Feasting Without the Victuals: The Evolution of the Daoist Communal Kitchen

  • Terry F. Kleeman


In her work among the Sherpas of Nepal, Sherry Ortner (1978) has shown that the relations of host and guest at a banquet provide a nexus through which complex transactions involving current benefit and future obligation can be negotiated. Similarly, Eugene Anderson, in his study The Food of China (1988, 16), posits for neolithic China a social structure centering on food, its sharing and distribution, that, he argues, is still characteristic of non-state cultures of Southeast Asia. Within these societies, he writes, “the most able settler of disputes and arranger of social affairs acquires much prestige and often wealth, validates his status by giving merit feasts, and eventually becomes the node of a redistributive system. He organizes feast and festivals for which others offer goods to be eaten or handed out” As Anderson notes, even today local Chinese leaders owe much of their status to this function of initiating and coordinating communal banquets and the banquet plays an essential role in the conduct of Chinese commerce.


Wine Regulator Great Virtue Longshan Culture Ritual Observance Sacrificial Offering 
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© Roel Sterckx 2005

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  • Terry F. Kleeman

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