Research Projects

The Birth of East Asian Modern Entrepreneurship: the Case of Soy Sauce Making, ca. 1880 – 1960

(Funded under General Research Fund Scheme 2018 – 2019 Exercise, Research Grants Council, Hong Kong)

Principal Investigators

Angela Ki Che Leung, Director and Chair Professor of History, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Joseph Needham-Philip Mao Professor in Chinese History, Science and Civilization

Izumi Nakayama, Research Officer and Honorary Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Total Fund Awarded

HKD 553,284

Project Duration

October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2020

Project Description

This project aims to construct the first integrated East Asian history of modern soy sauce, exploring the transformation of this ancient condiment into a global product. Soy sauce is an East Asian identity food — a product that embodies and symbolizes the biological, socio-cultural, and historical makeup of East Asian cultures. That soy is an East Asian crop par excellence, and qu/kōji/nurukgyun (麴 as pronounced in Chinese, Japanese and Korean), the key ferment type needed to make soy sauce and other traditional alcoholic drinks and medicines, containing specific enzymes and organisms, is one that can develop only in East Asia, makes soy sauce a uniquely informative vehicle for understanding the region and its intraregional exchanges and connections. This collaborative study allows for a new understanding of East Asia as a region by focusing on the circulations of individuals, knowledge, and practices related to soy sauce making in Japan, Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and China from ca.1880 to 1960.