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Golden-Silk Smoke

Golden-Silk Smoke: A History of Tobacco in China, 1550–2010

Carol Benedict
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Golden-Silk Smoke
    Book Description:

    From the long-stemmed pipe to snuff, the water pipe, hand-rolled cigarettes, and finally, manufactured cigarettes, the history of tobacco in China is the fascinating story of a commodity that became a hallmark of modern mass consumerism. Carol Benedict follows the spread of Chinese tobacco use from the sixteenth century, when it was introduced to China from the New World, through the development of commercialized tobacco cultivation, and to the present day. Along the way, she analyzes the factors that have shaped China's highly gendered tobacco cultures, and shows how they have evolved within a broad, comparative world-historical framework. Drawing from a wealth of historical sources-gazetteers, literati jottings (biji), Chinesemateria medica,Qing poetry, modern short stories, late Qing and early Republican newspapers, travel memoirs, social surveys, advertisements, and more-Golden-Silk Smokenot only uncovers the long and dynamic history of tobacco in China but also sheds new light on global histories of fashion and consumption.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94856-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    When American tobacco tycoon James Duke (1865–1925) heard about the invention of the cigarette-rollingmachine in 1881, he reportedly leafed through an atlas to find the legend listing the world’s largest population. China, with its then-430,000,000 potential customers, he told company executives, “is where we are going to sell cigarettes.”¹ When informed that the Chinese did not yet smoke cigarettes, Duke said he supposed they could learn. Now, more than a century later, with 350 million–plus smokers, the world’s most populous country has indeed become its largest consumer of manufactured tobacco products.² Although in the twentieth century, transnational corporations...

  6. 1 Early Modern Globalization and the Origins of Tobacco in China, 1550–1650
    (pp. 15-33)

    Tobacco was initially carried across the world’s oceans on European ships in the pockets of those people—sailors, slaves, and merchants—whose labors made possible the entire early modern enterprise of maritime trade and overseas colonialism.¹ In the vibrant port cities of the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea, European seafarers passed along knowledge of Amerindian tobacco to their local counterparts, who in turn initiated others in this new practice. In many parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, coastal farmers acquired seeds early on and began producing tobacco for sale in local markets even...

  7. 2 The Expansion of Chinese Tobacco Production, Consumption, and Trade, 1600–1750
    (pp. 34-60)

    Despite its common origins in the Americas, NewWorld tobacco followed a somewhat different historical trajectory in China than it did in Europe. In contrast to early modern Europeans, who eventually consumed imported tobacco grown by enslaved laborers on colonial plantations and distributed by royal monopolies or government-chartered joint-stock companies, Chinese consumers for the most part smoked tobacco grown in China on countless small family farms spread across the empire. Much of this domestically produced tobacco was traded locally or intraregionally, but by the eighteenth century a thriving market had also developed for high-end tobacco leaf produced in specialized growing districts...

  8. 3 Learning to Smoke Chinese-Style, 1644–1750
    (pp. 61-87)

    From its earliest introduction in the late Ming period to its wide dispersal in the Qing era, NewWorld tobacco traveled inmultiple directions and alongmyriad paths to become “Chinese.” This process of transculturation was not unique to China, of course, but occurred at roughly the same pace in other parts of Eurasia where other peoplewere first learning to use Amerindian tobacco. As in other contexts, tobacco became indigenized in China in culturally specific ways even as it became a globalized phenomenon. Moreover, in China as elsewhere, a critical number of reasonably well-off smoking aficionados had to emerge before an integrated market...

  9. 4 Tobacco in Ming-Qing Medical Culture
    (pp. 88-109)

    In 1752, Li Ê, the Han River Poetry Society lyricist who had so passionately promoted tobacco during his lifetime, passed away in his beloved city of Hangzhou. The exact cause of death is uncertain. In the year just before he died, however, Li Ê sadly noted that although his desire for tobacco was still great, he could no longer smoke because his lungswere diseased (fei ji).¹ Physicians in attendance at the time of Li’s passing would not have explained his affliction in terms of cancer, emphysema, or any other smoking-related illness now associated with tobacco. Instead, Li’s doctors would have...

  10. 5 The Fashionable Consumption of Tobacco, 1750–1900
    (pp. 110-130)

    Chinese tobacco, from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century and beyond, formed part of a dynamic domain of consumption that changed over time. Used by all ranks, classes, and both genders, Chinese tobacco was never one undifferentiated commodity: people inChina, as elsewhere, consumed the substance in socially stratified ways that varied in accordance with price, changing social norms, ideas about itsmedicinal qualities, and the dictates of fashion. The gradual geographical diffusion of commercial tobacco cultivation that occurred between 1600 and 1750 as outlined in chapter 2 resulted not only in a profusion of inexpensive local tobaccos but also in a...

  11. 6 The Emergence of the Chinese Cigarette Industry, 1880–1937
    (pp. 131-148)

    Tobacco usewas already pervasive throughout Chinawhen the machine-rolled cigarette first began to take hold in Chinese treaty ports toward the end of the nineteenth century. These cities, like other parts of the world where cigarettes began to displace traditional forms of tobacco in the 1880s and 1890s, were directly linked to the globalizing industrial economy. In some ways, the growing popularity of cigarettes in the late Qing and early Republican periods represented a remarkable transformation in consumer preferences in China, just as it did in other markets targeted by newly established transnational tobacco companies. The extraordinary success of the cigarette...

  12. 7 Socially and Spatially Differentiated Tobacco Consumption during the Nanjing Decade, 1927–1937
    (pp. 149-177)

    By 1927, as the Nanjing Decade began, China’s cigarette industry was well established. Even as the fortunes of individual companies rose and fell, consumer demand for cigarettes only continued to increase. The Chinese cigarette market, whether supplied by transnational tobacco companies, Chinese-owned mechanized firms, or localized hand-rolling workshops, expanded spectacularly between 1900 and 1937. The ready availability of cigarettes in most areas of the country encouraged many Chinese smokers to abandon snuff and pipe tobacco in favor of rolled tobacco products. In the long run, after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, cigarettes displaced other forms...

  13. 8 The Urban Cigarette and the Pastoral Pipe: Literary Representations of Smoking in Republican China
    (pp. 178-198)

    The socially and spatially differentiated smoking habits outlined in the preceding chapter were part of a growing urban-rural divide in China that by the 1930s “was palpable and real.”¹ In the early twentieth century, industrialization in the treaty ports brought about intensified urbanization along the coast.² As urban standards of living improved relative to those in the countryside, the notion that it was better to live in a city than in a small town, already percolating in the late Qing period, emerged full-blown. Millions of rural immigrants moved to the city, drawn by factory jobs and the expectation of a...

  14. 9 New Women, Modern Girls, and the Decline of Female Smoking, 1900–1976
    (pp. 199-239)

    From the seventeenth until at least the late nineteenth century, many Chinese women of all social ranks consumed tobacco just as their menfolk did. Granted, therewere gendered differences in the location of consumption: Chinese men could smoke in public, but well-mannered women smoked privately out of view. As detailed in chapter 3, historical and literary representations of Qing-era women consuming tobacco— be it the peasant woman with her rough-hewn pipe or the upperclass matron with her more elegant and refined water pipe— are too common to allow for any other interpretation. Prior to 1900, Chinese women, “respectable” or not, smoked...

  15. Epilogue: Tobacco in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–2010
    (pp. 240-254)

    Tobacco’s centuries-long career in China sheds light on many themes: the history of Chinese material culture, China’s long-standing participation in transregional and international trade, and shifting patterns of popular and elite consumption, as well as the changing intersections of gender and consumption. Taking the long view, as I do in the preceding pages, not only allows for comparisons with other societies undergoing similar transformations in their own local cultures of tobacco consumption since 1550 or so; it also facilitates analysis of continuity and change in Chinese consumption practices across the late imperial–modern divide. Earlier chapters describe China’s dynamic culture...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 255-290)
    (pp. 291-318)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 319-334)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 335-335)