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Seasoned travel writer David Leffman has guided us through the Middle Kingdom for decades, and in Mesny he has found his spiritual ancestor. Written with great care and attention to detail, The Mercenary Mandarin documents the life and exploits of one of the great overlooked adventurers of colonial-era China. A tale of war and discovery set in one of China s most tumultuous periods, it is a valuable contribution to any traveler s bookshelf.--Derek Sandhaus, editor of Decadence Mandchoue"
Scholarly in its approach, and clearly distilled from an immense amount of research... Leffman s telling of this tale is well-paced, his writing elegant and his knowledge of China impressive. The book is full of period detail, much of it showing just how remote inland China still was: in the 1860s the 800km journey up the Yangtze from the Three Gorges to Chongqing took six weeks, longer than a sea trip from Shanghai to London; while a Chinese general Mesny meets when he gets to Chongqing is amazed to discover that foreigners have knee joints.--Richard Lord "South China Morning Post ""
Fizzes with lively characters... packed with stirring tales of derring-do and deftly interwoven with the events that drove the times... the author's grasp of history provides an excellent guide to late 19th-century China and the conditions under which people lived.--Paul Tomic "China Daily "
WilliamMesny jumped ship at Shanghai in 1860 when he was just 18. Amid thechaos of foreign intrigue and civil war in 19th-century China, hebecame a smuggler, a prisoner of the Taiping rebels, a gun-runner andan instructor in the Chinese military. After five years of fiercefighting in remote Guizhou, Mesny rose to the rank of general andused this privileged position to travel around China, writingarticles, collecting plants and advising officials.
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