"Dwarf Trees" from Robert Fortune's Books



    Jellicoe, Sir Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe (consult. eds.) and Patrick Goode and Michael Lancaster (exec. eds.)  The Oxford Companion to Gardens (Oxford University Press, 1986),  pg. 196;

The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of Plants and Earth Science (Bellmore, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1988, reference edition published 1990), Volume 6, pg. 684. 

Fan, Fa-ti  British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and Cultural Encounter (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press; 2004), pp. 62, 127, 152.

2     Fortune Robert Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1979, reprint of the 1847 edition published by John Murray, London, a title in Garland's 'The Modern Chinese Economy Series (The Late Imperial Period)' edited by Ramon H. Myers, Hoover Institution).  The provinces actually were Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui, mostly along the southeastern coasts of China, but essentially north of the Western settlements.   The gardens of the Mandarins quote, pp. 94-98; also partially quoted in Behme, Robert Lee  Bonsai, Saikei and Bonkei: Japanese Dwarf Trees and Tray Landscapes  (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1969), pg. 9 and Resnick, Susan M. Bachenheimer  Bonsai (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991, 1992), pg. 14; The only tree which I met quote, pg. 129; I lost no time in visiting quote, pg. 154; The Soo-chow nurseries quote, pg. 260.  A digitalized version of the second edition is here.

Johnson, Hugh   The International Book of Trees (New York: Simon and Schuster; 1973),  pg. 49, has a small b&w photo of Fortune;

Bretschneider, Emil  History of European Botanical Discoveries in China (Leipzig: Zentral-Antiquariat; 1981, reprint of the original 1898 edition), pp. 404-517, which also mentions correspondence published in the Gardener's Chronicle and Journal of the Hort. Society.  It is not known if there were any dwarf tree references in these that were not also in Fortune's four books;

cf. Keswick, Maggie Chinese Garden: History, Art & Architecture (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.; 1978, Academy Editions, London), b&w fig. 49, pg. 54 of a "Deer-shaped tree, nursery garden, Hangchow.  Deer are a Chinese symbol for long life..."

       A review of Three Years' Wanderings with a shortened version of "The dwarfed trees of the Chinese and Japanese" quote starting with the eighth sentence "Stunted varieties..." through the sentence ending with "...to the power of art." is in Sharpe's London Magazine: A Journal of Entertainment and Instruction for General Reading (London: T.B. Sharpe), No. 87, June 26, 1847, pg. 142.

       The Fa-Tee gardens material is reproduced in The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Vol. II, No. 1, July 1847, in the "Foreign Notices" section, pg.

       A second review of can be found in The Gentleman's Magazine (London), Aug. 1847, pp. 115-134, with the art of dwarfing of trees specifically mentioned on pg.

       "The dwarfed trees" paragraph is repeated, without reference to Fortune, in "The Domestic Flora of China" in American agriculturist (New York), Volume VI, No. XI, November 1847, pg.
333 with the following very interesting footnote:
       "(a) In our August number [pp. 236-237] an allusion was made to the passion the Chinese have for miniature plants, which forcibly [sic] reminds us of an incident that occurred on our late excursion over the Long Island railroad.  Among our company were Hee-Sing, high priest of the Chinese junk, which had lately arrived in our port, and his no less famous artist and companion, Sum-Sing, both of whom were characterized by their medium size, copper complexions, high cheekbones, and straight black hair, similar in appearance to our native Indians.  They were gaily dressed in loose flowing robes of variously-colored silks, ornamented with go1d buttons.  They wore scull-caps closely fitting to the head, and from beneath these hung queer looking tails of long hair, falling nearly to the ground.  They carried fans in their hands, which they used to screen their faces from the sun as they walked out, and as our ladies do, to blow them cool.  They were of course the observed of all observers during the whole excursion.  It was the first time they ever had ridden in a rail-car, and they manifested no little alarm at the shrill whistle of the locomotive, as well as the rapidity of its movement.  But being somewhat intelligent men, and Hee-Sing understanding English tolerably well, everything as we passed along was explained to their entire satisfaction.  Alighting at Suffolk Station, Sum-Sing found growing among the bushes a dwarf whortleberry, in the form of a miniature tree.  'Hai-yah,' he exclaimed in great delight, 'too muchia handsome,' and carefully packed it away, no doubt with the view of exhibiting it among his friends on his return to the Celestial empire, as one of the wonders of the Western world."

It is not known if the whortleberry survived the journey and what became of it, but this is the earliest known reference to a Western plant being taken back to Asia to be used as a dwarf potted plant!  (Yes, Sum-Sing's quote seems to be copied from the pg. 237 above Fortune quote, but what would be the purpose if this anecdote was just fiction?)  No other reference to these two gentlemen has been found so far.  Per "1800s Chinese Immigration to America":
"Chinese sailors and merchants arrived in New York City in the early 1800s, but the first Chinese to stay were lured to 'Gum San' (Gold Mountain) after gold was discovered in California.  In the 1850s, new California laws banned all Chinese from the gold fields, yet they stayed on to develop coastal fisheries and reclaim swamp land for farming."

       A review of this book in The Chinese Repository, Vol XVI, Dec. 1847, pp. 574 mentions the Súchau [sic] nurseries quote.

       The first of three segments in "Miscellany of Extracts and Correspondence," in The Christian miscellany, and family visiter, Vol. 3, November 1848, pg. 347 is an excerpt from the gardens of the Mandarins quote.

       Another review can be found in The Daguerreotype: A Magazine of Foreign Literature and Science (Boston: Crosby & Nichols), Vol. III, No. 3, November 25, 1848, pp. 98-99.

       A review which excerpts the entire "The gardens of the Mandarins" paragraph can be found in the American edition of The London Quarterly Review (New York: Leonard Scott & Co.), Vol. LXXXVIII, July 1851, pg.
16.  It also includes this paragraph: "The great point of attraction to a long-tailed gardener visiting London would be the tiny stages of dwarf succulents in miniature pots, which look as if intended to be added to the furniture of a doll's house.  It is said, that certain wealthy and kind-hearted persons in China buy up the koo-shoo, or dwarf trees, for the sake of liberating them, by planting them in the open ground; but that the national benevolence does not prevent the making of human koo-shoo, or monstrous dwarfs (of which the small-footed ladies are a commencing sample), to be exhibited for a horribly-earned profit."  This echoes Livingstone.

       The above review is then repeated in The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art (New York), Sept 1851, pg. 30.

       See also
Abel for additional information about the Fa-Tee nurseries.

       A German translation by Ernst August Wilhelm Himly, apparently, can be found in Dreijährige Wanderungen in den Nord-Provinzen von China (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1853).

       A French translation, apparently, can be found in Aventures de Robert Fortune dans ses voyages en Chine, à la recherche des fleurs et du thé: Traduit de l'anglais (1843-1850) (L. Hachette, 1854).

    Fortune, Robert   A Journey to the Tea Countries of China  (London: John Murray, 1852), On visiting some of the flower-shops quote, pp. 121-122, A few days after visiting quote pp. 327-329, Before leaving these quote, pp. 334-335.  Per pp. 4-5, between 1843 and 1845 there was a great mortality which hit the British troops stationed there.  After 1845 there were many changes to Hong Kong, dense building of houses, and interest in gardening and planting.  The latter improved the particularly hot climate with softness and coolness.  Per pg. 21, he went inland himself because of the uncertainty that his hired Chinese agent did get tea plants from the interior as requested (rather than a few miles inland at the nearest tea district), and to see for himself the best modes of cultivation and the nature of the soil of the interior district; Bretschneider, History, pg. 450, gives part of the Wistaria quote.

       A German compilation of the first two books can be found in Robert Fortunes Wanderungen in China waehrend der Jahre 1843-1845, nebst dessen Reisen in die Theegegenden China's und Indiens 1848-1851 (Dyk'sche Buchhandlung, 1854).

       A recent Smithsonian magazine article about Fortune's tea investigations can be read here.

    Fortune, Robert  A Residence Among the Chinese (London: John Murray, 1857), [The less known Howqua's Garden] quote, pp. 214-215; I have already noticed quote, pp. 275-275.  Per pg. 144-146, in addition to tea seeds, large quantities of chestnuts and seeds of Cryptomeria japonica, green-indigo (which yielded a dye attracting much attention in France at the time), and many others were collected, which by the late 1850's were flourishing on the slopes of the Himalayas in the northwestern provinces of India.

5      Fortune, Robert Yedo and Peking, A Narrative of A Journey to the Capitals of Japan and China (London: John Murray, 1863), There are also a number quote pp. 2-3; [In Nagasaki] quote, pp. 11-12; On the side of a hill quote, pp. 16-17; On our way home quote, pp. 22-23, note that Fortune makes no comment or insinuation that this dwarf fir-tree (or the dwarf trees in the first quote, for that matter) was in any type of a container outside of the ground; The capital of Japan et al quote, pp. 103, 108, 109-114.

       The [In Nagasaki] quote actually appears two years earlier in French in a translation of Fortune's correspondence, as the sixth of nine paragraphs in "Le Japon -- L'Habitation De Von Siebold; Les Jardins De Nangasaki" by Em. Rodigas in the Miscellanées section, Flore Des Serres et Des Jardins de L'Europe: Journal Générale D'Horticulture, Volume 14, 1861, pg. 94.

       A review of Yedo and Peking can be found in The Athenæum, a weekly periodical published in London between 1828 and 1923, covering a wide range of topics in literature, fine arts, music, theatre, politics and popular science.  The particular review was apparently written by William Hepworth Dixon, editor of The Athenæum from 1853 to 1869, and printed on pg. 1848, March 28, 1863 (per title near bottom of list http://www.soi.city.ac.uk/~asp/v2/contributors/contributorfiles/DIXON,WilliamHepworth.html.)

       That review was reprinted in The Living Age, No. 986, April 25, 1863, on pp. 186- 188:  "The art of dwarfing trees" paragraph above (third last paragraph) is given on the third page of the review, having been preceded by the following:  "On the art of dwarfing plants -- an art which is beginning to find much favor [sic] in our own greenhouses -- [Fortune] is a more confident and competent  authority.  Many readers will like to learn the lesson from the original source -- the more so as they can do so in a passage variously suggestive:"
       (The Living Age, aka Littell's Living Age, was a mostly weekly American general magazine largely consisting of selections from various English and American magazines and newspapers.  It was published between 1844 and 1941 in New York.)

       "[In Nagasaki] the houses of the high officials" paragraph above (second paragraph) is reproduced in "The Japanese 'Flowery Land'" in The New Monthly Magazine edited by William Harrison Ainsworth (London: Chapman and Hall; Vol. CXXVIII, No. DXI, July 1863, pp. 300-301).

       "The capital of Japan" section is paraphrased in four paragraphs as "The Gardens of Yedo" in Working Farmer (New York), Vol. XV, No. 8, August 1, 1863, pg.

       The Nagasaki paragraph and mention of
Meylan's box (without that citation) are contained in a review as "Fortune's Japan and China" in The London review of politics, society, literature, art, & science, Vol. VII, No. 166, Sept. 5, 1863, pg. 260.

       "The art of dwarfing trees..." paragraph above (third last paragraph) is reprinted in Wells, David A. A.M., M.D.  Annual of Scientific Discovery: or, Year-Book of Facts in Science and Art for 1864 (Boston: Gould and Lincoln; 1867 [sic]), "Together with Notes on the Progress of Science During the Year 1863; A List of Recent Scientific Publications; Obituaries of Eminent Scientific Men, Etc.", pg. 313.

       "In Japan, as in China..." paragraph above (fourth last paragraph) and "The art of dwarfing trees..." paragraph above are reprinted as "Plant-Dwarfing in China and Japan" on pp. 154-55 of The Scientific and Technical Reader (London: T. Nelson and Sons; November 1868).

       "The art of dwarfing trees..." paragraph above is reprinted for the definition of "Dwarfing-Trees" in The Scientific and Literary Treasury by Samuel Maunder and James Yate Johnson (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.; 1880. New edition, with supplement), pg.
227.  The final four sentences of this paragraph in Fortune are replaced here with a nod to Siebold: "When plants from any cause become stunted or unhealthy, they almost invariably produce flowers and fruit.  A bamboo, a fir, and a plum-tree, the last in full blossom, have been seen growing and thriving in a box only one inch square by three inches high."

       A review with mention of dwarf trees (arbres nains) in French can be found in Revue Britannique, Choix d'articles traduits des meilleurs écrits périodiques, 1863, pg. An Encylopædia of Gardening by J. C. Loudon, F.L.S., H.S. (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts; 1860), pp. 315-316.

       We have not attempted to survey the reviews of Fortune's books that DIDN'T include dwarf tree mention.

Sarah Rose's popular and non-scholarly For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History (New York: Viking; 2010) includes substantial information about Fortune's "greatest theft of trade secrets in the history of mankind."  (Brought to RJB's attention in e-mail from Peter Aradi, 31 May 2010.)


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