"It was hardly surprising that, for the Chinese,
the words 'meat' and 'pork' became,
and remain, synonymous."
-- concluding sentence
to Chapter 2 "Changing the Face of the Earth,"
Reay Tannahill, Food in History (NY: Three Rivers Press, 1988)
Food Revolution #2: The Meaning of Eating
-- the discovery that food is more than sustenance
For a comprehensive review of pork avoidance
and its historical and social importance see
Frederick J. Simoons,
Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances form Prehistory to the Present, 2nd Ed.
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1994)
"To Chinese, pig symbolizes prosperity and health. Pork is the principle ingredient of the main course of Chinese feasts and it is the best choice of offerings. In contrast, pig is unclean to Muslims. It surely would not be found on their dining table. Conflict is inevitable when these two values meet. The scene is set in Malaysia, home to 12 million Muslims and 6 million Chinese. A group of Chinese who make their living in the pig business confronts Muslims who are forbidden to eat pork; Chinese Muslims are often caught in the crossfire. What is the solution to this deep-rooted ethnic dilemma?"
"This fascinating film illustrates how religious differences, even on the basic level of dietary prohibitions, can affect the way neighbors interact. It focuses on Malaysia, home to 12 million Muslims and 6 million Chinese. Islam bans the eating of pork, considering it unclean, while the Chinese have treasured pork for thousands of years. The ancient Chinese character for 'home' was a pig. For the Chinese the pig is a symbol of prosperity and all celebrations involve a pig roast."
"Pig Commandments outlines the ways in which the Muslim prohibition to eat pork affects the relationship between the Chinese and Muslims in this part of the world. There is legislation to keep pig farms away from the Muslim population. Many Chinese in Malaysia have converted to Islam. For them, the Koran has been translated into Chinese; and four chapters of the Koran deal with the prohibition to eating pork. One Chinese convert describes the problem with eating with her family. Only once a year when the Chinese celebrate the New Year with a vegetarian meal, can she join her family at dinner."
"The Pig Commandments shows how dietary laws can divide people or being them closer together. It demonstrates dramatically the social effects of food regulations and the sensitivity of people who are offended by another culture’s eating habits. Scholars, religious leaders, and people of both religions express their feelings about this contentious issue. In addition we see how generations of pig farmers are proud of their succulent product."