Hotpot, barbecue can be traced back to China’s Han Dynasty 

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A group of archaeologists recently shared their latest findings during an academic conference. The findings show that people living in ancient China already had a diverse dietary structure. More surprising, foods like hotpot and barbecue were already popular as early as the Han Dynasty, over 2,000 years ago.

Foreign201605251415000514597355905A hotpot unearthed

Compared with the Qin Dynasty, lasting from 221 to 206 BC, the Han Dynasty had a longer reign and better reflects the food culture during that period, said Liu Zunzhi, a professor in the Department of Archaeology and Museology of Nankai University.

According to Liu, with the development of food processing technologies during the Han Dynasty, people started to eat more food made from various flours. In addition, they acquired new cooking processes and had steady access to foods such as buckwheat, highland barley and red beans. More exotic staples like peas, black beans and green beans were also available.

Bronze pots from the Western Han Dynasty have been discovered in many places throughout China. Scholars were confused about their usage until recently, when they were finally able to confirm that the pots were an ancient equivalent to today’s hotpot. Scenes of people enjoying hotpot were even recorded in stone relief during the Han Dynasty.

Han people also enjoyed barbecue, which is another event depicted in the stone reliefs.


In one such relief from eastern Shandong province, one figure is making kebabs while another is grilling the meat. It looks remarkably similar to the modern-day process of barbecue. Unearthed utensils also prove the popularity of liquor at that time.

According to archaeological studies, in addition to animal proteins that are commonly eaten today, such as mutton, beef and chicken, people back then also frequently ate turtles, wild geese, rabbits, deer, boars, and even bears and tigers.

Foreign201605251415000529521089586An unearthed utensil

With regard to seasonings, the Han people had already started to use Sichuan pepper, ginger, scallions and cinnamon in their cooking.