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Fortunate Sons

The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization

Liel Leibovitz (Author), Matthew Miller (Author)


The epic story of the American-educated boys who changed China forever.

At the twilight of the nineteenth century, China sent a detachment of boys to America in order to learn the ways of the West, modernize the antiquated empire, and defend it from foreigners invading its shores. After spending a decade in New England’s finest schools, the boys re-turned home, driven by a pioneering spirit of progress and reform. Their lives in America influenced not only their thinking but also their nation’s endeavor to become a contemporary world power, an endeavor that resonates powerfully today.

Drawing on diaries, letters, and other first-person accounts, Fortunate Sons tells a remarkable tale, weaving together the dramas of personal lives with the momentous thrust of a nation reborn. Shedding light on a crucial yet largely unknown period in China’s history, Fortunate Sons provides insight into the issues concerning that nation today, from its struggle toward economic supremacy to its fraught relationship with the United States.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • February 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-393-07004-0
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverFortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization


Endorsements & Reviews

“The story of the West's engagement with China is often told through the voices of colonists, correspondents and fortune-seekers who sailed East a century ago. Fortunate Sons is a captivating look at the reverse journey: a page-turning narrative about Chinese patriots schooled in the United States who returned home to modernize a moribund, imperial society. This book is a reminder that historically, US-China relations are more than political; Liebovitz and Miller have unearthed an important, and all but forgotten, story that resonates today.” — Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed

“A fascinating and well-told history of this early educational exchange between China and the United States.” — Peter Hessler, author of Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory

“The struggle that the boys faced between traditionalism and modernity, exacerbated by an intriguing and sometimes turbulent clash of cultures, is something that resonates clearly to this day.” — Gavin Menzies, author of 1421: The Year China Discovered America

“I read this book in one sitting, utterly engrossed in the rugged journeys undertaken by the first generation of west-going Chinese scholars. To read this book is to understand the fundamental obstacles and frustrations all Chinese intellectuals faced then and now. A bunch of pigtailed Manchurian Yalies. What a paradox!” — Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain and Brothers

Also by Liel Leibovitz All

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Also by Matthew Miller All

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