All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

John Milton, Paradise Lost and Chinese Wheelbarrows (with sails)

Posted: January 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

I came across a quirky little post the other day on the China Car Times blog concerning Chinese wheelbarrows. Chinese one wheeled wheelbarrows are indeed different from western style barrows. However, that reminded me of the drawings of Chinese wheelbarrows with sails and then John Milton.

Blind John Milton (1608-74) was born into the height of the Protestant Reformation in England. He clearly found what little news came from China interesting and wroteChinese drive, with sails and wind, their cany waggons light”  in Paradise Lost (1667) indicating that the West knew of the sail driven wheelbarrows of China that William Alexander was to paint over a century later (below) in the 1790s when he saw them while accompanying Lord McCartney s Mission to China. Milton also noted the spice trade as well as the greatness of Beijing in Paradise Lost:

City of old or modern fame, the seat

Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls

Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can”

 Milton later refers to Pequin without apparently realising that both Pequin and Cambalu are alternative names for Beijing. It seems Milton was excited by China as a vast market for English manufacturing but criticised what he saw as the country s absolutist government which, in his mind, paralleled the absolutism of Catholicism and the Divine Right of Kings.




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