Marco Polo was the first Westerner to describe the old capital of China in its grand design, and the early Jesuits were the first to appraise its architectural values. George Kates is one of the last Westerners to take its measure. After his seven leisurely, abundant years in Peking, by the end of which the Japanese had come to occupy it, the old China had finally disintegrated under the blows of warfare and social revolution. What Kates reveals cannot be found today. Kates describes the city with a special competence because he made it a particular object of scholarly research. He wormed out of the Imperial City itself every secret of its hidden courts and deserted harems; and in this book he brings to life again the people and the system that created it. He became familiar with every vista and pleasure of the Imperial Lakes, came to know every mood of China's hills and temples, and explored the strange ruins of forgotten palace gardens.With unending delight, he watched and became part of the great swarming city that was Peking. With affection and insight, he writes of the Chinese he knew—their sensitiveness and their materialism; their concern with personal property and their abominable care of it; their awareness of beauty and their greed; their dignity and their spontaneity; their immense courtesy; and their conviction, shared by the most illiterate coolie in rags, of the innate superiority of the Chinese.