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A World Trimmed with FurWild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule$
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Jonathan Schlesinger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780804799966

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804799966.001.0001

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Pearl Thieves and Perfect Order

Pearl Thieves and Perfect Order

(p.55) Two Pearl Thieves and Perfect Order
A World Trimmed with Fur

Jonathan Schlesinger

Stanford University Press

Something strange happened in Manchuria under Qing rule: its freshwater mussels disappeared. Stranger still, the Qing empire did everything in its power to preserve them: draft soldiers; fortify passes; patrol rivers; send boats and horses and silver and men. It streamlined the bureaucracy and revamped the local administration. “Nurture the mussels and let them grow,” the emperor ordered; let Manchuria have mussels. Chapter explores what happened: the collapse of the pearl fishery the attempts, in the language of the Qing court, to “nurture the mussels.” The court put its full weight behind efforts to create a long-term sustainability: it reorganized the administrative structure, empowered territorial governors, and created militarized off-limits areas. Poachers were arrested; the mussels allowed to rest. Through a detailed description of the tribute system, the ecological crisis, and the court’s response, the chapter documents how a reinvented Manchuria came to be.

Keywords:   Pearls, Manchuria, ginseng, sustainability, nineteenth century, Manchu, nature, freshwater mussels

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