Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Rhubarb War

Rhubarb History: "The imperial commissioner, Lin Zexu, who was sent to Canton in 1839 to put an end to the opium trade wrote a letter to Queen Victoria pointing to the 'fact' that the foreign barbarians surely would die if they could not obtain tea and rhubarb from China and that the Queen for this reason should stop the wicked British merchants from trading with opium. Victoria seems never to have had the letter translated and read for her and when Lin Zexu later the same year wrote to the British merchants in Canton telling them that a stop to the rhubarb trade would mean the death for the pitiful foreigners, the pitiful foreigners responded with canon boats. Should maybe the Opium War really be called the Rhubarb War? "

I found this extraordinay fact in a footnote to a quoted list of precious items in Frances Wood's "The Silk Road", that - to my delight - included rhubarb along with silk and diamonds.
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