the Shang, Zhou, Qing, Ming and Tang dynasties.
The Shang dynasty
Under the Shang dynasty (from the 16th to 15th centuries BC), a famous chef cooked 8 famous dishes from pork, goat, dog and soup to help King Shang recover from the sickness. In addition, his physical strength is regained and the countenance became bright and ruddy. His ability to cook the food satisfied various kings; therefore, he was conferred the office and title equal to the Grand Chancellor of China. Moreover, when he died, the king exceptionally permitted his funeral to be celebrated following the rituals for a king.
The Zhou dynasty
During the Zhou Dynasty, there were four kinds of mandarin in the court including the Cuisine one who specialized in food for healing. The diet of the king is considered a major part of the ceremony and the primary concern is the cooking art of chefs. In the Yuan reign, the book “Yinshan Zhengyao” showed the thorough knowledge on nutrition and advocated the combination of medicine and cuisine.
The Qing dynasty
The number of people who are responsible for taking care of the king’s meal is quite large and carefully selected. During the Qing Dynasty, only Manchu people were chosen as chefs to avoid assassinating the king. During the trip of the King Qianlong to the East China, from July to September 1777; the number of chefs who followed to serve the king is up to 30. To prepare the meals for the royal family under the Qing Dynasty, a large group of kitchen assistants, sometimes, nearly 4,100 people had to get involved in the work. According to the rules, each meal of the king and Empress dowager has 108 dishes; that of the queen has 96 dishes and that of Imperial Noble Consorts has 64 items. Until the period of Puyi, because the king was still young, the number of dishes reduced to 26.
The Ming dynasty
In the Ming Dynasty, there existed a type of fish in Wuchang with the delicious taste that was ranked among the finest dishes of Jiangnan. The capital was located in Beijing, which was about 3,000 miles from the place having this fish. However, because the King was interested in this food, the transport time of fish was regulated within 44 hours to guarantee the freshness of the fish. This strict rule takes the excessive effort of those who do the task of transportation all day long on the road. Even some people died during the arduous journey.
The Tang dynasty
Similarly, under the Tang dynasty, to please Yang Guifei, who like eating the lychee in Guangdong, the Emperor Xuanzong gave the order to bring the lychee from Guangdong to Chang’an in the season of lychee within 4-5 days. In order to meet this requirement, many transfer stations were set up along the road and those who undertook the task of transferring lychee had to ride noble horses within a lightning speed on a long distance to ensure that the lychee peel did not get dark and withered.
Some examples of luxurious meals
Legend has it that King Zhou of Shang ordered to dig a large lake for sailing in the palace, then pour wine into it and hang meat on the trees along the lake. When hearing the drum with a handle, all the people in the palace had to bend down to the lake drinking wine like cattle drinking water and use hands to take meat for eating. Some got drunk and fell dead on the lake while the king and his beloved concubine was sitting on the high wall watching the scene and laughing happily.
The party of the Empress Dowager Cixi in the Lunar New Year of 1874 to receive the delegation from the Occidental countries was extremely luxurious. With 400 guests, she used 1,750 servers. Although the banquet lasted more than a week (from the New Year’s Eve to the 8th), it started to be prepared 11 months ago. The menu includes 140 dishes with approximately 20 dishes each day. Some of the most prominent dishes consist of field mouse that was fed on precious ginseng, monkey brains, pig bones and green peafowl eggs.
Hope that the information above brings you more understanding about Chinese imperial cuisine. The food of the ancient kings was too sophisticated and costly, which is quite different from that of the Chinese leaders in these days. They mainly consume simple but healthy food.