1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2012
Julia Boyd has brought to life in a most accessible way the extraordinary collection of people from all walks of life and a variety of nationalities who made up the expatriate community in China in the years between the death of the Last Empress and the Communist Revolution in 1949. Adventurers, refugees from Bolshevism, cranks, charlatans and frauds (Sir Edmund Backhouse not the least of these), mystical priests like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and acute observers of a vanished world like Daniele Varè make up the cast of characters and they tell a fascinating story. Anyone with an interest in China as it begins to play a more significant role in world affairs should read this most enjoyable and illuminating book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2013
This book offers a fascinating and well-written account of the foreign community living and surviving in Peking (Beijing) between the end of the Qing Dynasty and Mao’s communist revolution in 1949. It is a story full of detailed descriptions of people and places, and provides not only a highly readable history of China at the time but also an insight into the relationship between the expatriate community and the Chinese. Well worth reading.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2013
I was drawn to this book, having just read Paul French's brief series of portraits of 1920's and 1930's Beijing, 'Badlands'. He rather sniffily mentions Julia Boyd's 'Dance with the Dragon' as being 'worth mentioning' , which is a double-edged comment - so I decided to buy the Kindle edition.
The book describes Peiping (= Beijing when it was no longer the capital; 'jing' = 'capital' in chinese, thus Beijing = northern capital and Nanjing = southern capital) from around 1900 to 1949 - in other words, from the time of the Boxer rebellion until the internment of foreign nationals after Pearl Harbour and the end of the war, and up to the Revolution/Mao's reconquest of Beijing. It particularly describes the jeunesse doree (gilded youth) life of foreigners in a city which was no longer the capital, where the country was falling apart, firstly under warlordism and then under Japanese incursions, and where foreigners were isolated (or isolated themselves) from chinese society.
This book provides an excellent, if at times superficial, review of the decades of the first half of the last century of the expat Beijing community. Superficial, in that there is little mention of the different factions of the Manchu court during the Boxer rebellion; little or no discussion of the murder of Pamela Werner (for which see Paul French's excellent 'Midnight in Beijing'); little discussion of one of the most fascinating characters of the period, Edmund Backhouse; and little in-depth discussion of why what was going on politically was happening.Julia Boyd writes in an easy style and this book is readable. Nevertheless, I've only awarded it four stars because, apart from the above, she relies too much on her American sources (the US was only one of the eight foreign powers and, at that time, not the most important). Rather more critically, she often quotes at length vignettes of female American expats whose lives are of less immediate interest; and I couldn't help feeling that there was a hidden feminist agenda, i.e. look at the day-to-day lives of these (US) women, whereas she writes little on the areas I've mentioned above. This is a pity, because while her sources give a lively and fresh view of Beijing, the book omits the more important events that were happening. Maybe Julia Boyd would argue that this is the purpose of her book, simply to give a portrait of the daily lives of the foreign community in their isolated and gilded bubble; in which case, it succeeds admirably.