The Case of Guangxi Province

Author: Liping, Du
This book presents, for the first time, an account of the marketing system for traditional medicines in China. It is based on a case study centered on Guangxi, one of China’s major producers of traditional medicines. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, medicines produced in Guangxi were transported directly to external markets by packhorses and then boats through the West River System. In the centrally planned economy after 1949, a diversified marketing system containing vertical task allocation connections, horizontally operated regional distribution routes and a dendritically structured local net work was formed in order to fulfill the government’s purchasing tasks. During the reform era of the 1980s, new market mechanisms emerged as a result of merchants’ pursuit of a trading culture based on an "ethic of honour" and the need to protect sources of supply. The net result is a marketing system that is quite distinct from the well-known rural marketing system for trade in non-specialised goods explored by other scholars.


“Far beyond the bounds of China itself, an increasing number of people in today’s world have had some experience of traditional Chinese medicine. Among Westerners, as well as among Chinese communities, Chinese traditional remedies are increasingly popular ... Given this popularity, it is not surprising that there has been recent public discussion about the possible side-effects of Chinese herbal remedies, and about the need for better quality controls on the herbal ingredients themselves ... this book is really the first study to address this question. The author has explored the market pathways for traditional Chinese medicines, covering the entire process of production and transport from remote production sites to regional and national medicine markets and on to pharmacies and hospitals ... By concentrating on Guangxi, a province in the tropical south of China populated mainly by indigenous Tai-speaking ethnic groups, the author has also been able to address a number of other interesting and important questions that are handled only intermittently in the existing scholarly literature on traditional Chinese medicine ...” - (from the Commendatory Preface) David Holm, Professor of Chinese and Head, Chinese Program, The University of Melbourne

" ... This is a fine piece of scholarship which is the first study to examine the historical changes in the marketing of Chinese materia medica, and to do so within a regional framework. The originality of the topic and approach are nicely complemented by the thorough and careful examination of original sources which have not been drawn upon by any other English-speaking scholar ... Given the increasing scholarly interest in Chinese medical cultures, in regional economies and local-level cultural phenomena in China – an interest measured in the number of special journals and research centres, academic conferences and research projects devoted to these topics – this book is poised to make a valuable contribution across a range of disciplinary boundaries within Chinese studies ... " – Dr. Lewis Mayo, Department of Chinese Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands

" ... Studies on this topic are long overdue in view of the burgeoning interest in Chinese medicine ... To the economic and social historian, the book offers insights into the spatial dimension of this traditional local product market. For the researcher in traditional Chinese medicine, the book holds a wealth of information on the local production of materia medica and paves the way for further research on emerging commercial structures." – Hans Hendrischke, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Chinese and Indonesian Studies, The University of New South Wales

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Preface by David Holm
1. Traditional medicines as products
2. The trade in traditional medicines in Guangxi during the late Qing and Republican periods (19th century to 1949)
3. Marketing forces and the general marketing framework in Guangxi: 1950s to 1970s
4. The marketing system for traditional medicines before the economic reforms in Guangxi
5. Economic reform since 1978
6. The marketing system for traditional medicines, 1980s-1990s