History of Bird Nests (燕窝) 

There are several claims to the history of edible bird nests, mostly across countries in South-East Asia. However, almost all the claims point in one direction which is China. Almost 1500 years ago, edible bird nest which was initially called Swallow Nests was first discovered during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) in China.  

Several historical records indicated that the traditional Chinese Medicine Book which was about healthy foods and nutrition revealed that over 500 years ago, Swallow nests (now called bird nests) were imported into China from across the south east regions of Asian.   

History of Bird Nests

It was disclosed that Admiral Cheng Ho was actually the one who brought the edible bird nest found in Southeast Asia to the Chinese emperor. From that moment, bird nests became a constant delicacy for Chines royal families. The ladies during that period were constantly taking the bird nests soup to maintain their beauty and for healthy living.  

Zheng He Maps

Notably among several prominent Chinese people who consume the bird nest soup due to its medicinal values are literary heroine Lin Dai Yu, charming empress Dowager Tsu His, as well as the well-known migrant Emperor Qian Long of the Ching Dynasty. Also, Empress Wu Ze Tian, the only Chinese female empress was known for eating bird nest soup.  

Wu Ze Tian

However, during the great reign of the Tang Dynasty, bird nests consumption was only for the family of the Emperor and officials working in his court. Due to the rare nature of bird nests it was considered an indication of affluence and power and seen as food preserved only for the influential.  

At the end of Tang Dynasty’s reign bird nest consumption was open to the public and the fame of the unique medicinal soup spread far and wide.  

During the Ming (1405-1433 AD) and early Ching (1644-1911 AD) Dynasties, the medicinal values of bird nest were mentioned in several records.  According to the medical masterwork Pen Tsao Feng Yuan, it was indicated that bird nests strengthens the lungs, and is an anti-aging medicine. 


Also, in the book Ben Jing Feng Yuan, which was the handiwork of Zhang Lu Cheng in 1659, it was mentioned that bird nest is enjoyable and mild. It nourishes the kidney and lungs, good for the stomach and general well-being.  

In 1921, the Xie Guan published the Medical Dictionary of China. The medical dictionary clearly outlines the several medical benefits of bird nests. It was mentioned that bird nests has the power to nourish the lungs, invigorate qi, balance qi, enhance appetite, boost sperm production in males, stop cough, effective in dissolving phlegm, act as an aphrodisiac and  galvanize bone marrow.    

Today, bird nests are also referred to as Caviar of the East, and are consumed across Southeast Asia and other part of the world by those who cherish its unique taste and medicinal value. Several contemporary research studies have strengthened earlier claims that bird nests can cure several ailments.     


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