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The global life of a soya bottle

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Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen The global life of a soya bottle Bij ons leer je de wereld kennen

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

The global life of a soya bottle

Bij ons leer je de wereld kennen

Prof.dr. A.T. GerriTsen

1987-1992 Talen en Culturen van China, Universiteit Leiden1990-1991 Chinese Studies, Cambridge University1992-2001 East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard

University2001-2011 Lecturer, Department of History, University of

Warwick2010-2013 Director, Global History and Culture Centre,

University of Warwick2012-present Associate Professor (Reader), Department of

History, University of Warwick2013-2018 Kikkoman Chair for the Study of Asia-Europe

Intercultural Dynamics, Universiteit Leiden

Anne Gerritsen studied Chinese in Leiden, Shanghai (Fudan University) and Cambridge, and completed her studies with a dissertation (doctoraalscriptie) on women and gender in early seventeenth-century China. Her Ph.D. thesis at Harvard University, published as Ji’an Literati and the Local in Song-Yuan-Ming China by Brill in 2007, dealt with the ways in which local literati used writings about religious practices as a way of ‘belonging’ in local society, especially in Ji’an prefecture in Jiangxi. Her attention then shifted from Ji’an prefecture to the porcelain-manufacturing town of Jingdezhen (also in Jiangxi), and from social history and the local, to material culture and the global. She held an early career grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council between 2009 and 2012, and a fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in Wassenaar in 2013-14. She is in the process of completing a manuscript on global and local perspectives on Jingdezhen porcelain. During her tenure as Kikkoman Chair, she will develop this research on material culture by adding the dimension of food and food studies, under the theme of ‘Shared Taste’ (see sharedtaste.nl).

The global life of a soya bottle

Inaugural lecture by

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

on the acceptance of her position as professor of

Asia-Europe Intercultural Dynamics, with special attention to

Material Culture, Art and Human Development

at the Universiteit Leiden

on behalf of the Kikkoman Foundation

on Friday December 12, 2014.

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

The global life of a soya bottle

Mijnheer de Rector Magnificus, leden van het bestuur van de

Kikkoman Foundation en van de Vereniging van Vrienden der

Aziatische Kunst, zeer gewaardeerde toehoorders.

I would like to begin my story with this tin-glazed bottle, about

20 cm in height, made in Delft, in the first half of the nine-

teenth century (Fig.1).

Fig. 1. Soyabottle of tinglazed clay. Delft, 1825-1843. H 18,5 cm D 10 cm. Museum Prinsenhof, Delft, R 1244.

The text reads ‘Mandarinzoya, D. Boer, Japansch Magazijn,

S’Hage’. A bottle of soya sauce, sold by Dirk Boer, in a shop

filled with exotica he ran on the square (Het Plein) in The

Hague in the early forties of the nineteenth century, and now

in the collection of the Museum Prinsenhof, Delft.1 For me,

this bottle has a global story, which speaks to the dynamic

intercultural exchange between Asia and Europe, its material

culture, art and human development, in other words, to the

Kikkoman Chair that I am pleased to accept on this occasion. I

am interested in the life story of this one object, from its man-

ufactory in Delft, to Dirk Boer’s shop in The Hague, and its

purchase and consumption thereafter. Of course the porcelain

factories in Delft would probably not have existed without the

impulse of porcelains from China; the shape and decoration

of this bottle might have been very different without the ear-

lier arrival of such bottles from Japan. This bottle, then, has a

global story because of the circulation of technologies, designs

and desires between Asia and Europe that shaped it. But it

was not just an empty vessel; it contained, as its inscription

tells us, Mandarinzoya. For the nineteenth-century consumer

who purchased this bottle of soya sauce, presumably it was

the content that mattered more than its packaging, while for

scholars of art and material culture, these perishable contents

have vanished, and are disregarded. I propose to reunite the

contents with its packaging, and food with material culture,

to tell the global story of this bottle and the soya sauce it once


The idea of global connectedness is not particularly new, of

course, nor is the idea that art and material culture have a

significant part to play in that connectedness; my predecessor

Professor Christiaan Jörg has played and continues to play a

key role in our understanding of that idea here in Leiden.2 The

importance of food as subject of historical study is also not

new in Leiden; my colleague Professor Kasia Cwiertka already

pointed that out in her oratie in 2011.3 What is new, I think, is

the combination of food and material culture as an approach

to understanding the processes by which interactions across

vast distances became integrated into ordinary lives across the

globe from the sixteenth century onwards.4

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

Early Histories of Soya SauceIt will probably not surprise anyone here that the early history

of soya sauce lies in Asia, and specifically in China and Japan.

Extensive research has been done on the early history of soya

sauce, for example by H.T. Huang in his magisterial volume in

Needham’s Science and Civilisation series on the history of food

technologies, and especially the history of fermentation.5 From

Huang, we learn about what he calls ‘the wonderful world of

the grain moulds’ (qu in Chinese, or koji in Japanese). These

are made by exposing cooked grains to the moulds, yeasts and

bacteria that occur in the environment naturally, thus creating

a fermentation agent with enzymes that could turn starches

into sugars, and sugars into alcohol. A wide variety of foods

was fermented by combining meat, fish or vegetables with this

grain mould and then aging it in jars to produce a flavourful,

savoury substance that was used as a relish. The sauce that

resulted from adding this grain mould to soya beans, adding

water, and letting it ferment in sealed vessels, the soya sauce

that will have filled our nineteenth-century bottle, is not actu-

ally explicitly mentioned in written texts from China until the

Song dynasty. We do have evidence for the presence of other

fermented soy products during this early period, including the

milk obtained from grinding the soy beans and cooking them

in water, creating a milky emulsion, which would have to be

heated to make it digestible, and in its curdled form became

known as bean curd (doufu). We see this process depicted in

this line drawing, based on a mural from a tomb in Henan

dating to the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE).6

Fig. 2. Line drawing based on one panel of a mural found in Henan, China, dating to the Han dynasty. Figure 69 in Huang, Fermentation and Food Science, 307.

The activities depicted here (Fig. 2) fit well with the process-

es of making bean curd: soaking the beans in a large vessel,

milling the soaked beans by hand with a stone mill, filtering

the pureed beans through a cloth, after which the substance is

heated (not shown). A coagulating agent is then added, and the

curdling milk gently stirred, and finally the soft curd is pressed

in a box to remove the excess whey. While such pickles, pastes

and curds became integrated into the southern Chinese diet

well before the tenth century, it is not until the twelfth century

that we encounter the sauce in a text, but by then, it had found

its way into the essentials no one could live without:

The Hangzhou area inside and around the city walls has a

very numerous population, and includes a great number

of prefectures, but whichever lane or alley, bridge, gate, or

secluded spot you visit, everywhere has shops doing busi-

ness. Indeed, every day, people cannot do without chai,

mi, you, yan, jiang, cu, and cha (firewood, rice, oil, salt,

soya sauce, vinegar, and tea).7

This description comes from ‘An account of dreaming over a

bowl of millet’ (Mengliang lu), a thirteenth-century collection

of reminiscences of the splendours of the city that served as the

temporary capital in the south, after the Song court had been

driven out of its northern base by the Jurchen in 1127. This

city, known also as Lin’an in the Southern Song, and Quinsai

in Marco Polo’s description, was home to more than a million

inhabitants in the thirteenth century, many of whom lived in

densely packed multi-story houses to accommodate this vast

population.8 The quantities of firewood, vegetables, rice, pork

and salted fish that had to be delivered from the surrounding

regions and distributed throughout the city to supply these

daily necessities were very large, and included, for example,

several hundred tons of rice every day. The sophisticated and

wealthy residents of thirteenth-century Hangzhou wanted

more than necessities: they wanted the most expensive teas

served in the finest porcelain, on lacquered trays, accompanied

by exquisitely flavoured snacks, served by delicately made-up

beauties dressed in the latest silk fashions. But within this

world, where the discerning customer could pick and choose

The global life of a soya bottle

from a superb variety of goods, soya sauce had become firmly

established on the list of daily essentials.

Of course the use of soya sauce was not limited to the res-

taurants and teahouses of Hangzhou, or even just the Song

empire, but had spread throughout Asia. Transmission stories

that feature a single person delivering an object, an idea or a

technology from one place to another are rarely more than

that: stories. But they tell us something, nonetheless. The per-

son said to have brought soya sauce from China to Japan is the

monk Kakushin (1207-98), who was in China for Buddhist

studies in the middle of the thirteenth century, and played a

significant role in the development of zen Buddhism in Japan.

Kakushin studied with the famous Buddhist master Wumen

Huikai (1183-1260), compiler of a collection of ko’an, ‘public

cases’ or conundrums, as an aid to meditation.9 As the story

goes, upon his return to Japan, he established himself at Koko-

ku Temple in Yura-cho (now Wakayama Prefecture). From

there, Kakushin introduced Japanese zen monks to the use of

these ko’an, and, apparently, to the making of a flavoursome

sauce from fermented soya beans, which acquired the name of

tamari, from tamaru, to accumulate, referring to the accumu-

lation of a thin sauce at the bottom of the kegs of fermenting


Regardless of the monk Kakushin’s precise role, the transmis-

sion of technologies of soya bean fermentation between Song

China and Kamakura Japan occurred in a context of active

exchange between China and Japan, which led to a cross-fer-

tilization of ideas and religious practices (notably in zen Bud-

dhism but also in neo-Confucianism), material culture and,

inevitably, food culture. These are, of course, not unrelated:

Buddhist temples were vibrant sites where students from far

and wide gathered for intellectual exchange and reflection on

the meanings of texts and the physical practices of meditation.

Tea played a key role in this, too, as did the associated cultures

of growing, harvesting, brewing, serving, and consuming tea,

each of which had their own ritual and material cultures. The

tea leaves as well as the cups from which the tea was drunk and

the food consumed while drinking tea emerged from this dy-

namic context, and travelled along with monks and merchants

between China and Japan.

Little brown tea cups, popular in the tea ceremony in Japan,

were made in the thirteenth century in Jizhou, a prefecture in

the southern parts of Jiangxi province where I carried out my

dissertation research.11 The potters at the kilns here catered

specifically for the monks of Jingju Monastery on Mount

Qingyuan, making the brown-glazed bowls that were popular

for the consumption of tea (Fig. 3.)

Fig. 3. Jizhou tea bowl, from Jiangxi province, southern China. Song dynasty (AD 960-1279). © British Museum collection, Asia OA 1973.7-26.279.

During the Song dynasty, tealeaves were picked, dried or roast-

ed, ground and then pressed into blocks or bricks that could

easily be transported. To make tea, a bit of the brick was bro-

ken off and ground to a powder, which was placed in a teacup.

By whipping the tea while pouring hot water onto the powder

a white froth appeared, which contrasted beautifully with the

blackness of the bowls.12 It was this grinding and whipping of

tea powder, and the appreciation of the colour and fragrance

of the tea that formed a key element of the tea drinking rituals

in chan or zen monasteries in both China and Japan, and still

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

features in the Japanese tea ceremony. The presence of Jizhou

teacups in Japanese monasteries, museums and private collec-

tions also goes back to this period of interaction. The vibrancy

of this exchange and the accumulations of diverse cultural

practices are much more visible when we combine the vessel

with its contents, and far more interesting to me than the role

of Kakushin, or any other individual character or single politi-

cal unit might have played in these processes.

From the Song dynasty onwards, soya sauce was one of the

‘things people cannot do without’, an essential flavouring in-

gredient, part of daily culinary practice, in China, in Japan, and

probably more widely throughout Asia. From the sixteenth

century onwards, soya sauce appears not only as a daily ne-

cessity, but a delicacy savoured by food connoisseurs. Known

affectionately in Japanese as murasaki, a reference to its deep

purple colour, soya sauce was appreciated in numerous local

varieties, including shoyu from Noda (in Chiba prefecture,

where the origins of today’s Kikkoman Corporation are lo-

cated).13 The Eight Discourses on the Art of Living (Zun sheng

ba jian), a 1591 text written by Gao Lian, variously described

as merchant, playwright, Daoist and medical specialist, and

connoisseur of late Ming idleness, includes a discourse on

food and drink, with frequent reference to the addition of soya

sauce as a way of enhancing the flavour of the dish.14 From the

seventeenth century onwards, soya sauce features in culinary

practices throughout Asia.15

But how far did the appeal of a deep purple sauce made from

fermented soya beans reach? One could probably be forgiven

for assuming that soya sauce did not arrive in Europe until the

first Chinese restaurants opened in London and Amsterdam

after the Second World War, and only found its way into the

‘Exotic foods’ section in Albert Heijn and many of your kitch-

en cabinets in recent decades. But the assumption would be


First encountersIn 1632, a merchant couple with seven children, living here in

Leiden at the Rapenburg, gave birth to their eighth child, a boy

they called Aernout (Fig. 4). In 1643, still 11 at the time, young

Aernout embarked on his studies at this university, leading to a

doctorate in 1655.

Fig. 4. Engraving of Aernout van Overbeke, 1680.

He seems to have spent the next decade of his life mostly with

drink and play, although nominally also with a career in the

law. He published witty poems and plays, and mostly lost a

great deal of money, which may explain why accepted an invi-

tation to serve overseas, and set sail on the Zuidpolsbroek for

the East Indies on 12 April 1668. He spent only four years in

The global life of a soya bottle

Batavia, and travelled back as commander of a fleet of 15 ships.

The third Anglo-Dutch war had broken out just as he sailed

back, and he needed the help of the famous Dutch admiral

Michiel de Ruyter to make it safely back to port. The report of

his journey, entitled ‘A witty and entertaining description of

a journey to the East Indies’ dated 1671, and published while

Van Overbeke was still in Asia, is not so much an accurate

account, as a series of light-hearted descriptions of amusing

scenes to entertain his audience.16 The book gained a great deal

of popularity. His nineteenth-century biographers thought

little of his spendthrift and raunchy writings, but it is precisely

because of his love for food and drink that we find in his works

some fascinating observations. In 1669, while he was still in

Batavia, he wrote a poem for an otherwise unnamed girl on the

occasion of her seventh birthday. He describes her as a small

girl, greatly treasured, most beautiful joy that Java’s soil has

yielded (‘Kleine Juffer, groot van waerde, schoonste vreugd, die

ooit de aerde heeft op Java voort gebracht’).17 The poem is his

present for her:

Wenschen? wel ghy hebt het al:Rijckdom, aengenaeme schoonheyt,Deugd die in u klaer ten toon leyt,Oock gesondheyt en verstant,d’ Eerste dochter van het landt,Daer de Leeuw met seven pijlenHeeft gebout op vaste stijlen,Daer het al te warme OostMet haer oegst den koopman troost:Valt’er dan wat meer te wenschen?18

Wishes? You have these already:Wealth and pleasant beauty,Virtue, clearly manifest in you,Just as health and intellect.First daughter of this land,Where the lion built with seven pillars on a solid base,Where the warm EastComforts the merchants with her yield.What else would one wish for?

But he also uses the poem to reflect on his situation, where his

time spent in the East was not by choice and time passes slowly

(‘My time at Java has to last six and thirty thousand hours’),

but he also has his freedom (‘My life here is free and assured,

and no one urges me to appear at the town hall the next morn-

ing’).19 And he seems to develop a taste for the food, inviting

his reader to join him:

Dat ‘s de saus die moet’er zijn:Soya, gengber, loock en ritsjes,Maeckt de maeg wel scharp en spitsjes:Maer ‘t sijn viertjes, die men stoocktVoor een pot die weynig koockt.

This is the sauce we need:Soya, ginger, onion and peppers,It may well feel sharp and fiery to the stomach,But these are fires stoked for A pot that cooks but very little.

With that poem, and those lines, Van Overbeke’s seven-

teenth-century readers had a scoop: the first widely-circulated

reference to a sauce that would take another 350 years to find

its way into everyday Dutch culinary practice.20

Van Overbeke earned his money as a salaried employee of the

VOC, and in that capacity may or may not have been able to

access the financial papers and order books of the VOC. Had

he been able to do this, he would have seen that soya was also a

money maker for the Company. As Cynthia Viallé has shown,

the first shipment of soya sauce, a quantity of five casks, was

sent by VOC ship to Cambodia in 1637.21 Ten years later,

double that quantity was sent to Siam, and in 1652, fifty small

barrels were shipped to Tonkin. As both Viallé and Chris Nier-

strasz’s archival research shows, it was not until 1737, a hun-

dred years after this first intra-Asian shipment, that the VOC

started to ship Japanese soya sauce to the Netherlands, and

1739 that these goods were sold in the Netherlands. But as Van

Overbeke’s poem shows, and this is confirmed by Company

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

regulations, by 1737, soya sauce had already been standard fare

for those stationed in Batavia and Deshima for at least sixty

years, and may well have been shipped to the Netherlands by

private traders on the behest of those who had acquired a taste

for it in Asia (Fig. 5.).22

Fig. 5. Hand-coloured woodcut print of five Dutchmen enjoying a meal in Deshima. Deshima, 1775 – 1800. H 30 cm × W 38,4 cm. Collection of the Rijksmuseum, NG-1978-110. On the far left of the table a small bottle of soy.

The global life of a soya bottle

Seventeenth-century Batavia and Nagasaki were exceptional

sites of encounter, confluence and interaction, and played key

roles in the production of a shared cultural legacy, together

with the literary writings of the intrepid global travellers of

the seventeenth century. Engelbert Kaempfer, born in 1651

in the Hanseatic city of Lemgo, in Nordrhein-Westfalen, was

one such traveller. His travels took him to Russia, Persia, India,

Southeast Asia, and Japan between 1683 and 1693, and from

1690 to 1692, he lived on the man-made island of Deshima in

Nagasaki Bay. His History of Japan, published posthumously

in 1727, was the chief source of Western knowledge about

the country throughout the eighteenth century, but it is his

book on exotic novelties, based on his peregrinations in Per-

sia and the Far East, that he describes a famous sauce, ‘sooju’,

‘quod nisi ferculis, certe frictis et assatis omnibus affunditur’

(a sauce which is poured, if not over all dishes, then certainly

over everything fried and roasted).23 Kaempfer followed this

introduction to Japanese culinary practice with a detailed

description of how to make soya sauce. The recipe uses cooked

beans and koji (grain mould), fermented together, after which

salt and water is added. This mixture is then left for several

months, during which it has to be stirred regularly. It is then

compressed, filtered and preserved in wooden containers. Al-

most all the elements that Kaempfer saw in the late seventeenth

century are still part of the production processes of Kikkoman

soya sauce, as I saw in the twenty-first century factories in


Another of these early travellers, Giovanni Francesco Gemel-

li-Careri was born in the same year as Kaempfer, in Taurianova

in Calabria in the ‘toe’ of the Italian peninsula, a town ruled

from Naples, where he died in 1725. He tried his hand at a

career in the law, but suspended his work to embark on a

round the world trip in 1693. He started in the Middle East,

with Egypt, Istanbul and the Holy Land, crossed Armenia and

Persia, visited Southern India and entered China, where visited

the emperor at Beijing, attended the Lantern Festival celebra-

tions and toured the Great Wall. From Macau, he went to the

Philippines, sailed to Acapulco on a Manila galleon, and from

Cuba back to Europe on a Spanish treasure fleet. He funded

his travels by buying and selling goods ‘on which one makes

a good profit’.24 The Giro del Mondo, published in Italian in

1699, and translated into several other languages in the early

decades of the eighteenth century, shows Gemelli-Careri’s

curiosity about food. On his way to Peking, he observed the

absence of rice cultivation. ‘To make some amends for the want

of Rice, they use their Taufu, which is boil’d, a Mess of Kidney

Beans, which with him is a dainty, for this wretched Sauce

they use to dip their Meat in. They make it of white Kidney

Beans pounded, and made into a Paste, … , they also make it

of Wheat and other Ingredients’.25 Gemelli-Careri clearly cared

less for this flavour than Van Overbeke did 25 years earlier,

but the significance, it seems to me, lies in the exploration of

self and other this passage reveals. Difference is asserted, to be

sure; Gemelli-Careri himself does not share the view that this

Taufu is ‘a dainty’, but he displays substantial understanding of

dietary requirements (beans to make up for the absence of rice;

eating practices, such as dipping meat in sauce; and food pro-

cessing stages) to suggest significant interest in the food of the

other. Clearly, both Kaempfer and Gemelli-Careri’s late seven-

teenth-century descriptions of flavours, tastes, food practices

and technologies created important building blocks for the

more sustained exposures of the eighteenth century.

Eighteenth-century venturesThe turn of the century proved a turning point in the Europe-

an knowledge of plants and foods of the wider world, includ-

ing soya beans and their various uses. The apothecary and phy-

sician Samuel Dale (1659-1739) published his Pharmacologia

in 1693 without mentioning soya, but in the 1705 second edi-

tion of his book, Dale, ‘having also received advice from divers

Indigenous persons, who had travelled into foreign countries’,

added an entry on ‘Soia, of which Ketchup is made’, explaining

that it comes from ‘the Seed of an Indian Phaseolus’.26 Already

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

in the first decade of the eighteenth century, then, words like

soya and ketchup, the English version of the Malay word kechap

(ketjap in the Dutch spelling of the Malay), were in wide circu-

lation.27 And it was for sale. The Daily Courant (London) ran

an advertisement on the 30th of December in 1712, announcing

that ‘a great parcel of Soy, commonly called Ketchup, neat and

fine as ever come to England’ had arrived from the East Indies

and the sauce would be available for wholesale and retail at

various China-sellers in London.28

In eighteenth-century Amsterdam, the Oudezijds Herenloge-

ment, ‘the noblest taverne in the world’ according to an English

‘tripadviser’ avant la lettre, hosting guests like Amalia van

Solm, Stadholder William the Third and Tsar Peter the Great,

became a site for prominent auctions (before it was raised to

the ground to make space for the famous Binnengasthuis). On

8 June 1724, the Dutch merchant Philip Piek organised a sale

there. Piek specialised in cottons, silks and chintzes, but also

sold anything else he could lay his hands on: porcelains, ca-

naries, the entire cabinet of curiosities of Lourens van Camp-

en, and ‘veele flessen Soja’.29 Sadly, we do not know how and

where he laid his hands on this lot, nor what price these bottles

fetched, but Piek does not seem to have been the kind of man

to carry many loss leaders.

Forty years later, in 1763, the Leeuwarden oyster seller Jo-

hannes Andrys offered soya sauce together with lemon, lime,

Spanish capers, oil from Provence, morels and sugar to flavour

his fish.30 Many of the offerings for sale in this mid-eight-

eenth-century small provincial city had travelled considerable

distances, and many would have had a short shelf life, especial-

ly the English oysters. Johannes Andrys must have felt sure he

could shift his limes, lemons and various fish before the rot set

in, and replenish his stocks with fresh supplies. And suddenly a

whole new vista opens up in front of our eyes. We knew about

space: by the mid-eighteenth century, long distance trade and

increasingly global connections had become a fact of life in

many parts of the Afro-Eurasian continent. But here we also

see the dimension of time: goods moved across these distances

at considerable speed. Adding food into our picture of glob-

al connections brings to the fore the compression of time, a

characteristic we normally associate only with contemporary


Between the 1724 sale in the Herenlogement in Amsterdam,

and the 1763 advertisement for fishmonger Johannes Andrys’

shop, the VOC started to include Japanese soya sauce in its

official shipments from Asia to the Netherlands. Shipments of

soyasauce are measured in kelders, a word in seventeenth-cen-

tury Dutch usage that refers to a cabinet or chest, divided into

separate compartments for the shipment of bottles.

Fig. 6. Bottle cabinet (flessenkeldertje). Wood, silver, velvet and kak-iemon porcelain. Deshima, 1670 – 1675. H 36cm × D 33cm. Collection of the Rijksmuseum, NG-444.

This late seventeenth-century bottle cabinet (flessenkeldertje),

on display in the Rijksmuseum (Fig. 6), is an example of such

a kelder, but of the most luxurious variety, made of precious

wood, lined with velvet, decorated with silver, and filled with

The global life of a soya bottle

kakiemon bottles, to serve as diplomatic gift.31 Between 1739

and 1763, the VOC ships carried around 500 kelders of soya-

sauce to the Netherlands, and here we do have some informa-

tion about the value of that shipment: on average the kelders of

soya sauce that were sold by the VOC between 1739 and 1763

fetched about 26 guilders apiece.32 But the presence of soya

sauce in Philip Piek’s auction demonstrates that the 1737 VOC

decision to include soya sauce in its shipments was an attempt

to cash in on a market opportunity that private traders had

already established long before.

Even though mid-eighteenth-century cooks and maids would

clearly have been able to find soya sauce for sale, a thrifty

housewife might prefer to make her own. In that case, she or

her cook could consult De volmaakte Hollandsche keuken-meid

[the perfect Dutch kitchen maid] (Fig. 7), of which we see the

frontispiece here, to learn how to do this:

14. How to make soya sauce as good as the one that

comes from Asia.

Take a piece of beef with all the fat left in, place this on

the fire, and add a good bit of salt and crushed cloves.

Depending on how big the piece of meat is, add one or

two mingelen [one or two litres] of good beer, and place

this on a flame (low flame for the bottom, and high flame

for the top of the meat), leaving it until all the juice is

gone and the meat falls apart. Squeeze the juice out, pour

this liquid into a pan and leave to cool. Lifting the layer

of fat off, filter the remainder through a clean cloth, and

pour this into bottles to store.33

No beans, no fermentation, but a meaty juice combined with

a reduction of beer. Undoubtedly a tasty flavouring for any

dish, but surely not quite ‘soya sauce as good as the one that

comes from Asia’. Only a few decades later, in 1779, the erst-

while Leiden medical student and botanist Martin Houttuyn

(1720-1798) provided a bit more detail. Houttuyn explained

soya sauce as ‘a viscous and not unpleasantly savoury juice,

which arrives in bottles, and is consumed instead of meat-juice

or gravy with pulses and other dishes, to raise one’s appetite’.34

Meat-juice serves as familiar reference point; otherwise this

juice is damned by faint praise with its description as ‘not

unpleasantly savoury’. Its arrival in bottles is stated as fact, but

not more than that.

Fig. 7. De volmaakte Hollandsche keuken-meid. Third edition (Amster-dam: Steven van Esveldt, 1752, frontispiece.

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

Meanwhile, more progress towards understanding this sauce

was made in Sweden. Carl Gustaf Ekeberg (1716-84) served

in the Swedish East India Company from 1742 until 1778,

and made at least ten voyages to India and China. In 1764, in

a speech delivered before the Swedish Academy of Science, he

explained precisely how soya sauce was made, ‘because it has

come to be used by us, and we ought to be able to produce

it ourselves’. The speech was published in the Transactions

of the Academy, and eventually translated into various other

languages, including French and English.35 A flurry of publica-

tions followed containing similar descriptions of the process,

including one by the Amsterdam surgeon and VOC employee

Nicolaas Titsingh (1745-1812). It is a short piece, with rather

precise explanations, which starts with a mixture of what he

calls ‘miso-beans’ and wheat, locked into a cupboard for eight

days so that it becomes entirely green with mould, and then

left in the sun to dry. It is then blended into a purified water

and salt mixture, and left for fourteen days, stirred regularly.

His final sentence is revealing: ‘this soya sauce, named ketjap by

the Chinese, is used as a very tasty and flavoursome salt with

meat, in Batavia as well as in The Netherlands’.36

Cookery books from the middle of the eighteenth century,

suggest that cooking with soya sauce had become part of the

ordinary cook’s normal practice. According to a 1775 cookery

book, scate is served either ‘with butter and mustard’ or with

‘anchovy or soy sauce’. Similarly, flounders is served with,

among other things, ‘butter melted with a little catchup or

soy’. Salmon, interestingly is not served with soya, but pike can

be served with ‘anchovy, shrimp, or soy sauce, or with melted

butter and catchup’.37 Exactly the same recipes are found also

in the 1780 Town & country cook and in Mrs. Taylor’s family

companion; or the whole art of cookery display’d, in the newest

and most easy method (London, 1795). Soya sauce had come a

long way; from a novelty, testing tender stomachs to a known

commodity that could be bought, created or imitated at home,

soya sauce had become part eighteenth-century European

culinary practice, and was consumed on a regular basis.

Nineteenth-century imitationsBy the mid-nineteenth century, cooks were no longer happy just

to use imported soya sauce in their cookery, or even attempt to

follow Ekeberg or Titsingh and make their own. Cooks want

to create new sauces. One of these inventors was Alexis Soyer

(1810-1858), the extraordinary French celebrity-cook of the

London Reform Club, eccentric, romantic dandy, dressed in his

trademark clothes cut on the bias, ‘à la zoug-zoug’, inventor of

kitchen gadgets, friend of Nurse Seacole (sidekick of Florence

Nightingale in the Crimea), and feeder of the poor (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8. Alexis Benoît Soyer (1810-1858), Cook and writer of cookery books. Portrait by Henry Bryan Hall, after Elizabeth Emma Soyer. Stipple engraving, published 1858. © National Portrait Gallery, Lon-don, D6822.

The global life of a soya bottle

The ingredients of the sauce he created, which he marketed as

‘Soyer’s Sauce’ (or Soyer’s Sauce succulente) included vinegar,

apple, wheat, onions and garlic, red current jelly and various

spices (Fig. 9).38

Fig. 9. Advertisement for Soyer’s Sauce, 1850s.

Did he mean his ‘Soyer’s Sauce’ to sound like soya sauce? We

may never know. Soyer was savvy enough to patent his inven-

tions; the Patent, Designs and Trade Mark Office holds patents

for Soyer’s tendon separator, a magic stove, a particularly

shaped bottle, even a biscuit stamped with Soyer, but not Soy-

er’s Sauce, sadly.

We do know that when the Great Exhibition of the Works of

Industry of All Nations took place at Crystal Palace in Hyde

Park in 1851, Soyer saw an opportunity. The organisers had

decided no wine could be served inside the exhibition, and

diners could not sit down, so instead of accepting the invita-

tion to feed the thousands of visitors inside the Great Exhi-

bition, Soyer established the ‘Gastronomic Symposium of All

Nations’ next door to Crystal Palace. He went all out, turning it

into an extravagant experience rather than merely a restaurant,

with fourteen themed rooms, including a Confucian boudoir,

an ice cave, and an American cocktail bar, his trademark zigzag

designs, and of course the opportunity to buy Soyer’s Sauce.

The Gastronomic Symposium was a showcase for the latest

culinary technologies and for Soyer’s megalomania: 350 ft

(100 metre) tablecloths, an 890 Kg (140 stone) bullock roast-

ed for the Queen’s birthday, and 72,000 visitors in less than

five months. We know that he was keen to serve people of all

classes and all nations together, which probably explains the

discomfort of his numerous critics, who felt the whole extrav-

aganza was in bad taste. We know remarkably little about the

food he served, beyond his own claim that the only thing not

on the menu was ‘cold boiled missionary’ for a hungry ‘New

Zealand tribesman’. In some ways, that says it all; ostensibly

about a gathering of knowledge about the works of industry

of all nations, the Great Exhibition and Soyer’s Gastronomic

Symposium served imperialist purposes, to establish Brit-

ish superiority, to rank and classify the ‘other’, including the

other’s food. Soyer undoubtedly knew about soya sauce, but

I think we can also be quite sure that he thought his own con-

coction of vinegar, apple, wheat, onions and red current jelly,

his Soyer’s Sauce, was superior.

The shop that sold the Mandarinzoya that I started with, Dirk

Boer’s Japansch Magazijn, had a somewhat different approach.

Named Japansche Winkel when it was founded in 1827, Ja-

pansch Magazijn from 1735, and Groote Koninklijke Bazar

from 1843, this storehouse of exotica sold an extraordinary

range of goods, including medicines, lacquerwares, textiles,

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

and soya sauce, by no means all from Japan.39 And like Alexis

Soyer, Dirk Boer did not settle for marketing a Japanese prod-

uct per se.

Fig. 10. Untitled decoration, by Petrus Regout/Sphinx, for Koninklijke Bazar, 1854. Decoraties Maastrichts Aardewerk, 1836-1969, Sociaal Historisch Centrum voor Limburg, 01189.

He turned this Japanese product into his own brand of soya

sauce: Mandarinzoya, with his own name, the name of his

shop, and his own city prominently displayed on the label (Fig.

10). This bottle and its contents, then, had a global life with

local meaning.

InterpretationsMy approach to this humble bottle of soya sauce, and my de-

sire to cast its story in a global light is, inevitably, shaped by

my own academic trajectories. My initial training in Chinese

Studies here in Leiden, supplemented with a year at the Faculty

of Oriental Studies in Cambridge, and continued in East Asian

Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, mean that I gravitate

to textual records, and that I know the crucial importance of

acquiring and maintaining linguistic competences in Chinese

and Japanese. My appointment in the History Department

at the University of Warwick in 2001 has meant that I frame

most of my research through the methodological lens of the

historian. Since the 2007 founding of the Warwick Global His-

tory and Culture Centre by Maxine Berg and the subsequent

appointment of Giorgio Riello, the three of us have worked

closely together in the field of global history. In our different

ways, we have centralized the global trajectories of things: of

luxuries, crafts and skills, of cloths and textile designs, and of

porcelain. We have thought about the ways in which the circu-

lation of goods, people, ideas and knowledge throughout the

Afro-Eurasian continent and its surrounding seas and oceans

created at the very least the potential for a shared, global, ma-

terial culture. Things have global lives, and only by mobilising

the variety of linguistic and disciplinary skills that teams can

offer can we tease out the global meanings of the things that

this soya bottle exemplifies.

The opportunity to return to Leiden one day a week, provid-

ed so generously by the Kikkoman Foundation, has had the

additional beneficial effect that it has pointed me in a new

direction of research. The material legacy of the past, which we

have access to either in the pristine, and often somewhat ster-

ile context of museum collections, or in discarded and often

damaged form in archaeological excavations, has become una-

voidably separated from its intended use. Vessels are enclosures

for holding things, and more often than not these are more

degradable than the vessels themselves. These vessels remain,

while the drinks and foodstuffs they transported, displayed

and served have vanished, often without a trace. The records

of the trade companies such as the VOC and EIC allow us to

see that coffee, tea and chocolate would have been amongst

the beverages consumed from porcelain cups. We have to turn

to two-dimensional visual culture such as the still-lifes of the

Dutch Golden Age, to see the vessels together with the foods

they held.

The global life of a soya bottle

Only in a few cases does the vessel identify the contents, but

the soya bottle is indeed one such example. Grey earthenware

bottles inscribed with the words ‘soya’ or ‘zoya’, or ‘Japansch

zoya’ have been found in Deshima, where the Dutch purchased

crates of soya for use on the island, for shipment to Batavia

and throughout Asia, and to Europe. Recent excavations in

the Netherlands have also yielded examples of these Japanese

bottles with the characteristic blue letters. A set of five small

pouring vessels with handles and a saltshaker on a matching

tray, now in the Jan Menze van Diepen Stichting collection, has

letters identifying the different condiments served in them: oil,

vinegar, and of course soya sauce (Fig. 11).40

Fig. 11. Oil, vinegar and soyasauce set. Imari porcelain, Japan, eighteenth century. In the collection of the Jan Menze van Diepen Stichting, JMD-P-2456.

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

When we reconnect the vessels with the food they held, our

gaze moves from the longevity and materiality of the object to

the ephemeral quality of its contents. When we add food and

flavour to the picture of global connections, we see domestic

settings, tables, dining practices, and tastes. Perhaps it is not

until we share food and flavour across vast cultural distances

that the idea of a shared taste becomes a possibility: global

foods and materials, imbued with local meanings and practic-

es. Only then do we see this bottle’s global life.

Tot slot een word van dank, in de eerste plaats aan allen die

aan de totstandkoming van mijn benoeming hebben bijgedra-

gen, met name het bestuur van de faculteit onder leiding van

Wim van den Doel. Toen ik in 1987 in Leiden begon aan mijn

studie Chinees was er een numerus clausus, rookte Professor

Zürcher zijn pijp nog tijdens de werkgroepen op zijn kamer,

en weigerde Mansveldt Beck ooit naar het moderne China te

reizen. Professor Idema koos ‘de vrouw’ als thema voor zijn vak

Chinese Literatuur, en onder de inspirerende begeleiding van

Harriet Zurndorfer schreef ik toen daar mijn afstudeerscriptie

over. Indirect vervolgde mijn Leidse training zich toen ik op

Harvard bij Peter Bol verder ging studeren, en ik ben erg blij

dat ik mijn medestudente Hilde De Weerdt nu hier mijn col-

lega mag noemen. Zonder deze Leidse leermeesters, het in-

spirerende onderwijs en de voortdurende steun van Peter Bol,

en de vriendschap van mijn medestudenten in Leiden en op

Harvard was ik niet ver gekomen in the sinologie.

My Warwick colleagues, Maxine Berg, Giorgio Riello, Rebecca

Earle, and Stephen McDowall, have been the best colleagues

anyone could wish for, and I am glad my part-time appoint-

ment in Leiden allows me to continue to enjoy working with

them and our students at Warwick. If I am a historian at all, it

is because of them.

When the Kikkoman Foundation decided to celebrate the first

fifteen years of Kikkoman in Europe with the extraordinarily

generous gift of a Chair in Leiden, I doubt that I would have

seemed the obvious candidate. But the combination of sup-

port from the Kikkoman Foundation and the Vereniging van

Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst suddenly made my appoint-

ment imaginable. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity they

have given me, and for the trust they have placed in me. I am

also grateful for the generosity of the Jan Menze van Diepen-

stichting. Two individuals have worked harder than anyone

else to make my appointment not just imaginable, but a real-

ity: Kitty Zijlmans en Maghiel van Crevel. It took much more

than any of us know. To all of you: thank you. I look forward

to working with Alice de Jong on the ‘Shared Taste’ project,

with colleagues and students in LIAS and LUCAS, and with

the various curators at het Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, het

Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag, het Keramiekmuseum Prin-

cessehof in Leeuwarden, en het Groninger Museum.

Lieve Papa en Mama, zonder jullie had ik hier natuurlijk nooit

gestaan. Het belang van talen leren, de waarde van het verleden

om het heden te begrijpen, het plezier in reizen, en het princ-

ipe van ‘samen uit, samen thuis’ dat voor mij staat voor trouw

en saamhorigheid, het is maar een greep uit de veelheid van

dingen die ik van jullie geleerd heb, maar ik zal ze altijd blijven

koesteren. The connection to the King family goes back a very

long way, and includes all the Van Leeuwens in Amsterdam.

Thank you for being here.

Christopher, Matthijs, and Bella. I am so grateful you are here

with me today. The last months have been difficult, and we

have all had to adjust to the powerful presence of the inherited

heart disease HCM in our midst. I admire deeply how you all

three continue to deal with this. Christopher’s courage and

grace are astonishing. From the moment you decided to leave

the UK to come to Harvard with me more than twenty years

ago, you have been unstintingly generous with your support

and love, and for that, and everything else, I thank you.

Ik dank u voor uw aandacht.

Ik heb gezegd.

The global life of a soya bottle

Notes1 See Marika Keblusek, Japansch Magazijn: Japanse Kunst en

Cultuur in 19de-eeuws Den Haag (Den Haag: Haags His-

torisch Museum, 2000). A similar soyasauce bottle is de-

picted on page 73. The collection of Openluchtmuseum,

Arnhem has a similar bottle.

2 For a statement of his views at the start of his professor-

ship in Leiden, see C.J.A. Jörg, ‘Wisselwerkingen - Rede

uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van de ambt van bi-

jzonder hoorgleraar Materiële Geschiedenis van Wisselw-

erkingen tussen Azië en Europa aan de Faculteit der Let-

teren van de Rijksuniversiteit Leiden’, Universiteit Leiden,

1998. For his reflections at the time of his retirement, see

‘A Short Story about East-West Interactions’, Aziatische

Kunst 40.2 (2010), 3-24. The same volume also includes a

list of his publications from 1978 to 2010.

3 Katarzyna Cwiertka, ‘The Wisdom of the Ordinary: a

Prospect for Modern Japan Studies’, Universiteit Leiden,


4 I have discussed my understanding of when such interac-

tions intensify to become ‘globalizing processes’ in ‘Scales

of a Local: The Place of Locality in a Globalizing World’,

in Douglas Northrop (ed.), A Companion to World History

(Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 213-226.

5 H.T. Huang, ‘Fermentations and Food Science’, Vol. 6, Pt

5 in Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

6 The line drawing and a photograph of the mural on which

the drawing is based can be found in Huang, ‘Fermenta-

tions and Food Science’, 306-7.

7 Menglianglu (Siku quanshu edition), juan 16.

8 For a description of life in Quinsai based on Marco Polo’s

Description of the World, see A.C. Moule, Quinsai, with

other notes on Marco Polo (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-

versity Press, 1957).

9 See the study on Wumen Huikai by Ding-hwa Hsieh,

‘Poetry and Chan “Gong an”: From Xuedou Chongxian

(980-1052) to Wumen Huikai (1183–1260)’, Journal of

Song-Yuan Studies 40 (2010): 39-70.

10 This, and numerous other references in the history of soya

sauce, can be found in the superb sourcebook by William

Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, History of Soy Sauce (160 CE

to 2012) Extensively Annotated Bibliography and Source-

book (Lafayette, CA: Soyinfo Center, 2012).

11 See Anne Gerritsen, Ji’an Literati and the Local in Song-Yu-

an-Ming China (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

12 Luo Jialin, The China Tea Book (San Rafael, CA: Earth

Aware Editions, 2012).

13 On the history of the company, see Ronal E. Yates, The

Kikkoman Chronicles: A Global Company with a Japanese

Soul (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998).

14 Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things: Material Culture and

Social Status in Early Modern China (first edition Polity

Press, 1991, second edition Honolulu: Hawai’i University

Press, 2004), 13-20.

15 Huang, ‘Fermentations and Food Science’, 373.

16 Aernout van Overbeke, Geestige en Vermaeckelicke

Reys-beschrijvinge van den Heer Aernout van Overbeke,

naer Oost - Indien gevaren, ten dienste van de Oost - Indis-

che Compagnie, voor Raet van Justitie, in den Jare 1668.

17 A. van Overbeke, ‘Op Juffrou N.N. doe haer Ed. 7 jaer

verjaerde, Den 29 Augusti 1669’ in De geestige werken, van

Aernout van Overbeke, ...: bestaende in liederen en gedi-

chten. Nevens sijn vermaeckelijcke reys naer Oost-Indien.

Leiden University Library has the 1678 edition printed in

Amsterdam by Jan Claesz. ten Hoorn.

18 A. van Overbeke, De Rymwercken, 78.

19 ‘Als die c’ronjes van die Muysen,/ En naer Oosten doen

verhuysen’, and ‘Ses en dertigh duysend uyren,/ Moet mijn

tijdt op Java duyren’, and ‘Hier is ‘t buyten vry en seker,/

Hier en bruyt my geen aenspreker/ Met, ‘kom Morgen op

’t Stadhuys’. A. van Overbeke, De Rymwercken, 76-79.

20 A. van Overbeke, De Rymwercken, 74.

21 Cynthia Viallé, ‘Japanese Products Exported to Asia and

Europe in the Edo Period’, in: Frederik Cryns and Fuyuko

Matsukata (eds), Nichirankankeishi wo yomitoku [Revis-

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

iting the History of Dutch-Japanese relations] (Kyoto:

Rinsen Shoten, forthcoming 2015).

22 Viallé’s research in the archives of the VOC base in Japan

(Archieven van de Nederlandse Factorij Japan) shows that

soya sauce was shipped ‘for the governor’s table’ and for

the Company employees stationed in the various VOC

offices. Viallé, ‘Japanese Products’.

23 Engelbert Kaempfer, Amœnitatum exoticarum politi-

co-physico-medicarum. Lemgoviæ: Typis & impensis Hen-

rici Wilhelmi Meyeri, 1712.

24 This passage is quoted, for example, in Fernand Braudel,

Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th century. Vol. 2

(Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1992), 169.

25 John Francis Gemelli-Careri, A Voyage Round the World,

Vol. IV, ‘Of China’, in A Collection of Voyages and Travels

(London, 1704), 314.

26 See the review of the 1705 edition in the Royal Society’s

Philosophical Transactions 25 (1705), 2253 - 2267 (2266).

27 The word ketjap or kechap in Malay means soya sauce,

and probably comes from a Chinese dialect word meaning

fish sauce. In 1711, Charles Lockyer wrote: ‘Soy comes in

Tubs from Jappan, and the best Ketchup from Tonquin;

yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in

China.’ See An account of the trade in India: containing

rules for good government in trade, price courants and ta-

bles: with descriptions of Fort St. George, Acheen, the Cape

of Good Hope, and St. Helena (London: Samuel Crouch,

1711), 128.

28 Daily Courant p.[2], col. 2.4 (30 December 1712).

29 Amsterdamse Courant No. 68 (8 June 1724).

30 Leeuwarder Saturdagse Courant No. 546 (8 January 1763).

31 Collection of the Rijksmuseum, NG-444. See also Figure 9

in Menno Fitski, Kakiemon Porcelain: A Handbook (Leid-

en: Leiden University Press, 2011), 19.

32 The average of 26 guilder per kelder is based on data for 22

separate years. The value per kelder ranges from nearly 7

guilders per kelder in 1753, when 33 kelders were shipped

and 13 guilder per kelder in 1748, when 66 kelders were

shipped at the lower end of the spectrum, to 37 guilder

per kelder when 20 kelders were shipped in 1740. I am

grateful to Chris Nierstrasz for his help in collecting these


33 ‘Soja, zo goed als die uit Oost-Indien komt, hoe men die

maaken zal. Neemt een dikke lende van een os of koe daar

men al het vet in laat blyven, en zet het op ‘t vuur, daar by

doende een goed deel zout en gestoote kruidnagelen: Na

dat het stuk vleesch groot is doet men daar een of twee

mingelen goede bronswyker Mom by, of anders van het

beste bremer bier; van onderen moet men weinig, maar

van boven veel vuur doen, en laat het zo lang staan tot dat

al de sjeu uit het vleesch gebraden is, zo dat het van een

valt; parst het uit, en giet dit vogt in een pan, laat het koud

worden, dan komt ‘er een dekzel van vet op dat men daar

af ligt; en het overige wringt men door een schoone doek,

en dan giet men het in flessen om te bewaaren.’ Aanhang-

zel van De Volmaakte Hollandsche Keuken-Meid (Amster-

dam: van Esveldt, 1754), 65-66.

34 M. Houttuyn, Natuurlyke Historie of uitvoerige beschryving

der dieren, planten en mineraalen, volgens het samenstel

van Linnaeus (Amsterdam, 1761-1785). The text can be

found in Volume II, part 10, page 158.

35 Carl Gustaf Ekeberg, ‘Om Chineska Soyan’ (Stockholm,

1764). See also M. Lindbom, ‘Method of preparing the

Chinese soy by M. de Grubbens: extracted from the mem-

oirs of the academy of sciences at Stockholm for 1803,

first quarter, Philosophical Magazine Series 1, 19:75 (1803):


36 Isaac Titsingh, ‘Bereiding van de soija’, Verhandelingen van

het Bataviaasch-Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschap-

pen 3 (1787): 245-246.

37 Elizabeth Clifton, The Cook Maid’s Assistant, or Art of

Cookery, made Plain and Easy (London, 1775?): 37-40.

Consulted in Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 8 July


38 Karl Ruß, Waarenkunde fur die Frauenwelt (Breslau: Tre-

wendt, 1868), 75.

The global life of a soya bottle

39 Keblusek, Japansch Magazijn, 21.

40 I thank Henny van Harten, curator of the Fraeylemaborg /

Jan Menze van Diepen Stichting for her assistance in find-

ing this object.

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

Prof.dr. A.T. Gerritsen

The global life of a soya bottle

Bij ons leer je de wereld kennen

Prof.dr. A.T. GerriTsen

1987-1992 Talen en Culturen van China, Universiteit Leiden1990-1991 Chinese Studies, Cambridge University1992-2001 East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard

University2001-2011 Lecturer, Department of History, University of

Warwick2010-2013 Director, Global History and Culture Centre,

University of Warwick2012-present Associate Professor (Reader), Department of

History, University of Warwick2013-2018 Kikkoman Chair for the Study of Asia-Europe

Intercultural Dynamics, Universiteit Leiden

Anne Gerritsen studied Chinese in Leiden, Shanghai (Fudan University) and Cambridge, and completed her studies with a dissertation (doctoraalscriptie) on women and gender in early seventeenth-century China. Her Ph.D. thesis at Harvard University, published as Ji’an Literati and the Local in Song-Yuan-Ming China by Brill in 2007, dealt with the ways in which local literati used writings about religious practices as a way of ‘belonging’ in local society, especially in Ji’an prefecture in Jiangxi. Her attention then shifted from Ji’an prefecture to the porcelain-manufacturing town of Jingdezhen (also in Jiangxi), and from social history and the local, to material culture and the global. She held an early career grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council between 2009 and 2012, and a fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in Wassenaar in 2013-14. She is in the process of completing a manuscript on global and local perspectives on Jingdezhen porcelain. During her tenure as Kikkoman Chair, she will develop this research on material culture by adding the dimension of food and food studies, under the theme of ‘Shared Taste’ (see sharedtaste.nl).