Changing Rice Bowl

Economic Development and Diet in China


Elizabeth J. Leppman

ISBN : 978-962-209-723-0

Economics, Finance, Business, Management

March 2005

236 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$250.00

The book deals with a topic of perennial interest to Chinese and non-Chinese alike: Chinese food. Chinese culture is exceptionally food-oriented, and non-Chinese are curious about what Chinese people in China actually eat, as contrasted with meals in ever-popular Chinese restaurants. Furthermore, foreigners have long received the impression that Chinese people are inadequately fed, but the picture today is considerably more complex. At its best, the Chinese diet is among the world’s healthiest, and access to adequate, nutritious food has made enormous progress in recent years. The content of the Chinese diet and its nutritional adequacy vary over space, not only in the vastness of China but even within one province. All these strands, examined after the end of food rationing opened new choices to Chinese consumers, are portrayed in a text that is easily accessible to the general public and that is supplemented with maps, graphs, and photographs.

Beginning with background concepts in nutrition, culture, and economic development, the book proceeds to describe foods that Chinese traditionally eat and the farming system that has produced them for hundreds of years. It then gives an overview of rural-urban contrasts at the national level. A summary geography of Liaoning Province in China’s northeast provides background for the detailed study of the dietary regime in a sample of households at five sites within the province. The book concludes with some suggestions of possible future implications of the findings.

Elizabeth J. Leppman received her Ph.D. in geography from the University of Georgia. She lived and worked in Shenyang in Liaoning Province in China for a year and a half, where she taught at Northeastern University. She has also taught at universities in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, and Minnesota in the United States. She is now an Associate Professor in geography in St Cloud State University, Minnesota, and is the Editor of Journal of Geography.

“The author skillfully narrates the cultural, biological, social, and economic factors that guide decision-making concerning food choices in China. Using fresh perspectives and fieldwork data regarding nutrition and culture, she succeeds in spelling out the relationships between dietary regimes, farming systems, and accelerating economic development.” —Ronald G. Knapp, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at New Paltz

Changing Rice Bowl provides a cogent and compelling analysis of the complex yet fascinating relationship among the three variables of diet, development, and culture in the northeast Chinese province of Liaoning. Kudos to Elizabeth Leppman for bringing us this remarkable study of value to anthropologists, geographers, nutritionists, and anyone interested in on-going changes in rural to urban lifestyles in China today.” —Clifton W. Pannell, Professor and Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Georgia