Cannabis Use in Ancient China: Funerals and Porridge

China allows the use of cannabis strictly for industrial purposes (hemp) and some forms of medicine. Recreational use, however, is largely demonized by the Chinese government and widely viewed as unacceptable. Cannabis use in Ancient China is a totally different story.

Cannabis Rituals at Funerals

The tone was a little different roughly 2,500 years ago. Specifically in the ancient civilizations in the Xinjiang region of northwest China. Researchers in the summer of last year reported finding evidence of cannabis use as part of funeral ceremonies. Cannabis char was discovered on wooden braziers in nine separate tombs. All tombs were located in the Jirzankal Cemetery on the Pamir Plateau in northwest China. For those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t), a wooden brazier is a container used “to burn charcoal or other solid fuel for cooking, heating or cultural rituals”. The wooden braziers found in the tombs contained stones that were heated to light up the cannabis.

Theories on these findings suggest that cannabis was possibly used during funeral rituals to communicate with the spirits of the deceased or perhaps nature. These rituals would also most likely be accompanied by music.

Tang Dynasty Cannabis Use in Porridge

In addition to funeral rituals, cannabis was also thought to be consumed in Ancient China in cannabis porridge. During the Tang Dynasty in China (618 to 907 A.C.) cannabis may have been considered more essential than rice. We haven’t found much related to the preparation of cannabis dishes during this time. We would be particularly curious to find out if decarboxylation was part of their edible cannabis preparation. Cannabis seeds found from this time are nearly twice the typical size of a cannabis seed today. They were likely much less lower in THC than what’s available now though.

It turns out that the THC arms race may be coming to a close, but that’s a topic for another day. We’ll be curious to see how the legalization landscape in China changes with time, or if it will ever be appreciated again in it’s ancient ritualistic forms.

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