Chinese characteristics …

Shanghai, printed and published at the “North-China Herald” office, 1890.

8vo, pp. [4], ii, 427, [1 (blank)], ii (errata); contents leaf following title loose, occasional light marks, creasing to some corners; overall good in original blue pictorial cloth, spine and upper cover lettered and decorated in gilt, decorative endpapers; some wear to spine ends, upper joint, and corners, front free endpaper loose and with modern ownership inscription; contemporary inscription ‘R.H.W. Fraser Foochow China’ at head of title and p. 1.


US $714€654

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Chinese characteristics …

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First edition of this important and influential work on China by the American missionary Arthur Henderson Smith (1845–1932), for many decades the most widely read American book on the Chinese.

Having served in the Union Army during the Civil War and studied at Union Theological Seminary, Smith sailed to China in 1872 to serve at the Tientsin missionary station. In 1880 he moved to the rural community of P’angchiachuang to open a new station, where he served for the next twenty-five years. Smith wrote numerous books on China which ‘appealed to vast audiences and gained him an international reputation’ (ANB). The success of Chinese characteristics saw it translated into French, German, Japanese, and Chinese. Smith’s ‘penetrating observations of both the Chinese and his fellow countrymen along with his wit and literary abilities frequently produced descriptions that many found far too true for comfort’ (ibid.).

The ‘characteristics’ tackled here in forty chapters – both positive and negative – include ‘face’, ‘eating’, ‘peaceableness’, ‘benevolence’, ‘contempt for foreigners’, ‘intellectual turbidity’, ‘indifference to comfort and convenience’, ‘physical vitality’, ‘filial piety’, and ‘the absence of sympathy’.

Provenance: R.H.W. Fraser, of Fraser, Ramsay & Co., was a tea merchant based in Fuzhou.

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