Introduction

This website attempts to give a feel for the world of Old China through a hyperlinked collage of words and images. It is not organised like a book. There is no need to start at page one and read through to the end. In fact, you can't because there IS no page one, and no end either. Just start clicking!

Old China goes back thousands of years, to a time of scratching on scorched tortoise shells, and there is no way to try to cover all of Chinese history. So we have chosen to just document the interaction between westerners and Chinese, starting with Marco Polo and working through to around the Communist takeover in 1949. This clash of civilizations saw the end of the real Old China, and created the China we see today. But the view of the process by which it happened is muddled by emotion, pre-conceptions and precudices, on both sides. Hopefully, this Tales site will help make sense of some of the muddle.

This website is in English, and most of the materials in it are in English. This is again for convenience and because time is always limited. One day, we will do the Chinese language version. But not this week.

There is very little in this website which is me telling you what it was like back then. Firstly, I don't know because I wasn't there. Secondly, I believe the best way to get a real feel for what life was like in another time is to read first-hand the books and newspapers of the day, look at the photographs and the advertisments and the postcards.

Even so, what is here is not the REAL Old China -- the words in particular often represent China filtered through the brains of foreigners who almost never spoke Chinese and had only the vaguest idea of what was going on around them. But their view of China is interesting not only because of what it reveals of China, but also because of what it reveals of the foreigners themselves. The "Arrogance" sections deals with that, although the Chinese were just as arrogant in their way, and arrogance transcends all cultures and historical eras.

If you have any comments or questions, or would like to contribute material, or help in the maintenance of the site, please contact us.

Graham Earnshaw
graham@earnshaw.com