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Chinese Philosophy on Dietetic Health


Besides being a teacher, the founder of the Confucian school, and finally a philosopher, Confucius also attached great importance to food and described it as one of the three basic conditions along with an army and trust for founding a state in his own times of history of course.

Confucius developed some principle of dietetic hygiene of foods. Therefore, he stressed on the quality of the food. He said foods should not be eaten if they had rotted, if they were not well cooked, if their color had changed, or if the wine and dried meat bought from the market were not clean. He believed that if there were many meat courses, people should not overeat. This belief is reflected in the dietetic culture of the Chinese nation; it also conforms to dietetic hygiene because meat is not easily digested. Therefore besides quality, he also conforms to dietetic hygiene because meat is not easily digested. Therefore besides quality, he also advocated moderateness while eating. He advised, “Do not eat too much”, and he also advocated “Do not talk at meals”, which conforms to the principle of building health through diet, as dose “Do not take away the ginger”. Ginger is pungent, removes dampness, and reduces internal heat and fever, and so eating a bit of it before meals aids health and digestion. He stressed that the dishes in his meals must be compatible, and did not resign himself to circumstances. This shows Confucius was serious about meals. Even if simple food was involved, the attitude had to be serious.

As for the wine or liquor, Confucius said that it is not limited, but not so much as to make you confused. He meant that people could drink as much as they wanted, but they should not become drunk.

With regard to colonies, Mencius believed that only if people were clothed and fed would it be possible to establish harmonious relations and help the common people become culture. He further believed that people should be vigorous and overcome their natural demands (overcome hunger) in order to shoulder the mission of mankind. In his writings, Mencius said that people’s demand for delicious food was reasonable. But, he opposed rulers disregarding the desire of common people for good food in order to satisfy their own desires. He exposed the dark reality that “they do not criticize themselves about dogs and swine eating human food, and they ignore the starved people lying on the roads.” He believed the emperor should share the joy of life with the people, and his “benevolent government” was the way to achieve this.

If we judge the history of China’s dietetic culture since the times of these masters, the Confucianism have since blended spiritually, the two schools have complemented each other in the theory and practice of health building through diet.


Besides being the founder of Taoism, Lao Zi developed his ideas on dietetic health during the Spring and Autumn Period, which laid the groundwork for subsequent doctrines on the subject. He is believed to have lived during the latter part of the Spring and Autumn Period.

Conforming to the Taoist philosophy, Lao Zi believed that to stay healthy, people should revert to the primary state by giving up all complex emotions and desires like a newborn baby. He argued for indifference to fame and gain. He believed in nihilism, selflessness, and few desires, and advocated serenity, temperance, and peace. For physical exercise he was devoted to breathing exercises. He held that people should not pursue extravagant and delicious food and simple food should be enough.

Prior to Lao Zi, people had thought the Taoists paid minimal attention to health building through food but, in fact, the Taoists believed that simple food, vegetable, and coarse grains would contribute to a good health. Such a diet actually dose help prevent cardiac and cerebral diseases that result from excessive protein and fat.

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