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I was very disappointed with some sections of this book primarily because of sloppy editing.A long series of typos, confused chronology, inadequate and sporadic explanatory notes, uninformative introductions —- all these mark this book.It is impossible to tell whom the editor is quoting at times, the traveler himself or a comment upon it.The selections cover at least a thousand years, and it is interesting to note that the earliest accounts are the least descriptive of customs and places.More intellectual reactions to what these travelers saw, and comparison with China, do not really come until the 1200s.

The first section is "Travels of Emperor Mu," a perhaps mythological and boring account of the emperor's travels in 1000 BC.The second is "Chang Ch'ien: the Han Ambassador to Bactria," which is too brief and not annotated enough to be very informing.Next is "Hsuan-Tsang: Prince of Pilgrims," an entirely too long and very boring account of the man known as Tripitaka (the book does not explain why and in fact lets the reader find out only by inference that Tripitaka and Hsuan-Tsang are the same person). Next, "The Taoist Ch'ang-Ch'un Goes To Visit Chingiz Khan," which as an account of a Taoist master does not give the reader a sense of wonder at the new and exotic place, serving only to show Ch'ang-Ch'un's greatness.In "Rabban Sauma Visits Europe," a Chinese Christian goes to ask for European aid, which is interesting."Recollections Of the Customs Of Cambodia" (1297) is the first typical traveler's account, noting customs as well as the narrator's reactions to them."Cheng Ho's Naval Expeditions" describes Somalia and the exotic animals the emperor received from there."The Hai-Lu: An Eighteenth-Century Seaman" is an interesting account of a sailor's garbled interpretation of Europe.Finally, in "Scholars, Students And Ambassadors" (a collection of 19th-century tales) Chinese intellectuals start realizing that they must imitate the West in order to survive: they urge China not to be backward, to build railroads and start up Western-language schools.The final account is an envoy's interview with the Empress Dowager which shows, sadly, only how naive the Chinese were about diplomatic relations.At the same time, this envoy criticizes the West sharply, and shows that China was not ready to blindly imitate the West.All in all, this book was okay, but the first half was not interesting to me in addition to suffering from bad editing.

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10.08.2016

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PublisherThe University of Chicago Press
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