Kindle Deals, mostly China, Vintage Exploration of Asia Books

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2.51: Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs: 144 circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and other unexpected shapes

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1.99 for What Matters in Jane Austen?
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen’s brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.? ?In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen’s characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen’s letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.? ? Written with flair and based on a lifetime’s study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen’s work in greater depth than ever before.

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1.99 Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.

books thumbnailI really enjoyed Wild Swans. Some other good books on China:
Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now

Jan Wong, a Canadian of Chinese descent, went to China as a starry-eyed Maoist in 1972 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. A true believer–and one of only two Westerners permitted to enroll at Beijing University–her education included wielding a pneumatic drill at the Number One Machine Tool Factory. In the name of the Revolution, she renounced rock & roll, hauled pig manure in the paddy fields, and turned in a fellow student who sought her help in getting to the United States. She also met and married the only American draft dodger from the Vietnam War to seek asylum in China.

Red China Blues is Wong’s startling–and ironic–memoir of her rocky six-year romance with Maoism (which crumbled as she became aware of the harsh realities of Chinese communism); her dramatic firsthand account of the devastating Tiananmen Square uprising; and her engaging portrait of the individuals and events she covered as a correspondent in China during the tumultuous era of capitalist reform under Deng Xiaoping. In a frank, captivating, deeply personal narrative she relates the horrors that led to her disillusionment with the “worker’s paradise.” And through the stories of the people–an unhappy young woman who was sold into marriage, China’s most famous dissident, a doctor who lengthens penises–Wong reveals long-hidden dimensions of the world’s most populous nation.

In setting out to show readers in the Western world what life is like in China, and why we should care, she reacquaints herself with the old friends–and enemies of her radical past, and comes to terms with the legacy of her ancestral homeland.

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Life and Death in Shanghai
8.00, a beautiful autobiography

This gripping account of a woman caught up in the maelstrom of China’s Cultural Revolution begins quietly. In 1966, only the merest rumblings of political upheaval disturbed the gracious life of the author, widow of the manager of Shell Petroleum in China. As the rumblings fast became a cataclysm, Cheng found herself a target of the revolution: Red Guards looted her home, literally grinding underfoot her antique porcelain and jade treasures; and she was summarily imprisoned, falsely accused of espionage. Despite harsh privationeven tortureshe refused to confess and was kept in solitary confinement for over six years, suffering deteriorating health and mounting anxiety about the fate of her only child, Meiping. When the political climate softened, and she was released, Cheng learned that her fears were justified: Meiping had been beaten to death when she refused to denounce her mother. The candor and intimacy of this affecting memoir make it addictive reading. Its intelligence, passion and insight assure its place among the distinguished voices of our age proclaiming the ascendancy of the human spirit over tyranny. Cheng is now a U.S. resident.

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Mao Tse-Tung and His China
by Albert Marrin, oop, and at the time of listing you could get a hardback for 4.00 plus shipping

For children about 12 and up, roughly.  I enjoyed it and learned from it when I read it several years ago. His prose is clear, and he’s not afraid to call a murderer a murderer.

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The rest of these are free, and are also about some part of Asia. However, they are free because they are in the public domain, so they are not accurated readings for the countries as they are today.  Also, because they are older, there will be views and ways of wording things that are just Not Done today, some will be mildly PC, some will be completely offensive. That, too, is an accurate portrayal of history, unpleasant though it may sometimes be.

Borneo and the Indian Archipelagowith drawings of costume and scenery

By Frank Marryat, also at Gutenberg with the images preserved.

First chapter excerpt:
On the 25th of January, 1843, H. M. S. Samarang, being completely equipped, went out of Portsmouth harbour and anchored at Spithead. The crew were paid advanced wages; and, five minutes after the money had been put into their hats at the pay-table, it was all most dexterously transferred to the pockets of their wives, whose regard and affection for their husbands at this peculiar time was most exemplary. On the following day, the crew of the Samarang made sail with full hearts and empty pockets.

On the 25th February, sighted Fuerto Ventura: when off this island, the man at the mast-head reported a wreck in sight, which, as we neared it, appeared to be the wreck of a brig. Strange to say, the captain recognised it as an old acquaintance, which he had seen off Cape Finisterre on his return from China in the Sulphur. If this was not a mistake, it would be evidence of a southerly current in this quarter of the Atlantic. This may be, but I do not consider the proof to be sufficient to warrant the fact; although it may lead to[2] the supposition. If this was the wreck seen at such a long interval by the captain, a succession of northerly winds and gales might have driven it down so far to the southward without the assistance of any current. It is well known that the great current of the Atlantic, the gulf stream (which is occasioned by the waters, being forced by the continuous trade winds into the Gulf of Mexico, finding a vent to the northward by the coast of America, from thence towards Newfoundland, and then in a more easterly direction), loses its force, and is expended to the northward of the Western Islands; and this is the cause why so many rocks have been yearly reported to have been fallen in with in this latitude. Wrecks, all over the Atlantic, which have been water-logged but do not sink, are borne by the various winds and currents until they get into the gulf stream, which sweeps them along in its course until they arrive to where its force is expended, and there they remain comparatively stationary. By this time, probably, years have passed, and they are covered with sea-weeds and barnacles, and, floating three or four feet out of the water, have every appearance of rocks; and, indeed, if run upon on a dark night, prove nearly as fatal.
Later chapter excerpt:

oosokan bay, borneo

Borneo has but small elevation for so large an island; in the immediate vicinity of Keeney Ballu the country is hilly, but by far the greatest portion of Borneo is but a few feet above the level of the sea. Keeney Ballu is the highest mountain in the island,—its height is estimated at 14,000 feet or more,—and it can be seen at 150 miles distant on a very clear day. It is very singular that there should be a mountain of so great a height rising from an island of otherwise low land. Near Sarawak there is mountainous country, where live the Dyaks, previously described, and a mountain of the name of Santabong, which has already been made mention of. On the S. E. coast of the island we saw no elevation of land of any consequence. I have given a drawing of the mountain of Keeney Ballu, distant forty miles. At this distance, with the aid of the glass, you may perceive the numerous cascades which fall from its summit in every direction. The Dyaks of Borneo imagine that a lake exists at the top of this mountain, and that it is to be their receptacle after death.

As the island is in most parts a flat and marshy jungle, extending about 200 miles inland, and the rivers are not rapid, although numerous, it would be presumed, especially as the dews of the night are very heavy, that the island would be fatal to Europeans. Such, however, proved not to be the case. During our repeated visits to the island (a period of nearly two years), we only lost one man, by a[60] most imprudent exposure to the night air, sleeping in an open boat, without the awning being spread, and exposed to a very heavy dew.

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The Chinese Boy and Girl

No date, but there was still a Chinese Emperor with a child at the time of the writing.

There is a delightful chapter on Chinese children’s nursery rhymes and comparisons between them and the English Mother Goose (the author was something of a specialist on Mother Goose). There is a dreadful description of the appearance of Chinese babies, and a fascinating account of various naming traditions as well as some differences between the way baby girls and baby boys are greeted, as well as why.

Here’s a random excerpt:
It is a mistake to suppose that the life of Chinese children is a doleful one. It is understood, of course, that their life is not the same, nor to be compared with that of children in Europe or America: and it should be remembered further that the pleasures of child-life are not measured by the gratification of every childish whim. Many of the little street children who spend a large part of their time in efforts to support the family, when allowed to go to a fair or have a public holiday enjoy themselves more in a single day than the child of wealth, in a whole month of idleness.

In addition to his games and rhymes, the fairs which are held regularly in the great Buddhist temples in different parts of the cities, are to the Chinese boy what a country fair, a circus or Fourth of July is to an American farmer’s boy or girl. He has his cash for candy or fruit, his crackers which he fires off at New Year’s time, making day a time of unrest, and night hideous. Kite-flying is a pleasure which no American boy appreciates as does the Chinese, a pleasure which clings to him till he is three-score years and ten, for it is not uncommon to find a child and his grandfather in the balmy days of spring flying their kites together. He has his pet birds which he carries around in cages or on a perch unlike any other child we have ever seen. He has his crickets with which he amuses himself—not “gambles”—and his gold fish which bring him days and years of delight. Indeed the Chinese child, though in the vast majority of cases very poor, has ample provision for a very good time, and if he does not have it, it must be his own fault.

Statements about the life of the children, however, may be nothing more than personal impressions, and are usually colored as largely by the writer’s prejudices as by the conditions of the children. Some of us are so constituted as to see the dark side of the picture, others the bright. Let us go with the boys and girls to their games. Let us play with their toys and be entertained by the shows that entertain them, and see if they are not of the same flesh and blood, heart and sentiment as we. We shall find that the boys and girls live together, work together, study together, play together, have their heads shaved alike and quarrel with each other until they are seven years old, the period which brings to an end the life of the Chinese child. From this period it is the boy or the girl.
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Corea or Cho-sen The Land of the Morning Calm

pekin pass1895, Arnold Henry Savage Landor. Also available at Gutenberg, where you can get the illustrations.

In general, I found his prose easy to follow and elegant enough, but his tone was snide and obnoxious, his observations often lacking in humanity or appreciation. His obvious sense of his own superiority was hard to bear.

Excerpt: There is a very curious custom in Corea as to how you should wear your hair, and a great deal of importance is attached to the custom. If by chance you are a bachelor—and if you are, you must put up with being looked down upon by everybody in Corea—you have to let your hair grow long, part it carefully in the middle of your skull, and have it made up into a thick tress at the back of your head, which arrangement marks you out as a single man and an object of sport, for in the Land of the Morning Calm it seems that you can only be a bachelor under the two very circumstances under which we, in our land of all-day restlessness, generally marry, viz., if you are a fool and if you have not a penny to live upon! When thus unhappily placed you rank, according to Corean ideas, as a child, no matter what your age is, and you dress as a child, being even allowed to wear coloured coats when the country is in mourning, as it was, when I visited it, for the death of the dowager-Queen Regent, and everybody is compelled to wear white, an order that if not quickly obeyed by a married man means probably to him the loss of his head. Thus, though looked down upon as outcasts and wretches, bachelors none the less do enjoy some privileges out there. Here is yet another one. They never wear a hat; another exemption to be taken into consideration when you will see, a little further on, what a Corean hat is like.

Excerpt: The clothing, so far as I have described it, is, with the exception of the shoes, that which is worn habitually in the house by the better classes of the people; the officials, however, wear a horse-hair high cap resembling a papal tiara on the head, instead of the other form of hat. Indoors, the shoes are not worn, the custom of Japan being prevalent, namely, to leave them at the door as one mounts the first step into the room. The middle lower classes and peasantry are seldom found parading the streets with anything besides what I have described, with the exception of the long pipe which they, like the Mapu or the coolies, keep down the back of the neck when not using it. Merchants, policemen, and private gentlemen are arrayed, in winter especially, in a long cotton or silk gown similarly padded, an overall which reaches below the knees, and some, especially those in the Government employ, or in some official position, wear either without this or over this an additional sleeveless garment made of four long strips of cotton or silk, two in front and two at the back, according to the grade, almost touching the feet and divided both in front and at the back as far up as the waist, round which a ribbon is tied. This, then, is the everyday wardrobe of a Corean of any class. You may add, if you please, a few miscellaneous articles such as gaiters and extra bags, but never have I seen any man of Cho-sen walk about with more habiliments than these, although I have many times seen people who had a great deal less. The clothes are of cotton or silk according to the grade and riches of the wearer. Buttons are a useless luxury in Cho-sen, for neither men nor women recognise their utility; on the contrary, the natives display much amusement and chaff at the stupid foreign barbarian who goes and cuts any number of buttonholes in the finest clothing, which, in their idea, is an incomprehensible mistake and shows want of appreciation.

Their method of managing things by means of loops and ribbons, has an effect which is not without its picturesqueness, perhaps more so than is our system of “keeping things together” in clothing matters. After all it is only a matter of opinion. The inhabitants of the land of Cho-sen, from my experience, are not much given to washing and still less to bathing. I have seen them wash their hands fairly often, and the face occasionally; only the very select people of Corea wash it daily. One would think that, with such a very scanty and irregular use of water for the purpose of cleanliness, they should look extremely dirty; but not a bit. It was always to me irritating to the last degree to see how clean those dirty people looked!

Excerpt: As is pretty generally known, the women of Cho-sen, with the exception of the lower classes, are kept in seclusion. They are seldom allowed to go out, and when they do they cover their faces with white or green hoods, very similar in shape to those worn by the women at Malta. They appear, or pretend to be, shy of men, and foreigners in particular, and generally hide when one is approaching, especially if in a solitary street. I remember how astonished I was the first few days I was in Seoul, at the fact that every woman I came across in the streets was just on the point of opening a door and entering a house. It seemed so strange to me that damsel after damsel whom I met should just be reaching home as I was passing, that I began to think that I was either dreaming, or that every house belonged to every woman in the town. The idea suddenly dawned upon me that it was only a trick on their part to evade being seen, and on further inquiry into the matter from a Corean friend, I discovered that a woman has a right to open and enter any door of a Corean house when she sees a foreign man appearing on the horizon, as the reputation of the masculine “foreign devil” is still far from having reached a high standard of morality in the minds of the gentler sex of Cho-sen. In the main street and big thoroughfares, where at all times there are crowds of people, there is more chance of approaching them without this running away, for in Corea, as elsewhere, great reliance is placed on the saying that there is safety in numbers. So it was mainly here that I made my first studies of the retiring ways and quaint costumes of the Corean damsel.
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A Wayfarer in China Impressions of a trip across West China and Mongolia

Reader Review:Elizabeth Kendall appears to be an American woman or somewhat advanced age, who in 1912 decided to trek across China from west to east. She took a boat from Hong Kong, with a new little dog, to Haiphong, then the new train to what is now Kunming. She assembled a translator, a cook, a small horse, a carrying chair, and a team of porters and headed for Beijing then Peking). There are lots of mountains between Kunming and Beijing, so this was up and down and up and down. This was the last year of the Qing Dynasty. She is walking and riding and being carted in her chair while the country she is visiting is falling apart.

Once she got to Beijing she sold the horse, sent the crew back to their homes, and assembled another to cross the Gobi desert to link up with the trans-Siberian railroad back to Europe.

It’s also at Gutenberg, wiht illustrations. Excerpt:

We stopped for the night at the village of Pai-chang, where I spent a tiresome evening trying to arrange for a pony to take the place of mine, left[164] behind at Ya-chou, as he seemed in need of a longer rest. The weather was now too hot for walking, but all day in the chair was unendurable, so I hoped here to hire a pony for half a stage. I refused to engage one without seeing its back, but nothing appeared to be inspected, why, I could not tell. The shifts and turns of the oriental mind are not our shifts and turns, so I finally gave up trying to find out, and went to bed, telling the fu t’ou he must have something ready in the morning, only if its back was sore I would not take it. But morning came and no pony. I was told it was waiting for me outside the town, and there it was, sure enough. Ordering off saddle and blanket I inspected its back to make certain that all was right, as it was. But the strange ma-fu seemed quite overcome with consternation at the sight of me, while the fu t’ou collapsed on a stone wall near by, doubled up with laughter. At last an explanation was made. When the fu t’ou tried to get a pony for me from the pony hong he was met by a refusal. No foreigner should ride one of their horses; they had let one to a foreign gentleman not long before, and he had abused it and gone so fast that the ma-fu could not keep up, and nearly lost the pony; nor were they to be moved. Anyway, the fu t’ou told them, he must have one himself. When it was brought to the inn at dawn he mounted and rode outside the town. There, finding he had forgotten something,—me,—he went back for[165] it, while pony and ma-fu waited. In true Chinese fashion the ma-fu accepted the inevitable and walked quietly at my side, but he had an anxious expression at first, as though he expected me at any moment to whip up my steed and vanish. I am not wise in horseflesh, but at least I try to be merciful to my beasts. When I got off, as I did now and then, to save the horse over a particularly bad place, the man began to cheer up, and finally when, according to my custom, I took the pony outside the village to graze a bit while the men had their breakfast,—a very unsuitable proceeding, I was later told,—his surprise broke forth. “What sort of a foreign woman was this?” At noon I sent the pony back, paying for the half day one hundred and forty cash, about seven cents gold.

Just before reaching Cheung-chou, where we were to spend the night, we crossed the Nan Ho by a fine stone bridge of fifteen arches. The Nan is one of the lesser waterways of West China connecting this corner of Szechuan with the Great River, and many cumbersome boats laden with produce were slipping down with the rapid current on their way eastwards.

I entered the gate of the town with some doubt as to my reception. Baron von Richthofen, who passed through here a generation ago, wrote of the place: “All the men are armed with long knives and use them frequently in their rows. I have passed few[166] cities in China in which I have suffered so much molestation from the people as I did there; and travellers should avoid making night quarters there as it was my lot to do.” Time enough has elapsed since the good baron went this way to have changed all that, but the missionaries at Ya-chou had also cautioned me against the temper of the people, relating some unpleasant experiences of recent date. They had kindly given me a note of introduction to two missionaries who had their headquarters at Cheung-chou who would make me safe and comfortable in their house. I had sent this ahead only to learn that the mission was closed, as the people were touring in the district; and so there was nothing to do but go to the inn as usual.

In the narrow streets of the town there was of course the everlasting pushing, staring crowd, but I saw no signs of unfriendliness, and Jack’s gay yaps in response to pointing fingers and cries of “K’an yang kou! k’an yang kou!” (“Look at the foreign dog! look at the foreign dog!”) brought the invariable grins of delight. Later in the day, wearying of the confinement of the inn, and not unwilling to test the temper of the people a bit, I went marketing with the cook. Of course a crowd of men and boys dogged my steps, but it was a good-natured crowd, making way for me courteously, and when they found that I was looking for apricots they fairly tumbled[167] over each other in their eagerness to show us the best shop.

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My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard

From the introduction: I hope that this book, based on letters shown me many years after
they were written, will give a faint idea of the life of a Chinese lady.
The story is told in two series of letters conceived to be written by
Kwei-li, the wife of a very high Chinese official, to her husband when
he accompanied his master, Prince Chung, on his trip around the

She was the daughter of a viceroy of Chih-li, a man most advanced for
his time, who was one of the forerunners of the present educational
movement in China, a movement which has caused her youth to rise
and demand Western methods and Western enterprise in place of the
obsolete traditions and customs of their ancestors. To show his belief
in the new spirit that was breaking over his country, he educated his
daughter along with his sons. She was given as tutor Ling-Wing-pu, a
famous poet of his province, who doubtless taught her the imagery
and beauty of expression which is so truly Eastern.

Within the beautiful ancestral home of her husband, high on the
mountains-side outside of the city of Su-Chau, she lived the quite,
sequestered life of the high-class Chinese woman, attending to the
household duties, which are not light in these patriarchal homes,
where an incredible number of people live under the same rooftree.
The sons bring their wives to their father’s house instead of
establishing separate homes for themselves, and they are all under
the watchful eye of the mother, who can make a veritable prison or a
palace for her daughters-in-law. In China the mother reigns supreme.

The mother-in-law of Kwei-li was an old-time conservative Chinese
lady, the woman who cannot adapt herself to the changing conditions,
who resents change of methods, new interpretations and fresh
expressions of life. She sees in the new ideas that her sons bring
from the foreign schools disturbers only of her life’s ideals. She
instinctively feels that they are gathering about her retreat, beating at
her doors, creeping in at her closely shuttered windows, even winning
her sons from her arms. She stands an implacable foe of progress
and she will not admit that the world is moving on, broadening its
outlook and clothing itself in a new expression. She feels that she is
being left behind with her dead gods, and she cries out against the
change which is surely but slowly coming to China, and especially to
Chinese women, with the advent of education and the knowledge of
the outside world.

In a household in China a daughter-in-law is of very little importance
until she is the mother of a son. Then, from being practically a servant
of her husband’s mother, she rises to place of equality and is looked
upon with respect. She has fulfilled her once great duty, the thing for
which she was created: she has given her husband a son to worship
at his grave and at the graves of his ancestors. The great prayer which
rises from the heart of all Chinese women, rich and poor, peasant and
princess, is to Kwan-yin, for the inestimable blessing of sons. “Sons!
Give me sons!” is heard in every temple. To be childless is the
greatest sorrow that can come to Chinese women, as she fully
realizes that for this cause her husband is justified in putting her away
for another wife, and she may not complain or cry out, except in
secret, to her Goddess of Mercy, who has not answered her prayers.
Understanding this, we can dimly realise the joy of Kwei-li upon the
birth of her son, and her despair upon his death.

At this time, when she was in very depths of despondency, when she
had turned from the gods of her people, when it was feared that her
sorrow, near to madness, she would take the little round ball of
sleep– opium– that was brought rest to so many despairing women in
China, her servants brought her the Gospel of St. John, which they
bought of an itinerant colporteur in the market-place, hoping that it
might interest her. In the long nights when sleep would not come to
her, she read it– and found the peace she sought.
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Eothen, or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East

Excerpt: Gaza is upon the verge of the Desert, to which it stands in the same relation as a seaport to the sea. It is there that you charter your camels (“the ships of the Desert”), and lay in your stores for the voyage.

These preparations kept me in the town for some days. Disliking restraint, I declined making myself the guest of the Governor (as it is usual and proper to do), but took up my quarters at the caravanserai, or “khan,” as they call it in that part of Asia.

Dthemetri had to make the arrangements for my journey, and in order to arm himself with sufficient authority for doing all that was required, he found it necessary to put himself in communication with the Governor. The result of this diplomatic intercourse was that the Governor, with his train of attendants, came to me one day at my caravanserai, and formally complained that Dthemetri had grossly insulted him. I was shocked at this, for the man was always attentive and civil to me, and I was disgusted at the idea of his having been rewarded with insult. Dthemetri was present when the complaint was made, and I angrily asked him whether it was true that he had really insulted the Governor, and what the deuce he meant by it. This I asked with the full certainty that Dthemetri, as a matter of course, would deny the charge, would swear that a “wrong construction had been put upon his words, and that nothing was further from his thoughts,” &c. &c., after the manner of the parliamentary people, but to my surprise he very plainly answered that he certainly had insulted the Governor, and that rather grossly, but, he said, it was quite necessary to do this in order to “strike terror and inspire respect.” “Terror and respect! What on earth do you mean by that nonsense?”—“Yes, but without striking terror and inspiring respect, he (Dthemetri) would never be able to force on the arrangements for my journey, and vossignoria would be kept at Gaza for a month!” This would have been awkward, and certainly I could not deny that poor Dthemetri had succeeded in his odd plan of inspiring respect, for at the very time that this explanation was going on in Italian the Governor seemed more than ever, and more anxiously, disposed to overwhelm me with assurances of goodwill, and proffers of his best services. All this kindness, or promise of kindness, I naturally received with courtesy—a courtesy that greatly perturbed Dthemetri, for he evidently feared that my civility would undo all the good that his insults had achieved.

You will find, I think, that one of the greatest draw-backs to the pleasure of travelling in Asia is the being obliged, more or less, to make your way by bullying. It is true that your own lips are not soiled by the utterance of all the mean words that are spoken for you, and that you don’t even know of the sham threats, and the false promises, and the vainglorious boasts, put forth by your dragoman; but now and then there happens some incident of the sort which I have just been mentioning, which forces you to believe, or suspect, that your dragoman is habitually fighting your battles for you in a way that you can hardly bear to think of.

A caravanserai is not ill adapted to the purposes for which it is meant. It forms the four sides of a large quadrangular court. The ground floor is used for warehouses, the first floor for guests, and the open court for the temporary reception of the camels, as well as for the loading and unloading of their burthens, and the transaction of mercantile business generally. The apartments used for the guests are small cells opening into a corridor, which runs round the four sides of the court.

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The Malay Archipelago, the land of the orang-utan and the bird of paradise; a narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature – Volume 2

Reader Review: The typos and the lack of illustrations did not put me off this book. It is well written and it is wonderful to be able to get a glimpse of Wallace’s mind. He must be one of the most underrated scientists of all time and I found it great to be able to read his thoughts.

This travelogue recreates the atmosphere of Indonesia perfectly for me. Even though it was written well over a century ago, I felt that it still captured the essence of many of the places that I have visited recently. I am now planning a trip to a part of the archipelago that I have not seen before and the book has provided some very interesting background on the fauna and flora as well as the weather of the islands. I can already smell them! The prose is clear and unassuming and Wallace describes some hair raising experiences as if they were mere hiccups along his decade-long trip amongst this wonderful group of islands.

Misspelling of words does occur often, but mostly the errors are so obvious that it is easy to see what the original word should be and this did not slow down my reading. It is a pity that the typos have happened and I would not want that to happen to anything that I write, but this is a free book and the person who took the trouble to make it available to the public has not been compensated for their time and effort.

Excerpt: AFTER my return from Gilolo to Ternate, in March 1858, I made arrangements for my long-wished-for voyage to the mainland of New Guinea, where I anticipated that my collections would surpass those which I had formed at the Aru Islands. The poverty of Ternate in articles used by Europeans was shown, by my searching in vain through all the stores for such common things as flour, metal spoons, wide-mouthed phials, beeswax, a penknife, and a stone or metal pestle and mortar. I took with me four servants: my head man Ali, and a Ternate lad named Jumaat (Friday), to shoot; Lahagi, a steady middle-aged man, to cut timber and assist me in insect-collecting; and Loisa, a Javanese cook. As I knew I should have to build a house at Dorey, where I was going, I took with me eighty cadjans, or waterproof mats, made of pandanus leaves, to cover over my baggage on first landing, and to help to roof my house afterwards.
We started on the 25th of March in the schooner Hester Helena, belonging to my friend Mr. Duivenboden, and bound on a trading voyage along the north coast of New Guinea. Having calms and light airs, we were three days reaching Gane, near the south end of Gilolo, where we stayed to fill up our water-casks and buy a few provisions. We obtained fowls, eggs, sago, plantains, sweet potatoes, yellow pumpkins, chilies, fish, and dried deer’s meat; and on the afternoon of the 29th proceeded on our voyage to Dorey harbour. We found it, however, by no means easy to get along; for so near to the equator the monsoons entirely fail of their regularity, and after passing the southern point of Gilolo we had calms, light puffs of wind, and contrary currents, which kept us for five days in sight of the same islands between it and Poppa. A squall them brought us on to the entrance of Dampier’s Straits, where we were again becalmed, and were three more days creeping through them. Several native canoes now came off to us from Waigiou on one side, and Batanta on the other, bringing a few common shells, palm-leaf mats, cocoa-nuts, and pumpkins. They were very extravagant in their demands, being accustomed to sell their trifles to whalers and China ships, whose crews will purchase anything at ten times its value. My only purchases were a float belonging to a turtle-spear, carved to resemble a bird, and a very well made palm-leaf box, for which articles I gave a copper ring and a yard of calico. The canoes were very narrow and furnished with an outrigger, and in some of them there was only one man, who seemed to think nothing of coming out alone eight or ten miles from shore. The people were Papuans, much resembling the natives of Aru.
When we had got out of the Straits, and were fairly in the great Pacific Ocean, we had a steady wind for the first time since leaving Ternate, but unfortunately it was dead ahead, and we had to beat against it, tacking on and off the coast of New Guinea. I looked with intense interest on those rugged mountains, retreating ridge behind ridge into the interior, where the foot of civilized man had never trod. There was the country of the cassowary and the tree-kangaroo, and those dark forests produced the most extraordinary and the most beautiful of the feathered inhabitants of the earth—the varied species of Birds of Paradise. A few days more and I hoped to be in pursuit of these, and of the scarcely less beautiful insects which accompany them. We had still, however, for several days only calms and light head-winds, and it was not till the 10th of April that a fine westerly breeze set in, followed by a squally night, which kept us off the entrance of Dorey harbour. The next morning we entered, and came to anchor off the small island of Mansinam, on which dwelt two German missionaries, Messrs. Otto and Geisler. The former immediately came on board to give us welcome, and invited us to go on shore and breakfast with him. We were then introduced to his companion who was suffering dreadfully from an abscess on the heel, which had confined him to the house for six months—and to his wife, a young German woman, who had been out only three months. Unfortunately she could speak no Malay or English, and had to guess at our compliments on her excellent breakfast by the justice we did to it.
These missionaries were working men, and had been sent out, as being more useful among savages than persons of a higher class. They had been here about two years, and Mr. Otto had already learnt to speak the Papuan language with fluency, and had begun translating some portions of the Bible. The language, however, is so poor that a considerable number of Malay words have to be used; and it is very questionable whether it is possible to convey any idea of such a book, to a people in so low a state of civilization. The only nominal converts yet made are a few of the women; and some few of the children attend school, and are being taught to read, but they make little progress. There is one feature of this mission which I believe will materially interfere with its moral effect. The missionaries are allowed to trade to eke out the very small salaries granted them from Europe, and of course are obliged to carry out the trade principle of buying cheap and selling dear, in order to make a profit. Like all savages the natives are quite careless of the future, and when their small rice crops are gathered they bring a large portion of it to the missionaries, and sell it for knives, beads, axes, tobacco, or any other articles they may require. A few months later, in the wet season, when food is scarce, they come to buy it back again, and give in exchange tortoiseshell, tripang, wild nutmegs, or other produce. Of course the rice is sold at a much higher rate than it was bought, as is perfectly fair and just—and the operation is on the whole thoroughly beneficial to the natives, who would otherwise consume and waste their food when it was abundant, and then starve—yet I cannot imagine that the natives see it in this light. They must look upon the trading missionaries with some suspicion, and cannot feel so sure of their teachings being disinterested, as would be the case if they acted like the Jesuits in Singapore. The first thing to be done by the missionary in attempting to improve savages, is to convince them by his actions that lie comes among them for their benefit only, and not for any private ends of his own. To do this he must act in a different way from other men, not trading and taking advantage of the necessities of those who want to sell, but rather giving to those who are in distress. It would be well if he conformed himself in some degree to native customs, and then endeavoured to show how these customs might be gradually modified, so as to be more healthful and more agreeable. A few energetic and devoted men acting in this way might probably effect a decided moral improvement on the lowest savage tribes, whereas trading missionaries, teaching what Jesus said, but not doing as He did, can scarcely be expected to do more than give them a very little of the superficial varnish of religion.
Dorey harbour is in a fine bay, at one extremity of which an elevated point juts out, and, with two or three small islands, forms a sheltered anchorage. The only vessel it contained when we arrived was a Dutch brig, laden with coals for the use of a war-steamer, which was expected daily, on an exploring expedition along the coasts of New Guinea, for the purpose of fixing on a locality for a colony. In the evening we paid it a visit, and landed at the village of Dorey, to look out for a place where I could build my house. Mr. Otto also made arrangements for me with some of the native chiefs, to send men to cut wood, rattans, and bamboo the next day.
The villages of Mansinam and Dorey presented some features quite new to me. The houses all stand completely in the water, and are reached by long rude bridges. They are very low, with the roof shaped like a large boat, bottom upwards. The posts which support the houses, bridges, and platforms are small crooked sticks, placed without any regularity, and looking as if they were tumbling down. The floors are also formed of sticks, equally irregular, and so loose and far apart that I found it almost impossible to walls on them. The walls consist of bits of boards, old boats, rotten mats, attaps, and palm-leaves, stuck in anyhow here and there, and having altogether the most wretched and dilapidated appearance it is possible to conceive. Under the eaves of many of the houses hang human skulls, the trophies of their battles with the savage Arfaks of the interior, who often come to attack them. A large boat-shaped council-house is supported on larger posts, each of which is grossly carved to represent a naked male or female human figure, and other carvings still more revolting are placed upon the platform before the entrance. The view of an ancient lake-dweller’s village, given as the frontispiece of Sir Charles Lyell’s “Antiquity of Man,” is chiefly founded on a sketch of this very village of Dorey; but the extreme regularity of the structures there depicted has no place in the original, any more than it probably had in the actual lake-villages.
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An Explorer’s Adventures in Tibet
Also by Landor

Reader review: Extremely difficult adventure undertaken by the author along with his indian assistants. Some amazing moments witnessed and the entire description makes you feel a part of the Forbidden Land! Another one by the author about the same journey is “The Forbidden Land” which is a more analytical approach of his journey about the scientific/research aspect of his explorations. I recommend reading them both. Written circa 1898, the Geo-political status of Tibet was not conflicted then, yet the culture remains hardly unchanged. Places crossed by the group which still exist and places like Mansarowar, Rakshas Tal, the origins of rivers make you feel like taking up an adventure of similar sort yourself.

Another reader said she couldn’t finish it as she felt he was grossly exaggerating and making himself something of a superman.

Excerpt: The cold was intense. Again we had no fuel of any kind. A furious wind was blowing. Snow fell heavily in the evening. My carriers, half starved, ate a little satoo (a kind of oatmeal), but Chanden Sing, a Rajiput, could not, without breaking his caste, eat his food without undressing. It was two days since he had eaten his last meal, but [34] rather than break the rules of his religion, or take off his clothes when it was so cold, he chose to curl up in his blanket and go to sleep fasting.

Inside the tent the temperature was 28° Fahrenheit, or below freezing-point. There was a foot of snow upon the ground, and it was snowing heavily. The carriers, huddled close together so as to keep warm, attempted to sleep in order to forget their hunger.

Two or three hours later the weather cleared. The coolies, half starved, came to complain that they were again unable to find fuel to cook their food, and that they would leave me. It was a trying time. I immediately took my telescope and climbed to the top of a small mound. It was curious to see how much faith the coolies had in this spy-glass. They believed, in a child-like fashion, that with it I could see through mountains. I came down with the good news that one day’s march beyond would bring us to a spot where fuel was plentiful.

They cheerfully hastened to pack up the loads, and set forth with unusual energy in the direction I had pointed out. We followed a course parallel to the high, flat plateau on the other side of the stream. This snow-covered plateau extended from south-west to north-east. Beyond it to the north could be seen some high, snowy peaks—in all probability the lofty summits south-east of Gartok. To our right we were flanked by high, rugged mountains, with streams here and there dashing down their sides. Six hours’ brisk marching took us to a sheltered spot where a few [35] lichens and shrubs were growing. If we had suddenly descended into the Black Forest of Germany or the Yosemite Valley with their gigantic trees centuries old, our delight could not have been greater, yet the tallest of these shrubs stood no higher than six or seven inches from the ground, while the biggest piece of wood we collected was no larger around than an ordinary pencil. With all possible haste all hands went to work to root up these plants for fuel.

When night came the same number of hands were busy cooking and swiftly ladling out such steaming food as was available from the different pots to the mouths of the famished coolies. Happiness reigned in camp. All recent hardships were forgotten.

A fresh surprise was awaiting us when we rose. Two Tibetans disguised as beggars came to our camp. They pretended to be suffering from cold and starvation. I gave orders that they should be properly fed and kindly treated. On being cross-examined they confessed that they were spies sent by the officer at Gyanema to find out whether a white man had crossed the frontier, and whether we had seen him.

We had so many things to attend to in the morning, and it was so cold, that washing had really become a nuisance. I, for my part, gave it up, at least for the time. We were sunburnt, and we wore turbans and snow-glasses, so the Tibetans departed under the impression that our party consisted of a Hindoo doctor, his brother, and a caravan of servants (none of whom had seen a white man), and that we were now on a pilgrimage to the sacred Mansarowar Lake and Kelas Mount.

In the presence of the men we treated this as a great joke, but, all [36] the same, Wilson and I anxiously consulted as to our immediate plans. Should we make a rapid march during the night over the mountain range to our right, and strike east by the wilds, or should we face the Gyanema leader and his soldiers?

We decided to meet them rather than go out of our way. I gave orders to break camp at once.

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Cyrus the Great Makers of History

Darius the Great Makers of History

I really like Jacob Abbott’s biographies.

darius crossing teh Bosporus

Excerpt from Darius: For several days after the assassination of the magi the city was filled with excitement, tumults, and confusion. There was no heir, of the family of Cyrus, entitled to succeed to the vacant throne, for neither Cambyses, nor Smerdis his brother, had left any sons. There was, indeed, a daughter of Smerdis, named Parmys, and there were also still living two daughters of Cyrus. One was Atossa, whom we have already mentioned as having been married to Cambyses, her brother, and as having been afterward taken by Smerdis the magian as one of his wives. These princesses, though of royal lineage, seem neither of them to have been disposed to assert any claims to the throne at such a crisis. The mass of the community were stupefied with astonishment at the sudden revolution which had occurred. No movement was made toward determining the succession. For five days nothing was done.

During this period, all the subordinate functions [Pg 83]of government in the provinces, cities, and towns, and among the various garrisons and encampments of the army, went on, of course, as usual, but the general administration of the government had no head. The seven confederates had been regarded, for the time being, as a sort of provisional government, the army and the country in general, so far as appears, looking to them for the means of extrication from the political difficulties in which this sudden revolution had involved them, and submitting, in the mean time, to their direction and control. Such a state of things, it was obvious, could not long last; and after five days, when the commotion had somewhat subsided, they began to consider it necessary to make some arrangements of a more permanent character, the power to make such arrangements as they thought best resting with them alone. They accordingly met for consultation.

Herodotus the historian,[C] on whose narrative of these events we have mainly to rely for all [Pg 84]the information respecting them which is now to be attained, gives a very minute and dramatic account of the deliberations of the conspirators on this occasion. The account is, in fact, too dramatic to be probably true.
Otanes, in this discussion, was in favor of establishing a republic. He did not think it safe or wise to intrust the supreme power again to any single individual. It was proved, he said, by universal experience, that when any one person was raised to such an elevation above his fellow-men, he became suspicious, jealous, insolent, and cruel. He lost all regard for the welfare and happiness of others, and became supremely devoted to the preservation of his own greatness and power by any means, however tyrannical, and to the accomplishment of the purposes of his own despotic will. The best and most valuable citizens were as likely to become the victims of his oppression as the worst. In fact, tyrants generally chose their favorites, he said, from among the most abandoned men and women in their realms, such characters being the readiest instruments of their guilty pleasures and their crimes. Otanes referred very particularly to the case of Cambyses as an example of the extreme lengths to which the [Pg 85]despotic insolence and cruelty of a tyrant could go. He reminded his colleagues of the sufferings and terrors which they had endured while under his sway, and urged them very strongly not to expose themselves to such terrible evils and dangers again. He proposed, therefore, that they should establish a republic, under which the officers of government should be elected, and questions of public policy be determined, in assemblies of the people.
It must be understood, however, by the reader, that a republic, as contemplated and intended by Otanes in this speech, was entirely different from the mode of government which that word denotes at the present day. They had little idea, in those times, of the principle of representation, by which the thousand separate and detached communities of a great empire can choose delegates, who are to deliberate, speak, and act for them in the assemblies where the great governmental decisions are ultimately made. By this principle of representation, the people can really all share in the exercise of power. Without it they can not, for it is impossible that the people of a great state can ever be brought together in one assembly; nor, even if it were practicable to bring [Pg 86]them thus together, would it be possible for such a concourse to deliberate or act. The action of any assembly which goes beyond a very few hundred in numbers, is always, in fact, the action exclusively of the small knot of leaders who call and manage it. Otanes, therefore, as well as all other advocates of republican government in ancient times, meant that the supreme power should be exercised, not by the great mass of the people included within the jurisdiction in question, but by such a portion of certain privileged classes as could be brought together in the capital. It was such a sort of republic as would be formed in this country if the affairs of the country at large, and the municipal and domestic institutions of all the states, were regulated and controlled by laws enacted, and by governors appointed, at great municipal meetings held in the city of New York.

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Subject to change without notice: Free Titles were free at the time I copied and pasted the links. But they don’t always stay free.

Same for reduced price titles.

Shameless money grubbing: I thought this was common knowledge, but it turns out it’s not- these are affiliate links. If you click on a free title and download it, I get….. nothing.  If you click on a free title and while you are at Amazon also buy something else, I get….. something.  Depending on what you buy, it will probably be somewhere between 4% and 7% of what you spend (I don’t get a percentage on penny sales) but I don’t pretend to understand how all of that side works.  Also, Swagbucks remains my favorite source for free Amazon gift cards.

Don’t have a Kindle? : You don’t have to have Kindle to take advantage of these offers. You can read them on various free reading apps. I often read mine on my laptop if they are short enough books, even though I have two kindles.  That’s because my kids keep taking off with the Kindles to read their school books and they don’t remember to recharge them before returning.  I wouldn’t say I’m bitter about it, but I might be a little disgruntled. If you’re curious, this is the Kindle I have, and I have used others and mine remains my favorite. Mine has Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi and I don’t have commercial screensavers.  The second Kindle is actually one I was given in exchange for some writing work, and I gave it to my two teens.  It does not have 3G, which is why it’s their Kindle.  Personally,  I don’t like Kindle Fires.

If you like these free listings, you should also like my Facebook page, because I list other free titles there several times each week. Most of the blurbs and book descriptions above are not mine, but come from  reviews on Amazon’s page.


Yes, my Kindle gets slow because I stuff it too full. You can left click on a title on your Kindle anddelete it from your device, while still keeping it in your list of titles at Amazon in case you want to add it back to your Kindle later without paying for the title all over again. Don’t delete it from folder at Amazon unless you want to rid yourself of it permanently.


Excerpts above all come from Gutenberg editions.

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