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The Emperor's Feast: 'A tasty portrait of a nation' Sunday Telegraph

Jonathan Clements

5 Reviews

Rated 0

China, Asian history, 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.

'A galloping journey through thousands of years of Chinese culinary history . . . a timely reminder that the country's modern cuisine is the delicious fruit of a rich, ancient and perhaps surprisingly multicultural tradition' FUCHSIA DUNLOP, SPECTATOR

'A tasty portrait of a nation' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

'A splendid introduction to the complex history of China' GUARDIAN

'A terrific read . . . Jonathan Clements writes with erudition and humour' DAILY MAIL

'This book is itself a feast, each chapter a sumptuous course'
Frederik L. Schodt, author of My Heart Sutra

'Witty and insightful'
Derek Sandhaus, author of Drunk in China


The history of China - not according to emperors or battles, but according to its food and drink.

The Emperor's Feast is the epic story of a nation and a people, told through one of its most fundamental pillars and successful exports: food.

Following the journeys of different ingredients, dishes and eating habits over 5,000 years of history, author and presenter Jonathan Clements examines how China's political, cultural and technological evolution and her remarkable entrance onto the world stage have impacted how the Chinese - and the rest of the world - eat, drink and cook.

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 us about itself.

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Praise for The Emperor's Feast: 'A tasty portrait of a nation' Sunday Telegraph

  • ''Cleverly uses food - the part of Chinese culture with which many western people are most familiar - as a way of charting the complex history of China, a vast country made up of many peoples, cultures and cuisines . . . This is a splendid introduction to the cooking and history of China, filled with surprising details on the origins of many famous dishes' - Guardian

  • 'A tasty portrait of a nation . . . Running through Clements' account is an insistence - smartly and subtly offered, and particularly welcome in our present straits - on the role food plays in binding family and friends together . . . There is something reassuring, even rather moving, about sitting down with others to eat and knowing that you are doing something that would be immediately and intimately familiar to people across countless cultures and generations' - Sunday Telegraph

  • 'Clements' love for China's history and cuisine shines through in each chapter, with his evident passion making the book a consistently engaging read.' - Asian Movie Pulse

  • 'Jonathan Clements' The Emperor's Feast is witty and insightful, taking readers on a journey through China's history from the comfort of the dinner table. It inverts the old maxim by convincingly demonstrating that people aren't just what they eat, but how they eat'

  • ''This book is itself a feast, each chapter a sumptuous course - prepared by a gifted writer and linguist who can synthesize vast amounts of information on Chinese food and history, arrange it in a fascinating way, and spice it up with his own wisdom, wit, and experiences. In the end, his focus on Chinese food gives us a new lens through which we can also view the impossibly long, complex, and rich history of China itself.''

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Jonathan Clements

Jonathan Clements is a leading sinologist, and one of very few Britons to have lectured at a Chinese university and had books about China translated into Chinese.

He is well known for his biographies of figures from Chinese history, including Chairman Mao, Confucius, Empress Wu, Khubilai Khan and Marco Polo, as well as a highly regarded history of Beijing. His biography of the First Emperor was itself published in Chinese. His most recent book is a new translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War.

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