Delicacies in Chongqing during the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms Period
A pottery pond unearthed from Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu, Chongqing
A pottery pond unearthed from the brick hole graveyard in Ranjialukou Tombs, Fengdu, Chongqing
A pottery pond unearthed in Yong’an Town, Fengjie, Chongqing
CHONGQING (CQNEWS) -- If we could go back to the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago, what food could Chongqing people eat? Recently, Xu Ying from Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute has answered to this question through researching cook figurines of the Han Dynasty unearthed in Sichuan and Chongqing.
Some cook figurines of the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms periods are cooking fish and meat, smiling. The food materials include beef, pork, and also “paddy fish”, loaches, field snails…
Long history of delicacies in Sichuan and Chongqing
“Cook beef and mutton and have fun…” Sichuan and Chongqing not only are food paradises now, but also have a long history of delicacies.
A lot of cook figurines of the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms periods are unearthed, most of which are in small sizes, about 20-25 cm high and in chopping poses with no food material on the chopping boards. A few cook figurines are in relatively large sizes, about 40-50 cm high, and are more exquisite, showing vivid scenes of cooking with rich food materials on the chopping boards.
Pointing to a cook figurine unearthed from Tujingya Tomb in Zhongxian County, Xu Ying said people could see the style of chefs in the Han Dynasty through this cook figurine.
The cook figurine is sitting on heels in front of a chopping board, with two knots, wearing a scarf and sleeves rolled up. The chopping board has a small elaborate flower decoration on its side, with chicken, duck, fish, dumplings, turtle, pork, cattle head and various fruits and vegetables on it.
While the cook figurine unearthed from Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu is sitting on heels in front of a chopping board, in a right-lapel gown and sleeves rolled up, with cattle head, goose, fish, dumplings and vegetables on the chopping board. The cook figurine is bending his right arm to his chest, right hand half folding and left hand holding the fish head.
Another cook figurine unearthed from the tombs nearby the Research Institute 611, Wuhou Avenue, Chengdu, Sichuan is also well-preserved. The cook figurine is sitting on heels in front of a chopping board, both hands above the chopping board, in a right-lapel gown and sleeves rolled up, with rich meat on the chopping board, such as vivid pig’s head and trotter, dog’s head and fish.
Xu Ying introduced that these cook figurines with rich expressions displayed rich food materials at that time on the chopping boards in front of them, such as beef, pork, dog meat, chicken, goose, fish, turtle, dumplings and vegetables.
Beef, top-level food material in the Han Dynasty
Beef was important food material for people in the ancient times. From the unearthed archaeological materials, in addition to the cattle head displayed on the chopping board of the cook figurine unearthed from the Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu, the scene of slaughtering cattle can also be found in some relief stone sculptures of the Han Dynasty.
Meanwhile, the pig husbandry rapidly developed in the Han Dynasty, making pigs the main meat source of the human diet. According to archaeological materials, the image of pig was common from the Han Dynasty to the Thee Kingdoms. Besides, the pottery pigs and pottery pigpens in tombs also indicated that the pig was common livestock at that time.
The chicken we love to eat now was also the common poultry raised and eaten by patricians and plebeians in the Han Dynasty. The folk poultry husbandry was prosperous in the Han Dynasty. As recorded in the Miscellany of the Capital of the Western Han Dynasty, Chen Guanghan in the central Shaanxi had “10,000 adult chickens and 50,000 chicks”, reflecting the largest scale of the poultry husbandry at that time.
The pottery chicken image is also frequently found in the Han Dynasty tombs in Sichuan and Chongqing, such as the chicken in the left hand of the woman figurine unearthed from the tombs nearby the Research Institute 611 in Chengdu, which is slender body and fully-fledged. Besides, chicken eggs were also once unearthed from the Han Dynasty tombs, such as the broken eggs unearthed from the Han Dynasty tombs in Fengdu.
In addition to chicken, the goose also already became people’s food in the Han Dynasty. However, it was not a common dish and was mostly enjoyed by the gentry. On the inside part of the chopping board in front of the cook figurine unearthed from the Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu, there is a fat goose, which is a physical goose image in the archaeological discovery.
According to historical records, among various kinds of meat in the Han Dynasty, cattle were the best, followed by sheep and dogs, then chickens and pigs, which were slaughtered for feast celebrations or sacrificial activities.
“Paddy fish” farming, enriching food materials
In addition, the pond models unearthed in Sichuan and Chongqing also provide archaeologists with the clues of some food materials.
The pond models unearthed from Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu, brick hole graveyard in Ranjialukou Tombs of Fengdu, Yong’an Town relics in Fengjie and Tudibao graveyard in Jiangbei Tombs of Fuling, vividly display the aquatic food materials, such as fish, turtle, frog, field snail, loach and lotus seedpod, reflecting that people already raised poultry and aquatic products as food at that time.
The fish was one of the commonest meat in the daily diet of people in Sichuan and Chongqing, especially in Three Gorges Region.
According to Xu Ying, ancestors in the Three Gorges Region already took fishes as food materials early in the Neolithic Age. A lot of fish bones and bone-made hunting tools have been found in the Daxi Relics. Besides, the scenes of ancestors fishing with nets and hunting animals with bows in the mountains and rivers are also restored.
During the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms periods, the fish played an important role in the people’s food materials, which is the food material displayed at the center of the respective chopping board of the cook figurine unearthed from Tujingya Tomb in Zhongxian County and Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu.
Moreover, the pottery ponds unearthed from the brick hole mound graveyard in the tombs of the Han Dynasty and Six Dynasties periods in Fengdu Town and the Linkou Graveyard in Fengdu also have the image of fish, indicating that people not only fished in rivers, but also raised fish in ponds at that time.
The ponds not only had fish, but also loaches, frogs, turtles, field snails, lotus seedpods and leaves. As recorded in Cao Cao’s Four-season Diet System: “Small fishes in Pixian County with yellow scales and red tails are raised in paddies.” During that period, people also raised fish in paddies, namely the so-called “paddy fish”. (Translated by Huang Juan, Fathom Language Limited)