Three men and three women: a plant collector, a merchant and his novelist wife, a military officer, and two famous women travelers went to China between the Opium War and the formal end of the opium trade, 1842-1907. Their range of perspectives, their acquaintance with one another and their similar scope of travel to Hong Kong, the treaty ports, and Sichuan lend intensity to their picture of China and the Western presence there.
What the travelers record reveals is a continuity in the response of the West and China to each other. Susan Schoenbauer Thurin's study of these writings presents a rich tapestry of impressions, biases, and cultural perspectives that inform our own understanding of the Victorians and their views of the world outside their own.
The strange mix of opium and missionaries, the aura of fabled “Cathay” and its valuable trade items, the attraction and repulsion of the exotic otherness the travelers experience, reflect the political, religious, and racial views of their era, and explain the allure of the Orient that, in part, characterized their age. Victorian Travelers and the Opening of China, 1842-1907 is a remarkable look into the cultural past.
Susan Schoenbauer Thurin, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, is the author of many articles on Victorian literature. She has also taught in Liberia, England, Sweden, and China. More info →
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Millions of Chinese have left the mainland over the last two centuries in search of new beginnings. The majority went to Southeast Asia, and the single largest destination was the colony of the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. Wherever the Chinese landed they prospered, but in Indonesia, even though some families made fortunes, they never felt they quite belonged.
For two and a half years (1937-1939), Captain John Seymour Letcher commanded a company of the U.S. Embassy Marine Guard in Peking. During that time, he wrote a series of letters to his parents in Virginia describing the life of a Westerner in the former imperial city. During that same time, China was invaded by Japan.
China has been an important player in the international economy for two thousand years and has historically exerted enormous influence over the development and nature of political and economic affairs in the regions beyond its borders, especially its neighbors.