About the Project
One of the major changes in modern China was the systematic classification and legal recognition of sub-populations by place of belonging (hometown, and urban or rural localities) and ethnicity. Through the implementation of institutions like the household registration system (hukou zhidu 戶口制度) and policies that are considered as providing special resources for ethnic minorities (shaoshu minzu 少數民族) to bridge gaps in their socioeconomic development as compared to the Han majority (Hanzu 漢族) that constitutes over 91% of the population of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), being Chinese has evolved to differ based on one’s heritage (ancestry and legal status at birth) and the advantages (or disadvantages) associated with particular identities.
These maps explore a dimension of modern Chinese identity that is inclusive rather than aiming to distinguish groups based on their differences, as exemplified in the case of Northeast China, a region known for having a coherent and meaningful identity encompassing various administrative units, ethnic groups, and religious groups. Like the “Chinese nation” (Zhonghua minzu 中華民族) conceived in the early twentieth century, the identity of Northeast Chinese (Dongbeiren 東北人) represents the acknowledgment of shared cultural and social attributes that brings people together rather than accentuating differences that foster economic and social competition.
Objectives and Outputs
This project started in July 2019 to understand how Northeast Chinese food culture exemplifies the heterogeneous regional identity espoused by many people in the area. It is based on the premise that regional identities are significant facets of individual and communal identities that are often taken for granted, in both everyday life and scholarship, because most of them are not controversial. However, these identities are still important because people take pride in them and because they reflect both major and ostensibly minor but nevertheless consequential changes in the political, economic, and sociocultural environments of the regions they represent.
The major objectives of this project include:
1. To construct a historical narrative about which and how natural resources were consumed as foods and beverages in Northeast China in the early modern through contemporary periods with a focus on evidence from sources that were written and published between 1840 to 1948
2. To analyze how information about foods, beverages, and the natural resources from which they are derived was recorded and interpreted by observers producing texts in various languages and for different purposes
3. To demonstrate that narratives of foodways and natural resources are integral elements of understanding the regional history of Northeast China and its identity as a discrete region of China
These food maps complement the ongoing research that has resulted in one published book chapter (“The Way We Eat: Evolving Taxonomies of Non-Han Food Customs in Northeastern China,” In Borders in East and West: Comparative and Transnational Perspectives, eds. Stefan Berger and Nobuya Hashimoto. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, September 2022, 171–95. ISBN: 978-1-80073-623-8) and one monograph in progress (The Great Northeastern Feast: Regional History and Shared Identity in Modern China).
Thirteen food and beverage items were chosen out of the many types featured in the broader research for the maps in this site as examples of the shared culture in Northeast China.
The maps cover a broad time period because of the relatively limited number of sources that can be attributed to specific years of compilation and publication. The initial focus of the project was on the late nineteenth century (the 1860s onward) to 1950, but the maps include information from before and after this period as well.
Like the subjects chosen for the food maps, the points on the maps are intended to be illustrative and representative but not extensive or exhaustive at this phase of development. The long-term goals of this project are to continue adding more points to reveal more patterns, similarities, and differences with the inclusion of such content.
Since most of the basic research for these maps was conducted from 2019 to 2022, when fieldwork and access to repositories worldwide were restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sources cited for the map are published works. In future stages of the project, evidence from fieldwork and non-published archival sources will be added. Future versions of these maps will also become more bilingual (English and Chinese) to increase accessibility to viewers who do not know Chinese. At this stage, the Chinese-language passages related to each item are presented so that viewers may look them up for further reference.
Another current limitation that will be addressed as the food maps evolve is that not all groups who consume these foods are fully represented through the inclusion of terms in their languages. The present inclusion of only Chinese and English is not intended to diminish the importance of other linguistic and cultural traditions.
These maps also do not include many foods that are cooked and consumed throughout the region but are generally attributed to “Northeast China” as a whole. During the process of constructing these maps, the researchers on the project team discovered that these foods are genuinely important components of the region’s shared culture because historical records and contemporary understandings do not associate them with specific places.
These maps and the related publications are intended to become important resources for historians, anthropologists, and scholars in other disciplines and the transdisciplinary fields of Northeast Asia Studies, Food Studies, and Regional and Local Studies of China.
We welcome you to explore the maps here to see how foods that are now quintessentially associated with Northeast China have developed throughout the region and how the recognition of commonality is as essential to the sustainability of diversity as the preservation of discrete identities.
Project Team and Acknowledgments
[surnames are rendered in all capitalized letters, full Chinese names are in East Asian name
order, names with both Chinese and non-Chinese given names are given in “non-Chinese
given name surname Chinese given name order]
Loretta E. KIM 金由美
Timothy YEUNG 楊燮
ZHOU Chengyi 周乘怡
Special thanks to:
Monica Kin-ian CHANG 曾健欣 for providing additional data curation, website, and editing support
Allison DU Shichen 杜适辰 for giving advice and assistance on the definitions and authenticity of several food items and for sourcing an image for the maps
LI Jianing 李佳凝 for taking many of the images featured in this project at Hailar, Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia 內蒙古自治區呼倫貝爾盟海拉爾市 and for contributing field notes about contemporary cuisine in Northeast China
The Hsu Long-sing Research Fund, Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong [香港大學文學院徐朗星學術研究基金] for the financial support granted to this project
1) Please view this project on a tablet, laptop, or desktop screen rather than a mobile phone to manipulate the maps and read the content with comfort and clarity.
2) Icons do not depict the actual appearance of foods in the categories they represent but are chosen to illustrate the general and recognizable conceptions of the foods.
3) The general descriptions for individual food and beverage items are intended to be accessible to a broad audience and therefore give basic information rather than precise details about specific types within a given category or arguments about their significance. Please see the icons on the map for each item for the citations from original sources and related publications for the synthesis and analysis of this evidence.
4) Primary sources in the individual item pages are all cited by acronyms. Please visit the References page for the full citations.