/, Travel/The Mercenary Mandarin: How a British adventurer became a general in Qing-dynasty China
  • mercenary_mandarin

The Mercenary Mandarin: How a British adventurer became a general in Qing-dynasty China

$17.95

by David Leffman

Jersey-born William Mesny ran off to sea as a boy and jumped ship at Shanghai in 1860 when he was just 18. Amid the chaos of foreign intrigue and civil war in 19th-century China, he became a smuggler, a prisoner of the Taiping rebels, a gun-runner and finally enlisted in the Chinese military.

After five years of fierce campaigning against the Miao in remote Guizhou province, Mesny rose to the rank of general and used this privileged position to travel around China – to the borders with Burma, Tibet and Vietnam – writing opinionated newspaper articles, collecting plants and advising government officials on the development of railways, telegraphs and other modern reforms.

Mesny eventually settled in Shanghai with a 16-year-old concubine and published Mesny’s Chinese Miscellany, a weekly magazine about his experiences. But his story was not to end well. After his implication in an illicit arms deal, his fortunes never recovered, and when he died in 1919 he was working as a desk clerk.

David Leffman has spent over 15 years footstepping Mesny’s travels across China, interviewing locals and piecing together his life story from contemporary journals, private letters and newspaper articles.

Look inside this book

Click on the following links to view sample pages from The Mercenary Mandarin. You will need a pdf reader to view these excerpts.   Foreword

SKU: 978-988-13765-4-1 Categories: , Tags: ,

Product Description

Jersey-born William Mesny ran off to sea as a boy and jumped ship at Shanghai in 1860 when he was just 18. Amid the chaos of foreign intrigue and civil war in 19th-century China, he became a smuggler, a prisoner of the Taiping rebels, a gun-runner and finally enlisted in the Chinese military. After five years of fierce campaigning against the Miao in remote Guizhou province, Mesny rose to the rank of general and used this privileged position to travel around China – to the borders with Burma, Tibet and Vietnam – writing opinionated newspaper articles, collecting plants and advising government officials on the development of railways, telegraphs and other modern reforms. Mesny eventually settled in Shanghai with a 16-year-old concubine and published Mesny’s Chinese Miscellany, a weekly magazine about his experiences. But his story was not to end well. After his implication in an illicit arms deal, his fortunes never recovered, and when he died in 1919 he was working as a desk clerk. David Leffman has spent over 15 years footstepping Mesny’s travels across China, interviewing locals and piecing together his life story from contemporary journals, private letters and newspaper articles.

Media attention

“David Leffman writes about Mesny with insight, warmth, and modesty… The Mercenary Mandarin is more than just a well-written biography of a fascinating life; it’s also a panoramic look at the last half-century of Qing-dynasty China.” – John Ross, Jottings From The Granite Studio

“Fizzes with lively characters… packed with stirring tales of derring-do and deftly interwoven with the events that drove the times… the author’s grasp of history provides an excellent guide to late 19th-century China and the conditions under which people lived.” – China Daily

“Scholarly in its approach, and clearly distilled from an immense amount of research… Leffman’s telling of this tale is well-paced, his writing elegant and his knowledge of China impressive. The book is full of period detail, much of it showing just how remote inland China still was: in the 1860s the 800km journey up the Yangtze from the Three Gorges to Chongqing took six weeks, longer than a sea trip from Shanghai to London; while a Chinese general Mesny meets when he gets to Chongqing is amazed to discover that foreigners have knee joints.” – South China Morning Post

Seasoned travel writer David Leffman has guided us through the Middle Kingdom for decades, and in Mesny he has found his spiritual ancestor. Written with great care and attention to detail, The Mercenary Mandarin documents the life and exploits of one of the great overlooked adventurers of colonial-era China. A tale of war and discovery set in one of China’s most tumultuous periods, it is a valuable contribution to any traveler’s bookshelf.”Derek Sandhaus, editor of Decadence Mandchoue; author of Baijiu: the Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits

 

Additional Information

Dimensions 140 x 216 mm
Pages

372

Binding

Paperback

Illustrations

21 b/w illustrations

About the author

David Leffman was born and raised in the UK, took a degree in photography, spent 20 years in Australia and then relocated back to Britain in 2009. He first visited China in 1985 and has since authored travel guidebooks to China, Hong Kong, Australia, Indonesia and Iceland for publishers such as DK and Rough Guides; helped compile a Chinese cookbook; and written articles on subjects ranging from crime to horse racing. The Mercenary Mandarin is the result of 15 years spent in archives and on the road, following Mesny’s trail around China’s backblocks.

For hundreds of photographs, research notes and extracts from early versions of the book, like “The Mercenary Mandarin” on Facebook or visit the author’s website at www.davidleffman.com.