top of page

From the author's introduction:

"I am defining the term Yellow Peril as the threat to the United States that some white American authors believed was posed by the people of East Asia. As a literary theme, the fear of this threat focuses on specific issues, including possible military invasion from Asia, perceived competition to the white labor force from Asian workers, the alleged moral degeneracy of Asian people, and the potential genetic mixing of Anglo-Saxons with Asians, who were considered a biologically inferior race by some intellectuals of the nineteenth century."

A revised version of Bill's doctoral dissertation, this critical study compares the literary depiction of Chinese Americans to the history of Chinese Americans during the period covered. It received rave reviews from the The London Times Literary Supplement and The San Francisco Chronicle, among others.

This ebook edition, based on the original 1982 hardback edition, has some additions and corrections. Photos on the slider are not included.

WILLIAM F WU - 2022 cover.png

For ebook:

Book Oasis:


For original edition hardback:

"William Wu's book moves the whole topic of fictional treatments of Chinese-Americans to a totally new level of sophistication, and it is essential reading for any teachers eager to develop new course materials on ethnic groups in America. Though personally involved in his topic, Wu is fair and judicious, and he gives all the information teachers would need to start assembling their own selections of effective readings. Nor is the book just for teachers: the general reader will come away with a good sense of how vividly even the 'pulps' can help us evaluate a troubled phase of national history, and how the shoddiest fictions can reveal far more than their authors ever... intended!"    

                  Jonathan D. Spence, Yale University,

                  in Focus on Asian Studies, 1982.

"Thanks to the author's scholarly distance from his material, this account of Chinese Americans in American fiction will prove to be absolutely fascinating .... Wu writes with a precision and a clear, crisp narrative style that never stumbles into academic jargon .... He never acts as literary adversary ... but his message is clear, nevertheless. The 'peril' of the advancing yellow hordes' has always been an American -- not Chinese -- creation."

                               Patricia Holt,

               San Francisco Chronicle,

Feb. 19, 1982.

Excerpt from the introduction to Chap. VI, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan:

Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan are very different characters but they have an important relationship to each other in American popular culture. Fu Manchu is an evil genius who personifies the Asian threat, while Charlie Chan is a detective whose patience and intelligence solve murder mysteries in defense of civilized society. On the surface, they appear to be simple opposites. The Chinese ancestry of both characters tempts one to suggest that they represent the yin-yang symbol of Taoism that illustrates a dualist interpretation of the universe. Yet their origin is not, after all, Chinese. Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were created by white authors Sax Rohmer and Earl Derr Biggers, respec­tively, for white readers. These two characters do not represent ar­chetypal dualities such as good and evil, or even crime versus law. The duality they represent is racial, yellow versus white, with Fu Manchu embodying yellow power and Charlie Chan supporting white supremacy. The two characters will be examined separately with these roles in focus.

The Fu Manchu character is the first Asian role of prominence in modern literature to have a large American readership. Technically, the Fu Manchu series belongs to English literature, since author Sax Rohmer was English; however, the adoption of the Fu Manchu novels by the American public has established Fu Manchu as a major figure in American popular culture. Millions of copies of the Fu Manchu books have been sold in the United States, signaling a popularity that has led to adaptations in film, radio, television, and comics.  The tremendous popularity of Fu Manchu has also meant a great deal of literary in­fluence, as the image of Fu Manchu has been absorbed into American consciousness as the archetypal Asian villain. For this reason the partic­ular literary elements of the Fu Manchu novels will be examined for what they present to the American public, and for what subsequent American writers found desirable to emulate.

(End of excerpt)


bottom of page