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The Origin and Use of Cannabis in Eastern Asia Linguistic-Cultural Implications

Author(s): Hui-Lin Li
Source: Economic Botany, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1974), pp. 293-301
Published by: Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press
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and the hemp culture in eastern Asia. And it was an important medicinal plant. 2 Morris Arboretum. it was also an important food plant. As a cultivated plant. ECONOMIC BOTANY 28: 293-301. and their uses were unknown to each other for quite a 1974. I Paper presented at the Conference on Cross-cultural Perspectives on Cannabis. the Cannabis plant had multitudinous uses in ancient times in China. IXth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences.172. It now grows spontaneously in great abundance and ubiquity. Ill. silk. and so propose several different systems of classification. three centers can be recognized in the ancient Old World . Cannabishas left a continuous record of its presence in this area from Neolithic times down to the present day. some regardit as consisting of more than one species and a number of varieties. Cannabis is generally believed to be an Asiatic plant. Silk fabrics were used by the wealthy while hemp cloth was the textile of the masses. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 293 . produced the unique product. and semi-cultivated or cultivated plants. Philadelphia. Historically.The Origin and Use of Cannabis in Eastern Asia Linguistic-Cultural Implications. Man has caused its extreme variations and wide dispersion. a portion of which falls in present northern China where the early Chinese civilization began. Therefore. These difficulties in classification and origin arise from the long and close association of Cannabis with man. These. the oldest records in existence seem to place the origin of cultivation in northeastern Asia.the linen culture in the Mediterranean region. There is no easy way to distinguish between wild and spontaneous or adventitious. and its uses were closely integrated with the life and culture of the people throughout all periods. It was the only fiber plant (hemp) known to ancient peoples in northern China. The influence of man must be considered side by side with the botanical facts in order to unveil the complex nature of this plant. in turn. University of Pennsylvania.224. Botanically it is distinct from all other plants and readily recognized. This content downloaded from 71. the cotton culture in India. and eastern Siberia. one of the major "grains"of the ancients. Estimates range within the wide span of temperate Asia from the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea through western and central Asia to eastern Asia. The systematics of this plant still awaits classification by further botanical studies. that made China famous in other lands. another fact attesting to its antiquity as a cultivated species. August 28-31. July-September. Each of these seemed to have developed independently. Besides its importance as a fiber plant. There is no concerted agreement among botanists as to where the plant originally grew wild and where its cultivation first began. It will no longer suffice to study the plant itself alone. HUI-LIN LI2 Cannabis sativa is one of man's oldest cultivated plants. The earliest or primary use of the plant was probably for its fibers. much remains to be done in determining the geographicalorigin of the plant. Submitted for publication October 5. 1973. In Chinaits use was so extensive and important that from the earliest times the phrase "land of mulberry and hemp" was used as a synonym for cultivated fields. Mulberrytrees were planted for their leaves used to feed silkworms. While most botanists consider the plant monotypic. Textile fibers are next to cereal grains in importance to the founding of human culture. Chicago. northeastern China. Yet among individual plants it is extremely variable. 1973.159 on Fri. Pennsylvania. From the standpoint of textile fibers..

Having evolved from the ancient to the later styles. Hemp was also found in discoveries of later Neolithic cultures such as the Lung-shanculture of about 3. This ancient differentiation reflects the antiquity of the cultivation of the plant in the same way that it points to an enduring and varied relationship between man and plant. The ancient use of hemp as a fiber is substantiated by written records. Hemp seeds were considered.172. along with millet. and the seeds ma-Jgen(Fig. The greatemphasis on filial piety in the Chinese culture indicates the significance of such a long tradition. the male flower clusters were called p'o. A further distinctly important contribution of hemp fiber to the Chinese culture. Fishing was believed to have preceeded the domestication of animals. The female plant. and was meticulously followed through all ages down to recent times. barley and the soybean. The practice was prescribed in the Li Chi (Book of Rites) of the second century B.159 on Fri. proven to be made of hemp.C. 2).200 years ago (3). rice. Knots were tied in ropes as a means of record keeping before written language. This differentiation also suggests that the use of Cannabisas a food plant had a very early beginning. Ancient literature indicates that hemp fibers were used since time immemorial for making ropes and fishing nets. and tree barkin making paper and presented his new invention to the throne in 105 A. sometimes as Han-ma (Chinese ma). The grave dates from before the reign of Emperor Wu (104-87 B.C. The male plant was called i or hsi and yields the superior fiber. While the name ma was applied to the plant in general. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions BOTANY .200 to 6. the Marquis Ts'ai Lun used old fish nets. as well as to the culture of mankind as a whole. At a very early period the Chinese recognized the Cannabis plant as dioecious. the fruiting clusters ren or pen.D. Whenin later times other fiber plants from the warmer regions of the south. Many subsequent excavations have revealedthat this culture extended along the Yellow River Valley to northeastern China. The original and primary use of Cannabis as a fiber plant also has linguistic evidences. in the ancient chuan script. known as tsu or chiu. it remains the character for hemp (Fig. ragged cloth. was derived from ideographic components representing fibers hanging on a rack and placed under a roofed shack. Ts'ai Lun probably perfected a technique that had been in use for some time. The presence of hemp has been supported by the findings of several other workers. was recently discovered in a grave in Shensi province.long time (1). The oldest existing paper.224. is the role it played in the invention of paper. or hou-ma (fire ma). It has become known as the Yang-shaoculture and is characterized by painted potteries. since Confucian times. The great cultural importance attached to hemp as a textile fiber is clearly indicated by the practice. According to the dynastic history Hou-Han shu. Furthermore. Relics of this culture are now dated by the carbon-14 method as around 5. hemp fibers.200 to 4. of wearing hemp fabric clothes while mourning the death of a parent or parents. Evidence of the use of hemp fibers has been found in Neolithic records in northern China. This evidence appearsas paintings of or impressions of ropes and woven cloth on pottery.) of the Early Han dynasty (5). and hemp itself was known as ta-ma (great ma). Andersson believed that these traces pertained to hemp. as one of the major 294 ECONOMIC This content downloaded from 71. the male and female plants were accorded distinct names. Archeological records have shown that hemp was continuously present in northern China from Neolithic times through all historic time down to the present (4). The character ma. as well as stone or pottery instruments of weaving: spinningwhorls and bone needles.200 years ago. Fish nets and cloth were also made of hemp fibers. the characterma developed into a generic name for fiber. Andersson (2) first discovered the Neolithic culture in Honan province. 1). as well as introduced plants from foreign countries became known. yields edible seeds and inferior fibers from the stem. Paper originated in China in the late Han dynasty.

Definitive records of the medicinal and physiological effects of Cannabis are found in the earliest pharmacopea in existence. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 295 . or earlier.000 B.224. plain chieh script. If taken over a long term. Line 2 represents the vulgar word for ma with the added ''grass'' radical. if taken in excess will produce hallucinations [literally 'seeing devils'].C. archaic chuan script.even prehistoric . In the earliest medical literature this differentiation was clearly noted.cereal grains. The famous Pn-ts'ao Ching.D.. was compiled in the first or second centuries A. C.172.2A Fig. The use of oil from hemp seeds was a later development since it involved the more complicated process of extraction.D.times. Its use as a fiber as well as a grain was mentioned in such classical literature as the Shi Ching (Book of Odes). but was undoubtedly based on traditions passed down from earlier .the seeds were used until at least the 6th century A.159 on Fri. It states that "ma-fen [the fruits of hemp] . cursive hsing script. it was quite natural for him to also discover the medicinal properties of the LI: THE ORIGIN AND USE OF CANNABIS plant. due apparently to its replacement by other. Evolvement of the character ma or hemp (line 1). As ancient man used hemp seeds for food.. B. As grains. Detailed instructions on the cultivation of hemp as both a fiber and a graincrop were given in the most ancient works on agriculturein existence.C. IN EASTERN ASIA This content downloaded from 71. . Column A. superior. . grains of ancient China. attributed to the legendary Emperor Shen-nung of about 2. it makes one communicate with spirits and lightens one's body" (6). In later times the grain was completely forgotten. The edible seeds are enclosed in fruit-coverings which contain a toxic resinous substance. both of about the first and second century B. and Li Chi (Book of Rites). 1.

23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions BOTANY .224. Hou-Han shu. it discharges pus. in which he made a clear distinction between the toxic hemp fruits (ma-fen) and the non-poisonous seeds or kernels.Of the latter he said. In his Ming-ipieh-lu. it is toxic.of the 5th century A.D. Worthy of note is the work of the famous physician T'ao Hung-ching. and the patient recovered in due time. to be taken with wine.159 on Fri.D. The character ma very early 296 ECONOMIC This content downloaded from 71.D. it causes one to communicate with spirits and lightens one's body.172. The famous physician Hua T'o (110207 A.j p'o HEMP FLOWERS jen HEMP SEEDS Fig.D. he noted the difference between the nonpoisonous seeds (ma-tze) and the poisonous fruits (ma-fe^n).-. wrote an herbal in 200 A. it is used for waste diseases and injuries. Different names for the hemp plant and its parts. there is a similar passage in the later work Che^ng-leipen-ts'ao by T'ang She^ng-weiof the 10th century A. 2." In addition to the above statement about the temporal distortion caused by Cannabis.I^ \4am 71 \w ma HEMP hsi dHEMP . If taken over a long term. pAr- Jil chu 9YHEMP pen HEMP FRUITS ma / v. it undoes rheumatism. He stated that "Ma-f6nhas a spicy taste. Wu Pu.) lived at about this time. Necromancers use it in combination with ginseng to set forward time in order to reveal future events. "Ma-f6nis not much used in prescriptions (now-a-days). " That the stupefying effect of the hemp plant was commonly known from extremely early times is also indicated linguistically. After the operation magical balm was applied. records that Hua T'o used ma-fei-san(hempboiling compound). The dynastic clears blood and cools temperature. a disciple of Hua T'o. it relieves fluxes. to anesthetize his patient during surgical operations on abdominal organs. If taken in excess it produces hallucinations and a staggering gait.

mi.224.172. As a radical. mo. porridge (combining ma with "rice") (Fig. grind (combining ma with "stone"). derived from the nature of the plant's fibers. and ma-p'i. 3. assumed two connotations. demon (combining ma with "devil"). As a character it combines with other characters to form such bisyllabic words as ma-tsui. which were used as infusions for medicinal purposes.deviI demon stone grind negative waste hand rub rice porridge Fig. ma combines with many other radicals to form such charactersas LI: THE ORIGIN AND USE OF CANNABIS mo. numb (ma and "wood"). mamu. waste (combining ma with "negative").159 on Fri. rub (combining ma with "hand"). Ma as a component radical with the connotation of "numbness" in the 3 characters above and of "numerous" in the 2 lower ones. IN EASTERN ASIA This content downloaded from 71. apparently derived from the properties of the fruits and leaves. narcotic (ma and "drunkenness"). 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 297 . 3). The second connotation was one of numbness or senselessness. One meaning was "numerous or chaotic". mo. mi.

mobility of the nomadic tribes north of China apparently assisted the movement of the plant to western Asia and from there to India. as in most early cultures. While shamanism.172. where its use as a drug intensified. hallucinogenic practices slowly declined in China beginning with the Age of Confucious. Only in scattered small areas did shamanistic traditions continue in China duringlater ages.159 on Fri. were on the upswing in these other Asiatic locales. 4).narcotic #1KN numb paralysis tangle troublesome Fig. The great words. and Cannabis played an important part in its rituals. The evidence quoted above suggests that the medicinal use of the hemp plant was widely known to the Neolithic peoples of northeastern Asia and shamanism was especially wide-spreadin this northern areaand also in China. and the use of Cannabis in particular. Ma as a character in several bisyllabic paralysis (ma and "rheumatism") (Fig.224. It should be mentioned that in ancient China. medicine had its originin magic. The discontinuation of the use of Can- 298 ECONOMIC This content downloaded from 71. 4. Medicinemen were practicing magicians. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions BOTANY .

They created many kinds of elaborate bronze wine vessels which are among the greatest artistic achievements of ancient peoples. Opium was first introduced. Opium is an Euphorica. During this period of great political disorder. The dominant stream was Confucianism. especially the intelligentsia. although it was greatly developed by him. Its adoption was undoubtedly aided in the beginning by the use of tobacco as an accompaniment. During the 3rd century the Wu-shihsan (5 minerals compound). An exception was during the earliest historic dynasty when the Yin-Shang people of the 18-12th centuries B. a substitute for thgelatter. or more correctly Ju-chia.D. seeking escape from oppressive circumstances.D. These effects were duly noted by Chinese physicians at least from the second century A. Education involves such outward means of development as studying classical teachings. As a drug. and respect for elders are emphasized. The other stream of ancient thought. the intelligentsia. on the other hand. it was gradually adopted as a narcotic. the learned scholar has the responsibility of setting himself up as an example for the masses. or earlier.. a prescription containing cinnabar (mercuric sulfide). closely interwoven and permeating the life of its people at all levels of education. for many people. The discontinuation of the use of Cannabisby the Chinese can perhaps simply be referred to its unsuitability to the Chinese temperament and traditions. this or similar drugs containing mercury and sulfur were used as elixirs of longevity.nabis as a drugin Chinawas due to certain traceable causes. a more passive and fundamental one. From the time of its introduction in the 8th century A. as well as an inward means of self-improvement through the recognition of one's own nature as a moral being and by constant watchfulness over one's self in solitude. Havingachieved a state of knowledge of this self-discipline. Furthermore. and Hsin (faithfulness). though in generalit was never used excessively. Wine was taken from very early times. is IN EASTERN ASIA This content downloaded from 71. Since it was expensive. the practical virtues of filial piety. which had its beginning long before Confucius. is a moral entity who can refrain from wrong doing through education and through the observance of the doctrines of uprightness and moderation (the doctrine of the Mean).C. was widely used in Chinaby certain groups. resorted first to excessive drinking and later to the use of this drug.224. The adoption of the introduced substance opium.172. Man. under military pressure from foreign powers. an hallucinogenic drug that causes mental exhilaration and nervous excitation. Cannabis. reverence for ancestors. I (righteousness). Confucianism is more a moral system or philosophy of life than a religion. Chih (intelligence). though it has been. is a Phantastica. were known to imbibe wine in great quantities. Li (propriety). rules of propriety and ceremony. Overusemay cause rapid movements and under certain situations stimulate uncontrollable violence and criminal inclinations. They were in every respect inconsistent with the philosophy and traditions of Chinese life. In the 19th century. From ancient times Chinese culture was characterized by two basic streamsof thought. Goodness consists of such fundamental virtues as Jen (benevolence). In more recent times tobacco has been adopted with the same enthusiasm it has met in other parts of the world. can be explained on a cultural basis. But even in the T'ang dynasty (618-906). a sedative of mental activity. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 299 . It distorts the sense of LI: THE ORIGIN AND USE OF CANNABIS time and space. in contrast to the lack of general use of the indigenous Cannabis. perhaps by the southern sea route.159 on Fri. Its high toxicity apparently led to the subsequent decline of its use. the superior being. as a medicine from western Asia. its use was confined to the wealthy upper class. its import and use became common throughout China. The teachings of the Confucian School set up a body of ethical doctrines emphasizing the principle that the Universe is regulated by a Natural Order which is moral in essence. The Chinese were not adverse to taking drugs in order to alter states of consciousness. it produced certain physiological effects and some mental stimulation.

The priests offered divination and magic as a means to inward power. Despite the risk of oversimplification. This doctrine closely approaches Confucianism. The oldest documents can thus be read or deciphered. This religion involved a multiplicy of gods and idols. While Buddhism had a more complete theology and. superhuman abilities and immortality. Tao has the meaning of a road or way. as expounded by ancient philosophers. Buddhism in many ways became highly sinicized. unreality and sometimes violence caused by Cannabis would disrupt family life. The Chinese culture is characterized by its uniformity and continuity. If we consider first the question of the Chinese family life. ideographic written language can be used and understood in every part of the vast country. Compounded by its universally adopted doctrine of the Mean and its strong social system based on the family. we can conclude that the Chinese culture. In spite of the vicissitudes of war.172. It could be used communally. and is manifested in everyday life in the strong family system. It signified the course of nature. It is also interesting to note that meditative Buddhism developed mainly among the Chinese rather than among the peoples of India. and the harmony between nature and man. has been considerably affected by Buddhism and Taoism (7). is characterized by a dislike of metaphysics and its common-sense view of morality. who simultaneously followed Confucianism and Buddhism. while difficult. emphasized the doctrine of nonaction. a life which follows the doctrine of moderation and frowns on extremes and excess. the sedative effect of opium is more compatible. It professed the doctrine of self-improvement. especially in view of the large size of families where several generations live together.159 on Fri. In a way it incidentally served to preserve the large 300 ECONOMIC This content downloaded from 71. developing gradually into a religion. or the Meditation School. often in surroundings containing the other amenities of life. these cultural influences seem to provide sufficient background for the universal failure to adopt a drug which causes hallucination and fantasy (8). all eventually settled down in peaceful coexistence. which. or pseudo-religion. patience. the uniformity of basic philosophy at all levels of culture is remarkable. underwent years of rivalry with Taosim and Confucianism. An historical orientation permeates every level of Chinese society. Its monosyllabic characters can be traced back continuously for thousands of years to the early ideograms from which they were derived. contentment and harmony. On the other hand. defying wide distances. in conditioning the reflexes of the Chinese mind.224. which is the primary socializing agency. In the last analysis Ch'an is more a moral philosophy than a religion. The Taoist school of philosophy. Even though there are numerous spoken dialects in China. To most Taoist followers. the difference between the effects of Cannabis and opium can be readily seen. The traditional Chinese philosophy of life is centered on humanism. invasion and natural disaster. The fantasy. We cannot fail to ascribe this uniformity and continuity in part to the unique written Chinese language. the Taoist religion was essentially a sanction of the ethics of simplicity. restored youth. Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. Geographically. The teachings of these Taoist philosophers were adopted by priest-magicians and passed down from generation to generation. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions BOTANY . the same nonphonetic. It thus emphasizes in particular interpersonal relations. the neo-Confucian School. At about the time that Taosim had developed into a religion and therefore was more capable of satisfying deeper instincts within the human nature. Taoism actually encompasses two quite distinct movements. that culture is remarkable in its continuous. On the other hand. became the dominant school of Buddhist thought in China.Taoism. climatic variations and linguistic differences. borrowing and lending ideas and methods. offered man a means whereby he could use his innate resources to overcome obstacles. unbroken history. in the beginning. Buddhism was introduced into China from India. in the Later Han dynasty. ancestor worship and filial piety. which has become the main stream of thought in the thousand years since the Sung dynasty.

in a prehistoric age. Surv. 3. the Chinese were outnumbered 5 to 1. 4. and oil? How about soybean sprouts? Aha! One may look in the index or just stumble upon a section headed "Bean sprouts" (pp. Under the Ancestor's Shadow: Chinese Culture and Personality. live side by side with the native tribes. 1967. 1964. F. 293). The Western personality tends to be more guilt-oriented. 9. 1972. It was also used by smoking locally by the young and old of the Uigurs and other native tribes."No mention is made of the intense interest in guar culture since 1947 and of the multiple and extensive uses of the seed gum in food and other industries. J. REFERENCES AND NOTES 1.000 tons of soybeans in 1971 to Hong Kong and elsewhere and is rapidly increasing production). These non-Han people had adopted the Moslem religion..159 on Fri. whose languages are different from that of Han Chinese. Los Angeles and San Francisco). In a footnote he says that he hopes to demonstrate in a subsequent study that hemp had been cultivated by the Indo-Chinese nations. it is LI: THE ORIGIN AND for clothing" (p. The conformity of an individual in Chinese society is regulated by a culturally instilled sense of shame. 238) given to cluster bean. the Han Chinese. the Uigurs being the majority. tetragonoloba). Andersson. New York and London.. A travel record of 1919 (7) showed that during the first quarter of the 20th century. mash.172. USE OF CANNABIS stated that the pods may be eaten with curries and that the seeds are cooked as a vegetable. Pan Chi-hsin. as material Book Reviews (Continued from page 286) exported over 6. very popularas a pulse in India. curd. [On the problem of dating in the Neolithic culture of our country]. G. 2. better and more widely known as C. V. In reality. sauce. Guilt and Sin. the work of Hsii. Passages of most of these older works were quoted or cited by Li Shih-chen in his Pen-ts'ao kang-mu [Materia Medica]. 11: 48-49. "Alternativeuses of the plant are as a fodder crop. 23 Aug 2013 23:05:15 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 3 01 . flour. A more detailed account on the archeology and history of hemp in China will be given in a separate paper. Hsieh Ping. we are told.. in his work Sino-Iranica. Botanicon sinicum. 1590. However. K'ao-ku 1972. Wen-wu 1964. makes a point of great culture-historical interest about the "fundamental diversity between East-Asiatic and Mediterranean civilizations . 1919. 7. K.224. Hsin-chiang yu-chi [Account of travel in Sinkiang]. thus reinforcing the teachings of filial piety and ancestor reverence. E. 1949. Before that. pt. and here flax. Bretschneider. 1923.oriented personality (Eberhand. in the 13-14th centuries and earlier. 270-272) devoted largely to those of the soybean! In a half-page (p. paste. [The earliest plant-fiber paper in the world]. and thus not challenge social norms. China 5 (1): 26. The adoption of opium and the non-adoption of Cannabis reflect a behavioral response to traditional Chinese society. a shade plant for ginger and as a green manure to be ploughed into the land. Cannabis. And why not pen a few words on the importance of soybean milk. it was not uncommon to find the use of opium by the younger generation encouraged by their elders who were eager to keep the family and its fortune intact. 3. Berthold Laufer. "This bean. with its stimulation of erratic effects. An Chih-min. 8. 6. One begins to suspect that any updating of the manuscript was rather spotty.extended family system. they were largely shamanistic. Shanghai. may be mentioned.there hemp. To the northwest in the Sinkiang province (often known to the West as Chinese Turkestan). 1919." After 3'2 lines on cultivation. 5. As a representative for reference to the subject matter particularly concerned with this discourse. especially the Chinese and Tibetans. The opium user was more likely to remain pacific and sedated. was likely to induce acts that might bring shame upon the user or his family. mostly immigrants. Geol. or guar (Cyamopsis psoralioides. no such paper seems to have been actually published by him. the Han Chinese minority were observed to refrain entirely from the use of Cannabis. In contrast to these tribal peoples. The literature of Chinese culture is too extensive for citation here. Large quantities of Cannabis were grown there at that time for export to Kashmirand India. L. IN EASTERN ASIA This content downloaded from 71. Bull. The Confucian personality is a shame . cheese. An early Chinese culture. W. 6: 35-44. That there is a cultural background associated with the non-use of Cannabis can be illustrated vividly by a situation in the remote hinterlands. 1895. is not grown in Hong Kong. translates many of these entries into English.