Beijing in Western Literature

One of my favorite books about my adopted home town, Beijing,  is called Old Peking: City of the Ruler of the World, written by a New Zealand diplomat. It’s a collection of descriptions of Beijing written over the years (from the 1200′s to modern times) written by foreigners.

Some of the more interesting entries are references to the city in western literature. For example, we learn that John Milton, in Paradise Lost, has this to say:

His eye might there command wherever stood

City of old and modern fame, the seat

Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls

Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can

And Samarchand by Oxus, Temir’s throne,

To Paquin of Sineaen kings, and thence

To Agra and Lahor…..

He was a bit confused there, giving the impression that Cambalu and Paquin were two separate cities when in fact those were two different names for the city.

Next time you are at a party and want to impress your friends with some literary trivia, tell them about Beijing in “Paradise Lost.”

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