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 ordinary historical past. widespread 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 medical task, it's been fullyyt ignored through historians of technology.

This booklet is the 1st complete research in this subject. In a chain of brilliant chapters, Fa-ti Fan examines the study of British naturalists in China relating to the historical past of common historical past, of empire, and of Sino-Western relatives. the writer provides 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 surroundings of Qing China.

utilizing the instance of British naturalists in China, the writer argues for reinterpreting the background of usual historical past, via together with overlooked old actors, highbrow traditions, and cultural practices. His technique strikes past viewing the historical past of technological know-how and empire inside of eu historical past and considers the trade of principles, aesthetic tastes, fabric tradition, and vegetation and animals in neighborhood and international contexts. This compelling e-book presents an leading edge framework for figuring out the formation of clinical perform and information in cultural encounters.

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In a good trade season, a mighty fleet of one hundred trade ships could be moored at Whampoa, stretching out for miles. Whampoa’s thousands of residents were nearly all engaged in providing different services to the ships (such as labor, repair, and food supplies). Once having landed, foreign traders boarded boats for the ten-mile journey upstream to the city of Canton. They inched along the river, which was always thronged with sampans and houseboats resembling a floating city. 33 Most of the shops on the district’s streets specialized in items for foreigners; signboards written in English to attract these visitors could be seen everywhere.

Members of the Canton Factory, captains of the East Indiamen, and visiting gentlemen belonged to one category. The large numbers of Jack-tars and laborers, on the other hand, had no place in the Factory. The research activities and achievements of botanical collectors in Canton can be best understood in this social context. As gardeners, collectors were not fully admitted into the club of the gentlemen and, unless they had the Natural History in a Chinese Entrepôt 25 help of a local patron, they were left in social limbo, frustrated and isolated.

47 Disappointingly for Banks and his colleagues, the two missions proved to be unsuccessful for both diplomacy and natural history. Still barred from the interior, British natural historians had to make the best of their foothold in Canton. British sea captains, who often brought plants home with them from Canton, played an instrumental role in Britain’s acquisition of Chinese plants. Although a nice new flower could fetch as much as one or two hundred pounds sterling, immediate monetary gain was only a minor consideration.

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