Packaging is closely related to people’s daily life. Traditionally the guidelines on packaging in China are always “for the convenience of the users” and “pleasing to the eyes.”
In earlier days, natural materials were used in packing such as tree leaves, bamboo, lotus leaves, palm leaves, gourds, cocoanut shells, shells of shellfish, animal skin, etc. Later on, man-made material were used including fabrics, ceramics, metals, lacquer ware, woodware, jadeware, paper, etc. As early as the late years of the primitive society, packaging had already started. Bamboo tubes, gourd shells, cocoanut shells, earthen jugs, etc. were used to hold liquids; baskets made from bamboo or willow twigs, were used to hold solid objects. Sometimes commodities were directed wrapped in bamboo leaves, lotus leaves, etc. In China materials, ornaments and styles in packaging differ in different historical periods, changing with the productivity, and scientific and technological development, and conforming to the fashion of the time.
The pottery wares emerged in the Neolithic Age was the first great invention of man-made packaging materials. In comparison with natural materials, they have the advantages of being durable, antiseptic, and anti-worm-eaten. They also excel in long-distance transportation and in being various in forms. It is interesting that the earliest food cans were discovered in China – the twelve airtight food cans unearthed in Baoshan of Hubei in 316 B.C. These cans were tightly sealed with multi-layer materials such as straw mats, bamboo leaves, wet clay, etc. Individual cans were cased with bamboo baskets having a handle above for convenient carrying. On the outmost layer, silk was covered before they were tied up with thin bamboo strips or silk ribbon, which were sealed with clay, attached with label bearing the description of the food contained in the can. By this process the food can be kept for a long period of time without going bad or discoloring.