The Belgian Mandarin

The Belgian Mandarin Books


The Belgian Mandarin
The Life of Paul Splingaerd
(Brussels,1842 – Xian,1906)
by Anne Splingaerd Megowan

The life of the poor Brussels orphan who became an honored mandarin in China may sound more like fiction than a true biography, but Paul Splingaerd really did walk this earth.



Paperback available at listed outlets below
ISBN13 (TP) : 978-1-4257-9217-6
ISBN13 (HB) : 978-1-4257-9237-4

Order your copy today!

What’s the Book About

The life of the poor Brussels orphan who became an honored mandarin in China may sound more like fiction than a true biography, but Paul Splingaerd really did walk this earth.

The four decades that he spent in China were during the pivotal post-Opium Wars years when China’s doors were being pried open for trade with the West. Paul explored all regions of the “Middle Kingdom” with renowned German geologist Ferdinand von Richthofen, and established a fur trading business in Mongolia before being appointed customs inspector in China’s far west by powerful Viceroy Li Hongzhang.

Find out what brought Splingaerd to China, and learn how he earned recognition from his king, King Leopold II, who made him a “Chevalier de L’Ordre de la Couronne.” Read about Paul’s role in the construction of the first iron bridge across the venerable Yellow River at Lanzhou.

Splingaerd’s perspective on China’s interaction with the West during the late nineteenth century, offers the reader many intriguing insights into the roots of China’s dynamism in the twenty-first century.

Masterfully authored by Splingaerd’s great-granddaughter, Anne Splingaerd Megowan, The Belgian Mandarin is one unforgettable read, a well-researched and richly illustrated account of the life of this truly exceptional individual.

A look inside the book.

Technical Details

203 pages, 6×9 inches (15.24 x22.86 cm)
Quality Jacket hardcover or ublished: 1/18/2008
Black and white print
ISBN13 (TP) : 978-1-4257-9217-6
ISBN13 (HB) : 978-1-4257-9237-4

Customer Reviews

Based on 3 reviews



DickW on March 7, 2010

It is really incredible the many many things this man, an orphan from Belgium, did in China. The dangers and challenges he faced and overcame. The author, his great-granddaughter, has carefully researched and documented each step so the reader knows this is the true story of Paul Splingaerd’s life. I especially liked the way things were presented from both the standpoint of Europeans at the time and the Chinese. A very fascinating book to read, but it also gave me a far better understanding of the China of today.



J. Garol on February 1, 2010

This is a well written book with great attention to detail that not only gives a look into 19th century China but introduces the reader to a most remarkable man, Paul Splingaerd. His story is both interesting and inspiring. As each chapter unfolded, I looked forward to the next adventure of Paul with eager anticipation. I truly enjoyed this book and recommend it to those who would like an exciting adventure biography. This would make a great movie.



John P. Splingaerd on April 24, 2008

Anne Megowan spent more than 10 years contacting Catholic missionary religious orders, distant relatives, Chinese historians in China, and visiting the various places her great-grandfather traveled. The result is not only a biography of the Belgian Mandarin but her careful research has brought to light the politics and living conditions of that period in Chinese and world history. For people who want to know how people lived and moved around in those days, this is a jewel of a book. She does not try to build him up and even touched off a family feud with a first cousin because she refused to lie about the origin of Paul Splingaerd.

Where to Buy

The Belgian Mandarin (paperback) is available at:,, Barnes & Noble,, and by request from your favorite local bookstores.

Ebook copies can be purchased right here on

To request a complimentary paperback review copy, contact the publisher at (888) 795-4274 x. 7836. Tear sheets may be sent by regular or electronic mail to Marketing Services.

To purchase copies of the book for resale, please fax Xlibris at (610) 915-0294 or call (888) 795-4274 x7876.

Related Products

Assembling the Paul Puzzle ebook

New to the Belgian Mandarin saga

Assembling the Paul Puzzle

eBook (PDF)

by Anne Splingaerd-Megowan

Anne reveals even more fascinating tidbits of Paul Splingaerd’s life in “Assembling the Paul Puzzle.” This new work recounts events leading to the publication of the Belgian Mandarin and the surprising discoveries since then.

Get your personal copy today!

The Belgian Mandarin

The Story of Paul Splingaerd

Table of Contents

Preface 7
Chapter 1 — Young Paul 11
The Foundling and the Founder  14
Chapter 2 — Rails, Sails, and Ruts 18
Pope Pius IX 22
Shipboard Chinese Lessons 24
First Glimpse of China 26
China’s Bustling Trade City 27
“Guardian Angel” and Guide 28
“Those Damned Carts” 30
Chinese Names 32
The Capital 34
Chapter 3 — Seed in the Soil 38
Fr. Verbist’s Debut Party 40
Getting to Work 41
The Chinese Language 43
A Case for Champagne 45
Brother Franzenbach 48
Chapter 4 — The Turning Point 50
Fr. Remi Verlinden 51
Departure from Xiwanzi 53
Chapter 5 — Paul and Richthofen 56
The Geologist Finds his Dolmetscher 56
Li Hongzhang Grants Approval 58
China’s Lewis and Clark? 58
Kalgan Detour 60
Buddhist Travel Companion 65
Chapter 6 — Trader in Mongolia 70
Jardine Matheson & Co. 70
The Mongolian wool trade 71
Paul Gets Married   78
Chapter 7 — Customs Mandarin in Suzhou 83
American Cyclists Meet Mysterious “Ling Darin” 86
Vladimor Obroutchev Visit 88
Paul the Practitioner 91
Recognition and Promotion 96
Swedish Explorer Sven Hedin 97
Chapter 8 — The Children’s Caravan 103
The Missing Ingredient 103
The Journey 105
Arrival at Shanghai 105
Four Religious Sisters 107
Chapter 9 — China’s “Grand Central” 114
Li and Leopold 115
Flawed Diplomacy 119
Paul is Enlisted 122
Chapter 10 — Paul and the King’s Men 127
Leopold Sets Sights on Gansu 127
General Wittamer in “Paul’s town” 128
Who Were the “Boxers”? 129
Guangxu Attempts Reform 131
Learning About the Congo 133
A Low Point 134
“Flee Immediately” 135
Refuge at the Zhang Plantation 136
Gobi Ordeal 139
Boxers in Beijing 142
Chapter 11 — Brigadier General Lin in Post-Boxer China 146
First Foreigner to see the Dunhuang Buddhist manuscripts 147
Still Assisting Scheuts 148
Chapter 12 — Mission to Brussels 156
Chapter 13 — Xian Farewell 164
Chapter 14 — Paul’s Legacy 138
Development of Lanzhou 138
And What About the Bridge? 139
Epilogue — Paul’s Other Bridge 177
Appendix A — How is Anne Related to Paul? 183
Appendix B — Map 184
Appendix C — Paul’s descendants 186
Bibliography 189
Index 195

Media Coverage

31Aug09 Anne’s Report on 2009 Lanzhou Visit for Centenial Celebration of First Iron Bridge Across the Yellow River on August 26 Lanzhou visitors
27Aug09 The Lanzhou Bridge Centennial Celebration on August 26, 2009 generated a great deal of coverage in the Chinese press. Pictures of the Ceremonies, the visiting descendents of Paul Splingaerd, and historical photos are included. There are a couple of stories going beyond the formal press releases and featuring interviews with people having recollections of the history of the bridge since its construction.
Article on Chinese on-line forum (posted 8/27/2009) about the Lanzhou Bridge Centennial celebration
Similar or same article on Chinese on-line forum (posted 8/27/2009) about the Lanzhou Bridge Centennial celebration. This version seems to yield a better computer translation than the above one.
The same article posted on another web service
The same article posted on another web service
Pretty much the same text as others, no mention of The Belgian Mandarin.
The same article posted on another web service
This article seems to be more interested in discussing the family histories associated with the development of the bridge. Splingaerd (Lin) is mentioned a number of times. It should be noted that the Bing (Microsoft) computer translator was intelligible only for the highlights of the story, not for the details.
Contains pictures of Anne’s Gugu holding the book and of the plaque at statue, Zhang Xuexin Similar article to above. This article relates the history of the Splingaerd family intertwinement with the Lanzhou Bridge development. It contains different pictures from the standard press release and includes a few historical photos. Anne is mentioned.
Short article. Picture of bridge inauguration, Alphonse family, starts off with mention of my book, Lin Da Ren, but translated as ‘Lin Adults.” Interview with Zhang Xuexin, where he mentions his aunt was married to Lin A de. Mentions my 2005 trip to Lanzhou, the fact that my book has been published.
Many historic pictures, references to other articles.

27Aug09 The Lanzhou Bridge Centennial Celebration in August 2009 developed a great deal of media attention in China. Anne’s aunt, Zhang Jian Qin, holding Anne’s book, The Belgian Mandarin, was featured in an hour-long documentary about the involvement of Paul Splingaerd and his associates in the introduction of European business and engineering to Lanzhou region. This picture was also featured in a Lanzhou newspaper article in August 2009 about Paul’s descendants becoming honorary citizens of the city. Anne's Aunt holding her book
26Apr09 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books – 2009
Press Release for 2009 Festival of Book
Festival of BooksFestival Theme
Anne at the Festival of Books
8Nov08 Huldenberg article on Splingaerd Reunion (Flemish) Anne speaking in Ottenberg at family reunion
12May08 May 2008 Interview by Los Angeles China Daily Newspaper (Chinese)
Apr08 April 2008 Interview by Santa Monica Star
Nov2006 Interview by Not Born Yesterday Not Born Yesterday
13Oct05 Review of 2005 Trip by Chinese Press