Toward the end of “Across the Ussuri Kray,” a book written by the explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, there is a description from 1906 of a cabin in Primorye, Russia. Called Myaolin and inhabited by an elderly Chinese man, it was famous for its moonshine. The Chinese and native Udege hunters all across the vast Iman River basin offered meat, pelts, and ginseng in trade for the grain alcohol distilled there. Myaolin was one of the oldest cabins in the region; the old man had settled that place some fifty years prior when the territory was still part of China.
By the time Arsenyev stumbled up to Myaolin it was early winter and it was dark. The Russian was cold and weary; he and his team were achingly close to the end of a six-month expedition to explore that region’s wilderness. All they wanted was a dry, warm place to rest before pressing their calloused feet to the trail once more.