Re-Orienting China
Travel Writing and Cross-Cultural Understanding
ISBN: 978-0-88977-440-7
Year: 0
Pages: 224
Binding: Casebound with dust jacket

Re-Orienting China moves beyond the imperialist implications of the travel writing genre, and instead shows how travel writing can function as a genre of cultural translation. Addressing the transformation that results from interacting with Chinese otherness, Leilei Chen shows how being exposed to cultural difference may engender a genuine interest in the other and spark a rediscovery of self. With close readings of writings by Jan Wong, Jock T. Wilson, Peter Hessler, Leslie T. Chang, Hill Gates, and Yi-Fu Tuan—all travellers to post-1949 China—the book acknowledges the separation between home and abroad but also looks for connections and commonalities. 

In the context of today’s globalized world, Re-Orienting China embraces the possibility of productive engagement with Chinese otherness and imagines what balanced relationships across borders can look like.




Departure: A Prologue


Scholarship on Travel Writing about China

Looking beyond the China-West Divide

Six Case Studies

Theoretical Underpinnings


Chapter One – Peter Hessler’s Enlightened Ambivalence

The Traveller’s Linguistic and Cultural Immersion

The Enlightening Moments of Travel

Enlightened Ambivalence and “Epistemic Humility”

The Travel Writer as a Critic


Chapter Two – Jock Tuzo Wilson’s Horizon of Cross-Cultural Understanding

Validity and Limitation of the New Vision:

Critical Sensibility Engendered

Translating Cultural Differences

“A Broader Humanism”


Chapter Three – Jan Wong’s Egological Translation and Beyond

Contextualizing Wong’s Travel

The Egological Translation of China and Its Problems

Critical Questions about Journalism and Openness to the Other


Chapter Four – Hill Gates’s Contextualizing Translation of China

Translating the Context of the Foreign

Self in Translation

Insights about Travel Writing and Culture


Chapter Five – The Traveller’s Joined-University Press Vision in Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

The Chinese Migrants as Travellers

The Changes of the Chinese Migrants

The Traveller’s Rediscovery of Her Chinese Heritage


Chapter Six – Locating “Cosmopolitan Hearth”: Yi-Fu Tuan’s Homecoming Travel and beyond

A Lifelong Traveller and the Question of Self and Belonging

Self and Place

“Trying to Be a Tourist”

“Cosmopolitan Hearth”


Arrival: An Afterword

Works Cited


Leilei Chen

Leilei Chen is a sessional instructor of English and Writing Studies at the University of Alberta. Before moving to Canada she had been a professor of English at Jinan University, Guangzhou, China. She has published in the areas of Victorian Studies, Asian American studies, Canadian literature, and travel writing.
The Creative Industries Transition Fund is made possible through funding that was provided to the Saskatchewan Arts Board by the Government of Saskatchewan through the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport.