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Diary of a Chinese Diplomat

In the book Diary of a Chinese Diplomat by Zhang Deyi, the time is the latter portion of the nineteenth century, and the author provides much information about the life of a Chinese diplomat of the period, the attitudes of the Chinese as expressed to and through their diplomatic corps, and the reaction of the Chinese diplomats to the different cultures they encountered as they represented their country in far distant parts of the world. The Chinese diplomat in this case comes to the United States through San Francisco and travels to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Seward, among others, and in this and subsequent meetings with American officials, the diplomat tells of the different requirements placed on a diplomat for filling out papers, getting letters of accreditation, and other details of his work even as he reacts to the new world that has opened for him.

Zhang writes in his diary about the people he meets and the events he attends, and he interacts with various Americans as well as some people from his own country who seek him out in Washington. He is always conscious of his role and of his place as a Chinese person, and being Chinese and maintaining Chinese ways is very important to him. At a reception at Seward's home, he meets a young man he at first believes is Japanese because of the way he looks and is dressed, but he discovers that the young man is a Chinese who has been in the U.S. for seven years studying to be a missionary. The young man intends to return to China. Zhang is especially taken with the fact that the young man has had his haircut in a western style, and Zhang points out to him that the Qing Empire forbids a man to shave his head or to wear long clothes: "To me you are more of a European or American, shorn and cross-dressed as you are, than a Chinese" (82). He even objects to the religion that the young man is studying and shows a strain of Orientalist thought as he berate the young man...

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Diary of a Chinese Diplomat. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:36, December 07, 2021, from