Some History about Bird's Nest.
Bird's Nest is often called the ‘Caviar of the East' or ‘White Gold' because of its value and rarity.
During the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907 A.D.), only Chinese royalty and high-ranking officials were giving the privilege of consuming bird's nest.
Bird's Nest became a delicacy in the late Ming's (1405-1433 A.D.) and early Ching (1644-1911 A.D.) Dynasty when its medicinal benefits were documented.
The origin of trade in bird's nest remains a mystery. But a leading authority on the history and chemistry of bird's nest, Dr. Yun-Cheung Kong, retired professor of biochemistry from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believes that bird's nest have been eaten in China for over 1500 years. Through documentation describing the natural history of the Fujian coast, he discovered that people in China had been collecting bird's nest as a cash crop since 500 years ago.
When the supplies of bird's nest in China were exhausted Dr, Kong noted that they were imported from countries spanning the eastern tip of the Indian sub-continent to Southeast Asian regions, such as Indonesia and Borneo. The discovery of Tang Dynasty porcelain near the Niah Caves in Sarawak (which was traditionally traded for bird's nest) led Dr. Kong to suggest that the importation of the delicacy can go as far back as 700 A.D.
Early in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), the famous Chinese Admiral Ho Cheng made 7 voyages through Southeast Asian with his armada of ‘treasure ships'. His armada, which comprised of hundred of ships and thousands of men, was sent to survey lands to the south of China. He was also given instructions by the Emperor to record the diet and produce of these foreign lands. Admiral Cheng's route did go past the major bird's nest producing sites and it is possible that he brought back some bird's nest back to the Imperial court. Some authorities credit Ho Cheng with introducing foreign bird's nests to China, although there were no written records to prove this.
Though Chinese medical books (dating back to more than 2000 years ago) did not go into bird's nest in great detail, the classics did. They claimed that the famous traveling Emperor, Qian Long of the Ching Dynasty, never start a day without his favorite bowl of double-boiled bird's nest as he had strong faith in its nutritional value.
Because of its rarity, bird's nest as always been seen as an item of prestige, it was believed that the royal family rewarded brave warriors, beauties and nobles with bird's nest, in addition to various valuables such as gold, jade, pearl, ginseng for their loyalty to the throne. This was probably how bird's nest attained its status as a precious commodity, a delicacy as well as a demonstration of wealth and power.
At the start of the Ching Dynasty in 1644 AD, people widely recognized bird's nest as one of the four great tonic foods. The Sui Yan Shih Tan, a book on edible substances, records the ‘Swiftlet's nest is a valuable item and is not to be used carelessly'. In the medical classic Pen Tsao Feng Yuan, bird's nest is listed as the most tractable and versatile of foods as ‘it nourishes the lungs, stops colds as it is a tonic and clears up the chest'. Since then, bird's nest has been widely regarded as an effective and natural health food.
During the rule of Kuang Hsu (1871-1908 AD), Empress Dowager Tsui His was known to dine on 7 different types of bird's nest dishes for breakfast to preserve her health and youth. Even in the classic literary masterpiece, ‘Dream of the Red Chamber', the heroine Dai-Yu Lin takes bird's nest everyday as she suffers from coughing and asthma.