The Orient has always held a fascination for the Western world, for it is there that a culture exists that is older than Rome and Greece. Their language and writing have roots other than Latin and Arabic. Their words sound strange to the ear and their ideograms are indecipherable to the untutored eye. Their religion is not based in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but they instead bow to a statue and speak of inner peace. Their style of dress, their architecture, their food, their society: all seem foreign and, at the same time exotic and enthralling, to Western eyes. Yet, for all its fascination with the East, the Western world has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to force Western culture upon the East, just as it has with all the other peoples with which it has come in contact. For the most part, the East has managed to keep its culture intact and reject the West, sometimes quietly, other times in conflicts that have caught the attention of the entire world.
One such clash of the cultures occurred in China at the end of the 19th century. Many Chinese had tired of Western and Christian influence in their country and formed secret societies whose sole purpose was to exterminate Westerners and Christians. Condoned and supported by the ruling Manchus, the resulting bloodshed finally culminated in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, when foreign troops of eight nations were brought in to end the slaughter. For a short time, world attention was focused on China and the groups of Chinese immigrants who lived in other countries. The fear of the "Yellow Peril", those Chinese who harbored anti-Western sentiments, began to grow. Watch was kept for secret societies. To be Chinese was to be associated with gambling, drugs and the dark underworld of crime, a view that was shared by many and that did not go unnoticed by a young author named of Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward.
Arthur Henry Ward was born in 1883 to Irish parents and later added the Sarsfield to his name as a result of his mother's claim that she was descended for a 17th century Irish general named Patrick Sarsfield. By all accounts, he received no formal schooling until he was nine or ten and, after completing his education, worked a number of odd jobs finally settling in as a reporter with aspirations to be a writer. With the sale of "The Mysterious Mummy" in 1903 to Pearson's Weekly, his chosen career became reality. After a number of years of writing, he also adopted a pen name, Sax Rohmer, and it was under the Rohmer name that he created one of the enduring characters of fiction, Dr. Fu Manchu.
In biographical writings, Rohmer claims that Fu Manchu was born in the years following the Boxer Rebellion, when he was working as a reporter in London. He had a fascination with London's Chinatown and spent a good deal of time there. Through his contacts, he was heard of a mysterious "Mr. King" who, allegedly, controlled all gambling games, drug traffic, and secret societies in Chinatown. The area police had never seen him and the local Chinese reacted in fear when his name was mentioned. One informant did let it slip, however, the Mr. King had a house on a certain street and that he was in London at the time. Rohmer went to the address one night, a car pulled up and he saw a "tall and very dignified man alight, Chinese, but unlike any Chinese I had ever met." Whether this was the mysterious Mr. King was never determined, but this viewing moved Rohmer's fertile imagination to create over the course of many months, Dr. Fu Manchu.
The first Fu Manchu story, "The Zayat Kiss," was published in the magazine The Story-Teller in 1912 and followed by 9 more stories that eventually were combined into the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu, which was published in 1913. So great was the acclaim for the character, and an indication of how far the concept of Yellow Peril had gotten into the public consciousness, the book was published in the United States 4 months later as The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. Apparently, the public still couldn't get enough of the devil doctor, so the 10 part serial was run in Collier's magazine in 1913.
From there the good Doctor continued on through 13 novels, a novelette and some short stories all written by Rohmer. In addition, there are numerous novels and stories written by others, movies, movie serials, radio, television shows and even comics...and that doesn't take into account all the stories and novels that feature villains inspired by Fu Manchu . Obviously, Rohmer struck a chord which is still sounding to the present day.
So we invite you to settle back and return to a simpler time, when the world was much larger and there was room for mystery and adventure. A time when England was the West and the Orient was the mysterious East. When the fate of the world depended on the struggles of two men to defeat the menace of The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu.
Editor's Note: Except for a few spelling corrections, this edition of The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu has been kept just as Rohmer originally wrote it, including the lack of capitalization on some words that we, today, would capitalize as a matter of course. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice that the first page of the novel is numbered as page 5, rather than 1. This was done to save some time when we release the entire novel at a later date.
If you wish to read the original short story that introduced Fu Manchu, "The Zayat Kiss," it is available in an annotated form with further background information about Sax Rohmer and can be found by clicking here.
In addition, there is also a gallery entitled, "Images of Fu Manchu", that features many of the ways that Fu Manchu has been portrayed in books, comics and film. It can be found here.