“Muslim Bandits,” Xinjiang, China [c1915] Marc Aurel Stein [restored]
Any traveler can attest that detours come in two forms. They all take a little longer, and most offer nothing but delay. Others can lead to fascinating discoveries. These often come in the form of local sandwich shops frequented by hipsters or a scenic overlook. This same principle applies regardless of whether one is on a purely geographical journey, or if you are traveling through time.
And it goes without saying that there is no better portal for time travel than the rare book collections at Cornell University.
That is where I found myself earlier this week. I was about to embark on a lengthy exploration of how Chinese martial artists were discussed in the Western press between the months of May and August in 1900. Historically informed readers will immediately recognize this as one of the most fluid periods in…
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