Three men and three women: a plant collector, a merchant and his novelist wife, a military officer, and two famous women travelers went to China between the Opium War and the formal end of the opium trade, 1842-1907. Their range of perspectives, their acquaintance with one another and their similar scope of travel to Hong Kong, the treaty ports, and Sichuan lend intensity to their picture of China and the Western presence there.
For two and a half years (1937-1939), Captain John Seymour Letcher commanded a company of the U.S. Embassy Marine Guard in Peking. During that time, he wrote a series of letters to his parents in Virginia describing the life of a Westerner in the former imperial city. During that same time, China was invaded by Japan.