I’ve long been fascinated with Edmund “The Hermit of Peking” Backhouse. It’s time the famous Sinologist received a little love as one of the original hutong hipsters.
Over the next four decades, Backhouse made his living as a translator and China Hand for hire, feeding information to journalists, writers, diplomats, and businessmen. He claimed to be an insider in the Qing court. He claimed to be close friends with the Manchu nobility. He claimed to have – on more than one occasion – been sodomized by the Empress Dowager Cixi. Read that last sentence again. It’s not a typo.