January 2, 320
"Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity" or Baopuzi, attributed to Ge Hong in 320 CE.
I have personally observed for two or three years men, who were foregoing starches, and in general their bodies were slight and their complexions good. They could withstand wind, cold, heat, or dampness, but there was not a fat one among them. Therefore, by giving up starches one can become immune to weapons, exorcize demons, neutralize poisons, and cure illnesses. On entering a mountain, he can render savage beasts harmless. When he crosses streams, no harm will be done to him by dragons. There will be no fear when plague strikes; and when a crisis or difficulty suddenly arises, you will know how to cope with it.
I have personally observed for two or three years men, who were foregoing starches, and in general their bodies were slight and their complexions good. They could withstand wind, cold, heat, or dampness, but there was not a fat one among them. I admit that I have not yet met any who had not eaten starches in several decades, but if some people cut off from starches for only a couple of weeks die while these others look as well as they do after years, why should we doubt that the (deliberate) fasting could be prolonged still further? If those cut off from starches grow progressively weaker to death, one would normally fear that such a diet simply cannot be prolonged, but inquiry of those pursuing this practice reveals that at first all of them notice a lessening of strength, but that later they gradually get stronger month by month and year by year. Thus, there is no impediment to the possibility of prolongation.
Therefore, by giving up starches one can become immune to weapons, exorcize demons, neutralize poisons, and cure illnesses. On entering a mountain, he can render savage beasts harmless. When he crosses streams, no harm will be done to him by dragons. There will be no fear when plague strikes; and when a crisis or difficulty suddenly arises, you will know how to cope with it.
“The Daoist Immortals are often described as “abstaining from grain” (bigu) as part of their training and progression in the Dao… Likewise, the “abstention from grain” of Saints must be seen to be a fundamental technique of achieving immortality, perhaps only inferior to a magical plant or elixir that would instantly fulfill the same function as the practice of bigu.” (Dannaway, Frederick R. (2009)Yoked to Earth: A Treatise on Corpse-Demons and Bigu)
The “cutting off” of grains, which were the basic staple food for the peasants, was a rejection of the sedentary life and the peasant condition as such. This refusal should not solely be interpreted in the light of the miseries endured by farmers, but also in a much more fundamental way. Agriculture has occasioned, since Neolithic times, a radical break with the way of life that prevailed for almost the entire prehistory of humankind. Agriculture has also been the main culprit of the imbalances of human civilization over the last ten thousand years or so: the systematic destruction of the natural environment, overpopulation, capitalization, and other evils that result from sedentariness. (Schipper, Kristofer (1993), The Taoist Body, translated by Karen C. Duval, University of California Press. p. 170)
“What becomes evident in the study of the tensions between Confucians and Daoists is a fundamental difference in their assessments of the prehistorical period of China. The Confucian’s viewed primordial times as period of starvation, of violence and wilderness, to loosely paraphrase and translate Levi (1982), contrasted to the Daoist view of a golden-age of uncontrived Eden-like bliss. “Zhuangzi praises that idyllic age with these words: ‘Spirits and gods show their good will and nobody dies before his time’” (Levi 1982). This is anathema to the Confucian view that it took a civilizing divine-potentate to rescue humanity from it’s own ignorance and helplessness in a brutal wilderness. This expresses a fundamental cosmological orientation that is the foundation for much of the social movements in China, perhaps even into modern times.“ Ancient man imbibed dew” and “fed on primordial breath and drink harmony” and ate not the toilsome, vulgar crops of the red dust that are exemplified in the Five Sacred Grains (wuku).” (Dannaway, Frederick R. (2009)Yoked to Earth: A Treatise on Corpse-Demons and Bigu)
January 1, 1295
Marckalada: The First Mention of America in the Mediterranean Area (c. 1340)
Marco Polo mentioned the Mekrit people of Mongolia who lived on hunted meat, fish, and birds, and could not grow corn, wheat, or wine.
[Our] authorities say that under the equator there are very high mountains, where there are temperate settlements, made possible by winds, or by the shadow of the mountains, or by the remarkable thickness of the walls, or by underground caves in valleys. At the equator there are also many islands that are truly temperate because of the rivers, or the marshes, or the winds, or for reasons that are unknown to us.
And for a similar reason there are settlements beneath or around the Arctic pole, despite the very intense cold. These settlements are so temperate that people cannot die there: this fact is well known for Ireland. The reasons why this happens are unknown to us. Marco Polo speaks explicitly about this, when he says that there is a certain desert 40 days across where nothing grows, neither wheat nor wine, but the people live by hunting birds and animals, and they ride deers.
When you leave Karakorum and the mount Altai, you go north for 40 days through the plain of Bangu. The people who live there are called Mekrit, and they are subject to Great Khan; their customs are like those of Tartars. They are a very wild people. They feed on the meat of the animals they hunt, especially of deer, of which they have an abundance; actually, they tame the deers and, after taming, ride them. They are lacking in both wheat and wine. In summer, they hunt birds and wild animals in abundance; in winter, they eat cooked animals and birds, and move from those lands because of the excessive cold.
Sundry Particulars on the Plain Beyond Caracoron
And when you leave Caracoron and the Altay, in which they bury the bodies of the Tartar Sovereigns, as I told you, you go north for forty days till you reach a country called the PLAIN OF BARGU. The people there are called MESCRIPT; they are a very wild race, and live by their cattle, the most of which are stags, and these stags, I assure you, they used to ride upon. Their customs are like those of the Tartars, and they are subject to the Great Kaan. They have neither corn nor wine.[They get birds for food, for the country is full of lakes and pools and marshes, which are much frequented by the birds when they are moulting, and when they have quite cast their feathers and can't fly, those people catch them. They also live partly on fish.]
January 1, 1339
Cronica universalis, written by the Milanese friar Galvaneus de la Flamma
A Milanese friar named Galveneus de la Flamma writes about the Arctic people who survive off of a carnivore diet, and who live in fear of the 'huge white bears.' "In this land, there is neither wheat nor wine nor fruit; people live on milk, meat, and fish."
Further northwards there is the Ocean, a sea with many islands where a great quantity of peregrine falcons and gyrfalcons live. These islands are located so far north that the Polar Star remains behind you, toward the south. Sailors who frequent the seas of Denmark and Norway say that northwards, beyond Norway, there is Iceland; further ahead there is an island named Grolandia, where the Polar Star remains behind you, toward the south. The governor of this island is a bishop. In this land, there is neither wheat nor wine nor fruit; people live on milk, meat, and fish. They dwell in subterranean houses and do not venture to speak loudly or to make any noise, for fear that wild animals hear and devour them. There live huge white bears, which swim in the sea and bring shipwrecked sailors to the shore. There live white falcons capable of great flights, which are sent to the emperor of Katai. Further westwards there is another land, named Marckalada, where giants live; in this land, there are buildings with such huge slabs of stone that nobody could build with them, except huge giants. There are also green trees, animals and a great quantity of birds. However, no sailor was ever able to know anything for sure about this land or about its features.
March 2, 1577
A true reporte of the laste voyage into the west and northwest regions, &c. 1577. worthily atchieued by Capteine Frobisher of the sayde voyage the first finder and generall With a description of the people there inhabiting, and other circumstances notable. Written by Dionyse Settle, one of the companie in the sayde voyage, and seruant to the Right Honourable the Earle of Cumberland.
Settle says about the Inuit "Those beastes, flesh, fishes, and fowles, which they kil, they are meate, drinke, apparel, houses....[they] are contented by their hun∣ting, fishing, and fowling, with rawe flesh and warme bloud, to satisfie their gréedie panches, whiche is their onely glorie."
From Arctic Memories there is this quote:
As Dionyse Settle, the Elizabethan chronicler of explorer Martin Frobisher's second expedition to Baffin Island, so shrewdly observed in 1577: "Those beastes, flesh, fishes, and fowles, which they kil, they are meate, drinke, apparel, houses, bedding, hose, shooes, thred, saile for their boates... and almost all their riches."
I looked up the full text of Settle's work and copied the following, since it was written in 1577, it seems like very broken English but I think it's not worth editing.
They are men of a large corpora∣ture, and good proportion: their colour is not much vnlike the Sunne burnte Countrie man, who laboureth daily in the Sunne for his liuing.
They weare their haire somethinge long, and cut before, either with stone or knife, very disorderly. Their women weare their haire long, and knit vp with two loupes, shewing forth on either side of their faces, and the rest foltred vp on a knot. Also, some of their women race their faces proportionally, as chinne, chéekes, and forehead, and the wristes of their handes, wherevpon they lay a co∣lour, which continueth darke azurine.
They eate their meate all rawe, both fleshe, fishe, and foule, or something per∣boyled with bloud & a little water, whi∣che they drinke. For lacke of water, they wil eate yce, that is hard frosen, as plea∣santly as we will doe Sugar Candie, or other Sugar.
If they, for necessities sake, stand in néede of the premisses, such grasse as the countrie yéeldeth they plucke vppe, and eate, not deintily, or salletwise, to allure their stomaches to appetite: but for ne∣cessities sake, without either salt, oyles, or washing, like brutish beasts deuoure the same. They neither vse table, stoole, or table cloth for comelinesse: but when they are imbrued with bloud, knuckle déepe, and their kniues in like sort, they vse their tongues as apt instruments to licke them cleane: in doeing whereof, they are assured to loose none of their victuals.
They franck or kéep certeine doggs, not much vnlike Wolues, whiche they yoke together, as we do oxen and horses, to a sled or traile: and so carrie their ne∣cessaries ouer the yce and snowe, from place to place: as the captiue, whom we haue, made perfecte signes. And when those Dogges are not apt for the same vse: or when with hunger they are con∣streyned, for lacke of other victuals, they eate them: so that they are as néedefull for them, in respect of their bignesse, as our oxen are for vs.
They apparell themselues in the skinnes of such beastes as they kill, se∣wed together with the sinewes of them. All the fowle which they kill, they skin, and make thereof one kinde of garment or other, to defend them from the cold.
They make their apparell with hoods and tailes, which tailes they giue, when they thinke to gratifie any friendshippe shewed vnto them: a great signe of friendshippe with them. The men haue them not so syde as the women.
The men and women weare their hose close to their legges, from the wast to the knée, without any open before, as well the one kinde as the other. Uppon their legges, they weare hose of lether, with the furre side inward, two or thrée paire on at once, and especially the wo∣men. In those hose, they put their kni∣ues, néedles, and other thinges néedefull to beare about. They put a bone with∣in their hose, whiche reacheth from the foote to the knée, wherevpon they drawe their said hose, and so in place of garters, they are holden from falling downe a∣bout their féete.
They dresse their skinnes very softe and souple with the haire on. In cold weather or Winter, they weare ye furre side inward: and in Summer outward. Other apparell they haue none, but the said skinnes.
Those beastes, flesh, fishes, and fow∣les, which they kil, they are both meate, drinke, apparel, houses, bedding, hose, shooes, thred, saile for their boates, with many other necessaries, whereof they stande in néede, and almost all their ri∣ches.
Their houses are tentes, made of Seale skinns, pitched with foure Firre quarters, foure square, méeting at the toppe, and the skinnes sewed together with sinowes, and layd therevppon: so pitched they are, that the entraunce in∣to them, is alwayes South, or against the Sunne.
They haue other sortes of houses, whiche wée found, not to be inhabited, which are raised with stones and What bones, and a skinne layd ouer them, to withstand the raine, or other weather: the entraunce of them béeing not much vnlike an Quens mouth, whereto, I thincke, they resort for a time, to fishe, hunt, and fowle, and so leaue them for the next time they come thether againe.
Their weapons are Bowes, Ar∣rowes, Dartes, and Slinges. Their Bowes are of a yard long of wood, si∣newed on the back with strong veines, not glued too, but fast girded and tyed on. Their Bowe stringes are likewise sinewes. Their arrowes are thrée pée∣ces, nocked with bone, and ended with bone, with those two ends, and the wood in the middst, they passe not in lengthe halfe a yard or little more. They are f•∣thered with two fethers, the penne end being cutte away, and the fethers layd vppon the arrowe with the broad side to the woode: in somuch that they séeme, when they are tyed on, to haue foure fe∣thers. They haue likewise thrée sortes of heades to those arrowes: one sort of stone or yron, proportioned like to a heart: the second sort of bone, much like vnto a stopte head, with a hooke on the same: the thirde sort of bone likewise, made sharpe at both sides, and sharpe pointed. They are not made very fast, but lightly tyed to, or else set in a nocke, that vppon small occasion, the arrowe leaueth these heades behinde them: and they are of small force, except they be ve∣ry néere, when they shoote.
Their Darts are made of two sorts: the one with many forkes of bone in the fore ende, and likewise in the mid∣dest: their proportions are not muche vnlike our toasting yrons, but longer: these they cast out of an instrument of wood, very readily. The other sorte is greater then the first aforesayde, with a long bone made sharp on both sides, not much vnlike a Rapier, which I take to be their most hurtfull weapon.
They haue two sorts of boates, made of Lether, set out on the inner side with quarters of wood, artificially tyed toge∣ther with thongs of the same: the grea∣ter sort are not much vnlike our Wher∣ries, wherein sixtéene or twentie men may fitte: they haue for a sayle, drest the guttes of such beastes as they kyll, very fine and thinne, which they sewe toge∣ther: the other boate is but for one man to sitte and rowe in, with one oare.
Their order of fishing, hunting, and fowling, are with these sayde weapons: but in what sort, or how they vse them, we haue no perfect knowledge as yet.
I can not suppose their abode or ha∣bitation to be here, for that neither their houses, or apparell, are of no such force to withstand the extremitie of colde, that the countrie séemeth to be infected with all: neyther doe I sée any signe likely to performe the same.
Those houses, or rather dennes, which stand there, haue no signe of foot∣way, or any thing else troden, whiche is one of the chiefest tokens of habitation. And those tents, which they bring with them, when they haue sufficiently hun∣ted and fished, they remoue to other places: and when they haue sufficient∣ly stored them of suche victuals, as the countrie yeldeth, or bringeth foorth, they returne to their Winter stations or ha∣bitations. This coniecture do I make, for the infertilitie, whiche I perceiue to be in that countrie.
They haue some yron, whereof they make arrowe heades, kniues, and other little instrumentes, to woorke their boa∣tes, bowes, arrowes, and dartes withal, whiche are very vnapt to doe any thing withall, but with great labour.
It seemeth, that they haue conuersa∣tion with some other people, of whome, for exchaunge, they should receiue the same. They are greatly delighted with any thinge that is brighte, or giueth a sound.
What knowledge they haue of God, or what Idol they adore, wée haue no perfect intelligence. I thincke them ra∣ther Anthropophagi, or deuourers of mans fleshe, then otherwise: for that there is no flesh or fishe, which they finde dead, (smell it neuer so filthily) but they will eate it, as they finde it, without any other dressing. A loathsome spectacle, ei∣ther to the beholders, or hearers.
There is no maner of créeping beast hurtful, except some Spiders (which, as many affirme, are signes of great store of Golde:) and also certeine stinging Gnattes, which bite so fiercely, that the place where they bite, shortly after swelleth, and itcheth very sore.
They make signes of certeine peo∣ple, that weare bright plates of Gold in their forheads, and other places of their bodies.
The Countries, on both sides the streightes, lye very highe with roughe stonie mounteynes, and great quantitie of snowe thereon. There is very little plaine ground, and no grasse, except a li∣tle, whiche is much like vnto mosse that groweth on soft ground, such as we gett Turfes in. There is no wood at all. To be briefe, there is nothing fitte, or profi∣table for ye vse of man, which that Coun∣trie with roote yéeldeth, or bringeth forth: Howbeit, there is great quantitie of Deere, whose skinnes are like vnto Asses, their heads or hornes doe farre ex∣ceed, as wel in length as also in breadth, any in these oure partes or Countrie: their féete likewise, are as great as oure oxens, whiche we measured to be seuen or eight ynches in breadth. There are also Hares, Wolues, fishing Beares, and Sea foule of sundrie sortes.
As the Countrie is barren and vn∣fertile, so are they rude and of no capa∣citie to culture the same, to any perfec∣tion: but are contented by their hun∣ting, fishing, and fowling, with rawe flesh and warme bloud, to satisfie their gréedie panches, whiche is their onely glorie.
June 1, 1586
The Private Journal of Captain G.F. Lyon, of H.M.S. Hecla
Navigator John Davies is quoted as saying about the Inuit "The people are of good stature, well proportioned. They did eat all their meat raw."
In drawing out this long account of one visit, my prolixity may be excused, when I state, that it is merely intended to amuse my own fire-side circle; yet, voluminous as it is, I have withheld any account of the stature, and general appearance of the people; or any description of their boats and instruments, being certain of seeing more of them. In the mean time, however, it may not be uninteresting to quote the brief but accurate description of them as given by that able old navigator John Davies, in the year 1586.
“The people are of good stature, well proportioned, with small slender hands and feet, broad visages, small eyes, wide mouths, the most part unbearded, great lips and close teethed ; they are much given to bleed, and therefore stop their noses with deer's hair, or that of an elan. They are very simple in their conversation, but marvellously given to thieving, especially of iron; they did eat all their meat raw."