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The Lure of China: Writers from Marco Polo to J. G. Ballard Hardcover – 2 Jun 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (2 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300154364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300154368
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.6 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,633,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"... a hugely impressive guide in this addictive and enchanting journey through the journeys of others."
-- Paul Blezard, The Lady, 21st July 2009

'Frances Wood is superbly positioned to line up this parade of explorers and missionaries, celebrities and commentators, collectors and romancers.' --Jerusha McCormack, Irish Times, 15th August 2009

'... rather like accompanying Ms Wood around the British Library as she pulls ancient manuscripts from shelves and reads from them.'
--Karl Dallas, Morning Star, 19th August 2009

`[A] fascinating book.'
--Good Book Guide, September 2009

`Charming and beautifully illustrated ... as a curio, this is delightful.' --Nina Caplan, Time Out, 30th July - 5th August 2009

`... a fascinating anthology.' -- London Review of Books, 10th September 2009

`A compact, beautifully illustrated volume by one of our most erudite and elegant chroniclers ... a gem of a book.'
--Jonathan Fenby, The Oldie, 1st Sept 2009

About the Author

Frances Wood is Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library. Among her recent publications are 'The Silk Road' (2004) and 'The First Emperor' (2007).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anthony J. Caston on 25 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
China remains a mystery. While it was penetrated centuries ago by merchants in search of a fortune, by Jesuits in search of souls and later by botanists in search of plants, Europeans remained a handful of useful parasites in trading ports like Macao, Shanghai and Hong Kong,. Even the Opium Wars, humiliating for China, left her behind a bamboo curtain protected by size, language and its unique mindset.

So how does one understand the mystery? The idea of Frances Wood is to look at non Chinese writers in China from Marco Polo to the present. The idea is attractive and the book is full of interesting titbits but it is curiously dated and out of focus.

The more modern writers she reviews are usually concerned with how they react, not to China, of which many seem to learn little, but to the claustrophobic life of the trading ports and the sexual licence accorded to expatriates the world over. In a phrase the Bloomsbury group on holiday.

She lingers over these when some of the early reports, for example, in Hakluyt's Voyages, barely touched on, seem much more important. These were written by enterprising commercial people in the 16th Century who might not even survive their journey but who wanted to help their successors. They noted the organisation of China, the harsh judicial system, the examination system for mandarins and importantly the conviction of the Han Chinese that they were a superior people with little to learn from intruding traders. This was a key insight which remains largely true today.

Unluckily,too, it has also been overtaken by many newer books. Absolute beginners might prefer `Fragrant Harbour' by John Lanchester followed by "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers' by Yiyun Li.
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