marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

A World Trimmed with Fur

A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule by Jonathan Schlesinger

An interesting look at a complex of issues in Qing rule.

The Qing, of course, was a foreign dynasty -- the Manchus. Their attempts to preserve the pure Manchu Way, what with purity, simplicity, manliness, uncorrupted by contact with China, were a major part of this. (Down to an emperor urging that children be allowed to play in the garden in spring and summer, not be pent up on the verenada.)

But it pulled in a lot of other issues. A Korean observed they had all been corrupted into barbaric attire: everyone [of importance, that is] wore fur. The harvesting of "eastern" pearls -- from freshwater mussels in Manuchria. Alos of ginseng. They scorned American ginseng but also cultivated in China or Manchuria ginseng; the legal response was to destroy ginseng farms on finding them, to prevent the fraud. Fur and the decline. The great mushroom rush, where men illegally crossed the border to Mongolia to harvest "steppe mushrooms."

This produces a mix from the symbolic significance of these products, to all the trade issues, to the environmental efforts to restore productivity from overharvesting. Interesting work. Might have helped if I had been a bit more familiar with Qing before I read it -- particularly ruling structure -- but I think most of it can be read between the lines.
Tags: ethos, history reviews: 15th-18th centuries, history reviews: far east

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