Johann Christian Hüttner
Author: Johann Christian Hüttner
Title: News from the journey of the British delegation through China and parts of Tartary
Length: a bit more than a year
Type: ship, carriage
An enlightened traveler
Whenever I pick up an old book, like something written during the 19th or 18th century, I feel myself hesitating for a moment, suspecting it to be another slow and painful read. But this one was a pleasant surprise.
fast and lean
The edition I was reading was very lean (94 pages) and comprised a huge and helpful appendix of about 120 pages. I found the style of writing to be straight forward and amusing, making it a fast and enjoyable read.
The story: JCH accompanies the British envoy to the court of Qian Long in Beijing and Chengde. The itinerary covers most important sites along the coastline, and JCH uses every opportunity to vividly describe his impressions of China, her people and their culture. His observations are very precise, and it is fascinating to read his accounts of traditional music, eating habits, religion, and even random bits about sanitary facilities or the face and character of Emperor Qian Long.
Johann Christian Hüttner – open-minded in 1792
This man seems to have a surprisingly open mind when it comes to foreign cultures – even though his observations are more than 2oo years old, there is rarely ever a trace of that obnoxious condescension and arrogance which has been contaminating European travel literature throughout the last few centuries.
Here’s an excerpt that I found particularly enjoyable and true: “And if the Europeans who are trading here don’t beware of offending the Chinese with their own ways in the future, then the contempt and the public insults that they find themselves exposed to will always increase.”
good read on China
I think this book should be a must-read for everyone traveling to China today.
A solid 8 out of 10.