Speaker: Prof. Cheung Sui Wai (Department of History)
|Date:||4 October 2013 (Fri)|
|Venue:||G24, Arts and Humanities Hub, Fung King Hey Building, CUHK|
|Abstract:||The eighteenth century was the golden age of the Qing Dynasty. The reigns of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong are known nowadays to historians as the "High Qing", for their relative prosperity. The "High Qing" also witnessed a doubling of population with a subsequent expansion of national boundaries, but the most remarkable development was the fact that trade expanded to an unprecedented extent. Large regional markets emerged, dealing in grain, salt, cotton, silk and tea. Among them, rice was the most important commodity. For the last three decades, the study of the long-distance rice trade in China has been dominated by the theory of demographic growth. The theory argued that as a consequence of commercial development, the non-agricultural production increased in some southeastern coastal cities, and since the local supply of rice was insufficient to feed them, these cities had to import a consistent amount of rice from neighboring districts annually. Under this theory, figuring the annual volume of the rice trade became a matter of simple arithmetic, subtracting the estimated total amount of local rice from the estimated total amount of rice consumption. In speaker’s opinion, this theory is built on the following two fallacious presuppositions: (i) there was only a single variety of rice, and (ii) rice was subsistence crop. The talk shall investigate the reasons why the population in central and southern China "chose" rice as their staple food, and by way of this investigation, the talk shows the real nature of the emergence of the long-distance rice market in the eighteenth century.|
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