Science and Civilisation in China. Volume 6, Biology and Biological Technology. Part 3, Agro-industries and Forestry. Agro-industries: Sugarcane Technology (review)
- China Review International
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1998
- pp. 213-219
- Additional Information
Reviews 213 N OTE 5 1. John King Fairbank, "Assignment for the 1970s," in his China Perceived: Images and Policies in Chinese-American Relations (New York: Vintage, 1976), p. 209. 2. The editor ofHoover Institution Press makes this remark on the book's back cover. iüü Joseph Needham. Science and Civilisation in China. Volume 6, Biology and Biological Technology. Part 3, Agro-industries and Forestry. Agro-industries: Sugarcane Technology, by Christian Daniels. Forestry, by Nicholas K. Menzies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. xxix, 740 pp. Hardcover $150.00, isbn 0-521-41999-9. Joseph Needham's enterprise has been compared in scope and erudition to the eighteenth-century Encyclopédie. As a contributor to Science and Civilisation in China myself, when I took up this latest volume I wondered ruefully whether the Philosophes faced as many organizational challenges as Needham and his collaborators on this series have faced. In his foreword, Christian Daniels tactfully refers to the "demarcation disputes" that delineated his contribution, while Nicholas Menzies in his author's note discreedy but with understandable irritation alludes to the fact that his text was completed ten years before it was published. The two contributions were prepared quite separately and are completely independent; diey have separate bibliographies although they share an index;1 diey are included between the same covers because over forty years ago, when Needham first drew up an oudine for his magnum opus, he put agricultural arts and silviculture together , along with agriculture, animal husbandry and pisciculture, under section 42 ("Applied Biology"). The volume on agriculture came out in 1984, and who knows if animal husbandry and pisciculture will ever be completed. But in fact this in no way detracts from the interest ofthe two sections here, although it does explain what might appear an imbalance, given that Daniels' contribution is almost four times as long as Menzies'. The first 540 pages ofthe volume are devoted to the history of sugar production in China. Needham's original intention was that this section would describe the whole range oftraditional Chinese agricultural industries, including the treat-© 1998 bv Universitv ment ofimportant commercial crops like oil plants, indigo, and tea. Since in fact ofHawai'iPress^ processing ofall these products involvesvariations onwhathe labels a common "technological tool kit," Christian Daniels sensibly decided to treat the sugar industry as representative ofother rural manufactures in China. One reason for 214 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 this decision is that Daniels has considerable experience as a historian and ethnographer of sugar production, in Taiwan and Japan as well as China; before joining the Needham project he had already published several joint studies with his father, a distinguished scientist and historian of sugar. And then several key rural industries like papermaking, cotton, and sericulture were amply covered elsewhere in the Needham series. Perhaps the best reason for concentrating on sugar, however, is that this allowed Daniels to set the China case against the arguments developed in Sidney Mintz' marvelous book Sweetness and Power, which charts the complex role of sugar in the development of European colonial and industrial capitalism.2 Mintz describes how sugar consumption in Europe gradually expanded as its uses developed from medicinal ingredient to spice and then to common sweetener . In the eighteenth century, the British and French owners of plantations in the Caribbean expanded their enterprises at a dizzy rate, then sought feverishly to develop new markets to avoid ruin. Favorable fiscal decisions in the homeland expanded and secured their markets as cheap sugar, rum, and molasses became substantial components of the everyday diets of the masses of metropolitan industrial workers. The processing technology of the slave-run plantations, which ran day and night without stopping, was—Mintz argues—the prototype of the industrial production line. In China and in East and Southeast Asia, too, the production and use of sugar expanded considerably from the sixteenth century on. Chinese sugar was exported to the Philippines, India, and Amsterdam; Fujianese sugar farmers migrated , introducing their sophisticated technology to other provinces of China and to Java, Siam, and the Philippines, while the rulers of Japan and of the Ryukyus sent missions to study Chinese techniques for cultivation and processing . Despite...