New Records on the Travel Round the Globe


To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, in 1876 the United States held a Centennial Exhibition in the same city. The Foreign Office of the late Qing court authorized the Commercial Tax Office for the Western Countries to arrange the Chinese display at the exposition. Li Gui (1842–1903), a secretary at the Customs Office, was dispatched to the United States with a delegation to assist in the arrangements. On his journey he also visited England, France, and other countries. After his return he wrote this travel book, which is also the earliest Chinese account of the 1876 World’s Fair, or expo. The work has four juan. Juan one, entitled Mei hui ji lue (Brief account of the American expo), describes the sights and sounds of the Philadelphia expo. Juan two, entitled You lan sui bi (Sketches of travels), records the sights and sounds of Philadelphia, Washington, Harvard University, New York, and other places. Juan three, Qu lan sui bi (Sketches of travels during the expo), narrates his visit to London and Paris, and recounts various events taking place at the expo, such as the visit of the teenage students from China studying in the United States. The last juan, entitled Dong xing ri ji (Diaries of the travel eastward), briefly describes Li’s trip by sea from Shanghai eastward. His account of China’s participation in the expo includes descriptions of items at the Chinese Pavilion, amounting to 720 cases and valued at 200,000 taels (a Chinese unit of measurement) of silver. The beautiful and spectacular Chinese Pavilion is described as a wooden structure facing north with a large gateway with three large characters Da Qing guo (The Great Qing Empire) and a horizontal placard bearing four characters Wu hua tian bao (Precious Products from the Earth are Nature’s Treasures). On its two sides were two outer gates with yellow flags decorated with green dragons. All items displayed were handmade; no machines were used. Li Gui expressed his amazement at the exhibits in other pavilions and affirmed that the purpose of the expo was for countries to strengthen friendship, highlight their talents, and most importantly, to develop trade. This book was a gift to the National Central Library from the collection of the Chinese International Library, the label of which is on the volume.

Last updated: July 8, 2014