Peking's foreign community in the first half of the 20th century was as exotic as the city itself, attracting larger-than-life individuals like fossil hunters and philosophers, diplomats, dropouts, writers and explorers, missionaries and refugees.
Lady Julia Boyd explores that now-vanished exotic world in A Dance with the Dragon: The Vanished World of Peking's Foreign Colony on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
The last great capital to remain untouched by the modern world, Peking both entranced and horrified its foreign residents, the majority of whom lived an extraordinary high-octane party lifestyle suffused with martinis, jazz piano, and cigarettes. Personalities like Reginald Johnston (tutor to the last emperor), novelist Pearl Buck, philosopher Bertrand Russell, and the monarchy-rocking Wallis Simpson were drawn to a lifestyle that allowed them to dance, play, and squabble while ignoring the poverty outside their gates and the great political events reshaping China.
Drawing on a variety of unpublished diaries and letters, Lady Boyd draws a dazzling portrait of an eclectic foreign community and of China itself, one that is essential in understanding China and its attitude to foreigners today.
Lady Boyd is the author of The Story of Furniture; Hannah Riddell, An Englishwoman in Japan; and The Excellent Doctor Blackwell, a life of the first woman physician. A former governor of the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth and a former Chairman of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Council, she is married to Sir John Boyd, a diplomat who has served as British ambassador to Japan, Chairman of the British Museum, and Master of Churchill College, Cambridge University.
The event is co-sponsored by the English Speaking Union.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.