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Asian Crossings

Travel Writing on China, Japan and Southeast Asia

Edited by Steve Clark, Paul Smethurst

Publication Year: 2008

This book examine various topics and contexts of travel writings on China, Japan and Southeast Asia. From the first Colombian on a trade mission to China, to French women travellers in Asia, and the opening of "Japan Fairs" in the US during the latter half of the nineteenth century, this book offers a kaleidoscopic glimpse of the various cultures in the eyes of their beholders coupled with insightful understanding of the various politics and relationships that are involved.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The editors would like to thank the School of English at the University of Hong Kong and Tim Youngs and the Centre of Travel Writing Studies, Nottingham Trent University, for organizing the ‘Mobilis Mobile’ conference (June 2006) at which earlier versions of these essays were originally delivered. We are also grateful to Julia Chan for assistance with formatting, proofs and...


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. 1-14

Within an Anglo-American context, the academic study of travel writing coincides fairly precisely with the emergence of postcolonial studies, for which the genre serves as a convenient paradigm of cross-cultural encounter, inevitably inscribed with the dynamics of power relations between centre and periphery.1 The study of travelogue thus both enlarges the traditional literary...

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1: Between Topos and Topography: Japanese Early Modern Travel Literature

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pp. 15-30

Travel has always played an important part in the development of Japanese literature. In the Man’ yōshū, for example, the first collection of poetry from the eighth century, about 2,000 of the 4,500 texts are connected to travel in the sense that an experience of a physical journey was the occasion for composing the poem. This, of course, can also refer to the grief and sorrow of...

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2: ‘The First Appearance of This Celebrated Capital’; or, What Mr. Barrow Saw in the Land of the Chinaman

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pp. 31-46

We entered the celebrated city of [Peking] early in the forenoon, but had no opportunity of seeing any thing, except immense crowds of people on each side of us, owing to the closeness of the carriages in which we were confined; all we could observe was, the walls, which were very high and strong, built of large bricks; and the houses were very low, and rather shabby, of the same...

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3: A Reading of Readings: English Travel Books, Audiences, and Modern Chinese History, c. 1832 to the Present

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pp. 47-70

Before China was defeated by Britain in the First Opium War and forced toopen five ports to British subjects for ‘mercantile pursuits’ in 1842, the Qing government strictly confined the activities of foreign traders within a small designated area called the Factories by the Canton River, forbidding any foreigner from setting foot on Chinese soil beyond it. However, the first British...

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4: Travel and Business: The First Colombian in China

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pp. 71-86

Several issues that involve shifting worldviews and positionings to accommodate the author’s own perspective arise from this paragraph. To begin with, in Spanish the ‘strangest being’ posed in the rhetorical question is further displaced and singularised with the use of the Latinate ente (from ens). The description of the Chinaman by Tanco Armero follows here...

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5: Erasing Footsteps: On Some Differences between the First and Popular Editions of Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

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pp. 87-98

The narrative of Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan reaches its climax when she meets the Ainu,2 an indigenous people of Hokkaido, the northernmost region of the nation. She rapturously recalls: I never saw such a strangely picturesque sight as that group of magnificent savages with the fitful firelight on their faces, and for adjuncts the flare of the torch, the strong lights, the blackness of the recesses...

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6: Discourses of Difference: The Malaya of Isabella Bird, Emily Innes and Florence Caddy

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pp. 99-112

Isabella Bird’s The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither (1883), Emily Innes’ The Chersonese with the Gilding Off (1885) and Florence Caddy’s To Siam and Malaya in the Duke of Sutherland’s Yacht ‘Sans Peur’ (1889) are narratives written by three very different women who were in Malaya under varied circumstances. By the time Bird embarked on her five-week visit to...

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7: China of the Tourists: Women and the Grand Tour of the Middle Kingdom, 1878–1923

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pp. 113-130

This chapter looks at women travellers in China between the late 1870s and the early 1920s. Beginning with the two earliest, and probably most famous, journeys of Victorian women in the Middle Kingdom — those of Isabella Bird and Constance Cumming — the essay poses the question of whether their journeys served as more prescriptive itineraries for later women...

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8: Ruins in the Jungle: Nature and Narrative

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pp. 131-140

When W. Somerset Maugham, ‘in a far island away down in the South East of the Malay Archipelago’, encountered a great cockatoo which stared at him, his first instinct was to look about for the cage from which it must have escaped.1 In the jungle, he says, he never quite got over his surprise at seeing at liberty birds and beasts whose natural habitation seemed to him a Zoological...

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9: Forbidden Journeys to China and Beyond with the Odd Couple: Ella Maillart and Peter Fleming

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pp. 141-148

Forbidden Journey: From Peking to Kashmir by Ella Maillart (1937)1 and News from Tartary by Peter Fleming (1936) demand to be read in parallel, as they offer a unique opportunity to consider the perspectives of a Swiss woman and an Englishman who undertook a journey together to a part of the world that was off-limits to Westerners. Ella ‘Kini’ Maillart travelled as an accredited...

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10: Kawakami Otojiro’s Trip to the West and Taiwan at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 149-162

At the turn of the twentieth century, Japan was placed in the contradictory position of being both at the periphery of global Western hegemony and it self at the metropolitan centre of a colonial empire. This essay examines Otojiro Kawakami, one of the founders of Japanese modern theatre, and his travels to the West and to Taiwan under Japanese colonial rule; and it analyses them as...

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11: Shaking the Buddhas: Lafcadio Hearn in Japan, 1890–1904

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pp. 163-178

Out of the East, Lafcadio Hearn’s 1895 collection, has the significant subtitle ‘Reveries and Studies in New Japan’, and yet despite the apparently up beat emphasis on a contemporary scene, the work’s principal urgency is an admiration of Japan’s past. The volume contains ‘The Red Bridal’, a tale of aromantic double suicide based on fact with a developing agricultural village...

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12: ‘Chambres d’Asie, chambres d’ailleurs’: Nicole-Lise Bernheim’s ‘Vertical Travels’ in Asia

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pp. 179-192

Traveller, writer, novelist and journalist, the late Nicole-Lise Bernheim (1942–2003) left a diverse body of work which reveals her passion for travel. This author’s work ranges from journalistic reportages for newspapers such as LeMonde, L’Express and Le Matin, to production work for French radio station France-Culture. However it is two of Bernheim’s récits de voyage which are...

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13: World Journey of My Heart and Homestay in the World: Travel Programming and Contemporary Japanese Culture

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pp. 193-208

People all over the world who appreciate literature are familiar with the travel journals of the Japanese haiku poet Bashō, and maybe with the tradition of earlier wandering waka poets like the Buddhist priests Saigyō and Nō in. This older tradition of literary and religious travel in Japan has been well documented in academic as well as popular discussions of the country, by...

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14: After the Bubble: Post-Imperial Tokyo

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pp. 209-228

Tokyo is too big to be contained, or even rendered intelligible, through conventional techniques of representation. A population of over 14 million,on a narrow definition, rises to 28 million on a fairly conservative estimate within a radius of thirty miles; and if the Kanto and Kansai conurbations down to Hiroshima are regarded as a continuous urban mass on Honshu, its overall...


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pp. 229-264


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pp. 265-270


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pp. 271-276

E-ISBN-13: 9789888052042
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622099142

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 2 maps
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Travelers' writings -- History and criticism.
  • China -- Description and travel.
  • Japan -- Description and travel.
  • Southeast Asia -- Description and travel.
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