14 Through the Taiga
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124 Through the Taiga The Tazy. The Oyster Hunters. Chinese Reticence. The Forest Trail. A Tazy Hunter. Twilight in the Forest. A Pica. A Chipmunk. Encounter with a Bear. Gnus. After a short rest, I went to investigate some Tazy fanzas near Iolayza. The Udege are the indigenous peoples of the central Sikhote-Alin that live along the coast north to Cape Uspenka. Those living further south have become assimilated with the Chinese over time, and are now indistinguishable from the Manzas. The Chinese call these peopleda-tszy, which translates as “mixed breed” (that is, neither Russian, Chinese, nor Korean), which is where the Russians derived the word Tazy.1 Poverty and slovenliness are attributes common to these assimilated peoples— poverty of their homes, clothing, and food. As I approached one of the huts, a Tazy came out to meet me. He was dressed in rags, his eyes had some kind of infection, and there was a scab on his head. When he greeted me I heard fear and timidity in his voice. There were children playing with some dogs not far from the hut; they wore not a shred of clothing. The fanza was timeworn and rickety, and in some places the walls had collapsed. The clay plaster on the walls was old and patched. The paper in the window panes was yellowed with age and torn in many 1. According to the 2010 Russian census, there were 274 Tazy remaining in Russia. 14 Through the Taiga 125 places, there were patches of mats strewn on the dusty kang, and there was some kind of faded and grimy rag hanging from the wall. There was neglect, filth, and poverty all around. I used to think that these conditions stemmed from laziness, but have subsequently understood that poverty among the Tazy has another source—their position in Chinese society. I asked around and discovered that the Chinese owner of the Iolayza fanza was the local tsaydun, which roughly means “master of the river.”2 It is he who distributes opium, alcohol, food, and clothing material—all on credit—to the natives living along the Fudzin River. In turn, they are obligated to turn over anything they hunt or gather, be it sable furs, antlers, ginseng, or something else of that nature. All Tazy are deep in debt as a result. It is not uncommon for Tazy wives and daughters to be taken from their homes to pay off debts, and these women may change hands several times. The Tazy are a people who adopted Chinese culture but could not adapt to it, and so have become practically subjugated by the Chinese. They do not know how to live as farmers but have largely forgotten how to hunt and trap. The Chinese have taken advantage of this helplessness and made the Tazy dependent upon them. The Tazy have lost any independence and live as virtual slaves. On my way back from the Tazy hut, I left the main road and walked down to the Fudzin River, where I saw two Chinese men diving for pearls. One of them stood on the bank, holding a pole firm to the bottom of the river with all his might, while the other followed the pole down under the water. The diver held onto the pole with one hand while searching the bottom for bivalve mollusks with the other. The river’s fast flownecessitateduseofapole,andthediverwasunderwaterfornomore 2. A tsaydun was an agent of a larger Chinese trade firm, like those found in the cities of Vladivostok, Ussuriysk, and Khabarovsk. Tsayduns were usually based at the mouths of large rivers—places that were easy to receive furs and other goods from indigenous , Chinese, and Korean hunters and trappers in those river valleys, and equally convenient to send wares further along to larger cities for sale or export. There were twelve major tsayduns in the Ussuri Kray at the time of Arsenyev’s explorations; the tsaydun here on the Li-Fudzin River (named Shan Tyan Go) was one of the newest, having been in operation only since 1897 (Arsenyev 1914). 126 The 1906 Expedition than thirty seconds at a time. He could likely hold his breath for longer than that, but the low water temperature drove him to the surface. He wore all his clothing as a way to retain some body heat. I sat on the shore and watched them work. After a short bout in the water, the diver lay on the bank in the sun...


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Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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