Come and hear author David Leffman talk about the “Mercenary Mandarin” at the Royal Geographical Society next week (Wednesday September 20th, 6.30pm, in Central, Hong Kong).

In his talk, Leffman covers the extraordinary life of Victorian adventurer William Mesny, who spent most of his adult life in China, becoming a smuggler, a prisoner of the Taiping rebels, an arms dealer and a decorated general in the Qing army.

Mesny spoke fluent Chinese, was twice married to Chinese women and spent 25 years travelling around the country, to the remote borders with Burma, Tibet, Central Asia and Vietnam. He investigated mining opportunities, collected new species of plants, survived assassination attempts and proposed modern infrastructure projects to government officials. Mesny knew famous statesmen such as Li Hongzhang, Ding Baozhen and Zuo Zongtang personally, and served as an advisor to the influential reformer Zhang Zhidong.

David Leffman is a British travel writer and photographer who first visited China in 1985. During guidebook research in Guizhou, he started researching William Mesny and the part he played fighting the Miao in their uprising of 1854–72. He then spent 15 years researching Mesny’s life for a biography, The Mercenary Mandarin.

Click here for full event details.