A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific

By Hua Hsu

Who gets to speak for China? During the interwar years, when American condescension toward barbarous China yielded to a fascination with all things Chinese, a circle of writers sparked an unprecedented public conversation about American-Chinese relations. Hua Hsu tells the story of how they became ensnared in bitter rivalries over which one could claim the title of America s leading China expert.

The rapturous reception that greeted "The Good Earth" Pearl Buck s novel about a Chinese peasant family spawned a literary market for sympathetic writings about China. Stories of enterprising Americans making their way in a land with four hundred million customers, as Carl Crow said, found an eager audience as well. But on the margins in Chinatowns, on Ellis Island, and inside FBI surveillance memos a different conversation about the possibilities of a shared future was taking place.

"A Floating Chinaman" takes its title from a lost manuscript by H. T. Tsiang, an eccentric Chinese immigrant writer who self-published a series of visionary novels during this time. Tsiang discovered the American literary market to be far less accommodating to his more skeptical view of U.S.-China relations. His floating Chinaman, unmoored and in-between, imagines a critical vantage point from which to understand the new ideas of China circulating between the world wars and today, as well."


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About the Hardcover

Publisher Harvard University Press
Publish date 06/07/2016
Pages 244
ISBN-13 9780674967908
ISBN-10 0674967909
Language English