Books

05.15.17

A World Trimmed with Fur

Jonathan Schlesinger
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, booming demand for natural resources transformed China and its frontiers. Historians of China have described this process in stark terms: pristine borderlands became breadbaskets. Yet Manchu and Mongolian archives reveal a different story. Well before homesteaders arrived, wild objects from the far north became part of elite fashion, and unprecedented consumption had exhausted the region’s most precious resources.In A World Trimmed with Fur, Jonathan Schlesinger uses these diverse archives to reveal how Qing rule witnessed not the destruction of unspoiled environments, but their invention. Qing frontiers were never pristine in the nineteenth century—pearlers had stripped riverbeds of mussels, mushroom pickers had uprooted the steppe, and fur-bearing animals had disappeared from the forest. In response, the court turned to “purification”; it registered and arrested poachers, reformed territorial rule, and redefined the boundary between the pristine and the corrupted. Schlesinger’s resulting analysis provides a framework for rethinking the global invention of nature. —Stanford University Press{chop}

Manchu, Former Empire's Language, Hangs On at China's Edge

New York Times
Descendants of the settlers struggle to keep a nearly vanished tongue alive

China’s Ethnic Manchus Rediscovering Their Roots

Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Times
Aristocracy is no longer a dirty word in China, and those with ties to the nation's last imperial rulers are now embracing their past...

Reinventing the Manchus: An Imperial People in Post-Imperial China

Mark Elliott
China Story
With the 1911 overthrow of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), many predicted that the dynasty’s ethnic founders, the Manchus, would soon be swallowed up by the Han majority – the final act in a long process of acculturation that began in 1644, which even...

Un-Chinese Activities

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In the first week of November 1728, China’s Emperor Yongzheng (who reigned between 1723 and 1735) ruled over something like 200 million people and the vast territory that Beijing today claims as the People’s Republic. He had plenty on his mind. He...

Still Mysterious

John K. Fairbank from New York Review of Books
Within mainland China today the ratio of Westerners to Chinese is probably no greater than it was in Marco Polo’s time seven hundred years ago. Sino-foreign contact is so minimal that it almost meets the old Taoist stay-at-home ideal, “to live...