China Catalogue 2 from Bjarne Tokerud Bookseller

- by Michael Stillman


China Catalogue 2 from Bjarne Tokerud Bookseller

Bjarne Tokerud Bookseller has followed up their recent China catalogue with China Catalogue 2. While China is the subject, most of these works are from western nations and most are in western languages, particularly English. They tend to look at China from a western perspective, perhaps something of a caution. These are a few selections from this latest catalogue on China.


We begin with an account of one of Robert Fortune's four journeys to China in the 1840s and 1850s. Fortune was an English horticulturist, who sometimes extended his mission beyond botanical observations. This book is Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China, Including a Visit to the Tea, Silk, and Cotton Countries. It was originally published in London in 1847, but this is a later edition published in 1935 in Shanghai. He went to China on behalf of the Horticulture Society of London and on this and subsequent trips, he gathered many native plants to take back home and try to grow in England. At times they succeeded but many could not survive England's climate. Sometimes, he exceeded the boundaries of where he was permitted to travel and disguised his purpose. He also brought tea plants he delivered to India on behalf of the East India Company, which was not permitted in China but he skirted the rules for his second employer. Along with his accounts of plant gathering, he also wrote about the Chinese people and their culture, most of which was unknown to people in England. Item 10. Priced at $250.


This book is about Robert Fortune's third journey to China. The title is A Residence among the Chinese: Inland, on the Coast, and at Sea. Being a Narrative of Scenes and Adventures During a Third Visit to China, from 1853 to 1856, a first edition published in 1857. This visit came a decade after Fortune's first. He elaborates more on what he has seen, including descriptions of Shanghai, Nanking, and Foo-chow. This copy was inscribed “from the author.” Item 9. $850.


This is one that Tokerud describes as a “Yellow Peril novel.” The title is The Air Scout: A Story of National Defense, by Herbert Strang, published in 1912. It is a story meant for boys intended to promote their interest in national defense. One day soon, they could become soldiers. Strang was also interested in promoting air power. His belief was that whoever held power in the skies would have a major, perhaps insurmountable advantage in war. In this story, the Chinese invade northern Australia, yellow against white, attempting to colonize the country. It kind of ignored that England had colonized Australia as a place to send prisoners, and while Australia was now its own nation, his next novel about such an attack on India was a case of a colonizer calling the kettle a colonizer. As for Herbert Strang, there was no such person. It was a pseudonym for two authors who together wrote books for boys. Item 25. $125.


China didn't invade Australia or India, but a couple of decades later, it was invaded by Japan. China became the colony. China had been in the midst of a civil war between the Nationalist government and the Communist rebels, but they temporarily cooperated in the joint aim of throwing out the Japanese. This publication, Madame Chiang Kai-shek's Trip Through The United States and Canada, published by Chinese Nationalist Daily of San Francisco in 1943, represents part of the Nationalist effort to drum up support. Madame Chiang, Soong May-ling, wife of Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, came to America that year to raise funds for their cause. She drew large crowds in Chinatowns across the United States. She addressed both houses of Congress, the first Chinese national and the second woman to do so. She spoke at Madison Square Garden, Chicago Stadium, and the Hollywood Bowl. In Canada, she spoke to Parliament. She made the cover of Time Magazine (for the third time). Not surprisingly, her mission was a big success. In another two years, when America subdued Japan, her mission was accomplished. Unfortunately, the civil war quickly resumed and in 1949, the Chiangs and the Nationalist government were forced to flee to Taiwan. Item 21. $150.


Chinese immigrants came to America in the second half of the 19th century to find work, notably on the western railroads. They were essential for their hard work on demanding and dangerous jobs to build the western railways. However, other than by employers who liked cheap dependable labor, they were not always welcome. Racial sentiments were not positive toward people who seemed very different, and others didn't like competition for jobs. This was exacerbated by the railroad work winding down and Chinese workers looking for other jobs. In America it led to various laws to force them out and exclusionary rules to keep them from coming. Canada faced a similar issue as Chinese workers came to build the Canadian Pacific Railroad. When that railroad was finished early, in 1885, the Chinese, mostly in British Columbia, sought new jobs. Hostility was building. It was at this point that the Canadian Prime Minister appointed the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration to study the issue. They did a thorough study, interviewing many people for their thoughts and examining the situation, not just in Canada, but in the western states of the U. S. as well. What they concluded was overwhelmingly positive about the immigrants. In their Report of the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration: Report and Evidence, the Commission concluded that the Chinese railroad workers were “useful” and “have no superior.” However, they gave their highest praise to Chinese merchants. “It is universally admitted that the merchants are honest and capable men, of high credit and high commercial advantage to the community, and these would not only be welcomed but would be desirable.” Bowing slightly to the pressure from those who wanted the Chinese excluded, they suggested placing a $10 head tax on Chinese immigrants arriving in Canada. While $10 was a much larger amount in 1885, it was hardly exclusionary as they concluded the average Chinese worker made $300 per year. Parliament adapted the recommendation in the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 but set the head tax at a much higher $50. In the early 20th century, the fee was raised to $100, then $500, and Chinese were declared “unfit for full citizenship” and obnoxious and dangerous to freedom and the state. Item 23. $950.


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