Cherishing Men from Afar

Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793

Cherishing Men from Afar

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 6 b&w photographs Published: July 1995

Author: James L. Hevia

Asian Studies > East Asia, History > European History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In the late eighteenth century two expansive Eurasian empires met formally for the first time—the Manchu or Qing dynasty of China and the maritime empire of Great Britain. The occasion was the mission of Lord Macartney, sent by the British crown and sponsored by the East India Company, to the court of the Qianlong emperor. Cherishing Men from Afar looks at the initial confrontation between these two empires from a historical perspective informed by the insights of contemporary postcolonial criticism and cultural studies.
The history of this encounter, like that of most colonial and imperial encounters, has traditionally been told from the Europeans’ point of view. In this book, James L. Hevia consults Chinese sources—many previously untranslated—for a broader sense of what Qing court officials understood; and considers these documents in light of a sophisticated anthropological understanding of Qing ritual processes and expectations. He also reexamines the more familiar British accounts in the context of recent critiques of orientalism and work on the development of the bourgeois subject. Hevia’s reading of these sources reveals the logics of two discrete imperial formations, not so much impaired by the cultural misunderstandings that have historically been attributed to their meeting, but animated by differing ideas about constructing relations of sovereignty and power. His examination of Chinese and English-language scholarly treatments of this event, both historical and contemporary, sheds new light on the place of the Macartney mission in the dynamics of colonial and imperial encounters.


“Hevia has written a very important book on a critical moment in the history of the Sino-British encounter. . . . [This] is an exciting and important contribution to Chinese and cross-cultural study.” — Kai-Wing Chow, American Historical Review

“James Hevia’s fine book shows what revisionism, executed properly, can achieve. . . . Hevia approaches [his] topic from refreshingly innovative angles and, in so doing, provides fodder for thought in several important areas, including the British and Chinese styles of Imperial formation and the traditional Chinese rulership and statecraft.” — John Lee , Canadian Journal of History

“Persuasively argued and beautifully written, Cherishing Men from Afar adds a new level of subtlety to the discussion of imperial China’s foreign relations. . . . Hevia sheds new light on the complex dynamics within and between the Manchu and English courts.” — Nancy Park, The Historian

"Cherishing Men From Afar, extremely impressive in its marshalling of basic Qing material, accomplishes something quite remarkable: the product of a postmodern critical sensibility, it will also satisfy the most traditional of scholars on sinological grounds." — William T. Rowe, Johns Hopkins University

"James Hevia persuasively suggests a whole new way of viewing not just the Macartney embassy but the entire subject of Sino-Western interaction from the eighteenth century to the present. Cherishing Men from Afar deserves to be read by the widest spectrum of historians." — Paul A. Cohen, John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University


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James L. Hevia is Chair of the Curriculum in International and Area Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His book Cherishing Men from Afar: Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793 (published by Duke University Press) won the Joseph Levenson Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.

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Winner, 1997 Joseph Levenson Prize (pre-twentieth century China), presented by the Association for Asian Studies

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1637-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1625-1
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