• 0
China Christian Daily
  • 0
world |

Book Release: History of Early China-West Encounters Uncovered Through Lives of Two Language Interpreters

Book Release: History of Early China-West Encounters Uncovered Through Lives of Two Language Interpreters

The cover of The Perils of Interpreting - The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire written by Henrietta Harrison The cover of The Perils of Interpreting - The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire written by Henrietta Harrison(Princeton University Press)
ByGrace Song January 05, 2022
  • 34

The Perils of Interpreting - The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire, Henrietta Harrison’s new book was released.

Telling a history of China’s relations with the West, the author Henrietta Harrison, professor of modern Chinese studies, adopted an unusual perspective to focus on the lives of two overlooked figures, Li Zibiao and George Thomas Staunton, the interpreters who participated in the famed Macartney embassy in 1793.

“The 1793 British embassy to China, which led to Lord George Macartney’s fraught encounter with the Qianlong emperor, has often been viewed as a clash of cultures fueled by the East’s disinterest in the West. In The Perils of Interpreting, Henrietta Harrison presents a more nuanced picture, ingeniously shifting the historical lens to focus on Macartney’s two interpreters at that meeting — Li Zibiao and George Thomas Staunton”, introduced the publisher Princeton University Press.

Launched in November 2021 in the US and January 2022 in the UK, the book “shows that there were Chinese who were familiar with the West, but growing tensions endangered those who embraced both cultures and would eventually culminate in the Opium Wars.” By reviewing Li and Staunton’s lives, Harrison “demonstrates that the Qing court’s ignorance about the British did not simply happen, but was manufactured through the repression of cultural go-betweens like Li and Staunton.” 

The book consists of four parts. Part 1 “Lives that crossed the world” introduces the family backgrounds and early years of Li Zibiao and George Thomas Staunton, while Parts 2 and 3 are each dedicated to the interpreting careers of Li and Staunton. Part 4 “Exclusion” reviews the late years of the two interpreters as well as the path of history between the two empires.

Henrietta Harrison is a professor of modern Chinese studies at the University of Oxford and the Stanley Ho Tutorial Fellow in Chinese History at Pembroke College. She is the author of The Man Awakened from Dreams and The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village.  

  • 34
RELATED ARTICLE
latest from world
top topics
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
comments powered by Disqus