Intimate China: The Chinese as I Have Seen Them

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“For my part, I shall endeavour to make the reader see China and the Chinese as I have seen them in their homes and at dinner parties, and living long, oh!, such long summer days among them, and yet wearier dark days of winter.”

Combining translations of Chinese documents, excerpts and essays from other authors, as well as her own views, Mrs Archibald Little covers a range of topics in this book, being at once a travelogue, memoir, and political commentary. Arriving in China in 1887, she and her husband travelled throughout the country as he sought out new trade channels. This extensive travel allowed her to view the more “intimate” parts of China and its people. She was by this time already an established writer, and her powers of description shine through—from the vivid accounts of the flowers at the Shanghai public gardens to their detailed adventures in Tibet and traveling up the Yangtze by boat. However, her powers of narration are not limited to the scenic, and the book includes chapters on soldiers and students, opium smoking, Chinese dress, monasteries, the tea trade, Chinese painting and porcelain, and much more. While in China, Little took a firm stance against foot-binding, co-founding the Natural Foot Society, also described in this book. She includes translated excerpts from multiple news sources, including the Peking Gazette, North China Daily News, and China Mail. The latter third of the book deals exclusively with “affairs of state”, detailing information about the Emperor, efforts towards reform, and the coup d’etat by the Empress Dowager.

Little’s writing is lavishly supplemented with maps and photographs throughout the text. The writing itself is compelling and carries with it a witty undertone, particularly in her characterisation of “the-twenty-years-in-China-and-not-know-a-word-of-the-language-men”. The book will undoubtedly be of interest to readers hoping to get a glimpse into the innermost corners of China through the lens of a nineteenth century novelist and social campaigner.

Pub. Date
Feb 9, 2024
654 pages
140 x 216 mm
This book is part of the Orient Explorer Collection: Women Writers, a project focused on reprinting books about China and the Orient from earlier eras to reignite interest and explore how they relate to the region today.

Mrs Archibald Little (1845–1926), or Alicia Ellen Neve Bewicke, was born on an island in the Madeira archipelago in Portugal, but came to England and published her first novel at age 23. She wrote nine more novels about the role and purposes of women in society, topics to which she felt deeply connected. In 1886, at the age of 41, she married Archibald John Little who was an English merchant and businessman in China, and they settled in Chongqing in 1887. While there, she learned Chinese and taught English. She also travelled extensively and took photographs of the curious and strange sights. During the mid-1890s, she started to publish books under the name of “Mrs Archibald Little” and produced 10 volumes of fiction and non-fiction about her new home, including My Diary in a Chinese Farm (1894), A Marriage in China (1896), The Land of Blue Gown (1902), Li Hung-Chang, His Life and Times (1903), A Guide to Peking (1904), Round about My Peking Garden (1905), and others. She returned to England in 1907. The next year, her husband passed away. She edited and finished his work, Gleanings from Fifty Years in China, which was published in 1910. She died in London at the age of 81.