marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T'ang Exotics by Edward H. Schafer

A discussion of foreign things brought to T'ang as tribute and in trade, and attitudes toward them.

Opens with a discussion about foreign relations -- normally they had their own sectors in cities, and could not live intermingled with native Chinese -- and various laws about the tribute and the trade. Emperors who wanted to appear virtuous or warlike might reject things as frivolous. Or slaves might be returned home on the grounds that such a breaking of family ties was unfitting.

Also a discussion of how the other lands were divided up -- as far as Rome. (The Greek legend of the war between the pygmies and the cranes certainly made it to China in this time.)

Then follows a catalog of the exotics, by subject. Though in discussion of food stuffs, medicines, and aromatics in particular, he talks of how arbitrary the divisions are.

Some entries are brief. One creature could have been a weasel or a ferret from the description, and we know nothing more. Others can be expanded on, such as the lion, and the tales of how one had frightened a dragon from a well, and other appearances in poetry. How perfume was compounded, and the various places it came from, and the heavy use of it -- Taoist legend in particular, but also Buddhist ones, were filled with perfume. And many more things.
Tags: history reviews: far east

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