By Carol Benedict
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Extra info for Golden-Silk Smoke: A History of Tobacco in China, 1550-2010
A hybrid of two wild tobacco species originally found in Peru, N. rustica was first domesticated in the Andes. 80 Europeans then transported it from North America to Europe and Asia in the late sixteenth century. It is unclear how N. rustica ended up in distant Gansu. As noted earlier, tobacco cultivation was already under way in parts of Shanxi and Shaanxi in the early seventeenth century, and the Lanzhou tobacco trade may simply have been an extension of cultivation elsewhere in northern China.
85 Chinese mercantile penetration into the westernmost reaches of Xinjiang did not occur until the eighteenth century or later,86 and so it seems more plausible that Indian or Bukharan merchants moving through passes in the Karakoram, Pamir, and Hindu Kush mountain ranges brought N. rustica into Kashgaria from northern India or eastern Persia in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries. The Eastern Turkestanis who brokered the trade between northwestern China and the cities of southwestern Xinjiang in the late Ming may well have been the first to carry “yellow-flower tobacco” to Gansu along with precious nephrite jade, mined in the Kashgaria region.
For a time, it remained below the radar of Qing authorities, and so it is impossible to say when it first arrived. 32 Koreans began to cultivate and market tobacco in the early 1620s. 33 Probably for these same reasons, Koreans found a ready market for tobacco among the Liaodongese (both Chinese and Jurchen) shortly thereafter. Chinese merchants may have traded tobacco at the northeastern frontier mar- Origins of Tobacco in China, 1550–1650 23 kets even before rising tensions with the Ming led Nurhaci to annex Liaodong in 1621.