In a new study of the Qing government’s 1826 experiment in sea transport of government grain in response to the collapse of the Grand Canal (1825), Jane Kate Leonard highlights how the Daoguang Emperor, together with Yinghe, his chief fiscal adviser, and Qishan, Governor-General of Liangjiang, devised and implemented this innovative plan by temporarily stretching the Qing bureaucracy to include local “assistant” officials and ad hoc bureaus (
ju) and by recruiting (
zhaoshang) private organizations, such as merchant shippers, dockside porters, and lighterage fleets. This is significant because it explains how the Qing leadership was able to respond successfully to crises and change without permanently expanding the reach and expense of the permanent bureaucracy.
Hailian Chen’s pioneering study presents the first comprehensive history of Chinese zinc—an essential base metal used to produce brass and coin and a global commodity—over the long eighteenth century. Zinc, she argues, played a far greater role in the Qing economy and in integrating China into an emerging global economy, than has previously been recognized. Using commodity chain analysis and exploring over 5,800 items of archival documents, Chen demonstrates how this metal was produced, transported, traded, and consumed by human agents. Situating the zinc story within the human-environment framework, this book covers a broad and interdisciplinary range of political economy, material culture, environment, technology, and society, which casts new light on our understanding of early modern China.