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3/1/2009

Heartland Mandala

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:01 pm Print
I was surprised to learn, about ten days ago, that PSU was going to be hosting a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala. This is a touring company, but somehow they ended up in Pittsburg, Kansas in the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the Dalai Lama's uprising. There was no political commentary around it, as near as I can tell. The school newspaper and city paper reported on it, but didn't make a big deal about the anniversary. It wasn't entirely apolitical: The Pittsburg Morning Sun did quote the monks on the subject of the Chinese takeover and subsequent Tibetan cultural endangerment. But the opening invocation, which I attended, included no mention of that; there was a prominent altar with a picture of the Dalai Lama, though. Unfortunately, I fell ill a few hours after the opening ceremony on Monday (( I hope my students don't make the connection between the "driving out of evil forces" and my absence! )) so I only got pictures of the very first moments of creation -- I love the traditional-style plumb-line -- and of the nearly-completed mandala on Thursday. I haven't seen these up close before, and if I'd been healthier I would have gotten more pictures, but I was struck by the texture of the mandala. I'm used to seeing these as two-dimensional images, but the sand is actually laid out in little piles and walls (see here for a detail shot), in a very intricate fashion. It was, apparently, a variation on the Amitayus Mandala (see also), centered on Amitabha (aka Amida), and emphasizing healing and wisdom. Here are some of the better pictures I did manage under the fold:

6/8/2008

If you prick Taiwanese savages, do they not bleed?

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:27 am Print
I want to share just one more short passage from Small Sea Travel Diaries, the English translation of Yu Yonghe's journal and essays from his trip to Taiwan in the 17th century by Macabe Keliher. I find the following reflections by Yu on natives he met in Taiwan to be an interesting display of humanity and an overly confident universalism on the part of the author, though it's tone is entirely inconsistent with the far more insulting, unsympathetic, and otherwise derogatory tone used elsewhere in Yu's journals.
The worst off people in the world are not as bad off as the Taiwan savages. Because they are different they are discriminated against. When people see them without clothes, they say, "they don't get cold." When they see them walk in the rain and sleep in the two, they say, "they don't get sick." When they see them carry burdens over great distances, they say, "they can work without rest." Aye! They are also people! They have limbs and bodies and flesh and bone; in what way are they not human? How can one say such things of them? If horses run without rest, or oxen loaded with more than they can carry, will they not get sick? If oxen and horses are like this, then what of humans? If they had cloth, and they would wear layers of clothes when the weather turned cold - what would be the point of getting cold. If they had no responsibilities, they would settle peacefully and not run around naked - what is the point of being naked? If they did not have to work, they would rest and relax and not labor for these interpreters. Who does not enjoy eating well and staying warm, avoiding pain and hunger and cold? Who does not hate hard labor and enjoy leisure and comfort? This is human nature. There are different people, but the nature is all the same. The benevolent know this and do not need to repeat it. (( Yu, Yonghe, trans. Macabe Keliher Small Sea Travel Diaries (2004) SMC publishing, Taipei, 2004, 119. ))
As the mention they get in this quote suggests, Yu really did not like interpreters, and they appear as the most evil figures in his narrative. Perhaps his own dependence on them when he went hunting for sulphur in remote areas of Taiwan added to his dislike for their deceptive practices.

5/21/2008

U.S.-China Cooperation

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:28 am Print
I have no idea where the U.S. China relationship is going, but I have usually thought that whatever rhetoric was coming from either side of the Pacific there were lots of common interests (making money, borrowing money, thinking North Korea is nuts, etc.) to avoid the more lurid scenarios of Sino-American conflict I had assumed that there was some cooperation in dealing with Muslim terrorists, but was not clear on the details. According to ABC it has gone as far as the U.S. and China co-operating in torturing Uighers at Guantanamo. This is apparently not as full-scale a cooperation as some might wish. The Americans will still not hand over innocent Uighers to China for fear they may be tortured (some more.) One can hope that this is just a once-off and that the Americans and Chinese are not working up a more systematic cooperation, but I'm not entirely sure about that. I was quite surprised to see that the U.S. was willing to let honest to god Chi-coms into a top secret U.S. base to participate in the most super-secret things going on there. At some levels we are getting along great.

5/6/2008

China’s Robinson Crusoe

I've been reading Wolf Totem and having a lot of fun doing so. The book, based on Jiang Rong's time as a sent-down youth in Inner Mongolia. was a huge best-seller in China. Why is this book a Thing Chinese People Like? Nicole Barnes says that the book is nostalgic drivel aimed at Chinese who long for a world with fewer skyscrapers and more manliness and seek it in Mongolia. A lot of the novel is also nostalgia for the past. If you want to recapture the ancient knowledge of the East, Mongolia is apparently the place to do it. Our Chinese heroes spend a lot of time trying to keep wolves from eating the sheep, and learning about the symbiotic relationship between the Mongols, the steppe, and the wolves, and thus the foundations of Asian society.
Chen felt himself to be standing at the mouth of a tunnel to five thousand years of Chinese history. Every day and every night, he thought, men have fought wolves on the Mongolian plateau, a minor skirmish here, a pitched battle there. The frequency of these clashes has even surpassed the frequency of battles among all the nomadic peoples of the West outside of wolf and man, plus the cruel, protracted wars between nomadic tribes, conflicts between nationalities, and wars of aggression; it is that frequency that has strengthened and advanced the mastery of the combatants in these battles. The grassland people are better and more knowledgeable fighters than any farming race of people or nomadic tribe in the world. In the history of China—from the Zhou dynasty, through the Warring States, and on to the Qin, Han, Tang, and Song dynasties—all those great agrarian societies, with their large populations and superior strength, were often crushed in combat with minor nomadic tribes, suffering catastrophic and humiliating defeat. At the end of the Song dynasty, the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan invaded the Central Plains and remained in power for nearly a century. China's last feudal dynasty, the Qing, was itself founded by nomads. The Han race, with its ties to the land, has gone without the superior military teachings of a wolf drillmaster and has been deprived of constant rigorous training exercises. The ancient Chinese had their Sun-tzu and his military treatise, but that was on paper. Besides, even they were based in part on the lupine arts of war. Millions of Chinese died at the hands of invasions by peoples of the North over thousands of years, and Chen felt as if he'd found the source of that sad history. Relationships among the creatures on earth have dictated the course of history and of fate, he thought. The military talents of a people in protecting their homes and their nation are essential to their founding and their survival. If there had been no wolves on the Mongolian grassland, would China and the world be different than they are today? Jiang Rong p.99
Wolf Totem actually fits pretty well with the other book I am reading for fun at the moment, Rose's Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. Rose's book was very well-received,which is not surprising as it is a very good look as what ordinary British folk read and what they got out of it in the couple of centuries before 1945. One book that was quite popular for a very long time was Robinson Crusoe. Like Wolf Totem it is a ripping yarn with extended didactic passages. Like Wolf Totem it is a story of civilized men outside the city. Rose suggests that Crusoe was popular in part because appealed to both members of the new middle class who were no longer able to provide what they needed with their own hands and to those who were still working with their hands and liked reading a book that represented what they did as important. Wolf Totem has a lot of that as well. As a keyboard jockey I like books about places where everyone is doing something and it is clear exactly what benefit each thing provides. The is particularly clear in Wolf Totem, since Jiang goes through the workpoint value of each job a person can do and shows how each is perfectly calibrated to the exertion the work requires and its value to the group. ((I'm guessing that many of his readers have no memory of how the workpoint system actually functioned)) Would you be willing to go without electricity to live in a world where every day you did things of real value and this was accepted by everyone around you, and sucking up and bullshit were totally impossible? Apparently some people in China would too. More later (mabye) on ethnic politics in the book.

11/12/2006

Keeping Halal in the Ming dynasty

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 2:52 pm Print

As regular readers know, I am interested in the question of how people are defined as Chinese. One nice bit of data comes from Hans Kuhner. He is looking at a pair of families in the early Ming and trying to figure out what, for them, is Chinese behavior. Although today the Yuan-Ming transition is sometimes presented as an uprising of native Chinese against their Mongol rulers and a restoration of Han rule, in fact the ethnic transition was a lot more complex, as shown in the case of two families.

One of the families is the Ding lineage of Quanzhou, once a major port for international trade. The Dings won their first jinshi degree in 1501. In their genealogies the first ancestor is Jiezhai, and all the early ancestors have Chinese names and are presented as wholly Chinese. It is only much later that it comes out that the first ancestor was also called Sayyid Ajall, a Bokharan who served as a governor under the Yuan. Sayyid stayed on in China after the fall of the Yuan, changing his name and attempting to deflect the considerable hostility towards semu people in the early Ming. This hostility was entirely popular. The state did not order purges of non-Chinese and in fact went to some length to avoid ethnic trouble. The Dings, however, got in a good deal of trouble over the years, as political opponents accused them of false registration, largely, it seems as a way of getting even with the Dings, not because people were so concerned with ethnicity. A later descendent, Ding Yanxia, described the family’s background this way.

We cannot know in detail where our family (jia) has come from before the time of Jiezhai. As far as religion (jiao) is concerned, in former times they seem to have followed customs that were not yet civilized. For example, they did not change the clothes [of the dead person] before it was put into the coffin, and they did not use wood for the coffin. The burial took place already on the third day after death, and [the corpse] was only covered with a very thin layer. The mourning attire was made of cotton, and when praying, there were no soul tab­lets for the ancestors, and no sacrificial offerings. On meetings, people bowed to the west at the time of sunset. Every first month [of the year] there was a period of fasting and one was allowed to eat only after sunset, while during the day, people were hungry. God (shen) was revered only with aromatic herbs, there were no sacrifices of wine and fruit and no paper money [as sacrifice] was burned. When reciting the holy book (qing jing) one imitated the traditional sound of the barbarian (yi) language, without understanding its meaning and not even trying to understand it. This was done on both happy and unhappy occasions. It was only allowed to eat meat that was slaughtered at home, and pork was forbidden. One regularly had to take a bath, and without bathing one was nor allowed to attend worship. As for clothing, cotton was preferred to silk, and on all occasions, cleanliness was desirable. When I was young, I still could see these customs personally. ... Today, we burn paper money in the sacrifices for the ancestors, cattle has not to be slaughtered at home, all wear hemp as mourning attire, no more cotton. Sometimes, people wait as long as ten years before the burial. On both happy and unhappy occasions, Daoist and Buddhist monks are invited. Pork is eaten, and there is increasing conformity with [Chinese] ritual. However, there still are some who are proud of not fol­lowing the [Chinese] ritual. With regard to the desirability of cleanliness, I have seen no reduction. Alas, as far as the teachings of the Noble Man on ritual are concerned, some maintain that it should be based on the traditions of one's coun­try and should be adhered to without the slightest change, Others maintain that some [aspects of] ritual can be different while others should be adhered to, with their practicality as criterion. What does "practicality" mean? It should conform to the principle of heaven and to human emotions. If they do not harm these two, why should we change them just in order to conform to the views of society?

Very enlightened. Of course he is defending his own family. The quote as a whole reflects the long debate about how strictly one needs to follow the forms of ritual. It is also typical in that it focuses almost entirely on ritual and especially funerary ritual as the most important aspect of proper behavior. While the family did largely conform to Chinese ritual, they also kept some non-standard behaviors, perhaps as a way of distinguishing themselves from others. Besides the emphasis on cleanliness, the family also continued to not offer pork to the ancestors, although they were offered wine. Not offering wine would be a pretty serious violation of Chinese ritual. Offering other foods but not pork would be fine I suppose.

Not all families were as accepting. The Lin/Li lineage of Quanzhou split over the issue of Islam. The issue, according to Kuhner, was that a member of the lineage, married a Persian woman in Hormuz and converted to Islam. This led to a split in the lineage. The reasons for this were explained in a 1426 text that is “one of the earliest explicit refutations of foreign beliefs in Ming times.”

"When the Yuan lost power, there were many semu people, and in our Quanzhou, they were the most numerous. Their families expanded, they ran amok and oppressed our people. Till today, although they were entered in the household registers, there are among them real semu, false semu, and also those who followed their wives to become semu, or who followed their mothers in practicing divergent customs. They thus brought disorder into our race (zulei), they despise our rules and do not respect our morality. Why is that so? As far as the sacrifices to Heaven are concerned, the Chinese (zhong xia) after the Yuan erected a mound in the south of the capital. They used sacrificial utensils made of porcelain and also animals for sacrifice, and nobody under the rank of Prince (gonghou) dared to overstep his place. Now, even the commoners among the semu are allowed to keep images of [their] god (tian) at their homes and pray to them." When we [Chinese] are in mourning, we beat our breasts and cry and wail, put gems in the mouth [of the corpse], cover it with a shroud, and enclose it in a wooden coffin. Our mourning attire is made of hemp, and from morning to evening libations are offered. We prepare feathers to adorn the coffin, build a wall and select a burial site to bury it there. We erect soul tablets in the shrine in order to make regular sacrifices. The semu, however, sing and beat drums, embalm [the corpse] with mercury and adorn it with flow­ers, They wear no mourning attire, they have coffins of tong wood without lids, they bury [their dead] in the wilderness, and prepare neither tablets nor sacrifices. We adorn ourselves with orderly clothing, correct boots and belts, and jade pendants. But the semu wear turbans and coarse woolen cloth and go barefoot. We observe the seven proscriptions and three abstentions. What we call abstinence consists in not drinking alcohol and not eating [impure] food. The abstinence of the semu consists in not eating during the day, but only at night, not eating what is bought on the market, but eating only what one killed oneself, not eating pork, but only cattle feeding on hay. Our body, skin and hair were bequeathed on us by our parents, and we do not dare to violate them. This is filial piety. Among the semu, however, only those who were incised are regarded as adults, Their writing is like worms, and their speech is like the [howling] of owls. We Chinese can neither decipher [their texts] nor under­stand [their speech]. Alas! The ways of the semu are identical with the customs of the Yi and Di. The Shying says: "The Man and Yi are bringing disorder into our vast land/'63 The Shijing says: "He resisted the Rong and Di." This is even more so in our Quanzhou. Although it is part of the Minhai region, everybody knew the way of the former kings, adhered to the Mean and sincer­ity and practiced them without failing. Recently, however, your great-uncle, although descended from scholars, was seduced by the customs of the semu and did not attain to enlightenment. He did not revere his ancestors, but those of others, he practiced the customs of the Yi and Di, and caused his descend­ants to become barbarians. Why is this so? It is because he was deluded by his sympathy for the strange and exotic. Alas, Han Yu has said: "[Confucius] ac­cepted those Yi and Di who followed the customs of the Middle States as Chi­nese, while he regarded those Chinese who followed the customs of the Yi and Di as barbarians."" Today, I, Guangqi, when compiling this genealogy, record his name and his deeds, but have to refute his mistakes, in fear that the descend­ants might follow his bad example. [I am writing this] in order to warn you seriously."

One of the things I found most interesting about this is how much more explicitly political it is. As with the earlier text ritual, and especially funerary ritual, is crucial. In this critical reading, however, the author also points out that Muslims overstep their place by worshiping Heaven directly and also that they can be analogized directly to the ancient enemies of the central states. I mostly find these interesting because they are great passages, and the differences between them can probably be explained by the fact that one is hostile to foreign customs and one is not. Still, I find it interesting that the critical writer casts it as what might be called a “national” issue. Maybe the anti-foreign religion thing works better in that context.

Hans Kuhner “The Barbarians writing is like Worms, and their Speech is like the Screeching of Owls” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 2001 151:2 pp. 407-429

7/27/2006

Self-introduction: Scott Relyea 李皓同

Filed under: — Scott Relyea @ 5:59 am Print
Hi everyone at 井底之蛙, First of all, I'd like to thank Konrad for the invitation to join the Frog in a Well community. I'm happy to become part of what I think is quite an exciting web project and look forward to adding comments and posts to what's already a collection of quite interesting and enlightening discussions. So, the introduction, I'm a Ph.D. candidate in Chinese History at Chicago and am currently based in Chengdu for most of this year conducting research on 'Sichuan Khams', the western part of Sichuan Province on the 青藏高原, made famous in song throughout the southwest. My route to history began at much lower altitude, with a degree in Journalism at Northwestern before moving on to a Master's degree in International Affairs from GW, followed by another MA at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. While at GW my research in IR focused particularly on contemporary sovereignty issues and trans-boundary interactions among neighbouring sub-state political, economic, or social entities, an interest which remains at the near-periphery of my current dissertation project. In between the various degrees, I was a research assistant at the U.S. Institute for Peace in D.C. and did stints in web administration and design in various cities. (I guess that's a bit of an academic meander!) My interest in East Asia and the regions of historical or contemporary China originally began during my years at GW, spurring me to spend the requisite summer at Middlebury. But my shift into the field of history, and particularly the late Qing period came while at SOAS. Since 2001 I've been at Chicago with research or language trips to Taipei, Darjeeling, Dharamshala, London, and various points between. For a little non-academic diversion, a link to some photos from some of these trips can be found on my admittedly quite dull website (http://home.uchicago.edu/~scottr/), long overdue for an update... Currently titled Pacifying Khams: Qing Imperialism and the Bureaucratisation of Colonial Space, the dissertation project essentially encompasses the 15-year period from 1904, the arrival of Younghusband in Lhasa, to 1919, when the last significant negotiations on the international status of Tibet took place between Great Britain and the ROC government in Beijing. While this may seem that the British efforts in Tibet are central to the thesis, indeed they're not, although most histories, in Chinese as well, would tend to place them at the centre as at least catalyst of certain events. This period encompasses the two major military campaigns sent from Chengdu to Khams, that of 趙爾豐 Zhao Erfeng from 1907-1911, and 尹昌衡 Yin Changheng from 1912-1913, as well as the Simla Conference and lesser-known negotiations carried out directly between the military government of Sichuan Province and representatives of the Dalai Lama during 1912. The central focus of the dissertation is on the political and economic importance of Sichuan Khams to both the central and provincial governments during the years 1904 to 1919 and its consequent effect on the state-building and province-building policies of each respectively. As I've been spending much of the last few months in libraries and archives in Sichuan going through memorials and especially 報刊 produced both by organs of the provincial government and by local literati, I expect at least my initial posts will come from or relate to some of what I've been finding. I suppose that's a rambling enough intro, so I'll leave it at that and post something more substantive soon. BTW, that's not me on the right, just one of my fellow researchers these days at the 四川省圖書館

7/11/2006

Tibet by rail

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:51 pm Print

It has been in the news of late that China has built a rail line to Tibet. It cost $3.2 billion, and the train cars have to be pressurized, but you can now get to Tibet cheaper than you could before. The official reason for this is to encourage economic development in the backward area of Tibet. The unspoken purpose is of course is to encourage Han migration and tie Tibet more closely to China. Might also help in case of war with India.

I have not seen it mentioned, but another reason to build it is because Sun Yat-sen wanted to build a railway to Tibet. Everyone who visits Nanjing learns that Sun wanted to build a bridge across the Yangzi, but that Mao did it. Carrying out the great tasks of the revolution is always something Chinese governments like to do.

After the 1911 revolution, when Yuan Shikai was made President Sun was made Minister of Railways. Yuan was chosen over Sun because Yuan was seen as a practical politician while Sun was a dreamer. Sun’s plan for railway development was quite frankly nuts, as the map below, from his collected works, shows.

Tibet Railways

Sun's plan

In China proper he called for a network of railways that has not been built to this day. The map of Tibet is even more fantastic. I particularly like the route that goes along the border with India along, apparently, the spine of the Himalayas. This, like his net of rails in Mongolia, was intended to tie these border areas more closely to China. The era around 1911 was the age of the Rights Recovery Movement, when in addition to Chinese governments trying to hold on to every bit of sovereignty they could, non-state actors and individual citizens were supposed to do the same. All the spur lines running into Nepal seem to be laying claim to endangered territory. Most of these lines seem economically insane, but as they are more political than economic plans in the first place that is fine. The modern Tibet line is pretty much the same thing. I have no idea how much economic growth in will generate, but I’m sure it will be short of 3.2 billion. Still, Tibet is tied to the motherland, and the fact that it is economically crazy almost makes it better.

Tibet elevation

The modern line

6/30/2006

Even Barbarians can become good

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:05 am Print

How does one become a good person? That is a question that crops up a lot when one reads the Confucians. In fact, for Confucians the processes of self-cultivation and the questions surrounding it are absolutely central. Needless to say, Yen Chih-t'ui has stuff on this.

Partly one becomes good by hanging with good people. As Confucius put it

To live with good people is like staying in a room of orchids where, after a long time, one would naturally be sweet-scented; To associate with bad people is like living in a dried-fish shop, where one would unavoidably become imbued with the odor.p.461
Study (and self-cultivation more generally) are also important. One issue that comes up a lot is how 'universal' Confuican concepts of human perfectability are. Can anyone become good? Even Barbarians? How about women? Do we all become the same sort of good?

In the Ch’i dynasty (550-577) a eunuch and a palace attendant, T’ien Peng-luan, 田鹏鸞, was originally a southern barbarian. When he became a eunuch at the age of 14 or 15, he already had a desire for study. He always hid a book in his sleeves and would recite it in a low voice day and night. His position was low and the service toilsome: however, at any short respite he would hurry off to find some one he could question. Whenever he came to the Hall of Literary Galaxies, he panted and perspired and would say nothing beyond asking questions from books. When he saw some heroic or loyal deed of the ancients, he was always deeply moved, meditating for a long time. I had deep compassion and love for him and gave him double encouragement. Later on he was known and loved by the emperor, who granted him the name Ching-hsuan 敬宣, and raised his position to that of chamberlain with an independent office. When the last emperor of Ch’i fled to Ch’ing-chou [Shandong], The army of Chou captured him and asked the whereabouts of the Ch’i emperor. He deceived them, say that [the emperor] had already gone away and estimated that he should be beyond the border. Suspecting him of lying, they beat and lashed him to force him to submit. As each of his limbs was cut off, his speech and appearance became more severe than before; when his four limbs were cut off, he died. That a young barbarian boy by study could achieve such fidelity! How inferior are the generals and high ministers of Ch’i to this slave Ching-hsuan. p.73
So Yen, at least, claims that barbarians and eunuchs are capable of becoming good. Actually, they are even better than Yen himself, since he ended up serving four dynasties. 1 This quote is from 孔子家语, 4, 8b This makes it doubtful that the quote is actually from Confucius, but of course would have been regarded as his.

1/26/2006

Taiwanese Heroin

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:46 pm Print
It has been rainy rather than snowy around here of late, which is very unusual for this time of year. While walking in a cold wet rain I began to try and think of something that would make me feel better. Something that was cheap, would make me feel warm, and ideally make me spit horrible blood-red spit. Sadly the only thing that does that is betel nut, and you can't get it in Pennsylvania.
BinLang
Thinking about Taiwan and betel nut led me to do a bit of research that turned out to be pretty surprising. I had always lumped betel-chewing in with all the other drug foods, tobacco, opium etc, and assumed that it appeared about the same time. According to Rooney Betel Chewing Traditions in South-East Asia, however, the custom goes back much further and probably should be lumped in with alcohol in a social, if not a chemical sense. Rooney is interested in ceramics, and thus the book is more about the elaborate betel sets that are common in Southeast Asia, but there is a fair amount in the book about the social context of betel use, again mostly in Southeast Asia. I found a lot of this to be different than the betel customs in Taiwan. In particular she emphasizes that Southeast Asians would prepare their own quids, that it was a social ritual with considerable meaning, and, of course, that it required equipment that could be quite elaborate. In Taiwan betel was and I think still is a state monopoly, and it was sold from little stands in pre-made quids. It was also a distinctly Taiwanese and working class thing. Most of the foreign students would try it at least once, but none of the (mostly middle-class and mainlander) Taiwan students would touch it. This leads me to wonder if the custom spread into China in a different way than it did in Southeast Asia. Rooney has pictures of elaborate betel sets from all over, but not from China. The one Chinese picture she has is a man selling betel in the market place (in 1805) who is apparently going to make up your quid for you. All of her stories about the role of betel in courtship ritual and such come from Southeast Asia. This may just be a source thing (It’s a fun book, but rather impressionistic) or it may be a cultural difference. The obvious comparison, at least for me, is opium. Opium also led to the production of elaborate tools, and was associated with various forms of social interaction. It was also a quick high for physical laborers. In China you eventually get morphine and heroin which take over the quick high end of the market and leave opium with the better-off users and other social contexts. My guess is that betel made it to Taiwan as a working class thing and never really established cultural meanings beyond that. One bit of evidence for this are the different ways the custom has responded to decline. Rooney has the obligatory postscript on how this interesting old custom is declining in Southeast Asia in the face of modernization, and the Thais she talked to seem to portray it as rural, backwards thing that your grandmother did. I suppose the custom might make a comeback as a marker of ethnicity. In Taiwan the response has been bin lang girls, who are not at all grandmotherly, and will bring a quid of betel out to your car and sell you the quid of betel and perhaps other things as well. This seems to be to be a set of associations that go well with the working-class relief thing and not at all well with the customs of our ancestors thing. (The bin lang girls link is to Takao Club, which has some really nice stuff on Taiwan history.)

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