Confucius and Opium: China Book Reviews

Have foreigners shaped China’s history to a greater extent than has previously been acknowledged, reaching back possibly millennia? Was Confucius’ most famous book, the Analects, inspired by entheogenic medicines imported from abroad, possession of which in the 1930s brought one before the firing squad in the name of Confucius?

In these book review essays by Isham Cook, foreign devils, old China Hands, eccentric expatriates, and a few Chinese tell an offbeat history of China’s last two centuries, with a backward glance at ancient China as told by Western mummies.

Confucius and Opium contains surprises sure to both delight and annoy any potential reader….Cook’s audacity is shaming.”—John Grant Ross, author of Formosan Odyssey

“The sniffy China-watcher clique back west resent Isham Cook for having the effrontery to pull at the threads of their narratives of what China should be to the world. Confucius and Opium will only deepen that resentment.”—Tom Carter, author of An American Bum in China

“Cook takes up the side of social life that is usually omitted from the history books, what are now unconventional points of view such as sex life, prostitution and drugs, and shows why they are quite reasonable.”—Colin Mackerras, author of Western Perspectives on the People’s Republic of China

“Isham Cook’s erudite, snarky, and very funny meander through books by and about Western expatriates in China serves up culture clashes that rarely see print.”—Hill Gates, author of China’s Motor: A Thousand Years of Petty Capitalism.


Preface:         Under Covid-19 Lockdown (book only)

Chapter 1      Confucius and opium

Chapter 2     Living the Taiping

Chapter 3     Out of the squalor and into the light: When the Shanghai wall came down

Chapter 4     Chungking: China’s heart of darkness

Chapter 5     Midnight in Peking and true crime fiction

Chapter 6     The expat and the prostitute: Four classic novels, 1956–1962

Chapter 7     Updating the great Chinese socialist realist novel

Chapter 8     The ventriloquist’s dilemma: Asexual Anglo travelogues of China

Chapter 9     The literature of paralysis: The China PC scene and the expat mag crowd

Chapter 10   The adorable expatriate eccentric

Chapter 11    Writing China in English: Recent novels

Afterword by Tom Carter (book only)


Now available on Amazon and Smashwords:

Confucius and Opium: China Book Reviews


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