A Residence among the Chinese: Inland, on the Coast, and at Sea
China was still largely alien territory for westerners in the mid-nineteenth century. In this book, first published in 1857, Robert Fortune (1813-1880) describes his third visit there, but despite his relative familiarity with the country, his account is full of strange and bizarre sights and happenings. Beginning in Shanghai, where he was sent to collect tea samples for the East India Company, he describes an earthquake and the myths of its aftermath, along with his fears of becoming embroiled in the Taiping Rebellion. A keen botanist and entomologist in his own right, he also collected insects (a pastime that led him to become a figure of great hilarity among the locals) and explored the flora of the north. His account of his three-year expedition offers a glimpse of the Chinese language and culture through the lens of Victorian expectations, and is a fascinating resource for students and the general reader.