The resulting analysis of these dynamics provides a framework for rethinking the global invention of nature. We cannot understand the invention of “pure” nature, both within and beyond the China, without a more nuanced and multifocal understanding of empires or the archives they produced. Putting peripheral places like Mongolia at the center of our histories, and learning to look both ways across frontiers, allows us to gain new vantages on how to transcend entrenched distinctions between foreign and frontier, coast and continent, East and West. Ultimately, modern “nature” and Qing “purity” belong to a broader, global matrix of historical inventions. Nature as we know today has deep, imperial roots.
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