Areas of Interest

Soy Sauce

I have been working on the history of Chinese Soy sauce since 2016. This deceptively banal everyday food tells us a lot more about the history of modern and contemporary China than we could imagine. The monograph that I am preparing will explain how Qing political interests played a role in transforming soy sauce into an everyday food during the height of Manchu rule, and the role that soy sauce played during China’s modernization and industrialization in the 20th century, and how it has become an inspiration for the construction of cultural heritage in the 21st century, in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of the world.

What I Have Found Out:

  • “淺談醬油工藝與近現代鄉村運動的相互建構”, 中央研究院近代史研究所, 2 July 2024. [Details] [Poster]
  • 復旦大學人文高端講座: “中國醬油的文化歷程: 日常之物的啟示”, 復旦大學, 6-13 March 2024. [Poster]
    • 第一講: “物”的歷史: 概論 [Details]
    • 第二講: 醬油成為日常的歷史過程 [Details]
    • 第三講: 醬油技術: 手藝與科學的辯證 [Details]
    • 第四講: 醬油的文化根源與價值塑造 [Details]
  • What Soy Sauce Can Tell Us About History, Politics—and Chinese Identity, Harvard University, 25 April 2023. [Details]
  • Fairbank Center Reischauer Lecture Series “How Soy Sauce Shapes Modern China: The Power of an Everyday Food”, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, 28-30 March 2023. [Details]
    • Lecture 1: Becoming an Everyday Food: Soy Sauce in the High Qing Period [Watch Video]
    • Lecture 2: The Power of a Malleable Everyday Food: Soy Sauce in Modern China [Watch Video]
    • Lecture 3: Soy Sauce in Crisis: China’s First Engagement with Technoscience [Watch Video]
  • Zoom lecture “醬油成為中國日常食物的歷史過程:醬文化與政權的興衰”,《中文大學歷史人類學研討會》, 香港中文大學, 28 December 2021. Soy Sauce Crafts & Techniques Food & Crops [Details]
  • An interview “A Saucy Take on History”, HKU Bulletin, May 2019, Volume 20, No. 2 [Details]
  • Making Soy Sauce in Hong Kong [Watch Video]
  • Making Soy Sauce in Taiwan [Details]

Rural Revival–Food & Crops

This is a new area of interest that I am exploring. Inspired by my current study on the history of soy sauce, I became interested in the history of soybean as a Chinese indigenous becoming a global industrial crop. China’s food security crisis is best illustrated by its increasing reliance on soybean imports while it was a global exporter of soybean one century ago. The current research and re-cultivation of soybean in China and Taiwan reveal the agricultural and food crisis that Asia and the world is facing with the domination of global capitalist industrial agriculture that prioritizes profit above human health and the environmental concerns. I shall study the growing movement of rural revival in Greater China where agriculturalists and food activists attempt to reinvigorate agriculture and rural life as a way not only to increase domestic crop production and the quality of human food, but also to preserve a culture, a way of life that is the root of Chinese civilization.

What I Have Found Out:

  • “「茻友會客廳」: 走進「豆」的前世今生,聊聊那些被遺忘的傳統和歷史”, 25 June 2022. [Poster
  • Zoom lecture “域外中國醫史研究新方向: 食物與藥物的歷史”,《海外學者中國醫學史研究系列講座》,Department of History, Fudan University, Shanghai, 22 October 2021.  [Details
  • Zoom lecture “Crop and Food: Soybean in Chinese Food Culture”, Agrobiotechnology Talk Series, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 12 May 2021.  [Details]  [Watch Video
  • Public lecture “To Build or to Reform Vegetarian China in the Republican Period” (“素食中國”在民國時代的兩個意義), Fudan University, Shanghai, 9 March 2016. [Details
  • 16 Aug 2022 An Interview with Angela Leung and Melissa L. Caldwell on Moral Foods, New Books Network. [Details
  • 4 Sep 2016 “訪談 | 梁其姿: 中國文化本應崇尚素食” ,︀澎湃新聞。 [Details

Crafts & Techniques

The study and preservation of traditional crafts and techniques for growing crops and for making artefacts and things, are crucial for sustaining post-industrial agriculture and rebuilding cultural heritage in China.  Such knowledge and practices, mostly embodied by artisans and cultivators toiling in specific environments and trained within humanistic traditions, provide us with valuable alternatives to the industrial procedures for making things and producing food that aim at productivity and profiteering above all other values, putting the natural and human ecology under stress. 

What I Have Found Out:

  • 纪要|【联结·讲座】梁其姿:传统技艺与近代科技建构 [Details] [Summary]
  • Inaugural keynote speech “清末穗港澳地區醫學知識建構的全球在地化”, 百年南開大講壇, 中國天津南開大學, 22 March 2019. Chinese Medicine in History [Details]
  • Public lecture “李約瑟的“中國科技文明史”對今天科技史研究的影響與意義” at the opening ceremony of “Chinese Wartime Science through the Lens of Joseph Needham” Exhibition, Hong Kong Baptist University, 22 January 2018. Crafts & Techniques [Details]
  • Zoom Dialogue “Soy Sauce Across Asia: Tradition, Taste, and Technology”, with Izumi Nakayama, Hallam Stevens, John Wong, and Daniel Chan, Singapore Heritage Festival 2021, 27 May 2021. [Details]  [Watch Video

What I Am Exploring:

Approaches to preserve traditional crafts:

Two observable approaches to preserve or to recreate traditional crafts and techniques.

  1. Through traditional artisanal transmission from master to apprentice, an institution kept alive at Beijing Gold Lacquer Inlay Art Museum (北京金漆鑲嵌藝術博物館) showing artistic objects of imperial tradition made by generations of masters and apprentices. (Visit on October 31, 2023)
  2. Using Western and modern technology to reconstruct traditional artefacts, the mission of Research Group on Wood Art (木藝工作研究室) at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing) (中央美術學院).

Charity & Chinese Medicine

I have also done work on the history of Chinese medicine and diseases. Medicine and food are often two sides of the same coin, and the crafting of Chinese medicine remains a highly valued living tradition.  The traditional conceptualization and treatment of disorders survived serious challenges from Western science and medicine in the 20th century, by adjusting to new concepts and methods to become a hybrid, efficient knowledge and practice. Chinese medicine is also closely linked to charitable movements led by religious and community groups and leaders.

What I Have Found Out:

  • Lecture “Leprosy in China and Hong Kong” (近代中國華南的麻風病史) at the Medicine History Interest Group – 27th Meeting of Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, 20 January 2024. [Details[Abstract] [Poster] [Watch Video]
  • Zoom lecture “Chinese state and society in epidemic governance from the Song to the Qing Dynasties” (宋至清的防疫與治疫: 政府與民間组織的角色), Asia Global Institute, The University of Hong Kong, 21 May 2020. [Watch Video]
  • Keynote lecture “A ‘South’ Imagined and Lived: The Pre-modern Entanglement of Medical Things, Experts, and Identities in East Asia’s South” at the 9th International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicines (ICTAM IX), University of Kiel, Germany, 6-12 August 2017.  [Details
  • The 53rd Annual Edward H Hume Memorial Lecture “Charity, Medicine and Religion: the Quest for Modernity in Canton (ca. 1870-1937)”, Yale University, 17 April 2013. [Details
  • Lecture “道堂乎?善堂乎?清末民初廣州城內省躬草堂的獨特模式”(Daoist Temple or Charitable Hall? The Unique Model of the Xinggong Caotang in Guangzhou City Centre), Fudan University, Shanghai, 19 September 2011. [Details]  
  • Public lecture “慈善醫療全球化的先導者: 東華醫院” (A Pioneer in Global Medical Charity: The Tung Wah Hospital), Hong Kong Central Library, 13 July 2019. [Details] [Listen to Podcast]
  • Keynote speech “中國慈善文化的演變與傳承: 明末清初以來慈善活動的公共空間” at the China Charity Culture Forum 2018 (中國慈善文化論壇2018), Beijing, 20 November 2018. [Details]  
  • 11 Dec 2021 “海外中國醫療史|梁其姿: 全球視野下的中國醫學史研究” ,︀澎湃新聞。 [Details]