This article explores satire and comicality in written and visual representations of China using a metaphor introduced by Jonathan Spence in The Chan’s Great Continent: China in Western Minds (1998). Spence labels Western attitudes toward China and the Chinese “sightings.” Spence identified sightings in travel journals, stage plays, short stories, and philosophical tracts, but he did not explore depictions of China in graphic satires and related news reports even though they are rich sources of popular attitudes and unique opportunities to gauge the presence of China in Western minds. The first part of this essay uses the concept of sightings to compare similar visual satires on China in the news by James Gillray (1792) and John Leech (1842). The engraving and penciling, respectively, present opposing visions of the British and the Chinese at very different moments in Anglo-Chinese relations. The second part situates the penciling within the emerging written and visual comic rhetoric of things Chinese. There is great value in down-market popular productions as sources for understanding the complexity of the presence of things Chinese in the British consciousness at the dawn of the Victorian era and throughout the nineteenth century.

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