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With this volume, Roderich Ptak tries to build bridges between China’s South and the overseas world, between the real and the imagined, and philological and other dimensions. The book comprises six studies (based on different lectures ) which deal with animals in traditional Chinese texts from pre-Han times to the Qing period. The animals mentioned can be related to trade, daily life, literature, etc. with a regional focus on South China and the maritime world. The birds and beasts are instrumentalized for various purposes and in various ways occasionally appearing as exotic creatures, but their zoological identification remains difficult.
The first paper comments on animal terms in the Confucian Classics; among other things it addresses the issue of “literary” versus “real” species. The following three contributions look at late medieval and early modern themes: methodological questions surrounding the maritime trade in animals; references to camels in ethnographic and other accounts carrying data on Africa and the Near East; and the shipment of horses from Hainan to the Chinese mainland. The fifth essay investigates the bird names listed in "Aomen jilüe", a Qing gazetteer on Macau. Some of the descriptions associated with these birds go back to Jesuit records. Jesuit works including the famous Ricci map form the theme of the last study which discusses how animals were presented in these sources.