Shih-Wen Chen: Representations of China in British Children’s Fiction, 1851- 1911 (Ashgate Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present). Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013. Pp. xiii + 203.

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This study opens with an entry from the diary of a 12-year-old member of Lord Macartney’s Embassy to China (1792–1794). He was the only one in the group proficient in Chinese, and he records how the Emperor gave him a little yellow purse as a present. The aim of this first British mission was to convince the Qianlong Emperor to ease restrictions on trade between the nations; it failed as the visitors were unable to understand the Chinese culture and ways. The sole objective which was partially fulfilled was the acquisition of “more information about the ‘Celestial Kingdom’” (p. 1), which was made available to the British public in widely circulated reports after the Embassy’s return. These were the first Western publications on China. It is a fitting opening for a study which provides an account of British-Chinese relations and informative literature (for adults) about China as the background against which representations of China in British children’s fiction are analysed. Chen sets out to examine “the role of children’s writers in mediating between the leading China ‘experts’ of the time and young readers by drawing on and utilizing the wealth of material provided by travel writers, embassy officials, missionaries, and journalists to construct certain visions of China for children” (p. 2), and asks how children’s fiction published between 1851 and 1911 – from the beginning of substantial engagement with China in children’s books to the end of the Qing dynasty – “disseminated and popularised ‘knowledge’ of China” (p. 2).
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)447-449
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Research areas

  • English - Kinder- und Jugendarbeitsforschung