The Expansion of Chinese Tobacco Production, Consumption, and Trade, 1600–1750

Carol Benedict

in Golden-Silk Smoke

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520262775
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948563 | DOI:
The Expansion of Chinese Tobacco Production, Consumption, and Trade, 1600–1750

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Chinese consumers for the most part smoked tobacco grown in China on countless small family farms spread across the empire. Processed in tiny workshops located near tobacco farms in the mountainous peripheries of China's nine macroregions, premium regional tobaccos were aggressively marketed by the large merchant groups that dominated China's long-distance trade. By the mid-eighteenth century, mainly as a consequence of large-scale migration into the Yangzi River highlands, a two-tiered system of tobacco production and consumption was firmly in place. Peasants smoked affordable tobacco grown locally, while the moneyed elite conspicuously consumed expensive tobaccos transported over great distances through China's integrated market economy. The infinite assortment of domestically grown tobaccos that emerged by 1750 or so allowed for a dramatic expansion in tobacco smoking among both rich and poor in virtually all corners of the empire. This chapter traces the expansion of Chinese tobacco production, consumption, and trade between 1600 and 1750. It also discusses tobacco cultivation and retailing.

Keywords: China; tobacco; smoking; consumption; trade; retailing; tobacco farms; tobacco cultivation; Yangzi River; tobacco production

Chapter.  10952 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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