The History of Congee

Congee, also known as Congee or rice porridge is a traditional Chinese food staple, with a long and glorious history. First enjoyed by Emperors; pottery created to prepare Congee dates back to the Neolithic Age (2,300 BC) based on relics uncovered in the Longshan Cultural Site. This shows that the Chinese have been cooking and enjoying Congee for thousands of years.

Because of its easily digestible nature and neutral propensities, Congee was often consumed by ancient Chinese as a means of wellness. History books often detail instances where Congee was paired with other ingredients to form a healing ailment, similar to Chinese medicine.

In the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties; to escape war, people from the Central Plain region of China migrated to the south, bringing with them the tradition of preparing and enjoying Congee. Along with them they also brought their farming and agriculture techniques, which were lacking in the south. In this period, Congee gained popularity as a means to “stretch rice” to feed the growing migrant population.

However, after the Song Dynasty, Congee was no longer seen as a relief or charity food. Many prominent scholars and poets at the time were big fans of Congee. For example, renowned poet Lu You wrote the following poem to celebrate Congee:

“Common folk all seek long life;
not realizing what’s before their eyes.
I abide by this simple rule ~
Congee leads to divine.”

A review of the historical cookbooks and Chinese medicine textbooks from the Ming and Qing dynasties reveal more than 300+ Congee recipes!

This is a testament to the popularity, variety and health benefits of Congee ~ truly a dish created for royalty, grew out of necessity and ultimately celebrated and enjoyed by everyone.