Introduction On Racism Epigraphs A History of the Pulps A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Wang Foo. Wang Food was created by Sidney C. Partridge and appeared in at least fifty stories in various newspapers and one story collection from the early 1900s to 1934.
Wang Foo is the anti-Yellow Peril: an older, handsome Chinese crime-solver who is perfectly fluent in English, “combines Oriental cunning with Occidental vigor,” is an educated, well-traveled Confucian scholar, and is willing to go undercover to solve mysteries on behalf of the Chinese people and their Western allies [sic]. He is consulted by the police, by diplomats, and by government officials.
* I'm including the Wang Food stories in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of their historical importance. The craze for Yellow Peril fiction ran exceptionally high in the 1910s and 1920s; white Westerners were obsessed with the idea of an Asian supervillain turning his thoughts of conquest and miscegenation toward the West. In retrospect, the Yellow Peril craze is as ludicrous as it was racist, but at the time it was taken very seriously indeed, especially by writers of popular fiction. So the act, by Sidney C. Partridge (a former missionary to China and Japan and therefore a lot more familiar with the Chinese and Japanese than 99% of the Yellow Peril writers), of publishing mysteries with an anti-Yellow Peril as the hero, was a fairly radical move, even if the stories sometimes did lapse into racist phrases like "Oriental cunning." Wang Foo is a politically and racially progressive character, well-written, possessing at least two and a half dimension, solving tricky mysteries, and incapable of being reduced to a "just a Chinese detective." That Wang Foo was generally ignored at the time by everyone and later by writers and critics of popular literature indicates the degree to which anti-Asian prejudice was and remains present even in the minds of creative types who one think should know better.
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