Walking on the edge: explorers in China's borderlands

Each of the chapters collected here capture Western and Southwestern China at a time of great flux: the imperial order is ending, the Republican Era is rising, and just over the horizon looms World War II and the Communist takeover. Our explorers, captured in time as they are, know little of this. Instead, they are certain of their place in ‘civilization’ and convinced that their efforts in recording new places, peoples, flora, and fauna will pave the way for not only the West to continue to grow, but also for the East to rise out of its undeveloped state. As Steven Harrell notes in his introduction to the collection, we are able to better “understand some of the intellectual and political characteristics of an age that already seems very foreign to those of us who tread the same ground only two or three generations later.” (p.5)

Reviewed publication:
Denise M. Glover, Stevan Harrell, Charles F. McKhann & Margaret Byrne Swain (eds.) 2011. Explorers and Scientists in China’s Borderlands, 1880-1950, Seattle: University of Washington. ISBN: 9780295991184 (paperback), 320 pp.

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