‘There is no better means of instruction on China than letting China speak for herself’: Thomas Percy and Hau Kiou Choaan
Keywords:Eighteenth Century, China in Britain, Thomas Percy, Hau Kiou Choaan
Hau Kiou Choaan represents a fresh enquiry into literary orientalism in Britain of the eighteenth century. This article will discuss Percy's adaptation of Hau Kiou Choaan from an original Chinese novel, and how the ways in which Percy interprets the Chinese novel signify his peculiar views of China. On the title page of Hau Kiou Choaan; or, The Pleasing History (1761), Thomas Percy quotes from Jean-Baptiste Du Halde’s A Description of the Empire of China and of Chinese Tartary (1738): ‘There is no better means of instruction on China than letting China speak for herself’. It remains questionable, whether by presenting an original piece of Chinese literature, Percy has really let China ‘speak for herself’; it is reasonable to argue that Hau Kiou Choaan carries as much information about China as it does about Percy’s own perceptions of this country. Whether Percy’s works and views of China provoked louder criticism or higher praise, his input into the studies of China was a positive one, for it contributed to an increasingly vigorous debate that would increasingly perceive differences as a source of strength, not weakness.
Primary Sources (English)
Davis, John Francis, The Fortunate Union: a Romance (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1829).
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— Miscellaneous Pieces Relating to the Chinese (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1762), Eighteenth Century Collections Online, last accessed 30 June 2016 .
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Watt, James, ‘Thomas Percy, China, and the Gothic’, The Eighteenth Century, 48/2 (2007), 95-109.
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