The Ruricolist is now available in print.

Nondefinition #4

Mandarin. A kind of orange. In Imperial China these oranges, planted at the proper time of year, under special conditions including a constant supply of cool dry, air and the absence of sunlight, were used to grow bureaucrats. Within a week of proper planting the orange splits open to reveal a small, correctly proportioned man (a trade was carried on in “figurines” of this kind), with roots growing from the soles of his feet. Mandarin farms would allow the bureaucrat to reach an approximately human size before cutting it free. Bureaucrats grown in this way have an affinity for conditions resembling those they were grown under. Apparently the Portuguese who used the same name for the oranges and the bureaucrats had heard some hint of this; otherwise, it was a well-kept secret, until acquired by other European invaders. This technique is still in extensive use around the world. The roots remain tender; beware bureaucrats in sensible shoes, and never try to reason with one who seems to be having foot trouble.