This is what 213 severed bear paws looks like

The heartbreaking black-market goods have a long history in Asia

Bear paws
(Image credit: REUTERS)

In May, Chinese officials recovered more than 200 severed bear paws that were allegedly being smuggled in from Russia. (A small portion of them are pictured above.) Officials estimate the haul would have been worth about $460,000 on China's black market. It turns out that May isn't the "normal" bear-paw-smuggling season, as the heat can cause the goods to rot quickly. Yes, the bootlegged items are so popular in Asia that border officials know when during the year to keep an eye out.

The bear-paw-as-delicacy phenomenon dates back to China's Shang dynasty (1570 to 1045 B.C.) and its last ruler, King Zhou, who was known to enjoy a paw or two. Elaine Sciolino at The New York Times stumbled upon a simple recipe from the era that calls for:

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