Price's letters home provide an interesting glimpse into the past: naive but confident Americans go off to Christianize the...

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CHINA JOURNAL: 1889-1900 An American Missionary Family During the Boxer Rebellion

Price's letters home provide an interesting glimpse into the past: naive but confident Americans go off to Christianize the heathen in a China rife with starvation, opium addiction, disease, and--unbeknownst to them--growing fury against the ""foreign devils."" Price, along with her husband and daughter, was killed during the Boxer Rebellion. The Prices arrived in primitive, dusty Shansi province in 1889. In conventional passages of her early letters, Eva misses her family back home, trusts in God, and complains about the servants, but she also provides detailed descriptions of travel (by cart and litter) and of Chinese dress and homes. Over the years, her attitudes change: at first, she pities the heathens who live in misery without any knowledge of the eternal life beyond; later, she grieves for their misery on earth. The Prices evangelize, running a school for boys and a hospital for people kicking opium habits; Eva propagandizes against foot-binding. Ignorant of Chinese history and culture, the family is impatient with Chinese pride; Charles Price exults when China suffers a military defeat at the hands of Japan. Unaware of growing resentments, they believe themselves safe and point out that Chinese in America face worse discrimination. Their infant son dies; when their older boy falls ill, they return to the US for medical treatment. With broken hearts, the Prices return to China after his death--not to complete their commitment, but to begin a new ten-year hitch. The decision to return, which plunges Eva into depression, proves fatal. Excellent source material and a personal look at Americans of another era in China: doomed people who are well intentioned, sometimes smug, and sustained by faith.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988