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Court Life in China   By: (1859-1942)

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Court Life in China by Isaac Taylor Headland offers readers a captivating and comprehensive glimpse into the mysterious world of Chinese courts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Told from the perspective of an American missionary living in China, this book provides a unique and insightful narrative of the court life that existed within the innermost circles of Chinese society.

Headland's writing style is engaging and vivid, making it easy for readers to follow his experiences and observations. From his first encounter with Chinese court culture to his interactions with powerful figures in the imperial court, the author offers a wealth of details that bring this foreign and unfamiliar setting to life. His vivid descriptions of the opulent palaces, elaborate ceremonies, and intricate hierarchies of the Chinese court leave readers with a strong sense of the grandeur and complexity that characterized this ancient system of governance.

What sets Court Life in China apart from other accounts of Chinese court culture is Headland's personal perspective. As a Christian missionary, the author brings his own values and beliefs to bear on his experiences, offering a unique lens through which to view the rituals and practices of the court. This religious perspective adds an interesting layer to the narrative, allowing readers to understand the cultural clashes that Headland grapples with as he tries to navigate the complexities of court life while remaining true to his own faith.

Furthermore, Headland's deep respect for Chinese culture and society shines throughout the book. He approaches his observations with a genuine curiosity and desire to understand rather than judge. This respectful tone enhances the authenticity of his accounts and makes the reader feel more connected to the narrative.

One minor drawback of the book is its occasionally meandering narrative style. At times, the author veers into tangential anecdotes and theological discussions that detract from the main focus of court life. While these diversions are often interesting in their own right, they can be slightly distracting from the overall story being told.

Overall, Court Life in China is a fascinating and enlightening read that offers readers a unique and intimate look into the hidden world of Chinese court culture. Headland's personal perspective, engaging writing style, and respectful approach make this book a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the intricacies of Chinese history and society. Whether you have a specific interest in court life or simply want to broaden your cultural knowledge, this book is a worthwhile addition to your reading list.

First Page:






Professor in the Peking University


Court Life in China: The Capital Its Officials and People. The Chinese Boy and Girl Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes


Until within the past ten years a study of Chinese court life would have been an impossibility. The Emperor, the Empress Dowager, and the court ladies were shut up within the Forbidden City, away from a world they were anxious to see, and which was equally anxious to see them. Then the Emperor instituted reform, the Empress Dowager came out from behind the screen, and the court entered into social relations with Europeans.

For twenty years and more Mrs. Headland has been physician to the family of the Empress Dowager's mother, the Empress' sister, and many of the princesses and high official ladies in Peking. She has visited them in a social as well as a professional way, has taken with her her friends, to whom the princesses have shown many favours, and they have themselves been constant callers at our home. It is to my wife, therefore, that I am indebted for much of the information contained in this book.

There are many who have thought that the Empress Dowager has been misrepresented... Continue reading book >>

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