Primary Source

The Chinese Boy and Girl


Issac Taylor Headland (1859-1942), a resident of Beijing and a scholar at Peking (Beijing) University, joined other contemporaries interested in both popular culture and folklore in his own study of daily life in China. He was particularly concerned with the collection and transcription of Chinese children's rhymes. Readings from his texts offer a look at a Westerner's own perspective on children's culture and family life as well as the complexities of cross-cultural exchange. Headland's voice offers an example of a global encounter at a moment of high imperialism – indeed, these texts were published in the immediate wake of the dramatic Boxer Uprising and siege of foreign legations that occurred in Beijing during the summer of 1900.

This source is a part of the Children in Late Imperial China, 900-1930 teaching module.


No thorough study of Chinese child life can be made until the wall of Chinese exclusiveness is broken down and the homes of the East are thrown open to the people of the West. Glimpses of that life, however, are available, sufficient in number and character to give a fairly good idea of what it must be. The playground is by no means always hidden, lease of all when it is the street. The Chinese nurse brings her Chinese rhymes, stories, and games into the foreigner's home for the amusement of its little ones. Chinese kindergarten methods and appliances have no superior in their ingenuity and their ability to interest, as well as to instruct. In the matter of traveling shows and jugglers also, no country is better supplied, and these are chiefly for the entertainment of the little ones.

To the careful observer of these different phases it becomes apparent that the Chinese child is well supplied with methods of exercise and amusement, also that he has much in common with the children of other lands. A large collection of toys shows many duplicates of those common in the West, and from the nursery rhymes of at least two out of the eighteen provinces it appears that the Chinese nursery is rich in Mother Goose. As a companion to the "Chinese Mother Goose," this book seeks to show that the same sunlight fills the homes of both East and West. If it also leads their far-away mates to look upon the Chinese Boy and Girl as real little folk, human like themselves, and thus think more kindly of them, its mission will have been accomplished.


Headland, Isaac Taylor. The Chinese Boy and Girl. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1901, 5. Annotated by Susan Fernsebner.

How to Cite This Source

"The Chinese Boy and Girl," in World History Commons, [accessed May 28, 2024]