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This article investigates the history of camels in Beijing from 1900 to 1937. Since the Qing period, the camel living in the villages on the western outskirts of Beijing had become the beast of burden for carrying coal from the Western Hills to the city and stimulated interconnection between the urban and rural areas. The use of camels was scrutinized during the urbanization that followed the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. However, camels did not disappear. After Beijing lost its status as the political capital in 1928, camels were reimagined as a symbol of nostalgia and part of the city’s new identity to reconstruct Beijing as a cultural capital and tourist city in a global context. The article argues that the urbanization of camels in Beijing was not a deanimalized process; instead, it was reordering of the relationship between animals and the city beyond a utilitarian perspective to address social and cultural dimensions, it was also a process that preserved the past and accommodated the present.
Bibliographical noteI am grateful to Geraldine Forbes, Donald Worster, Cyndy Brown, and the anonymous reviewers for their guidance and assistance. The research benefited from supports of the Beijing Municipal Archives and the Lingnan University.
The author received financial support from the Faculty Research Grant (Reference no.:101880, 2019-2020) of Lingnan University.
- urban history
- animal history
- modern China