The Yellow Peril

Dr Fu Manchu & The Rise of Chinaphobia


The first book to explore the role of popular culture in generating and propagating prejudices and stereotypes about China

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ISBN: 9780500252079 Categories: ,

Christopher Frayling


One hundred years ago, a character made his first appearance in the world of literature who was to enter the bloodstream of 20th-century popular culture, and in his day became as well known as Count Dracula or Sherlock Holmes: the evil genius Dr Fu Manchu, otherwise known as ‘the yellow peril incarnate in one man’.

Why did the idea that the Chinese were a threat to Western civilization develop at precisely the time when that country was in chaos, divided against itself, a victim of successive famines and utterly incapable of being a `peril’ to anyone even if it had wanted to be?

How did it become so firmly rooted that, in the 21st century, stereotypes of bugs put in computers, pollution released into the atmosphere and unfair currency manipulations continue to distort our image of people who, even the author of the Dr Fu Manchu novels, Sax Rohmer, acknowledged, `as a nation possess that elusive thing, poise’.

And what do the Chinese themselves make of all this? Is it any wonder that they remember what we have carelessly forgotten of the opium wars; the `unfair treaties’ that ceded Hong Kong and the New Territories; the slash-and-burn behaviour of troops as `punishment’ for the Boxer Rebellion; and the stereotyping of Chinese people in allegedly `factual’ studies?

In a book that will prove as influential as the Orientalism of Edward Said, if we want to understand our deepest desires and fears.

Additional information

Weight 800 g
Dimensions 15.9 x 23.4 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 1 October 2014
Number of pages 360
Format Hardback
Dimensions 15.9 x 23.4 cm
Weight 800 g


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Sir Christopher Frayling is perhaps the most wide-ranging cultural historian of our times: the author of numerous publications on subjects ranging from vampires to Westerns; the writer and presenter of successful television series, whether on advertising, the Middle Ages or Tutankhamun. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and was Rector of the Royal College of Art, London, from 1996 to 2009, where he remains Professor Emeritus of Cultural History. His many public appointments have included Chairman of Arts Council England; Chairman of the Design Council; and the longest-serving Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum.