In 1908, thirty-one-year-old American adventurer Robert Sterling Clark organized a scientific expedition to northern China for the purpose of creating a detailed geographical survey of the area, recording daily meteorological observations, photographing the people, places, and landscapes, and collecting samples of the flora and fauna.
Clark was fascinated with the Chinese nation and its people, but like many Westerners of his day he felt that he had only glimpsed the surface of this rich and ancient culture. Trained as a civil engineer, Clark brought a curiosity and method to the planning of his expedition, assembling a talented professional team that included a surveyor, a doctor and meteorologist, an artist, and the famed British naturalist Arthur de Carle Sowerby, as well as some thirty additional support staff.
Departing from the city of Taiyuan in Shanxi province, the Clark expedition traversed “Shên-kan” (the provinces of Shaanxi
and Gansu), reaching as far westward as Lanzhou before returning to Taiyuan. In all, the team covered nearly 2000 miles (3200 km), primarily on horse and mule. A complete documentation of their journey, Through Shên-kan: The Account of the Clark Expedition in North China, 1908–9, was published in 1912. Despite having devoted a number of years to planning the expedition, Clark never again returned to China. The book recounts their journey, along with observations on geography, zoology, astronomy, geology, meteorology, and culture.
Additional materials include a modern Mandarin translation of Through Shên-kan, the historical photographs of the expedition from the Sowerby Papers at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and the field notebook kept by Robert Sterling Clark. The field notebook contains observations related to surveying and meteorology, as well as some anecdotes about the trip
Turn the pages of Through Shen-Kan and the Robert Sterling Clark China Expedition Field Notebook below: