When America first met China An exotic history of tea, drugs, and money in the Age of Sail

Eric Jay Dolin

Book - 2012

Ancient China collides with newfangled America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

951.033/Dolin
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 951.033/Dolin Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Liveright Pub. Corp c2012.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
xviii, 394 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. [317]-365) and index.
ISBN
9780871404336
0871404338
Main Author
Eric Jay Dolin (-)
  • "The adventurous pursuits of commerce"
  • The Middle Kingdom
  • China dreams
  • The "new people"
  • China rush
  • The golden ghetto
  • China through American eyes
  • The Opium War
  • Racing the wind
  • Fading fortune
  • Echoes of the past.
Review by Booklist Reviews

This sweeping popular history, thoroughly footnoted with bibliography, brews up a rich and satisfying narrative of the exotic intersection of the silk, tea, and opium trade and the missionary zeal that characterized America's engagement with the still mysterious "Middle Kingdom" in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With a flair for dramatic and fast-paced storytelling, Dolin provides the reader with nuanced insights into everything from pirates, the world-changing impact of the silk trade, the British-Chinese Opium War of the 1840s, and the fearlessness (and naïveté) of the early missionaries to good old-fashioned tales of adventure on the high seas. Dolin is the author of the best-selling Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America (2007), which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. A valuable and welcome addition to all libraries seeking to improve their collection of relevant histories that inform the current state of Sino-American relations. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

US relations with China in recent years have been anything but placid, but Dolin demonstrates that Sino-American economic connections have always been tendentious. Expansionistic US merchants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, sensing profits in a declining Chinese empire, followed on the heels of European empire builders to get a piece of the Chinese economic pie. Leading the way were opportunistic US merchants willing to take chances in the new Asian frontier. In the era of slow communication and transportation, these US merchants exploited the ill-defined and chaotic nature of China's powerful but ponderous governmental leadership to make their fortunes. In the end, however, China was not the source of wealth that it appeared. Importing goods from China generated wealth, but the export of US goods to China failed to meet expectations. Americans in China created a perception of Western culture that left both positive and negative impressions. Dolin's writing style is very engaging, and the book is difficult to put down, but the emphasis on personalities detracts from its scholarly content. Summing Up: Recommended. Public, general, and undergraduate collections. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Two-year Technical Program Students. S. J. Ramold Eastern Michigan University Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This highly accessible book takes readers to 1784 when one of the newest countries in the world met one of the oldest. The ship Empress of China sailed from ­post-revolutionary New York to Guangzhou, thus becoming the first American ship to trade with China, beginning a relationship that helped strengthen America's emerging economy. Dolin (Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America) reveals how those early dealings still echo in American-Chinese relations. He pointedly suggests that Americans today generally don't understand Chinese culture, much as those first American merchants did not. Dolin presents many colorful stories of the rapidly growing China trade that followed that first commercial encounter, of the tremendous popularity of Chinese decorative arts (think of the word "china" as coming to mean porcelain) in American households, and the tremendous consequences of the opium trade with the West. He closes by summarizing China's continued role as a trading partner whose products significantly influence American life. VERDICT An ideal book for general readers in popular history or with a historical interest in China's influence on the U.S. economy and general relations between the two countries—past and present.—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In 1784, the Empress of China became the first ship to set sail for Canton under the American flag. The journey was celebrated as an affirmation of the new country's independence from Britain. Previously, all trade with the Far East had been tightly controlled by the British East India Company—it was no accident that the commodity dumped in Boston Harbor was tea. Historian Dolin (Fur, Fortune, and Empire) argues for the centrality of the China trade in the early days of the republic. Despite that, at the time of American independence, "no more than a handful of colonists… had ever set foot in China," the first few decades saw more than 600 American trading missions and "as much as one-tenth to one-fifth of all the items in many early nineteenth-century homes in Boston and Salem came from China." This fast-moving but superficial overview focuses on intriguing anecdotes and personal vignettes, featuring colorful subjects such as pirates, drug runners, and slave traders, as well as those engaged in more salubrious pursuits. But while entertaining, Dolin fails to deliver a deeper analysis of early relations between the two nations. 16 pages of color and 83 b&w illus.; map. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen, Ghosh Literary Agency. (Sept.). [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Traces the history of the relationship between America and China back to its earliest days, when the United States traded with China for furs, opium, and rare sea cucumbers, but left an ecological and human rights disaster that still reverberates today.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Traces the history of the relationship between America and China back to its earliest days, when the United States traded with China for furs, opium and rare sea cucumbers, but left an ecological and human rights disaster that still reverberates today.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Ancient China collides with newfangled America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Brilliantly illuminating one of the least-understood areas of American history, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin now traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a battered ancient empire. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, the furious trade in furs, opium, and beche-de-mer—a rare sea cucumber delicacy—might have catalyzed America’s emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe of such epic proportions that the reverberations can still be felt today. Peopled with fascinating characters—from the “Financier of the Revolution” Robert Morris to the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who considered foreigners inferior beings—this page-turning saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines becomes a must-read for any fan of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower or Mark Kurlansky’s Cod.