Meyer-Fong to Deliver Inaugural Lee Endowed Lecture

Written by Laura Paskin
July 13, 2016

Professor Tobie Meyer-Fong will present "World of Pain and Wonder: Horizons of a 19th Century Chinese Traveler," as the inaugural Peter L. Lee Endowed Lecture in East Asian Culture and Civilization on November 14, 2016. Meyer-Fong, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University, specializes in the cultural and social history of Qing China. The Qing dynasty, which ruled from 1644 to 1912, formed the basis of the modern Chinese state.  

In her presentation, Meyer-Fong will focus on Li Gui who, from 1876 to 1877, became one of the first Chinese travelers to circumnavigate the globe. He published his observations of the wonders he witnessed abroad under the title A New Record of a Trip Around the World. His detailed account of the history, government institutions, industries, and economic circumstances of the countries he visited suggest a cosmopolitan and modern sensibility, usefully emblematic of a self-strengthening or globalizing China. The book received laudatory notices by some of the most famous men of his age, circulated widely among officials sympathetic to China’s 19th century modernization, and more recently, garnered renewed attention in the lead-up to the Shanghai World Expo of 2010.  

Li Gui is also the author of A Record of Pondering Pain, a work in which he describes the personal losses and physical suffering that he experienced in China’s mid-19th century civil war in excruciating and vivid detail.  

“Li Gui traveled a remarkable distance in his lifetime: from a world of pain to a world of wonders--and returned to publish about both,” Meyer-Fong noted. “A consideration of the horizons that framed his life experience and defined his writing commands us to think of the uncomfortable juxtapositions of suffering and modernization, violence and national transformation typical of 19th and 20th century China.”

“World of Pain and Wonder: Horizons of a 19th Century Chinese Traveler” takes place on November 14, 2016, at 4:30 p.m. in Student Center 160. A reception precedes the lecture at 4 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

A prolific scholar, Meyer-Fong has written extensively on topics ranging from China’s cultural heritage and historical memory in contemporary China to 19th century military intelligence. Her first book, Building Culture in Early Qing Yangzhou, describes the physical and cultural reconstruction of a Chinese city in the aftermath of the Manchu conquest of China in 1644. Her second book, What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China, explores emotional, religious, and practical responses to the unprecedented death and destruction associated with the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864). She is also the editor of the journal Late Imperial China.  

Thanks to a generous contribution by Dr. Peter Lai Sun Lee ’64, Seattle University established the Peter L. Lee Endowed Lectureship in East Asian Culture and Civilization in April 2015. Housed in the College of Arts and Sciences and managed by the director of Asian Studies, the lectureship brings to campus prominent experts to explore the impact of East Asian thought and tradition on contemporary global issues.