In the twentieth century, China underwent a monumental dynastic change and was transformed from an outmoded monarchy into a modern communist state. This century of revolutionary change was marked by political upheaval and social chaos. It was a period in which Chinese began to go abroad to study and conduct business while foreigners came to China for economic opportunity and adventure. In the process, Chinese and foreigners began to meet and form romantic relationships. These love affairs (fengliu yunshi 風流韻事) are notable because they coincided with the last phase of Western imperialism, including its lingering racial prejudices and even laws against interracial sexual relationships. Conversely in China, there were periodic outbreaks of hostility and violence against foreigners. This book explores the interracial relationships of twenty-two people who, transcended these obstacles to cross color lines and fall in love.
For the past half-century D. E. Mungello has been a leading scholar in Sino-Western history. From 1979 to 2016 he founded and edited a journal dedicated to the post-Mao Zedong era revival of contacts between Chinese and foreign historians. His books include Leibniz and Confucianism (1977), Curious Land (1984), The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800 (1999 & 3 revised editions), The Spirit and the Flesh in Shandong, 1650-1785 (2001), Drowning Girls in China: Female Infanticide since 1650 (2008), Western Queers in China: Flight to the Land of Oz (2012), The Catholic Invasion of China (2015), and This Suffering is my Joy: The Underground Church in Eighteenth-Century China (2021). He is the Professor of History Emeritus at Baylor University.
Although Westerners often depict Chinese in monolithic terms, this book shows that individuals from different cultures dealt with one another in many different ways. Mungello documents a wide range of relationships between Chinese and Westerners - romantic and pragmatic, real and imaginary, devoted and transitory, intense and flirtatious. The reader comes away with a sense of the variety of interactions that are possible between people of very different cultures.