Bestia Triumphans: Enrique Stanko Vráz in Beijing in 1901

Pages 3–28
DOI 10.37520/anpm.2021.001
Keywords travel literature, Enrique Stanko Vráz, China, Boxer Rebellion, travel photography
Type of Article Peer-reviewed
Citation NAKLÁDALOVÁ, Iveta. Bestia Triumphans: Enrique Stanko Vráz in Beijing in 1901. Annals of the Náprstek Museum. Prague: National Museum, 2021, 42(1), 3–28. DOI: ISSN 0231-844X (print), 2533-5685 (online). Also available from:
Annals of the Náprstek Museum | 2021/42/1

This study focuses on a description of the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, in the first months of 1901, written by E. S. Vraz during his second journey to China. Enrique Stanko Vraz (1860–1932) was a Czech naturalist and explorer, renowned for his travels to Africa, Latin America, and Asia, which he depicted in a series of books addressed to a broader public.

His travelogue on Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion is particularly engaging, since it shows the country in the midst of great turmoil and chaos, just after the uprising had reached its climax. It is also extremely interesting from the ethnographical and anthropological perspective, because Vraz not only comments on the activities of the allied forces in China, but he also describes the Chinese people, their customs, Chinese culture and society, and in doing so develops an interpretation of the kingdom, governed by the dichotomy between ‘civilization’ and modernity, on one hand, and ‘barbarism’ and obscurantism, on the other.

Vraz’s narrative therefore seems to be inexorably bound to an ethnocentric paradigm, so characteristic of travel writing at the beginning of the 20th century. I argue, however, that this statement is oversimplifying, and that Vraz’s text is self-aware of these antagonisms and therefore defies any straightforward reading.

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