Anglo-Chinese Encounters Before the Opium War: A Tale of Two Empires Over Two Centuries studies the fascinating encounters between the two historic empires from Queen Elizabeth I’s first letter to the Ming Emperor Wanli in 1583, to Lord Palmerston’s letter to the Minister of China in 1840.
Starting with Queen Elizabeth I’s letter to the Chinese Emperor and ending with the letter from Lord Palmerston to the Minister of China just before the Opium War, this book explores the long journey in between from cultural diplomacy to gunboat diplomacy. It interweaves the most known diplomatic efforts at the official level with the much unknown intellectual interactions at the people-to-people level, from missionaries to scholars, from merchants to travelers and from artists to scientists. This book adopts a novel "mirror" approach by pairing and comparing people, texts, commodities, artworks, architecture, ideologies, operating systems and world views of the two empires. Using letters, gifts and traded goods as fulcrums, and by adopting these unique lenses, it puts China into the world history narratives to contextualise Anglo-Chinese relations, thus providing a fresh analysis of the surviving evidence. Xin Liu casts a new light on understanding the Sino-centric and Anglo-centric world views in driving the complex relations between the two empires, and the reversals of power shifts that are still unfolding today.
The book is not intended for specialists in history, but a general audience wishing to learn more about China’s historical engagement with the world.