Ancient Chinese Edibles - Cannabis as Food During Dynastic China

Ancient Chinese Edibles – Cannabis as Food During Dynastic China

Eating edibles seems like a recent development. But did you know that ancient people used cannabis as food during dynastic China?

For quite a while, we have known that ancient Chinese villagers used cannabis as a food source. Decades ago, archeologists uncovered texts detailing the P’o Chu-i, a porridge that resembles modern-day congee. The ancient Chinese made P’o Chu-i from hemp seeds, meaning we have edibles that date all the way back to ancient China.

Despite the presence of these historical records, we never had concrete archeological records until quite recently. In 2019, a construction project in the Shaanxi province uncovered an ancient tomb dating back to the Tang dynasty. No one had disturbed the tomb for the past 1,320 years, making it an archeological jackpot rife with untouched treasures. A group of researchers from Shandong University went to examine the tomb and discovered some well-preserved cannabis seeds. The seeds happened to be much larger than modern cannabis seeds but were confirmed to be Cannabis sativa. So, we now have concrete proof of ancient China using cannabis as food.

At the same time, these findings aren’t too big of a surprise. Chinese civilization has used cannabis as traditional medicine for centuries. Moreover, China houses one of the world’s largest hemp industry. As a result, cannabis as food aligns quite nicely with how the country has utilized the plant throughout its history.  

Recreating this Ancient Cannabis Dish

As I mentioned before, dynastic China used hemp seeds in a porridge that resembles congee. Even now, congee continues to be a common staple of Chinese diets. For those who don’t know, you can make congee by boiling cooked rice in water. As someone of Chinese descent myself, I eat congee pretty often with my family. We usually mix some sort of protein in, like pork, and then season with salt. The dish is pretty simple, but it is absolutely delicious when prepared properly.

Modern congee doesn’t use cannabis ingredients in any way, though. Unlike dynastic China, modern China stigmatizes cannabis use quite heavily. The Chinese government has made cannabis illegal, but we can try to keep P’o Chu-i’s spirit alive. If you feel like making congee, maybe add a bit of CBD oil in there to spice it up. This way, we can keep a tradition going and honor one of the earliest examples of edibles in human history.