American interest in China, sparked by the China trade and the establishment of Hong Kong as a British Crown Colony early in the Nineteenth Century, revealed itself in tales for children and adults, translations of Confucian writings, commercial and personal travel, and elaborate accounts of the first Embassy from China to the United States led by Anson Burlingame.

A Small Book about China, and the Chinese. Auburn, N. Y.: Oliphant and Skinner, 1837. From the series Uncle Oliver's Books for Children.

A Small Book about China and the Chinese

An early woodcut offered small children the opportunity to become curious about China, albeit through stock images.

Thomas Wallace Knox. The Boy Travellers in the Far East: Adventures of Two Youths in a Journey to Japan and China. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880.

The Boy Travellers in the Far East: Adventures of Two Youths in a Journey to Japan and China

Book design took on "oriental"  elements: blossoms on spare branches, exotic fish, asymmetrical spacing, pagodas, and fan motifs to name some of them shown here. Travel books like The Boy Travellers would have graced the homes of Modernist writers born in the 1880s.

The Moral Sayings of Confucius. New York: H. D. Robinson, 1835.

The Moral Sayings of Confucius

A pocket-sized compendium for personal use, this edition attests to the popularity of Confucius in America. In 1843, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller proclaimed their interest in Chinese philosophy in The Dial in a series of articles led off by "Ethnical Scriptures: Sayings of Confucius," translated by Joshua J. Marshman.

"New York and New Haven Railroad Station, New Haven." Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-room Companion, 1 (November 22, 1851), 505.

Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-room Companion

A pagoda-like structure, the visitor's first view of New Haven. Known today as a very early example of a pagoda style, the article illustrated by this picture referred to the building's "Italianate style."

The Nineteenth Century: Americans Look to the East:
Percival Lowell and Lafcadio Hearn: Conduits of Japanese Culture
President Grant's Diplomatic Mission to Asia
The 1876 Centennial Exhibition
Whistler and Japanese Influence
Ernest Fenollosa: Scholar and Source

The Twentieth Century: American Modernists:
Oriental Aesthetics; Leo and Gertrude Stein
Harriet Monroe and the "Imagists"
Ezra Pound and Fenollosa
H.D., Amy Lowell and John Gould Fletcher
Katherine Anne Porter and Arthur Davison Ficke
Witter Bynner
Wallace Stevens
Eastern Themes and Modernist Theater; Eugene O'Neill
Thornton Wilder
William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore
E.E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein

Exhibition Introduction

Beinecke Library Home Page

All contents copyright (C) 1997
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
All rights reserved