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The Other Side of the Lantern (Part IV: China)

‘A strange and terrible town...’

This extract from Sir Frederick Treves’ first travel book, originally published in 1905, introduces the reader to pirates on the Pearl River, the harsh realities of sampan life, and the everyday horror of food for sale in the alleyways of ‘the nightmare city of Canton’. A vivid depiction of southern China in the early years of the twentieth century, it may, in places, strike an eerily familiar chord with more recent visitors to present-day Guangzhou.

Sir Frederick Treves, best known as the doctor and friend of the ‘Elephant Man’, enjoyed several successful careers in his lifetime. One of these was as a popular travel writer. He was awarded a baronetcy after performing a life-saving operation on King Edward VII on the eve of his coronation in 1902.

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