On the Origins, Diffusion and Cultural Context of Fermented Fish Products in Southeast Asia

Kenneth Ruddle
Naomichi Ishige



A basic reconstruction is made of the origin and diffusion of fermented fish products in East Asia by combining information on the history of human migrations, cultural borrowing and ethno-linguistics. It is assumed that (1) simple shiokara was the prototypical fermented fish product from which the others were elaborated independently; (2) fish preservation was needed only in areas of pronounced seasonality of local fish availability; (3) fish fermentation developed first among sedentary farmers; (4) prior to organized commerce, fish fermentation originated and developed only where salt was easily obtained; and (5) fish fermentation developed in a focal region(s) of continental East Asia, later diffusing to peninsular and insular regions through the migration of peoples, cultural borrowing and commerce.


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Kenneth RuddleKenneth Ruddle received a B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Manchester, in 1964, and a PhD from the University of California, in 1970. At present he is a Professor in the School of Policy Studies of Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan. Ruddle specializes in the human ecology of tropical regions, and has done extensive fieldwork in South America and Africa, in addition to East Asia, his main area of focus. Dr. Ruddle’s main research interest is the human ecology of tropical aquatic resources management, especially pre-existing systems and their local knowledge base.  He is the author or editor of 40 books, and has also published some 150 scientific articles, contributed chapters and similar publications. He is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.


Naomichi Ishige: Director-General of National Museum of Ethnology from 1997-2003, Professor Ishige Naomichi is a cultural anthropologist specialized in food culture. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Oceania, Africa and Southeast and Northeast Asia. He received his BA in 1963, from Kyoto University, and was awarded a doctorate by Tokyo University of Agriculture in 1986. Widely published, Professor Ishige is the author or co-author of over 80 books, and more than 100 academic articles and related works.