Jour. Race Development

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Ancient Asia with its European annex is split into two large, sharply defined economic camps, as regards the production and consumption of milk and other dairy products. The entire East-Asiatic world, inclusive of China, Korea, Japan, Indo-China, and all Malayans, does not take animal milk for food, and evinces a deep-rooted aversion toward it; and this was the state of affairs even in remotest times. On the other hand, all Indo-European peoples, the Semites, the ancient Scythians, and all nomadic tribes of northern and central Asia, as Turks, Mongols, and Tibetans, are all milk drinkers, and were so in early historical times. The remarkable feature about this case certainly is not the bare fact that the East-Asiatics abstain from milk—for the aboriginal tribes of America and Australia and others, simply for the lack of milk-producing animals, do exactly the same—but the essential point is that the Chinese and their followers adhere to this practice, despite an abundance of milk-furnishing domestic animals in their possession, and despite long-enduring intercourse with neighboring milk-consuming peoples, whose habits and mode of life were very familiar to them. They rear cows, buffalo, mares, camels, sheep, goats, all animals from which milk could be derived, but they do not even understand how to milk them. They were at all times surrounded by Turkish and Mongol peoples, whose daily sustenance depends upon milk and kumiss, butter and cheese. This fact has been perfectly known to the Chinese, but, notwithstanding, they never acquired the habit. In India and Indo-China we face the same striking fact, in that the aboriginal inhabitants, though willing to submit to the higher civilization of the Aryan Hindu, never adopted from them the custom of milk drinking. It follows, therefore, that our consumption of animal milk cannot be looked upon as a self-evident and spontaneous phenomenon, for which it has long been taken, but that it is a mere matter of e ducated force of habit. As natural as it appears to us, owing to time-honored practice and tradition, so just as unnatural, tedious, and barbarous does it strike the Chinese and other peoples of eastern Asia, who uphold that it is cruel to deprive the calf of its mother’s milk. This ethical opinion, surely does not give the true reason for their abstinence from milk, but is no more than a speculative afterthought. No less remarkable is it that no religious tabu is placed on milk in any of the Eastern religions, and that the aversion is not prompted by motives of any religious character; it is purely a matter of social and economic life.1

1Laufer, B.n/an/an/an/an/a, "Some Fundamental Ideas of Chinese Culture," , 5: 167–168.

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Chicago: Jour. Race Development in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . Jour. Race Development, Vol. 5, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Jour. Race Development. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from