The archaeological evidence for human consumption of honey in China dates back to the seventh millennium BCE, while the earliest reference to beekeeping is in a third century CE biography of a reclusive scholar who kept bees during the mid-second century. Based mainly upon previously untranslated Chinese sources, this paper traces the development of beekeeping in China from the second century up until shortly before modern beekeeping methods were introduced to China at the turn of the twentieth century. It discusses the nature of the source material, before exploring the methods used by Chinese beekeepers to try to increase production, control swarming, maintain colonies over winter, and harvest honey, as well as their understanding of bee behavior in relation to the “governance” of the colony and honey production.

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