, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 156-173
Date: 03 Nov 2012

“In Far Cathay”: Representations of China in The Boy’s Own Paper, 1879–1914

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This paper considers how “knowledge” of China was presented for Victorian and Edwardian children in The Boy’s Own Paper (BOP) between 1879 and 1914. It considers how genre affects the representation of China in the BOP by comparing travel narratives and adventure stories. First, it focuses on non-fiction about China, examining the rhetorical strategies employed by the authors of travel narratives. The travellers express confidence in their ability to survey the land and present readers with the idea that China is abundant in resources awaiting British discovery. Second, the article discusses adventure stories about opium and piracy written during a period when the tension between the British and the Chinese was particularly fraught over these issues. While the authors of the adventure stories created a strong contrast between the Chinese as villains and the British as heroes, the BOP travel writers provide contradictory statements within their narratives, reflecting an ambivalence about China and the Chinese. However, because the BOP contributors sought to instil a sense of patriotism, to inspire their readers to serve the British Empire, both the non-fiction travel narratives and the fictional adventure stories related to China were published not only to entertain readers with exotic facts and thrilling stories, but more importantly, to persuade them of the necessity of British intervention.

Shih-Wen Chen received her Ph.D. from the School of Humanities, the Australian National University. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU. Her research interests include Victorian children’s literature, print culture, and histories of reading. Her monograph, China in British Children’s Fiction, 18511911, is forthcoming from Ashgate in April 2013.