You are here: HomeHemp History

Hemp History

Hemp History
Read about the rich history of hemp and hemp products:

1000 - 500 BCE: The Chinese Book of Odes praises cannabis

A poem from the Shih Ching, handwritten by the Qianlong Emperor, along with a painting.The ancient Chinese Shih Ching (Book of Odes), is a compilation of songs composed between 1000-500 BCE; an anthology compiled from the works of various anonymous authorship.

Hemp is mentioned seven times in the Book Of Odes. One poem states that to soak hemp to remove the glue is a woman's task. Another poem says, "The pond at the East Gate, can be used to soak the hemp." Four variations for ma are given in the first dictionary, Shuo-wen chieh-tzu, compiled by Hsu Shen in the Eastern Han period. The Chi-chiu-pien, a primer composed in the first century BCE for teaching and writing, lists rice, millet and hemp in one sentence. Government records of the Han period show that a roll of rough to medium hemp cloth cost about 300-400 cash, and plain silk cost slightly more than medium hemp fabric.[1]

Read more...

1000 BCE: Bhang is first used in Hindu rites in India

BhangshopBhang is made from cannabis leaves and buds and is smoked or consumed as a beverage in the Indian subcontinent.[1] The Bhang recipe is based on ancient Vedic traditions, and is said to be over 4000 years old. Bhang was first used as part of the Hindu rite in India around 1000 BC. Around the eigth century CE Bhang was integrated into the medical practice of Ayurveda, where it became an integral part of Hindu culture.

Read more...

140 BCE: The first paper is made from hemp

Ba Qiao paper found in a tomb in Xi'anBefore the invention of  paper, typical ancient Chinese writing materials were bronzewares and animal bones. By the beginning of the Han Dynasty, the chief writing materials were clay tablets, silk cloth, and rolled scrolls made from bamboo strips sewn together with hemp string; these were passed through drilled holes and secured with clay stamps.[1]

According to ancient legend, the invention of the paper was made by Ts'ai Lun, a eunuch in the Chinese imperial court. To call the attention of the emperor, Ts'ai Lun posed as dead and ordered burned hemp paper around his coffin. Then he organized his own resurrection and attributed the power of his new invention. Since then, the Chinese tend to burn hemp paper at their funerals.

Although legend credits Ts'ai-Lun with the invention, excavations in a tomb near Xi'an  in Shaanxi province recovered the world's oldest piece of paper dating from 140 - 87 BCE.[2] This type of paper, also known as Ba Qiao paper, was made during the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE to 24 CE) analysis showed it was made from pounded and desintegrated cannabis fiber[3]. The paper was generally very thick, coarse and uneven in their texture. Scraps of hemp paper have also been recovered from Han dynasty tombs in the Shanxi province.

 

1. Loewe, Michael. 1968. Everyday Life in Early Imperial China during the Han Period 202 BC–AD 220. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd
2.Temple, Robert K. G. 1986.  China - Land of Discovery.  Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough
3.Xi'an Banpo Museum Publication 1963.
Research and text © Hempshopper Amsterdam.

77 CE: Dioscorides described cannabis in 'De Materia Medica'

Later representation of Pedanius DioscoridesPedanius Dioscorides (circa 40—90 CE) was a Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist and the author of a 5-volume encyclopedia or pharmacopeia about herbal medicine and related medicinal substances: 'De Materia Medica'. Written in five books around the year 77, 'De Materia Medica' deals with approximately 1,000 simple drugs.

The travels Dioscorides made as a surgeon with the armies of the Roman emperor Nero provided him an opportunity to study the features, distribution, and medicinal properties of many plants and minerals.[1] It documented the description and direct observations of plants, fruits, seeds, the effects that various drugs had on patients. Excellent descriptions of nearly 600 plants along with a number of therapeutically useful animal and mineral products, including colchicum, water hemlock, peppermint and cannabis, are contained in the Materia Medica.

Read more...

77 - 79 CE: Pliny the Elder describes the cultivation and the industrial and medical use of cannabis

Pliny the ElderGaius Plinius Secundus (23 CE – August 25, 79 CE), better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire. Spending most of his spare time studying, writing or investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field, he wrote an encyclopedic work, Naturalis Historia, which became a model for all such works written subsequently.[1]

The Natural History (Latin: Naturalis Historia) is an encyclopedia published circa CE 77–79. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available to Pliny. The Natural History consists of 37 books. In books XII–XXVII he describes Botany, including agriculture, horticulture and pharmacology. In book XIX and XX Pliny describes the industrial, medical use and cultivation of cannabis.

Read more...

199 CE: Claudius Galen describes the hedonistic use of marijuana

Claudius GalenAelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus (September CE 129 – 199/217), was a prominent Roman (of Greek ethnicity) physician, surgeon and philosopher.

Arguably the most accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity, Galen contributed greatly to the understanding of numerous scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, pathology,pharmacology,and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic. Galen may have produced more work than any author in antiquity, his output was so profuse that the surviving texts represent nearly half of all the extant literature from ancient Greece.

In his work, 'On the Properties of Foodstuff',  Claudius Galen describes the hedonistic use of cannabis. He compared hemp to the chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) the sacred tree of Hera which has a very similar apearance. He wrote that in Italy it was customary to serve small cakes containing marijuana for dessert.  These increased the desire to drink; excessive use, however had a stupefying effect.[1]

Read more...

200 - 300 CE: Goths bring cannabis to Central Europe

Gothic raidsThe Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe.

The Ostrogoths developed a vast empire north of the Black Sea in the 3rd century CE. Invading southward from the Baltic Sea, they built up a huge empire stretching from the Dniester to the Volga river and from the Black Sea to the Baltic shores. The Ostrogoths were probably literate in the 3rd century, and their trade with the Romans was highly developed.[1]

In the second and third century CE the Ostrogoths brought hemp from western Russia to central Europe. It marks the beginning of the use of cannabis as fibre in this area. The Slavonic migrations of the ninth century gave futher impetus to the spread and cultivation of hemp.[2]

The Visigoths were the western branches of the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples referred to collectively as the Goths. They too knew the value of cannabis. Woven into a stout fabric, Visigoths used hemp for protection in fighting as long as metal armour was relatively rare in 'Germania'.[3]

Read more...

700 CE: Hemp is used in Shinto ceremonies

Shinto shrineHemp has an important function in the mythology of Shinto, the "Way of the Gods", as the ancient indigenous religion of Japan is known. Shinto or Shintoism, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past.  Plants, animals, rocks, trees all possess a sort of spirit or reverence which can be terrifying or peaceful.

Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 8th century.

Hemp was used to purify, to drive out evil (exorcism). Ceremonies at major shrines such as Ise Jingu in Mie prefecture involved the burning of taima (cannabis). Hemp seeds are used in Shinto marriage ceremonies and some ceremonies hemp leaves are burnt as an "invitation to the spirits".[1]

Read more...

700 CE: Hemp is used in Shinto ceremonies (2)

Shinto shrineHemp has an important function in the mythology of Shinto, the "Way of the Gods", as the ancient indigenous religion of Japan is known. Shinto or Shintoism, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past.  Plants, animals, rocks, trees all possess a sort of spirit or reverence which can be terrifying or peaceful.

Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 8th century.

Hemp was used to purify, to drive out evil (exorcism). Ceremonies at major shrines such as Ise Jingu in Mie prefecture involved the burning of taima (cannabis). Hemp seeds are used in Shinto marriage ceremonies and some ceremonies hemp leaves are burnt as an "invitation to the spirits".[1]

Read more...

800 CE: Vikings utilize cannabis

In 1903, Norwegian Archaeologists discovered a massive Viking ship at Oseberg (just South of Oslo, Norway) - buried in a burial mound. A great number of everyday items and artifacts were found during the 1904-1905 excavations. The find includes a small piece of cannabis material, the use of which has not been determined,  and four hemp seeds.

Read more...

1098 – 1179: St.Hildegard Grows 'Cannabus' In Her Herbal Garden

Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), also known as Saint Hildegard, was a German Benedictine abbess and a writer, composer, herbalist and mystic. She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, songs, poems, and arguably the oldest surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature Illuminations.

Hildegard of Bingen was well known for her healing powers involving practical application of tinctures, herbs, and precious stones. She grew 'Cannabus' in her herbal garden and recommended it against nausea and stomache troubles.

Read more...

Subcategories