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Chinese Theories of the Origin of Amber

Naturevolume 51page294 (1895) | Download Citation



IN my letter on “Some Oriental Beliefs about Bees and Wasps” (NATURE, vol. 1. p. 30, May 10, 1894), I have traced the origin of the Chinese belief in the production of amber from bees into the presence in amber of hymenoptorous remains. Apparently developed from this belief, there is another misconception recorded by Cháng Hwá (killed 300 A.D.), whose passage on the subject reads as follows: “In ‘Shinsien-chuèn,' it is said, the resins of the pine and arbor-vitæ, after remaining underground for one thousand years, are turned into Pachyma cocos (Fuh-ling),1 which is turned into amber.' Notwithstanding this statement, the Mount Tai produces Pachyma, but no amber; whereas Yung-chang.… produces amber, but no Pachyma. Another theory is that amber is made by burning the honey-combs. Which is true of these two theories is not yet decided.”2

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  1. 1

    Identified thus in Dr. K. Itô's "Nihon Sambutsu-shi," part vii "Póh-wuh-chi," tom. iv., sub. "Yón-wuh."

  2. 2

    "Pan-tsau Káang-muh," 1578, art. "Hú-pèh."

  3. 3


  4. 4

    London, "Encyclopædia of Plants," 1880, p. 798.

  5. 5

    Twan Chìng-Shih, "Yú-yáng Tsáh-tsú," tom. xi.

  6. 6

    "Natural History," English translation, Bohn's edition, vol. vi., p. 401.

  7. 7

    Twan Chìng-Shih. loc. cit.

  8. 8

    "Pan-tsau Káng-muh," loc. cit. and art. "Hú."

  9. 9

    Twan Chìng-Shih, ubí supr.

  10. 10

    Identified thus in Dr. M. Miyoshi's article in the Shokubutsugaku Zasshi, No. 34, p. 435, Tky, Dec. 10, 1889.

  11. 11

    "Lü-shi Chùn-tsiú," Japanese edition, N.D., tom. ix. p. 9, Káu Yú's note.

  12. 12

    Cháng Hwá appears to have well distinguished the two plants. He says, "Usnea lives upon the dodder, and the dodder upon trees." "Póh-wuh-chì," loc. cit.

  13. 13

    "Lü-shi Chùn-tsiú, loc. cit. text.

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