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Tung Oil and tong 桐 Trees

Pages 215 - 236


Tung oil has been used in China as a varnish and for caulking ships for a very long time, but its history is little known. Considerable confusion surrounds tong trees, as the name has been applied to several very different plants. This article discusses the identity of the various kinds of tong, concentrating upon the trees which produce tung oil. It describes the roles which tung oil has played in history. It was, for example, declared a strategic product by the US government during the Second World War, and played a part in US support for the Republic of China against Japan. It is suggested that tung oil may also have been essential to China's rise as a maritime power during the Song dynasty and later.


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