Heqing ham

Ark of taste
Back to the archive >


Heqing ham is produced from pork legs treated with Heqing barley wine and salt, then dried and fermented. Traditionally, meat is obtained from the local Diannan small-eared pig, but today a locally bred hybrid pig is also used. Small-scale farmers typically raise the pigs for themselves; they feed them with natural fodder and slaughter pigs by themselves or with the help of friends or family. Slaughter usually takes place for celebrations or festivals, such as the spring festival that brings in the Lunar New Year. The ham is also served or given as a gift to guests. Because the whole pig is not consumed at once, parts are processed for long-term conservation. Families either consume the meat throughout the year or sell or exchange it for other goods. Heqing ham is traditionally produced in Hequing County in the province of Yunnan, in southern China. Because only two hind legs are obtained from each pig, only two Heqing hams can be made at a time. The traditional production method has been handed down for generations, becoming a part of the local culture and dating back over 400 years to the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), when it was even served to the emperor. It has also been documented in records dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1636 – 1912). Heqing ham received many national awards and recognition in the 1900s in China. Before modern transportation, the preserved Heqing hams provided food security to families when it would otherwise be difficult to obtain fresh pork. Today, however, with easy access to fresh pork and already prepared hams, fewer and fewer people still make Heqing hams in the home today. Many farmers instead sell their entire supply of pork without reserving the legs for making ham. Changes to the culture, due to the flood of TV and Internet access in the past 30 years, means that many younger generations prefer to eat ‘modern’ imported fast foods over traditional foods. These younger people are also not learning the production process, meaning that this tradition may be lost in a few generations.

Back to the archive >




Production area:Heqing County

Other info


Cured meats and meat products

Indigenous community:Bai
Nominated by:Li Qing