Forum: Conspicuous Consumption

The End of Ivory

by Craig A. Smith

IN HIS SEMINAL VOLUME on the environmental history of China, The Retreat of the Elephants (2004), Mark Elvin characterises the gradual disappearance of China’s elephants as a 3,000-year war between humans and elephants, ending in the final eradication of the animals from east and central China in the Yuan and Ming dynasties (between 1271 and 1644). Although he notes that ivory carving goes back millennia in China, the craft did not gain widespread popularity until the Ming dynasty, at which point elephants only survived in the wilds of China’s borders with South-East Asian countries.

Feasting on Donkey Skin

by Natalie Köhle

FOR ALMOST TWO millennia, donkey hide glue (colla corii asini) has been part of the Chinese apothecary. Ejiao 阿膠, or ‘E-glue’ as this medicine is referred to in Chinese, consists of gelatin that is extracted from donkey hides by boiling them in water. According to traditional Chinese medicine, ejiao strengthens blood, stops bleeding, and improves the quality of vital fluids. It can be used to restore the vigour of depleted patients, or taken as a life-enhancing tonic to strengthen vitality and promote health. Recent biomedical clinical trials confirm the hematopoietic (blood cell producing) effect of donkey hide gelatin.

Hey Big Spender: China’s Luxury Travellers

by Linda Jaivin

DURING THE LAST THREE months of 2017, Qantas passengers may have discovered a second inflight magazine in their seat pockets, published entirely in simplified Chinese. Aimed at high-spending travellers, the special edition included a list of Australia’s seven most ‘extreme-luxe’ experiences and a sampling of specialised itineraries (such as food and wine and the outback). This special edition was the third of its kind since late 2016 and was also distributed to select five-star and boutique hotels in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The pitch to advertisers noted that Chinese travellers spend eighty per cent of their luxury dollars overseas.