Controversy over the medicinal uses of wild animals in China has erupted around the ethics and efficacy of animal-based drugs, the devastating effect of animal farming on wildlife conservation, and the propensity of these practices to foster zoonotic diseases. In Mao's Bestiary, Liz P. Y. Chee traces the history of the use of medicinal animals in modern China. While animal parts and tissue have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, Chee demonstrates that the early Communist state expanded and systematized their production and use to compensate for drug shortages, generate foreign investment in high-end animal medicines, and facilitate an ideological shift toward legitimating folk medicines. Among other topics, Chee investigates the craze for chicken blood therapy during the Cultural Revolution, the origins of deer antler farming under Mao and bear bile farming under Deng, and the crucial influence of the Soviet Union and North Korea on Chinese zootherapies. In the process, Chee shows Chinese medicine to be a realm of change rather than a timeless tradition, a hopeful conclusion given current efforts to reform its use of animals.
1. "Abandon Chinese Medicine, Retain Chinese Drugs": Creating a State Pharmaceutical Sector 27
2. "To Learn from the Soviet Union": Russian Influence on Chinese Pharmaceuticals 53
3. The Great Leap Forward and the Rise of Medicinal Animal Farming 71
4. The Quest for Innovation: Folk Remedies and Animal Therapies 99
5. "Economic Animals": Deng's Reforms and the Rise of Bear Farming 139
Liz P. Y. Chee is a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute and a Lecturer at Tembusu College, both at the National University of Singapore.
"Mao's Bestiary is a brilliant revisionary cultural history, and a pioneering work on animals. Liz P. Y. Chee has written a book that is more than just a historical study; it contributes to current political debates within China as well as globally. This will be a wonderful book to teach, not only in classes on contemporary China, but also on ethnography, history, social theory, environment and sustainability, and science studies."
– Michael M. J. Fischer, author of Anthropology in the Meantime: Experimental Ethnography, Theory, and Method for the Twenty-First Century
"What a daring endeavor indeed to tackle the question that many have asked with urgency even before COVID-19: Why do Chinese people use parts of wild animals for health benefits? Uncovering the little-known creation of an animal drug industry in Mao's China, which involved surprising actors from around the globe, Liz P. Y. Chee's groundbreaking book exemplifies how history at its best can address our deep concern about animals and the troubled world we share with them."
– Sean Hsiang-lin Lei, author of Neither Donkey nor Horse: Medicine in the Struggle over China's Modernity
"Courses on medical humanities, the history of medicine, Asian science/medicine studies, political science of medicine, interdisciplinary studies, and institutionalized use of animals would be strong fits for this text."
– S. M. Weiss, Choice
“Chee’s richly evidenced work enhances our understanding of the interrelationship between the state, the market and individual actors [...] [Mao's Bestiary] will be a most valuable read for historians of medicine and, in particular, for those who are devoted to wildlife and biodiversity conservation and who have the propensity of fostering zoonotic diseases.”
– Yun Hu, Social History of Medicine