Travels in China


With the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the world’s eyes have turned toward China with a renewed interest in that country’s culture, politics, landscape, and peoples. China has been an object of fascination for Westerners for centuries, especially during the Early Modern period, when European explorers, merchants, and missionaries established relations with the Chinese. As the two cultures exchanged goods and ideas, European readers became interested in accounts of China, including its natural history, costume, and topography. Travel accounts by Jesuit missionaries were a major source of information about the Chinese empire and the Far East. Later, as European and American imperialism increased Western contact and trade with China, the country became a popular subject for 19th century armchair travelers both in Great Britain and the United States.

Special Collections has several dozen published accounts by European visitors to China, dating from the 16th century through the 1930’s. They can be found through a quick catalog search. Limiting the results to “HBLL Special Collections” from the library catalog, perform a subject search for “China description and travel.”

Another great resource for Chinese history at L. Tom Perry Special Collections is the Helen Foster Snow Collection, a manuscript collection created by one of the first Western reporters to write about the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Zedong in the 1930s.

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