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The Hypothetical MandarinSympathy, modernity, and Chinese Pain$
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Eric Hayot

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377965

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377965.001.0001

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The Compassion Trade

The Compassion Trade

Punishment, Costume, Sympathy, 1800–1801

(p.60) 2 The Compassion Trade
The Hypothetical Mandarin

Eric Hayot (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an extensive reading of George Henry Mason's The Punishments of China (1801). Mason's book, which appeared in a series of illustrated volumes on the “Costume of Various Nations,” demonstrates the degree to which “punishment” could already by 1801 be considered part of China's “costume” in the West. Moving back and forth between the book's illustrations, which Mason purchased in Canton from a Chinese painter named Pu Qua, and its captions, which were written by Mason himself, the chapter argues that the tension between caption and image must be understood at least partly as a reflection of the concerns of the 18th century China trade. China's refusal to trade for any Western goods other than silver, a topic of much national concern in England in the late 18th century, may have prompted Mason to imagine a compassion for Chinese criminals as a suitable object of international exchange, making sympathy for China's “suffering humanity” quite literally the only “good” that the Chinese could not refuse. This “compassion trade,” the chapter argues, must be understood in part as a reaction to the 1793 Macartney Embassy that attempted to rework British trade relations with China.

Keywords:   George Henry Mason, Macartney Embassy, China trade, punishments, judicial system, Pu Qua, England

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