Historians in the English-speaking world have long studied how European and American travelers and diplomats conceptualized China, but, especially in recent years, few scholars have attempted to thoroughly understand the reverse—how Qing envoys conceptualized the West. This is the starting point for Dr. Jenny Huangfu Day
(Associate Professor of History at Skidmore College) in her new book, Qing Travelers to the Far West: Diplomacy and the Information Order in Late Imperial China.
By studying the lives, careers, and writings of six Qing diplomat-travelers (Binchun, Zhigang, Zhang Deyi, Guo Songtao, Zeng Jize, Xue Fucheng) during the last three decades of the nineteenth century, she explores their heterogeneous efforts to understand and represent the West. Drawing from communication studies and literary analysis, Day offers a fresh take on Qing diplomacy that traces significant changes such as the establishment of the Zongli Yamen, permanent legations in Europe, and the use of the telegraph for diplomatic communications. In this interview, she provides a clear, accessible introduction to this new work.
Laurie Dickmeyer is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University, where she teaches courses in Asian and US history. Her research concerns nineteenth-century US-China relations. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter (@LDickmeyer).