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Note: This is the first in a four-part series by Eccentric Yoruba, cross-posted with her permission. Check out the rest of her Ancient Africa & China series appearing every Friday throughout this month.


"Comprehensive map of the Four Seas (Si Hai Zong Tu)". A copy of an ancient Chinese explorer map that had survived to the 17th century and found in the 1730 book “Records of Sights and Sounds of Overseas States” (Haiguo Jianwen Lu) authored by Chen Lunjiong"

Last year while I was researching for my dissertation, I came across a footnote that mentioned that the first Africans who reached ancient China (the particular period was not specified) were two slaves given as gifts to the Emperor by an envoy of Arab traders. I found myself wondering what happened to them, were the slaves male or female, were they killed immediately or did they go on to serve the Emperor, did they have children (it was possible!) etc.

It keeps on popping up, one or two sentences or a footnote that quickly says something about Africans in ancient China, whether in Peking or Canton but there is never enough information. To be honest I’d like to know more. If I could, I’d travel back in time just to see the daily lives of those Africans in ancient China. I’ve read that most of them were slaves of Arab traders and lived among the Arab settlements in Canton…things will become clearer from here on, I promise.

Read on BeyondVictoriana.com
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The town of Seattle was a-buzz the weekend of November 19th - 21st as an estimated 1700+ steampunks arrived for the second annual Steamcon convention. This was another event I had to sit out on, sadly, since I was involved with The Anachronism NYC at Webster Hall that same weekend (and you can check out pictures here, here and here.) Staff and attendees from the event, however, volunteered their reports and pictures from the second-annual convention, which rocked the theme "Weird, Weird West."

See what these folks have to say:

The man that needs no introduction, Jake von Slatt, who was one of the Guests of Honor, talks a bit about his experiences, including the panel he co-presented with the awesome mistress of the ExoSkeleton Cabaret Libby Bulloff about Queering Steampunk Fashion. Donna Prior, the Games Chair, talks a bit about the tabletop, miniature, and LARPing adventures that took place this weekend. Staff member Kevin Steil, the Airship Ambassador, already provided a gigantic round-up and review of the SteamCon II media coverage, but also gives an exclusive report about his Steamcon experience. Justin Stanley (aka Emperor Justinian Stanislaus), known to most as the Emperor of the Red Fork Empire, gives an on-the-ground scoop in his attendee report.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Note: Cross-posted with permission from Edwardian Promenade.

Meta (mee-tah) Vaux Warrick Fuller was not the first African-American sculptress–that would be Edmonia Lewis–but she became the most prominent. She was born in 1877 to a prominent Philadelphia family, her father a successful barber and her mother an equally successful beautician. Raised in relative financial comfort, and educated in the typical feminine graces of the time, Fuller’s career as an artist began in high school, when one of her projects was chosen for inclusion in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. This work won her a full scholarship to the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art, where she received her diploma and teacher’s certificate. During her time at PMSIA, one of her first original pieces in clay was a head of Medusa, which “with its hanging jaw, beads of gore, and eyes starting from their sockets, marked her as a sculptor of the horrible.” She won further prizes for her work, receiving a prize for metal work with a crucifix upon which hung the figure of Christ torn by anguish, and an honourable mention for her work in modeling. She then won, in her post-graduate studies, the George K. Crozier first prize for the best general work in modeling for the piece “Procession of Arts and Crafts.”

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Note: I wrote a bit here about Vietnamese steampunk, but when Tor.com asked me to write for their Steampunk Fortnight, I offered a more personal take on how my life has influenced my steampunk, and vice versa.



“You wear this so well! I can’t believe this fits you,” my mother exclaims. “I must’ve been really skinny.”

I’m ten years old and I don’t think to wonder whether she meant I was a fat kid (because all of her children have grown up “so big and tall” in America) or question why my mom was that thin when she married. I’m just admiring my outfit in the mirror. It didn’t fit as perfectly as she said; the dress panels of the ao dai nearly touched the floor, and the sleeves ran a bit past my wrists. But it was still the prettiest thing I had ever worn in my young life.

Read on Tor.com: A story in which the clothes make the steampunk as much as the steampunk makes the clothes.
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Note from Ay-leen: This the third and final part of a series of guest posts from Matt Delman, Proprietor of Free the Princess and Doc Fantastique's Show of Wonders.



The rise-fall-rise of Dost Mohammad was one of the most central facets of the Great Game as it was played in Afghanistan. His son, Mohammad Akbar Khan, had already proven that the Afghanis could send Britain packing from their mountainous nation when his campaign to restore his father to the Emirship succeeded in the early 1840s. Mohammad Akbar Khan, however, died in 1845, removing one of the most anti-British figures of the past few years from the playing field.



It took more than a decade after the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War before the British made overtures to renew relations with Dost Mohammad. In 1854, they made the opening moves at Kabul, and in 1855 the Afghans and the British signed the Treaty of Peshawar. The two nations agreed to respect each other’s territorial boundaries and to make friends with each other’s friends and enemies of each other’s enemies.



In October 1856, the Persians attacked the city of Herat for the second time that decade (1852 was the first). The British came to Afghanistan’s aid, in keeping with their policy of maintaining that nation’s territorial integrity. After only three months of fighting, the Persians were expelled from Herat. Soon after the end of that conflict, in 1857, the British and Afghans signed an addendum to the Treaty of Peshawar that allowed the British to station a military mission at Kandahar.



During the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, certain officials in British India suggested restoring Peshawar to Afghanistan in return for Dost Mohammad’s assistance during the mutiny. However, the idea was rejected because several officials on the northwest frontier thought Dost Mohammad would see such a gift as weakness on the part of the British government in India.



In 1863, the British finally allowed Dost Mohammad to retake Herat and add it back into the Afghani national territory. By this time, a series of Liberal governments in London regarded Afghanistan as a Buffer State against Russian interests in Central Asia. The southern border of the Russian Empire was on the opposite side of the Aral Sea from Afghanistan, and even stopped at the Syr Darya, which runs through modern Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, throughout much of the 1860s.





The path of the Syr Darya, with modern country names. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. (click for link)



On the map above, you can see Toshkent, also called Tashkent, slightly inside the border of Uzbekistan. It’s the black dot beneath the H in Chirchiq, if you’re having problems seeing it. By 1865, the Russian Empire had formally annexed Tashkent. This expanded the border of the territory Tsar Alexander II controlled across the entire length of the Syr Darya. Within a few years, Russian forces would move through Uzbekistan and the mountainous Central Asian khanates subduing one after another with ease. The Emir of Bukhara signed a treaty with Russia in 1868 that placed his nation under Russian protection, after a brief war that the Russians handily won. Russia took control of Samarkand, an important city in Bukharan territory, and five years later would make Bukhara a protectorate of the Russian Empire.



Read the rest on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Note from Ay-leen: This the second in a series of guest posts this week from Matt Delman, Proprietor of Free the Princess and Doc Fantastique's Show of Wonders.

The Crimean War


The Crimean War of October 1853 to February 1856 is so named because much of the land-based engagements took place on the Crimean Peninsula, which juts out into the Black Sea and in modern times is an autonomous republic within the Ukraine. The battles didn’t only occur on the peninsula; the naval conflicts occurred in the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the White Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. Some additional land battles also happened in Western Turkey.





 


Ostensibly, the conflict was over who had the right to protect Christians and Christian holy places in Palestine: France, who had protected Christians and the Holy Places since two treaties in 1690 and 1740, respectively, which acknowledged Roman Catholic responsibility in the region; or Russia, who spoke for the Eastern Orthodox Church that claimed most of the Christians in the area as devotees.



Perhaps most interesting about this situation is that the influence of the Roman Catholic Church declined between 1740 and 1820. There simply were not that many Roman Catholics in the Holy Land; the Christians that did live in Palestine were more likely to be Eastern Orthodox, and thus under the protection of the Russian Empire. Tsar Nicholas I also saw himself as ordained by God to lead the Orthodox Church and protect the adherents of that church in the world. By 1840, Russian pilgrims were flocking to the Holy Land, which gave the Tsar the excuse he needed to demand greater say in the Holy Land from the Ottoman Sultan.

Read the rest on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Note from Ay-leen: This the first in a series of guest posts this week from Matt Delman, Proprietor of Free the Princess and Doc Fantastique's Show of Wonders.



***





A map that tracks the decline of the Ottoman Empire from 1798 to 1923. Image courtesy of zonu.com



The time: 1807, when the Napoleonic Wars still raged in Europe. The place: London, England. Agents of the Crown have recently reported that Tsar Alexander I of Russia signed a treaty with Napoleon Bonaparte that suggested the French Emperor would receive Russian aid in his war against Great Britain, and in return Russia was to receive Moldavia and Wallachia — two European possessions of the flagging Ottoman Empire.



If the Ottoman Sultan refused to turn over the provinces, then France and Russia would invade the Empire and partition its lands — Greece and much of the Balkans included — between their two nations. The addition of such wide swathes of territory to its two enemies’ spheres of influence was bad enough news for the British Crown. However, even worse news was that Napoleon suggested that France and Russia steal away the jewel in the British Crown.



India.

“Napoleon’s plan – which died with his defeat – was that a French army of 50,000 should march across Persia and Afghanistan, and there join forces with the Cossacks for the final thrust across the Indus River into India (Kathleen Burk).”

There remained a singular problem with this plan: Napoleon had no idea of the geography of India. For that matter, the British realized, neither did they. More than two centuries of involvement in the nation of India hadn’t garnered any knowledge of the internal geography of the landscape; the British had previously confined themselves to the coastal regions where their ships could easily reach.



The focus of the East India Company was on sea routes and sea routes only, which were the best way to transport trade goods back to England. Napoleon’s plan, though abortive, necessitated an investigation into the interior of the Indian subcontinent. For if the East India Company didn’t know where the overland lines of attack were, then how could they defend against an invasion?



Thus, in 1810, orders were given, and Lt. Henry Pottinger and Capt. Charles Christie volunteered to conduct a survey of the potential land routes invasion could come by. The men exercised extreme caution, disguising themselves as Indians and taking two servants and a local horse dealer along as companions. Such a disguise was necessary because if the tribesmen along their route saw two Europeans, they would assume that Christie and Pottinger were making notes to plan an invasion of the tribal lands. Notes had to be made in secret and hidden on the body where no one could find them.



Christie, Pottinger, and their party travelled from Bombay to Sind via ship, and then overland from Sind to Kalat. The men were immediately recognized as British officials, and were forced to escape in the middle of the night. Eventually, they reached Nushki, a city near the border of Afghanistan and Baluchistan.

At Nushki, Christie went northwest to Herat, and thence to Isfahan, whilst Pottinger travelled through Kerman to Shiraz, and joined Christie in Isfahan. Each had feared the other had died, but when each heard that there was another European in the town, they agreed to meet – but only after some minutes did they recognise each other. Other explorers followed over the years, filling in the blanks on the maps. (Burk)”

Thus began the opening moves of what would come to be known as The Great Game, a term crafted by British spy Arthur Conolly in 1829 and popularized in the 1901 novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling. In 1807, there were 2,000 miles of territory between British and Russian lands in Central Asia. By the end of the classic Great Game period in 1907, fewer than 20 miles separated the possessions of the two empires.



Read at BeyondVictoriana.com
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Note: This week's contribution is a cross-post from Sandrine Thomas of Edwardian Promenade. Enjoy!



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Dr. Yamei Kin (1864-1934) was a contradiction. The product of American-upbringing and Chinese heritage, she held the traditional values of the turn-of-the-century, but was both modern and fiercely feminist. Her parents were progressive, especially her mother, who, despite submitting to the traditional practice of foot-binding, was educated at seminary and chose her own husband. Tragedy struck when a fever epidemic swept her birthplace of Ning-po (Ningbo), leaving Yamei Kin orphaned at the age of three. She was adopted by Dr. D. B. McCartee and his wife, American missionaries who moved to Japan shortly thereafter. The McCartee’s were progressive in their own right, taking care to raise their new daughter with an awareness of her heritage.



Read on Beyond Victoriana
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Note from Ay-leen: This is part 2 of Noah Meernaum's essay about minority representations in Weird West. Part 1 can be read here. For those interested in the Works Cited resource information for the full essay, please contact me.




7. Occidental Outlines – Asian defacement in American popular periodicals, run from the story papers and bound ‘yellow-backs’, to the periled portrayals wrapped in America pulp. 1

For even as the Occident regards the Far East, so does the Far East regard the Occident, - only with this difference: that what each most esteems in itself is least likely to be esteemed by the other.--Lafcadio Hearn/ Koizumi Yakumo, Kokoro 2

The stereotyped imprint of Chinese immigrants was initially contentedly rendered in the pictured accounts in mid-nineteenth century America through publications such as Harper’s New Monthly in the 1850’s that showed the distinctive pig-tail and conical basin hat of “John Chinaman’” and this picturesque “Celestial” was a widespread Western rendition in American periodicals, drawn from imparted occidental accounts of the “mystical men of the Orient”. 3 With the increased influx of Chinese people entering the American west, specifically within California, in search of golden prospects, promises of abundant land, and industrious opportunity their expanding population was leading to unsettling the sedate Western imprint of removed mysticism shown of oriental representation as the advancing closeness of Chinese residents were informing fearful features upon its distantly complacent cast.

Read the rest here.
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#30 Anti-Racism in 19th Century Britain–Guest Blog by Sandrine Thomas

Ida B. Wells-Bennett. African-American activist who worked with anti-racist
British Quaker Catherine Impey. Image courtesy of eqadams63. Click for
source.

 

The concept of the British Empire arouses pride, pomp, and nationalism, but the darker side of the spread of English customs and mores across the globe was the specter of racism. Though British society focused more on class than race as their home-grown minority population remained small, and the relationship between the ruled and the rulers ran more towards paternalistic respect, racism and race prejudice cannot be denied. Much of the conditioning to promote and advance Imperialism had the tinge of social Darwinism, and the growing interest in eugenics (1890s-1900s) further enhanced the notion that race was biological, and whites were biologically superior to “savage blacks and yellow.” Since post-colonial studies are more interested in breaking through the influence (bad or good) the British had on their colonial possessions, it ignores the existence of people who actively fought not only slavery but racism.

 

Read here.


***

Beyond Victoriana #31 Wounded Range, Part 1 -- Guest Blog by Noah Meernaum


Note from Ay-leen: This is the first of a two-part essay from Noah Meernaum of the Steampunk Empire about the history of Weird West. Part Two of this essay will be posted next Sunday.

Wounded Range: A backtracking survey into the outlandishly penned or set trail of the Weird Western in American popular culture proposed to readdress its multicultural representations, taking in its past shadowed forms cast of lone two gun heroes, (or antiheroes), curious carriages, disfigured renderings, dying curses, sundered souls, vengeful spirits, and other unnatural varmints sifted from lost lore to the ragged pages of dime novels, pulps, and other two bit books. A notorious twisted trail turned inward with an outlook toward its past and present course.

 

Read here.

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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.

I'm taking this week off to celebrate Lunar New Year's with the loved ones. To fill in, then, I've invited Jaymee Goh to guest blog with her review of Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-up Girl.

***

In all fairness, I probably should not have been reading and watching several other fun books before embarking on Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl. Or rather, putting Windup Girl down after the third, infuriating chapter and letting my resentment fester while reading more fun books and watching Avatar the Last Airbender.

Paolo Bacigalupi is clearly an excellent writer. (He has to be, after all, because he's been published in plenty of places, and has been nominated for a Nebula.) Windup Girl is filled with suspense, with convoluted politics that only keen minds can cook up, with gritty scenarios that really show the worst of humanity. This is a world where economies run on calories for energy, where tinkering with genes in order to create food (hence, more calories) is a large-scale industry, where gene samples have all sorts of potential and are thus regarded as treasures. Windup Girl piqued my interest for one primary reason: it is set in a science-fictional Thailand, and I was curious to see how my neighbour would be treated. Of course, most people would be reading it for the story; I would be reading it to pick on details. If you don't care about tiny details like accuracy, narrative trends and revisionism, move along right now. Steampunk Scholar Mike Perschon has a much more kinder review.

Click to read Jaymee's unkinder review. Minor spoilers ahead. )
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You can reach Jaymee at her blog Rebellious Jezebel Blogging. She is also a contributor to Tor.com.


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