Exploring the History of Milk Consumption in Ancient China

Explore the enigma of bygone ages in the Far East and ponder if dairy was a component of their cuisine! Delve into the secrets of antiquity to discover what sustenance was consumed in the Orient! Unearth the mysteries surrounding the past in China and speculate if milk formed part of their regular fare!

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Perplexing and perplexingly, the Far East’s ancient diet has been a subject of wonderment. What of milk? Was it part of their regular fare? To answer this question, we must explore the secrets of antiquity.

Archaeological finds have uncovered evidence that cows were kept in China as far back as 2000 BC; however, there is no clear indication that these animals were used for dairy production. It is more likely they were kept mainly for their meat and hides. But some artefacts from around 1000 BC suggest milk consumption by certain classes or regions.

Other sources provide further clues about dairy consumption in the Orient over time. Ancient texts describe fermented milk products such as yogurt and cheese being made and consumed by nomadic tribes on Central Asia’s steppes. Imperial records from China tell us cow’s milk was sometimes served to high-ranking officials at banquets or other special occasions.

The history of dairy in the Far East is shrouded in obscurity, but it does seem some people did consume milk in certain parts of China during antiquity. Whether it formed part of their regular fare or not remains unknown, but further research may one day uncover more about this intriguing topic!



For centuries, the presence of milk in ancient Chinese culture has been a subject of much contention. No written works from that era make mention of it, and no archaeological discoveries have been made to confirm whether or not it was consumed. Nonetheless, modern research has suggested that dairy products were indeed available in ancient China. Reports indicate that during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Mongols who occupied northern parts of the country had access to goat and cow milk. Moreover, pottery shards unearthed from Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) sites suggest that some form of dairy product was likely being used at this time. While it is impossible to know with certainty what type of dairy products were available or how widespread their use was, it appears that they were present in some capacity.

– History of Milk Consumption in Ancient China

Mystifyingly, for centuries the Chinese have partaken of milk. It was not until the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) that dairy products began to be consumed on a widespread basis, with cows and goats kept in abundance to provide food, clothing and medicine. The earliest record of milk being used in China dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE), where yak’s milk was made into butter and cheese for both commoners and royalty. During this time, Sun Simiao prescribed traditional medicines containing milk.

The Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE) saw an even greater acceptance of dairy products, with cows bred specifically for their capacity to produce large amounts of milk. This trend continued through the Ming (1368–1644 CE) and Qing (1644–1912 CE) dynasties. Nowadays, cows are still integral to Chinese culture and remain a significant source of dairy products; depending on region or seasonality, various types of milk can be found in many parts of China. Evidently, since its inception millennia ago, milk has been an important component of Chinese history – one that continues today!

– Historical Evidence for Milk Use in Ancient Chinese Cuisine

A perplexing mystery, shrouded in the mists of time, hints at an ancient practice: the use of milk in Chinese cuisine. Records from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) allude to cows being kept for their milk and used to make fermented drinks. During the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), dairy products were frequently mentioned in writings as a popular food item. Furthermore, cheese and butter were made from milk during this era. Archaeological evidence also points to nomadic tribes living in northern China during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) having domesticated animals such as yaks and goats, providing them with fresh milk on a regular basis. This suggests that dairy products were consumed by many people in ancient China. In conclusion, there is considerable proof that milk was a vital part of ancient Chinese cuisine.

– The Role of Dairy Products in Ancient Chinese Society

Throughout time, dairy products have been a treasured part of Chinese culture and society. As far back as the Neolithic period, milk has been consumed, with evidence of its use during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC). Dairy products were especially valued for their health benefits for children, who often relied on a combination of grains and dairy for nutrition. Additionally, dairy was also utilized medicinally to treat skin conditions and digestive problems.

Cow’s milk was the most popular form of dairy in ancient China; however, other types were also enjoyed. Goat’s milk was highly esteemed for its nourishing properties and healing powers, while sheep’s milk was thought to be beneficial for pregnant women and new mothers. In some cases, buffalo milk was used instead of cow’s milk due to its higher fat content.

Moreover, dairy had an important role in religious ceremonies. Milk was used to honor ancestors during ancestor worship rituals; butter was often given as offerings to gods and goddesses; and dairy products were frequently presented as gifts on special occasions such as the New Year celebration or the Lantern Festival.

All in all, dairy products have long been a fundamental part of Chinese life throughout history – providing essential nutrition while also having spiritual significance in religious rituals and festivities.

– How Did Ancient Chinese People Obtain Milk?

Throughout the ages, ancient Chinese people have been able to access a variety of milks for sustenance. From goats and sheep to cows, horses, donkeys, and even camels, these animals provided a reliable source of dairy. Additionally, plant-based milks such as “doujiang” or “bean milk” were produced by soaking and grinding legumes like soybeans and mung beans into a paste before boiling it with water. Fermented products like cheese and yogurt were also popular among the Chinese; cheese was made by pressing curds obtained from goat’s or cow’s milk together with salt and other seasonings while yogurt was created through fermenting cow’s or goat’s milk with lactic acid bacteria. All these options provided ancient Chinese people with ample nutrition to keep their bodies nourished.

– Changes in the Production and Consumption of Dairy Products Over Time in Ancient China

Throughout the ages, Chinese people have been partaking in dairy products for their nutrition and taste. In ancient times, milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter were all commonly consumed. Nomads living in the northern regions of China produced these items from their own herds of cows and goats to use as food and drink. Cheese was also made from sheep’s milk. Yogurt was created from cow or goat’s milk but not widely enjoyed until later in Chinese history.

As civilization progressed, dairy production and consumption spread to other parts of the country. Dairy farms became more common in the south where cows were kept for milking purposes. Milk began to be used more often as a beverage while yogurt and cheese grew in popularity as snacks. Butter was made on a smaller scale but didn’t become widely consumed until much later on.

Advances in technology allowed for large-scale production of dairy products across China. By the late 19th century commercial dairies had been established throughout the country which supplied great quantities of milk for sale locally and abroad, making it available to all classes of society and leading to an increase in consumption throughout China.

Nowadays, dairy production is an essential part of Chinese agriculture with many modern farms creating high-quality milk both domestically and internationally. Dairy consumption has also grown significantly over time with many people now indulging in yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products regularly; it is clear that changes in production and consumption have impacted Ancient Chinese culture today.


Astonishingly, there is evidence that suggests the antediluvian Chinese did not partake in drinking milk. Nevertheless, a few parts of China during the Bronze Age were known to indulge in dairy products such as butter, cheese and yogurt. It’s a remarkable revelation!


Some questions with answers

Q1. Did ancient China have milk?
A1. No, milk was not a common food item in ancient China.

Q2. What sources of dairy did ancient Chinese people use?
A2. Ancient Chinese people primarily used dairy from sheep, goats, and buffalo for food and medicinal purposes.

Q3. When did milk become available in China?
A3. Milk became more widely available in China during the 20th century with the introduction of refrigeration and pasteurization methods.

Q4. How has the availability of milk changed over time?
A4. The availability of milk has increased significantly since the 20th century due to technological advances such as refrigeration and pasteurization methods that allow it to be stored and consumed safely.

Q5. Where can I find more information about the history of milk in China?

A5. You can find more information about the history of milk in China by researching online or consulting books on Chinese history and culture.

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