Chunghao Pio Kuo

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.

Chunghao Pio Kuo 郭忠豪 is a post-doctoral scholar on the Andrew W. Mellon fellowship program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014–2016. He is trained as a historian of early modern China, specializing in food history, medical history, animal history, and environmental history. He book titled Pigs, Pork, and Ham: From Farm to Table in Early Modern China is under contract with the University of Hawai’i Press. His new research project is titled Animal Matters: Epidemic Diseases, Public Hygiene, and Food Safety in China (17001900).


Pigs as Ham: “Terroir,” Techniques, and Jinhua Ham in Early Modern China  

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, also the technical practices characteristic for the region underlay “terroir.” When applying the concept of “terroir” to food-related studies in Chinese history, not only such factors as natural surroundings and feeding and planting practices play a role, but also the relationship between technical developments and perceptions of places. 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 were localized technical skills and geographical advantages interacted.