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  • Writer's picturePanji Kadar

Exploring China's Enduring Fascination: A Review of 'China’s Story: In Myth, Legend, and Annals' by William Elliot Griffis

Nowadays, China captivates the West due to its unprecedented economic growth, global influence, technological advancements, rich cultural heritage, and unique political dynamics. China's rapid rise as a global power, its technological innovation, and its alternative governance model spark admiration and concern. Its Belt and Road Initiative, cultural contributions, and political system intrigue Westerners.

In 'China’s Story: In Myth, Legend, and Annals' written by William Elliot Griffis (revised edition – 1935), it is proven that China has always been one of the main cultural references of Asia for many Westerners back then. The contrasting way of life in the Far East brought curiosity to Americans and Europeans. I think, through this book, we as readers can get a great picture of how Westerners understood the Chinese people before World War 1, just as the world was starting to get connected through telegraph and automobile roads. We will also understand how and why modern China, as a nation, can reach such global influence by the way they manage their people and their business.

Dr. Griffis writes this book to describe each era of China’s history from the primeval era (around 2,832 BC) to the 1930s. There are stories of the rise and fall of dynasties that ruled this region, how myths and superstitions affected people’s actions and kept them poor, and how new religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Catholicism converted many Chinese from believing in manufactured tiny deities across regions. In the later chapters, the reader will be brought to stories of conflicts with its people, with neighboring countries (Japan, Korea, and Russia), and also with Westerners for trade-related and religion-related issues.

This book was originally written in 1911. I got a copy of the revised 1935 edition with additional chapters by Arthur Walworth. The copy I got is the hardcover one with an all-red cover and the title in golden color. I’m not quite sure whether there was any dust jacket attached to this edition, since there are a lot of versions of this book. The book has also been republished in newer versions up until recent years. This is certainly a delightful reading to get to know one of the world’s oldest living nations, The Great China.

Reference: Griffis, William Elliot. China’s Story: In Myth, Legend, and Annals. 3rd ed., United States of America, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935.

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