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  • Hodder & Stoughton
  • Hodder & Stoughton
  • Hodder & Stoughton
  • Hodder & Stoughton

The Emperor's Feast: A History of China in Twelve Meals

Jonathan Clements

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Food & society

The journey of Chinese food over 5,000 years of history - and the story it tells us about the land and its people.

From the humble takeaway to the high-end restaurants of a big-city Chinatown, Chinese food can be found everywhere in the world. But the meals on offer merely scratch the surface of a rich and diverse culinary tradition that stretches over 5,000 years of history and over several continents.

In The Emperor's Feast, author and presenter Jonathan Clements serves up the history of China not according to emperors or battles, but according to its food and drink. This unique history takes us from the rudimentary grain stews of the Bronze Age to the globalised restaurants of the 21st century, revealing how developments in politics, culture and technology created the ingredients, dishes and eating habits that define Chinese food today. We see the influence of invaders such as the Mongols and the Manchus, and discover how food - like the fiery cuisine of Sichuan or the hardy dishes of the north - often became a stand-in for regional and national identities. We also follow Chinese flavours to the shores of Europe and America, where enterprising chefs and home cooks created new traditions and dishes unheard of in the homeland.

From dim sum to mooncakes to General Tso's chicken, The Emperor's Feast shows us that the story of Chinese food is ultimately the story of a nation: not just the one that history tells us, but also the one that China tells about itself.

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Jonathan Clements

Dr Jonathan Clements is a historian and TV presenter specialising in East Asia. He was visiting professor at Xi'an Jiaotong University in China from 2013 to 2019 and is the author of several books on the history of China, including A Brief History of China, The Art of War: A New Translation, and Confucius: A Biography. His history of the Silk Road and his lives of the First Emperor, Empress Wu and Wellington Koo have all been translated into Chinese.

Dr Clements has presented several seasons of Route Awakening (National Geographic), an award-winning television series about icons of Chinese culture. In the course of his travels, he has harvested rice with Hani tribeswomen, cooked a Kam curry using a cow's intestinal juices and picked tea in Fujian.

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