British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and by Fa-ti Fan

By Fa-ti Fan

within the eighteenth and 19th centuries, Western clinical curiosity in China centred totally on normal heritage. favourite students in Europe in addition to Westerners in China, together with missionaries, retailers, consular officials, and vacationing plant hunters, eagerly investigated the wildlife of China. but regardless of the significance and volume of this clinical task, it's been completely overlooked through historians of technology.

This booklet is the 1st complete examine in this subject. In a sequence of brilliant chapters, Fa-ti Fan examines the study of British naturalists in China when it comes to the heritage of ordinary heritage, of empire, and of Sino-Western family members. the writer offers a breathtaking view of ways the British naturalists and the chinese language explored, studied, and represented China's flora and fauna within the social and cultural atmosphere of Qing China.

utilizing the instance of British naturalists in China, the writer argues for reinterpreting the historical past of typical background, via together with overlooked ancient actors, highbrow traditions, and cultural practices. His process strikes past viewing the heritage of technology and empire inside eu background and considers the alternate of principles, aesthetic tastes, fabric tradition, and vegetation and animals in neighborhood and worldwide contexts. This compelling publication offers an cutting edge framework for knowing the formation of clinical perform and data in cultural encounters.

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The naturalists mailed their correspondents and British museums all sorts of curiosities. So little was known about China that the scientific community in Britain welcomed almost anything. ”62 They also received requests for assistance directly from commercial nurseries. ”63 22 TH E P OR T The activities of these energetic new arrivals even stimulated some of the senior members who previously had been lethargic in tropical China. 65 Morrison at one point assembled eight hundred volumes of Chinese medical works, gathered all the drugs found in the apothecaries’ shops, and conducted interviews with Chinese doctors with the intention of exploring Chinese medicine and materia medica.

Because the quota was barely enough for the crew’s needs, the person in charge of the plants had to be frugal with every drop of the water set aside for them. When it rained, he would expose the plants for a soaking and collect rainwater for future use. Salt spray was a fearsome killer of the plants; salt quickly crystallized on the leaves and had to be wiped off with a sponge, sometimes several times a day. Animals on board posed another problem for the protection of the plants. Dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and monkeys—all of which were common on every ship—could cause havoc.

At the Markets With only minimal freedom of movement, the naturalists rarely went farther on their “expeditions” than the gardens, nurseries, fish markets, Natural History in a Chinese Entrepôt 27 drugstores, and curio-shops in the district. The collectors for the Horticultural Society, for example, made most of their collections from local gardens and nurseries, supplemented by the fruits of a few excursions to the hills in Macao. 81 Although collecting specimens at the markets might appear idiosyncratic to a modern reader, it was actually neither new nor unusual.

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