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From Silk Road Gubei to the American Civil War

 The first country in the world to grow cotton was India. After that, cotton traveled eastward from the north and the south to China: the southern route traveled to Yunnan via Southeast Asia, and the northern route came to Xinjiang via the Western Regions. To the west, it passed through the Arabian Peninsula to Europe, and after the discovery of the New World, it passed from Europe to the Americas. From the perspective of plant structure, cotton is not a flower, but a fruit; but cotton also blooms. The stamen of cotton is yellow, and the petals are milky white at first, and soon turn dark red. Then they wither and become a green cotton boll that matures. After cracking, a small group of soft white fibers will be exposed. This small group of white fibers cannot be underestimated, because it plays an extremely important role in everything from medicinal materials to nectar, from clothing materials to medical gauze, from edible oil to the defense industry.


It is precisely because it is important that the Chinese sing it in the simplest language: "The cotton show in May, the cotton is dry in August. The flowers bloom and the world is warm, but the flowers fall and the world is cold." In the English-speaking world, people call it "Platinum." . In Norse mythology, cotton is imagined as "wool on the tree". From the perspective of the development of world history, it was the global travel of cotton that gave birth to the Jenny spinning machine, and then Watt’s steam engine, and the birth of the world’s first industrial city—Manchester; it was also the travel of cotton that stimulated The slave trade of European colonists led to the subsequent American Civil War and ultimately changed the world's pattern.


Gubei and Baibai, the strange names of western cotton

Since the orangutans say goodbye, dressing has become the most important appearance feature of human beings. Song Yingxing of the Ming Dynasty opened the second volume of "Tiangong Kaiwu·Naifu", saying: "The noble one hangs his clothes, and the glorious mountain dragon can govern the world. Different from animals.” Although they are all clothes, the materials of the clothes are very different. The upper class has more silk, which is smooth and drapable. The ordinary people have more coarse fiber clothes such as kudzu, hemp, and ramie to hide their shame. Shelter from the cold. Compared with silk, Pueraria lobata has rough hand feeling and poor skin-friendliness, so it is not an ideal clothing material.


From the perspective of production methods, the production of silk requires mulberry cultivation, silk stripping and weaving to make garments. The procedures are complicated and the cost is high. However, ramie and other plants have high yields, and it is easy to extract fibers for making clothes. In ancient times when productivity was low, this was only the choice of ordinary people's clothing. Mr. Shen Congwen pointed out in the article "The bits and pieces of ancient clothing materials and other life things seen from cultural relics": "(China) The Shang Dynasty has been able to weave very thin silks and patterns with brocades, but it is more Many people generally wear natural-colored mochi or coarse woolen clothes."


As Zhang Qian emptied the Western Regions, the Eastern and Western cultures began to exchange and blend. During the Northern and Southern Dynasties, a kind of strange clothing called "Gubei" or "Baibei" began to appear in Chinese historical records, vaguely announcing a clothing material. The arrival of the revolution. "Song Shu · Yiman Biography · Heluo Danguo" records: "In the seventh year of Yuanjia (430 years), the envoys presented the diamond ring, the red parrot bird, the ancient white shell of Tianzhu country, the ancient shell of Yebo country, etc. "In this list of tribute to the Liu Song regime of the Southern Dynasties from the Hara Dan Kingdom (present-day Sumatra, Indonesia), Gubei has an important position and a prominent weight. What is Gubei? The book "Southern History·Yiqian Biography·Lin Yiguo" explains: "The ancient shells have the names of the trees, and their flowers are like goose feathers when they are formed. "Obviously, this is the description of cotton. Judging from the source of the ancient shells used as a tribute to the Hara Shan Kingdom, there are both Tianzhu (ancient India) and Yebo Kingdom (now Java Island, Indonesia), indicating that cotton had traveled from India to Southeast Asia at that time. Local planting and textiles.




Information about the cultivation of cotton and cotton weaving in Southeast Asian countries is not uncommon in Chinese historical records after the Northern and Southern Dynasties. For example, it is recorded in "Sui Biography": "Nanman Zhenla Kingdom (now Cambodia), in the southwest of Linyi, Ben Funan's vassal state is also ... The corolla is adorned with pearls, the feet are leathery, and the ears are draped with gold. They are often served white, and ivory is used as the sorrow." "Old Tang Book · Southwest Barbarian" records: "(Lin Yiguo, now southern Vietnam) Wang Zhu Baihe Gubei, slanted shoulders, round the waist, with pearls and golden locks, thought of 璎珞, curly hair and wore flowers." The Song Dynasty’s "Taiping Huanyu Ji Lin Yi Guo" also recorded: "The king wore a golden flower crown, shaped like Zhang Fu, plus Ying Luo. , To ride the elephant, blow snails and drums, cover the ancient shells with umbrellas, and use the ancient shells as the flags, and the king’s decorations.” For the ancient shells of Linyi country, he also explained: “The ancient shells are the names of the trees and the flowers. As such, the wool is spun with high grades to make the cloth, which is not so white and the cloth. It is also dyed into five colors and woven into patchwork."


In these records, people praise and describe this novel material with gorgeous language and apt metaphors, and they don't hesitate to write about these Gubei and Baibai who traveled from far away regions. Because for the Chinese, the source of clothing at that time was only two extremes: one was the noble and comfortable silk, and the other was the cheap Gema made by the people. If there is a material that is both comfortable and close-fitting and inexpensive to make between the two, it is certainly worthy of people's attention and advocacy.


In terms of time, the Northwest was the first area where cotton entered and took root in China. "Liang Shu · Northwestern Zhu Rong Biography" records: "Gaochang country, a lot of vegetation, the grass is like a cocoon, the silk in the cocoon is like a thin thread, the name is white breaking, the Chinese people often take it and weave it as a cloth. The cloth is very soft and white. It’s used in the market.” Gaochang State is today’s Turpan region of Xinjiang. According to historical records, cotton planting and commercial cotton production have been realized here as early as the Northern and Southern Dynasties. The cotton produced is not only for personal use, but also flows into the commodity market. This shows that the output of cotton cloth is not low, and the craftsmanship is excellent. At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, when Master Xuanzang traveled west to Khotan (now Hotan, Xinjiang), he found that the locals "would wear less brown felt fur, and more clothed and white." The northwest is bitterly cold, and the earliest winter clothing can only rely on animal skins, and the introduction of cotton has given people more choices. In this regard, the "Xin Tang Shu" annotated: "Ancient shell, grass is also used to seize the flowers as cloth, thickly called shells, finely called break." In other words, Baibai is white cotton cloth.


In the article "Looking at the Introduction of "Cotton" and Its Development in China from Its Different Translation", Dr. Du Xiaoli believes that "吉贝" is transliterated from the Sanskrit Karpasa, and "白氎" is the Persian Pambak dip. Transliteration. The different names of cotton and cotton products reflect the different travel routes of cotton. Generally speaking, the woody cotton and its products from the south are called "Gibei", which is close in appearance and inaccurate. "Gibei" is also written as "Gubei".


From the geographical point of view, Gaochang in the Western Regions is located at the core of the Silk Road. It is an important node for the residence and transfer of Western thoughts, artifacts, and personnel. It is also one of the most important Buddhist kingdoms in the Western Regions. Buddhism was born in India, and India is the hometown of cotton. There are many accounts about cotton in the early Buddhist scriptures. For example, in the "Twenty-four Chapters of Buddha's Sutra" translated by Kaye Moteng in the Eastern Han Dynasty, there is "I regard the position of the princes" Like the dust in the gap, the treasures of gold and jade are like gravel, and the clothes of Susu are like evil." Therefore, in the early cultural exchanges between China and India, cotton was probably brought here for planting along with the spread of Buddhism, then spun and weaving, and then sent to the mainland. In terms of administrative management, Gaochang was within the territory of the Tang Dynasty. The conquest of Gaochang by the Tang Dynasty must have greatly stimulated its cotton production and became a source of clothing for the people in Northwest China during the Tang Dynasty and before.


From the frontier to the inland, cotton planting and men's farming and women's weaving

The latest statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that in 2019, China's cotton production was 6.842 million tons, more than 1.5 million tons higher than India, the world's second largest cotton production country. In China, 30% of the land is used for cotton cultivation, and Xinjiang is the world's largest cotton production base. As an important commercial crop, cotton is grown in 24 provinces in China. Nearly 300 million people across the country are involved in the planting and production of cotton. The planting range of cotton traverses China's east, west, north, south and has become one of the most familiar crops. In the past 30 years, special seedling mulching, plastic film mulching and double-season sowing of cotton and wheat have promoted the high yield of cotton in China, making China the largest cotton producer in the world. Now, China has the world's highest cotton production and the most complete cotton deep processing industrial system.


Although cotton has a long history of planting in the border areas, it was introduced to the mainland of China relatively late. The chapter "Cotton" in "The Foreign Civilization of the Tang Dynasty" (English name "The Golden Peach of Samarkand") by the American scholar Schaefer is devoted to the travel of Chinese cotton: "In the third century AD, cotton passed through two different The road was introduced into China: through the Western Regions and through Indochina. The cotton planting method was also introduced through these two roads. As early as the post-Han period, the non-Han people in this area later called'Yunnan' Cotton is growing."


Although cotton had already taken root in the northwest and southwest corners of China during the Tang Dynasty, during that period, cotton was not widely introduced in the mainland. In the late Tang Dynasty, the Arab traveler Suleiman traveled east to India and China. He recorded in "Suleiman’s Travel to the East" that in 851, he saw cotton in the (now) Beijing area, but cotton was only used as an ornamental plant. Planting crops. Since the Song Dynasty, cotton cultivation in the hinterland of the Central Plains began to increase. In the Ming Dynasty Qiu Jun’s "University Yanyi Supplement" records: "The seed (cotton) was first introduced in China between the Song and Yuan dynasties, and Guan, Shaan, Minguang and Guangxi were the first to benefit from it. also."


From the perspective of character creation, the Chinese character system before the Song Dynasty did not have "cotton" next to the wooden character. All things related to clothes and fabrics were twisted silk, such as silk, satin, thread, spinning, weaving, cotton, etc., in the Han Dynasty The word "cotton" is not included in "Shuowen Jiezi". The word "cotton" first appeared in the Song Dynasty. During the Gaozong period of the Southern Song Dynasty, Shi Zong, a native of Meizhou, Sichuan, first used the word "cotton" in his "Zizhitongjian Shiwen": "Kapok, which is mostly found in the south of the Yangtze River, is planted in spring on February and March. It is born on January 3. In the autumn, the yellow flowers are sturdy, and when they are ripe, the skin is cracked, and it blooms like cotton." In other words, in the Song Dynasty, ordinary Chinese may slowly enjoy the third type of clothing besides silk and ramie— The care of cotton.




In the Yuan Dynasty, cotton planting began to spread across the north and south of the Yangtze River. In the twenty-sixth year of the Yuan Dynasty (1289), Kublai Khan, in order to vigorously develop the cotton industry, also specially "set up Zhejiang, Jiangdong, Jiangxi, Huguang, and Fujian kapok promotion divisions." It is the responsibility of the people to lose 100,000 kapok every year." With the establishment and guidance of specialized government agencies, cotton has become an agricultural industry alongside the sericulture industry. With the expansion of the planting area, the technological innovation of the cotton spinning industry is also imminent. A woman who is respected as the "Huang Daopo" turned out. On the basis of improving the cotton spinning technology of the Li ethnic group in Hainan, she summed up "wrong yarn, color matching, comprehensive The weaving technology of "thread and flower" invented special textile machines, which greatly improved the efficiency and level of China's cotton spinning industry, and created new jobs for women, allowing China to enter the real "male farming and female weaving". era.


The slave trade and the American Civil War, the world travel of cotton

The history of cotton traveling to the West is closely related to Islamic culture. English cotton, French coton, Dutch katoen, Italian coton and other words are similar in writing and pronunciation because they all come from the Arabic qutun (cotton ) Transpose. This vocabulary relationship shows that it is under the influence of Arab cotton planting and cotton spinning technology that European talents have developed an interest in the cotton spinning industry. After tracing the roots, it was discovered that the Arabs’ cotton came from more eastern India. Historians point out that if silk is synonymous with ancient China, cotton has always been a symbol of India. In terms of cultivating and processing cotton, India's position is similar to that of ancient Egypt in cultivating and processing flax.






Compared with China, the raw materials of clothing in the ancient Western world were more single. In the 19th century, the British historian EJ Donnel wrote in the article "The Early History of Cotton": "In Palestine, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy and Spain, wool was mainly used for weaving; Northern European countries used hemp; Egypt used linen; China Use silk to spin.” It is precisely because of the single source of clothing that the Western world has always longed for silk and cotton from the East.


Donnel believes that there is sufficient evidence that as early as 330 BC, Alexander the Great might have brought cotton to Europe as a commodity during his expedition to the East. The archaeological site also proves that the Greeks used muslin or other cotton fabrics imported from India in at least 200 BC. But like silk traveling to the West, neither the Romans nor the Greeks have cracked the secrets of cotton cloth for a long time, nor have they achieved large-scale introductions. For a long time, the cotton cloth in the deep memory of Westerners still came from far away India.


Until the middle of the 17th century, a Venetian merchant named Tavernier also recorded: "Lakuqi (Malva Province, India) produces a thin and soft plain cloth that is exposed on the body, like No clothes are the same. This kind of plain cloth is not allowed to be sold by merchants. The officials followed the order and sent them to the palace of the Mughal the Great to make shirts and robes for the sultan and noble ladies in hot weather. Kings and nobles With great interest, watch them dance in this costume."


Regarding the trajectory of cotton traveling around the world, Sven Beckett, author of "The Cotton Empire: A Global History of Capitalism," believes that before Europeans discovered cotton, cotton was busy changing the lives of others outside Europe. In the 9th to 10th centuries, there was a "cotton wave" in Iran that supplied the needs of urban markets (especially Baghdad). In the account of "Marco Polo's Travels", cotton and cotton cloth are everywhere in the vast land from Armenia to Persia to China. At the same time, cotton went all the way west from India, entered the Middle East via Central Asia, and then rooted in the Mediterranean and Europe.


In 1497, the navigator Da Gama successfully opened up a sea route from Europe to India, bypassing the Cape of Good Hope. Since then, Europeans have obtained permission to trade directly with India. With the growth and decline of Western countries' maritime power, the United Kingdom eventually became the overlord of the ocean, and the import of cotton and cotton cloth became the largest trade between India and the United Kingdom. In order to process cotton and cotton products, the British carried out a series of industrial technological innovations, successively inventing the Jenny spinning machine and the Watt steam engine. Manchester also rose all the way in the development of the cotton industry and became the world's first industrialized city.


During this period, European colonists who went to the Americas found it difficult to plunder more gold and silver from Indian tribes. So they rushed to open plantations to grow tropical and subtropical crops such as sugarcane, cotton, and tobacco. In order to have a sufficient labor force, in 1619, the first batch of 20 black slaves plundered by the Dutch from Africa arrived in Jamestown, a colony of Virginia in North America. About 40 years later, the British took over from the Dutch and monopolized the slave trade in the Americas. With the continuous development of British colonies in North America, the number of black slaves in North America also increased sharply. By 1790, the number of black slaves in the United States reached more than 700,000.




These black slaves became the main labor force in the American cotton plantations. In 1793, American Whitney invented the cotton gin, which increased the efficiency of the original cotton weaving by nearly a hundred times. The profit of cotton planting and the cotton industry continued to increase, which stimulated a wider range of cotton planting and slave demand. By 1860, the six southern states of the United States, including Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, had become cotton-growing areas, and more and more black slaves were engaged in cotton cultivation. From the perspective of the industrial chain of the world economy at that time, cotton cultivation in North America ensured the needs of the textile industry, the most important sector of the British Industrial Revolution at that time, and further promoted the development of the world industrial revolution. Marx once commented on this: "Without (North America) slavery, there would be no cotton, and without cotton, modern industry would not be conceivable."


However, the excessive reliance on cotton by the southern states has caused harm to the overall US economy, and the conflict between bloody slavery and modern civilization has become more and more acute. Finally, in 1861, the American Civil War rumbled at Fort Sumter. Started in the sound. The academic circles have always had different views on the nature of this war. Recently, Professor David Armitage of Harvard University clearly pointed out in his book "Civil War: History in Ideas" that this civil war is based on The economic consequences of a war of ideas that "cotton is king".


Thousands of years ago, when a woody plant with small milky white flowers began to travel around the world, it probably did not expect that it just wanted to warm people and provide people with a more comfortable dressing experience, but it did not want to change it profoundly. The pattern of world politics and the history of civilization.


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