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Home > Health Archive > Chinese Food and Health Building > Confucian Philosophy on Health Building

Chinese Food and Health Building
                                     - Confucian Philosophy on Health Building

Confucian Philosophy on Health Building

Confucius Statue



Confucianism originated with ancient necromancers and alchemists, who were similar to the witches in later generations that made sacrifices to gods and ancestors. The most important part of the sacrifices was food and wine; therefore, those in charge of sacrificial rites knew protocol and understood cookery.

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) was a philosopher, teacher, and the founder of the Confucian school. He attached great importance to food and described it as one of the three basic conditions, along with an army and trust, for founding a state. He advocated that rulers “practice thrift and love the people."

Confucius spoke highly of Yu the Great (2276 –2177 B.C., the founder of the Xia Dynasty). Yu paid little attention to food, but believed few people could abstain from good food and good housing because most people desire delicious food. Yu dedicated himself to the public good.

On the relationship between food and sacrifice, Confucius said animals offered in sacrificial rites should be chosen and cut according to fixed standards or they could not be eaten. He said meats given in sacrificial rites for the head of the state should be eaten the same day and not be kept until the next day. Meat offered in sacrifice at home should not be eaten if it were kept longer than three days.

Confucius advanced many principles of dietetic hygiene and criteria for testing the hygiene of foods. He said foods should not be eaten if they had rotted, if they were not well cooked, if their color had changed, or if the wine and dried meats bought from the market were not clean. He believed foods should only be eaten at mealtime, and if there were many meat courses, people should not overeat. This belief is reflected in the dietetic culture of the Chinese nation; it also conforms to dietetic hygiene because meats are not easily digested.

Confucius said, "Only wine drinking is not limited, but not so much as to make you confused." He meant you could drink as much as you wanted, but should not become drunk. This was because the wine at that time contained little alcohol.

His advice, "Do not eat too much" and “Do not talk at meals," conforms to the principle of building health through diet, as does “Do not take away the ginger." Ginger is pungent, removes dampness, and reduces internal heat and fever, so eating a bit of it before meals aids health and digestion.

Confucius also said: “I do not eat if I do not get the proper soy sauce." In his time meat dishes were unsalted, so they were dipped in soy sauce before they were eaten and different soy sauces were used for different meats. Confucius stressed that the dishes in his meals must be compatible, and did not resign himself to circumstances. “Although they use simple food, vegetables and melons, the three sacrifices must all be offered at the rite." This shows Confucius was serious about meals. Even if simple food were involved, the attitude had to be serious.

In his writings, Mencius said that peoples’ demand for delicious food was reasonable: “Fish is what I like as well as bear’s paw." But, he opposed rulers disregarding the desire of common people for good food in order to satisfy their own desires. He exposed the dark reality that “They do not criticize themselves about dogs and swine eating human food, and they ignore the starved people lying on the roads." He believed the emperor should share the joy of life with the people, and his “benevolent government" was the way to achieve this.

With regard to colonies, Mencius believed that only if people were clothed and fed would it be possible to establish harmonious relations and help the common people become cultured. He further believed that people should be vigorous and overcome their natural demands (overcome hunger) in order to shoulder the mission of humankind.

If we judge the history of China’s dietetic culture since these times, the Confucianists positively influenced the development of a dietetic culture. As Taoism and Confucianism have since blended spiritually, the two schools have complemented each other in the theory and practice of health building through diet.

More on Chinese food and health building:

Taoist Philosophy of Health Building

Buddhist Philosophy on Health Building

Mohist Philosophy on Health Building

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