Main Content

You are here

Lecture by Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow Chunghao Pio Kuo

Lecture by Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow Chunghao Pio Kuo

Pigs as Ham: ‘Terroir’, Techniques, and Jinhua Ham in Early Modern China

With respondent James Watson (Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society / Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, Harvard University)

The transformation of pigs into pork and pork products for human consumption plays a crucial role throughout most of Chinese history, yet the examination of the praxeological relations involved in this remain insufficiently explored. In this paper, I explore a specific pork-product called Jinhua Ham by borrowing the culinary concept ‘terroir’ to investigate the evolution of Jinhua Ham in the Ming-Qing era. Within the French culinary context, the term ‘terroir’ refers to places with unique geographical, topographical, and climatic characteristics influencing the development of food, wine, plants, and edible stuff. In the context of the emergence and the popularization of Jinhua Ham, the concept of ‘terroir’ refers to not only land, geography, and climate as factors bringing fourth pigs transformable into this ham specialty, but also to the technical practices characteristic of the region that underlay ‘terroir’. When applying the concept of ‘terroir’ to food-related studies in Chinese history, not only do such factors as natural surroundings and feeding and planting practices play a role, but the relationship between technical developments and perceptions of places does as well. Pigs, as one central practiced-upon object, were bred, fed, killed and processed under the aegis of the ‘terroir’ and then advertised and sold as Jinhua Ham. In the Ming-Qing era both pigs and ham built nodes where localized technical skills and geographical advantages interacted.

As lunch will be served, kindly RSVP to by no later than April 11, 2016, specifying any dietary restrictions.

Friday, April 22, 2016