Eye-witness account of early western diplomacy, military intervention, tourism and trade in China and Japan.
Long ago secrets, lost emotions and persistent sadness at human conflict are finally revealed in this first publication of journals written by a young American visiting the Far East for the first time.
Travelling out in 1859 to join his uncle’s then successful trading house, Augustine Heard & Co., George was hired on shipboard by fellow-passenger John E. Ward, the American Minister tasked with the ratification of the American-Chinese treaty. As an attaché to the American Legation, George witnessed the June 1859 Battle of the Peiho, and in July 1860 – now promoted as Secretary of Legation – he saw the western Allies’ preparations for the return battle that took place in August 1860. At least one of his letters home was borrowed to be copied by the American Minister and sent to the US President as an official report.
These were early days in the intercourse between the United States and the Far East; a first Treaty with Japan (which George also visited and writes about here) had been agreed only a short time earlier. Some of the Chinese people whom George talked with in villages visited on the way to Beijing had never heard of his country.
A cultured, charming and conscientious person, with a sense of humour, an early-developed cross-cultural perspective, and highly readable writing style, George W. Heard died unmarried in his late thirties, and was buried far from home. This book finally brings home his memorial.
“As we move along ... we attract an immense crowd; and indeed we form a rather dignified appearance with our fleet of nearly thirty boats decked out with the Imperial colours, and gongs beating. It's a time when a man forgets his personal feelings and tries to feel that he represents his country.”
– George Washington (Farley) Heard
“We are blessed that busy people take the time to record not only the extraordinary events in which they find themselves, but also the commonplace. We are familiar, for example, with American Commodore Tattnall famously saying that blood was thicker than water (when asked, as a neutral, to assist stranded British forces at the mouth of the Peiho River in 1859), but not that he was about to sit down to dinner when he said it. With so many more familiar British and French accounts, it is easy to forget the important role played by Americans in this period of China’s history. These well-written and insightful journals, painstakingly transcribed and edited, redress that imbalance.”
– Robert Nield, Past President of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong Branch; author of The China Coast and China’s Foreign Places
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