The Taste for Milk in Modern China (1865-1937)

Françoise Sabban, “The Taste for Milk in Modern China (1865-1937)”, in Klein, Jakob A. & Anne Murcott, Food Consumption in Global Perspective. Essays in  the Anthropology of Food in Honour of Jack Goody, Palgrave and MacmillanBasingstoke, 2014, pp.182-208.

Contrary to what is sometimes believed, milk in China has always been considered an interesting food product and a precious medicinal liquid, but its consumption after the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) has not been very important because it has never been produced on a large scale. Usually it was saved for children with a frail constitution, for sick or aged people.

But from the end of the 19th century cow’s milk has begun to be produced by industrial plants in the foreign settlements of big cities like Shanghai. Milk powder and infant formula imported from abroad were also very successful in those modern cities. So, produced and drank by foreign people in its beginnings, milk became later an indigenous product and was appreciated also by wealthy Chinese people. However, although this new habit of consumption was inspired by foreign practices, Chinese people demonstrated a peculiar taste for milk powder that could have influenced the future of the milk industry in China. One question remains: did this new consumption of the 19th century prepared for the adoption of contemporary new food practices?




Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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