The Chinese are not just fond of wild mushrooms, they respect them as being an important medicinal herb and a food which belongs to the ‘yin’ group of foods. (Balance is achieved, according to Chinese belief, by balancing the yin and the yang).
The most of the edible fungi can be found in the southwest China, more specifically in the Yunnan Province, so any concentrated effort to pick mushrooms, should be concentrated here. It is estimated that up to 63% of Chinese edible fungi are to be found here. Unlike in Britain and Europe, the mushroom season is more prolonged, with May to October being the season for mushrooms.
Please note that the Chinese do not appear to be as knowledgeable about which mushrooms are toxic, as their European counterparts. In 2005 alone 48 people died in this province as a result of eating toxic mushrooms, so exercise extreme caution prior to eating any you have collected.
There are a number of mushrooms to be found in China and these are similar to those found in Europe. For example, the porcini mushroom (also known as cep) is quite common. The Chanterelle and morel are also to be found quite easily, and the shiitake mushroom is very common. Mushrooms can be big business in China, because they are a major exporter of wild mushrooms. Many of those exported have actually been commercially reared, but some will have been picked wild. The authentically wild ones are usually prized more than reared, simply because they have a stronger taste.
Oyster mushrooms are also to be found in the Yunnan Province, but perhaps the biggest ‘jewel’ in the Yunnan’s ‘mushroom crown’ is that the truffle also grows here. Truffles are notoriously difficult to force and even then it can take five years or so before the grower knows if they are there or not. Again, the prized ones are the ones which are wild. However, realistically it is unlikely that you would be able to source these.
Mushroom picking tours are not big business in China, although this may change if tour operators spot a gap in the market. Yet the fact that mushrooms are regarded as a medicinal herb, as well as a foodstuff, may actually mean that there is resistance to wild mushrooms being taken by foreigners.
With regard to picking or collecting mushrooms in China, there is no standard code or rule, but you should always ensure that you are permitted to pick mushrooms, i.e. that the owner does not object (even if the owner is the state) and for ecological purposes you should cut the mushrooms above ground, using a knife. It is also best to only pick mushrooms which are not too small, so they will have had the chance to propagate, prior to being picked. You should also bear in mind that the Chinese have about 101 different uses for mushrooms and therefore may not look kindly on people just taking them, so always be sensitive and courteous.