This chapter considers the marginal literati authors whose knowledge of exotica drew from both official sources and the marketplace. It shows how Qing China entered the nineteenth century with not one but many competing claims to knowledge that would trigger a new round of negotiation over pharmaceutical objecthood in the modern era. For someone residing in an urban center with ready access to the marketplace, exotic objects were not just something one might have heard of or read about, but tangible specimens to collect, examine, and (in many cases) ingest. This chapter thus follows one author’s journey through the Qing world of goods to shed light on new directions in the bencao tradition. To conclude, the chapter discusses the political significance of this vernacular sphere of knowledge and the double-edged meaning of curiosity.
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