In recent years, food studies has developed in multidisciplinary and cross-regional directions, including history, geography, anthropology, sociology, ecology and cultural studies, all with “foodstuffs” as the focal point and point of entry, and at the same time producing many outstanding works of scholarship. In the domain of “Chinese Food Culture”, most works in the past carried out their research from an historical or anthropological angle, and topics of discussion included ritual, cooking techniques, changes in food consumption and in ethnic identity, accumulating already a rich harvest of research output. However, following along with the increasing depth of the research area and the multifaceted development in research topics, we need to import new research methods and points of view in carrying out our research on “Chinese Food Culture”. In this regard, “Biology” and “Ecology” can provide us with an important new line of thought and a new path forward.
Biology has as its content the investigation of life and growth, and prompts us to think about the process of foodstuff production and its connection with the earth. Foodstuffs are not just “stuff”, but are things that have life, and are also the basis of life. Biology in its development carries out a classification of the forms of life, so that the multifarious forms of life can each be seen as following its own kind. The multitude of life forms has created the many-sided nature of food culture, and provided a path of forward development for the present Conference. Apart from this, the present Conference places emphasis on the connection with ecological consciousness. Ecology was a Greek word in origin that meant “the study of the domestic sphere”, and the web of foodstuffs in the basic concept of ecology is constructed on the basis of the network of comestibles created in the domestic garden space.
The difference between this and the way we usually think about food is this: what ecology proposes to us is a form of thinking that is not exclusively centred on human beings. Moreover, what ecology is most concerned with is the entirety of the ways in which things are related to each other. Facing up to the food safety issues posed at present by climate change, and the new coronavirus pandemic, the destruction of wildlife and the living environment, and other aspects of the global crisis assaulting us, looking at foodstuffs and food from the ecological perspective will provide us with an important point of entry for thinking about the ways in which life and the environment are mutually dependent on each other.
In the course of development of Chinese cuisine, the topic of agriculture has played an important role. In the past this has mainly taken “Chinese people as the centre”, and discussed agricultural treatises produced in China down through the ages, and very seldom looking at the content of these sources from the vantage point of the frontier margins or non-Han peoples. Moreover, in the past, research on agricultural handbooks has mostly started out from the perspective of the ruling elites, and less often paid attention to the ecological interconnectedness between techniques, animals, and environment. Also, environmental change and food cultures are intimately connected. Grain production is affected by the assault of climate change, which has led to the emergence of food safety as a topic of discussion on a worldwide basis. In recent years, thanks to the development of geographic information systems technology and the establishment of relevant databases, we can analyse in depth the relationship between environmental changes and food production, including famines, harvests, grain production policies, and so on. The distribution of foodstuffs is related to fairness and social justice, so faced with the challenge of climate change, the concepts of fair trade and food patents have also become much more important topics of public discussion and advocacy.
Thirdly, the environmental and social systems behind food production have also become an important topic. In recent years the Japanese “Nakayama proposal” and global concerns about “food miles” have provoked attention to the other industries underlying food production, such as forestry, fishing, and animal husbandry, and on the interactions between producers, those involved in transport, and consumers. Fourthly, in addition to research on the history of foodstuffs, we also pay attention to the changes in foodstuffs that are taking place in contemporary society, such as food safety concerns connected with the development of “GMO foods”. Fifth, in connection with the “fast-foodism” of the 20th century, especially in America, we also reflect on the relationship between humankind and foodstuffs, such as the “slow food movement” which emphasises the importance of protecting of the environment, improving the environment, and healthy nutrition.
In addition, we also hope to see some new food culture researchers come forward and use multimedia techniques to highlight the social significance of all this, and contribute to the further development of food culture. More important will be how these multimedia productions can contribute to the dissemination of new ideas and raising the level of education among food farmers, and become an important force propelling society forward and contributing to the health and happiness of ordinary people.
Based on the above considerations, the theme of this Conference will be: Chinese Food Culture in Biological and Ecological Perspectives. We welcome research contributions based on the topics listed below:
1.Traditional Books on Agriculture: Insights for Modern Agricultural Practice
2.Climate Change and Adaptation in Food Cultures
3.Diversity in Food Sources and Stability in Balance with Ecology and Production
4.Electronic and Biological Engineering and Chemical-free Vegetable and Fruit Production
5.Integrated Systems Spanning Farming, Forestry, Fishing and Animal Husbandry
6.Environmental Concerns and the Practice of Indigenous Knowledge
7.Slow Food and Food Therapy
8.Natural Farming Methods and the Market/Documentaries