America's First Adventure in China: Trade, Treaties, Opium, and Salvation

John R Haddad, Author
John R. Haddad. Temple Univ., $35 (274p) ISBN 978-1-4399-0689-7
Reviewed on: 03/18/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
Haddad (The Romance of China) looks at the development of the relationship between China and the United States beginning in 1784. An intensely detailed story seen "through the lens of individual lives"—which makes the book sound more accessible than it is—it would be far more engaging if the included individuals were given greater roles in Haddad's narrative. Readers will recognize key names like Forbes, Astor, and Burlingame, but only those already attracted to this narrow slice of history will appreciate the offerings here. Still, it provides some interesting descriptions about the beginnings of American trade with China in the late 18th century, when George Washington's aide-de-camp set off for Canton (modern-day Guangzhou). Ginseng, opium, tea, and sandalwood are all ingredients in the early trade story, and as trade was established, missionaries began their approach to "save Chinese souls". Doctors began to establish practices to support missionaries, and an organization that would eventually become the "AMA" was formed in 1847. Inevitably, Chinese residents would make the reverse trip to the United States, "exotic rarities" who opened Chinese laundries a few years later. Informative but dry, a handful of graphics provide a brief respite from the dense copy. (Mar.)