The Last Green Pepper Emperor
“[A]lso in a compound in Khabarovsk, in 1945, was the Last Manchu, Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He spent five years in Soviet captivity after his Japanese-backed pocket empire of Manchukuo collapsed with Japan’s surrender. The fallen emperor whiled away the days reading the Diamond Sutra and raising green peppers and tomatoes in the yard, while others among his shrunken entourage held séances in the bedrooms.”
Dominic Ziegler, “Black Dragon River. A Journey Down the Amur River at the Borderlands of Empires.” Penguin Press 2015: 8
This will probably turn out the one and only mention of chile peppers in that whole book, given how (comparatively, anyways) unpopular the chilli is supposed to be up north where its story takes place, but that only makes it all the more interesting.
After all, Northern China, and even Mongolia and Russia, aren’t the places one thinks of when thinking of peppers; the Manchu Qing aren’t exactly considered the biggest eaters of peppers – but then again, there is that mention of peppers, and growing tomatoes and peppers in the short Russian summers does seem to be a popular thing to do.
I know that from the Baltics as well; I heard of Pu Yi spending his later days as gardener – but that mix of crops is not particularly Chinese (or Manchu, for that matter)…
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