The central focus of this volume is the manner in which the modern French imagination construes twentieth-century China as a contact-zone; a crucible of transcultural conjunction; a realm where subjects, objects, and arenas emblematic of Chinese and European cultures come together in dynamics of touching, connection, friction. This first chapter gives flesh to that focus by scrutinizing French literary artefacts that chart the spaces of China’s capital city, speak of French (or European) adventures in Beijing, 1 and feed thereby into the broader, twentieth- century discursive formation designated in the Introduction as France–Chine. The French-language narratives considered here are fictions or autobiographical fictions produced at different moments of the contemporary period and concerned with different Pekings. In the first, Victor Segalen’s René Leys, published in 1921–22 and inspired by the mysteries of the Forbidden City, we are shown an age-old, sectored, walled Peking swept up in the 1911 revolution that toppled the Qing dynasty. 2 In the second and third, Pierre-Jean Remy’s Le Sac du Palais d’Été (1971) and Suzanne Bernard’s Une étrangère à Pékin (1986), we are offered stories located in the Republican capital of the 1960s and 1970s, a period marked by the ravages of the Cultural Revolution. 3 Through the fourth and fifth, Christian Garcin’s Le Vol du pigeon voyageur (2000) and Elizabeth Qi-Guyon’s Pluie argentée (2002), 4 our attention shifts to a post-Maoist, even postmodern Beijing conceived by China- watchers as intensely self-reconstructive and simulacral: gripped by a consumerist orientation towards the West. 5 Segalen’s tale is a canonical meditation on sino- French interaction, and Remy’s novel, awarded the prix Renaudot, enjoyed popular and critical esteem; the other narratives I have selected here are far less well known. All however posit Beijing as a locus where cultural borders are policed intensely: where monocultural isolation, or corporeal punishment, is imposed upon European bodies willing to slip across cultural frontiers and touch, or breach, the Chinese world. These texts construct Beijing as a domain in which the European subject, deracinated in alien territory, is targeted as an object of cultural segregation by power-forces filtered through a raft of repressive agents and conduits. They cast Beijing as a sphere that is antagonistic to intercultural association, and yet produces European foreign bodies that feel impelled to enact that association, on occasion through a cross-cultural corps-à-corps. They map China’s capital as a realm that manipulates the movements, including the desiring movements, of the European 11bodies it accepts within itself, transforming them into ‘docile’ bodies, hard put to overcome the spatial and human prohibitions and seclusions circulating around them. In short, these narratives present Beijing’s cityscape as a sort of tease. And in so doing they defy our expectation that variant incarnations of China — Imperial, Republican, post-Maoist — might invite significantly different articulations in French-authored récits de Pékin spanning the entirety of the twentieth century. 6