in a public park
in Potsdam (the palatial summer residence of many
a Prussian king) there stands a peculiar monument that dates its history
back to 1757. The structure is a replica of a Chinese teahouse, around the
circumference of which is built a verandah. On the verandah are a series
of figures—Chinese men and women pouring tea, playing musical instru-
ments, gazing in the distance, grouped together in conversation. The sur-
reality of stumbling upon this structure in the middle of a park in Germany
is heightened on a closer look at the statues themselves. Their “foreign-
ness” is depicted in the clothing the male figures wear (pointed hats with
large rims) but absent—indeed, strikingly absent—from the perspective
of the modern observer is any racial representation. No “slanted” eyes,
“yellow” complexion, or long, thin pigtails adorn these Chinese replicas.
Indeed, many of the female figures are garbed in the flowing gowns of
the German nobility—they are more Fräulein than foreign. What was to
define European (and North American) representations of the Chinese in
the nineteenth century does not appear to have obstructed the vision of the
eighteenth-century sculptors.1
In 1894, E. R. Henry, in his capacity as inspector-general of police in
colonial Bengal, submitted a report to be distributed to all district police
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