A hundred years ago few places on Earth were as captivating a destination as Peking. When American Ellen La Motte resided in the city in 1916–1917, she – like so many other Westerner travellers of the time – was smitten: “if you have ever stayed here long enough to fall under the charm and interest of this splendid barbaric capital, if you have once seen the temples and glorious monuments… all other parts of China seem dull and second rate.”
Peking was then the political capital, the military and cultural heart of China, a walled city of majestic palaces, intimate courtyard houses and elegant gardens, a city glittering with thousands of temples and shrines dedicated to a bewildering variety of deities – indeed, it was Asia’s greatest religious center.
Set the time machine for China, the year 1921. Experience first-hand the Middle Kingdom’s Golden Age of Travel, a time when steamships and railways had opened up new possibilities for the adventurous sojourner, yet the country had “lost none of its unique charm” and remained “as interesting and strange as it was to Europeans who more than five hundred years ago read Marco Polo’s amazing account of the land of the Great Khan.”
This Camphor Press book is an abridged version of the original The Travelers’ Handbook for China by Shanghai-based American newsman Carl Crow. It comes with maps, illustrations, and has a new introduction from Paul French (Carl Crow biographer and author of the true crime bestseller Midnight in Peking).
Oil for the Lamps of China
Oil for the Lamps of China (1934) was a best-selling novel when it was first published, just a few years after Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth (1931). The hero of the story is a keen, young American businessman who wants to bring “light” and progress to China in the form of oil and oil lamps, but who is caught between Chinese revolutionary nationalism in the 1920s and the heartless American corporation that has built his career.
The title became a catch phrase for expansive American dreams of the vast China market even though the novel itself, written at the beginning of the Great Depression, was skeptical of large business and any supposed American ability to improve China.
The author presents a clear portrait of Western idealism versus Eastern pragmatism in the doubly exotic setting of Mainland China before the advent of large-scale industrialization. The portrayal is unflattering to both sides.
Destination Chungking is the fictionalized autobiography of best-selling writer Han Suyin. It tells the love story of a young Chinese couple during the turmoil of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Childhood friends Han Suyin, a medical student, and Tang Pao, an officer in the Kuomintang Army, cross paths in England and fall in love. Returning to China to take part in the resistance, they marry in October 1938 in the city of Hankow on the eve of its capture by Japanese forces. Separated and reunited during an epic retreat across China to the wartime capital of Chungking (Chongqing) far up the Yangtze River, the couple will find their love and patriotism tested.