No Foreign Bones in China: Memoirs of Imperialism and Its Ending

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Peter Stursberg, No Foreign Bones in China: Memoirs of Imperialism and Its Ending (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2002), xx + 216pp. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 0-8886-4387-X.

Most Canadians have deep family roots in distant lands. For Peter Stursberg, these extend to Ireland, England, Germany and Japan but they all intermingled in China in the nineteenth century. He uses his family history to illuminate what the Chinese regard as the Hundred Years of Humiliation under foreign domination preceding the birth of modern China in the twentieth century, and to illustrate what life was like for foreign residents in these turbulent times. The injured pride and intense resentment of the Chinese for this period erupted in fury when the Korean War broke out. The title of the book is the slogan chanted by Chinese youth as they systematically desecrated and destroyed the graves of foreigners in their country. The most notable exception was, and is, the Canadian doctor, Norman Bethune.

The central character is the author's Irish grandfather, Captain Samuel Lewis Shaw, who was born in Hampstead in 1821, but raised by his aunt and uncle in Fermoy, Co. …