Renditions nos. 53 & 54 (Spring & Autumn 2000)​

Chinese Impressions of the West

From the mid to late 19th century, educated Chinese as well as government officials began exploring aspects of Western civilization, their purpose to preserve China’s nationhood. Excerpts from petitions, diaries and travelogues reveal the observations and experiences of government officials, diplomats, dissidents, scholars and students, those who journeyed to the West, as well as those who stayed behind. The issue also includes depictions of Westerners from popular journals and magazines.

‘Renditions has pulled off yet another coup in masterminding this special double issue devoted to reports from the West by Chinese travellers in the 19th century.’

—South China Morning Post

‘The early impressions and historical events continue to influence Chinese thinking today’

—L.Z. Yuan, Senior Advisor, China Program,
Asia Foundation.

274 pages


Table of Contents

Preface v
Major Events in China’s Foreign Relations, 1838–1916 1
Wei Yuan Selections from An Illustrated World Geography
Translated by Tam Pak Shan
Xu Jiyu Selections from A Concise World Geography
Translated by Tam Pak Shan
Prince Gong et al. Memorial to Emperor Xianfeng
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Wang Kaiyun A Memorial on Barbarian Affairs: excerpts
Translated by Burton Watson
Feng Guifen Selections from Petitions from Jiaobin lu
Translated by Eva Hung
Zheng Guanying Four Essays: excerpts
Translated by Chu Chiyu
Recorded by Zeng Jize An Imperial Audience
Translated by Eva Hung
Zhigang Selections from Record of the First Diplomatic Mission to the West
Translated by Sally Church and Susan Daruvala
Li Gui Selections from New Records of Travels Around the World
Translated by Lily Lee
Guo Songdao Selections from London and Paris Diary
Translated by Eva Hung
Li Xihong Selections from Personal Records of Travels in Britain
Translated by Alice W. Cheang
Zhang Deyi Selections from Strange Tales from Over the Ocean
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Zeng Jize Selections from Diplomatic Mission to the West
Translated by Mabel lee
Li Fengbao Selections from Diary of Mission to Germany
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Dai Hongci Selections from Diplomatic Mission to Nine Countries
Translated by Martha P. Y. Cheung
Li Shuchang Selections from Recollections of the West
Translated by Duncan Campbell
Xue Fucheng Selections from Journal of Diplomatic Mission to Four European Countries
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Wang Zhichun Selections from Notes from a Mission to Russia
Translated by Ian Chapman
Qi Zhaoxi Selections from Diary of Travels in America
Translated by Brian Holton
Xu Jianyin Selections from Notes on Travels in Europe
Translated by
Xie Qinggao Selections from Jottings of Sea Voyages
Translated by Mark Caltonhill
Wang Tao Selections from Jottings of Carefree Travels
Translated by Ian Chapman
Ma Jianzhong Letter to His Excellency Li Hongzhang: excerpts
Translated by Kam Louie
Song Xiaolian Selections from Notes on a Journey to the Northern Borders
Translated by Anna Di Toro with D. E. Pollard
Xue Youfu Letter to an American School Friend 185
Kang Youwei Selections from Notes on Travels Around Europe
Translated by Daniel Kane
Liang Qichao Selections from Diary of Travels through the New World
Translated by Janet Ng, Earl Tai and Jesse Dudley
Shan Shili Selections from Travels in the Year Guimao
Translated by the Editorial Team
Mu Xiangyue Selections from Autobiography of Ouchu at Fifty
Translated by Eva Hung
Woo Hoong Niok Selections from Autobiography of Rev. H. N. Woo 227
Cao Sheng Selections from An Ordeal Under the Barbarians
Translated by Eva Hung
Chen Tianhua Selections from Alarm Bells
Translated by Ian Chapman
Anonymous The Westerner’s Ten Laments: excerpts
Translated by Ian Chapman
———— Anti-Christian Propaganda
Anonymous: Ghost-busting Song
Translated by Eva Hung
Anonymous: An Appeal to the Hunan Public
Translated by Tam Pak Shan
———— Balloons and Flying Machines: excerpts from Dianshizhai Pictorial
Translated by D. E. Pollard
———— Selections from Youth Magazine
Translated by Alice W. Cheang
Notes on Contributors 268
Book Notices 272

Sample Reading

The material displayed on this page is for researchers’ personal use only. If you wish to reprint it, please contact us.

Selections from Strange Tales from Over the Ocean (excerpt)
By Zhang Deyi
Translated by D. E. Pollard

TONGZHI 8th year 2nd month 6th day [18 March 1869, Paris].
To end these excerpts on a happy note, Zhang Deyi wrote this after a convivial conversation over drinks with a dozen men and women of several nationalities:

I reflected that the five continents in the world have populations of countless millions who are separated by distances of thousands of miles. If you listen to their speech, it mostly grates on the ears. As to their tastes, invariably they differ like flesh from fowl. The tropics and the ice-caps experience the extremes of heat and cold; steam trains and iron bridges extend to where carriages and boats cannot reach. Some differences are such as the mind could not have imagined. Yet though people’s clothes may differ eccentrically, what makes one person glad makes another glad, what makes one person sorrow makes another sorrow: feelings do not vary. Though customs are not the same, what is good everyone thinks is good, what is evil everyone thinks is evil: human nature is the same. From the point of view of high heaven, far and near are indeed one whole, all the world is one family. On my missions I have now travelled widely overseas, seen what I had not seen before; I can say already that my voyages have not been in vain. Furthermore, in my study of foreign ways I have also had them explained to me by good friends, and my eyes and ears have been opened. As just now when we met to converse together, the talk was genial and the mood was of trust and familiarity. Surely there is no joy so great! Surely there is no joy so great! It is because I was so pleased that I have made this note.

Selections from Journal of Diplomatic Mission to Four European Countries (excerpt)
By Xue Fucheng
Translated by D. E. Pollard

Confucianism vs. Christianity

In their moral exertions, in their self-denial and love of others, Christians in the West do not differ markedly from Confucians, yet the New and Old Testaments and other books the church publishes are full of fallacies, distortions and fantastic claims that even Chinese popular novels like The Investiture of the Gods and Journey to the West would not descend to. A child could see that what they say is untrue.

Thus it can be seen that the Way of the Sage, being unbiased and fair-minded, has a direct appeal to the human heart. In comparison with Confucianism, Christianity is no more than crystal set against jade, as even westerners are aware. Admitted, Yang Zhu, Mo Zi, Lao Zi and Buddhism did have their day in China, but in the course of time they faded and gave out, while the teachings of Confucius have been like the sun and moon crossing the heavens, shining more brightly with the passing eras. As long as the other continents have no contact with China they will go their way undisturbed; but if they do have contact, then their teachings will converge with ours. Hence I am convinced that Christianity will decline, and Confucianism will spread to the West.