The yellow peril was the terror held by Western society particularly in British and American societies—that Orientals would in the future unite and surmount the world. Chinese, Japanese, Mongols as well as other Orientals, as part of the yellow peril, were constantly being utilized as villains of popular formulas. Illustrated first and foremost by animal metaphors, the agents of the yellow peril were portrayed as being the marauders of Western society.
They were frequently portrayed as beasts (wolves, rats, vultures and all that), the kind of animals that are physically powerful, crafty, savage and malicious. Their hunger for world supremacy—for obliteration of the Anglo-American and his civilization—was merely matched by their hunger for the Anglo-American woman. Consequently, in issue after issue of the most loud and histrionic dime novels and pulp magazines, and in episode after episode of the most astounding movies and comic strips, undomesticated, rat-faced Chinese lusted after virginal white women.
The danger of rape, the rape of white society, subjugated the action of the yellow formula. The British or American hero, throughout the course of his battle against the yellow peril, overcame several traps and obstacles so as to save his civilization and the primary symbol of that civilization: the white woman. Stories featuring the yellow peril were arguments for racial purity. Without doubt, the potential union of the Oriental and white implied, at best, a type of beastly sodomy, and, at worst, a Satanic marriage.
(Phillips Payson O’Brien. 2004) The yellow peril stereotype with no trouble turned out to be incorporated into Christian mythology, and the Oriental assumed the role of the devil or demon. The Oriental rape of the white woman denoted a spiritual damnation for the woman, also at the larger level, white society. A favorite convention of the yellow peril featured the lone white woman surrounded by a crowd of Chinese bent on debauchment. She holds them at bay with a revolver; also that revolver has merely a single bullet left.
Seeing that her condition is hopeless, she points the barrel of the gun to her temple. The threat of the yellow peril in popular stories was influential and difficult to eradicate. Therefore, although the blue-eyed, blond hero thwarted innumerable attempts by Oriental masterminds for world conquest, and although the hero saved the white heroine innumerable times from “a fate worse than death,” the danger of the yellow peril was never destroyed.
Thousands of cruel Chink or Jap or Mongol killers lined the dirty streets of their Limehouse and Chinatown ghettos, armed with hatchets and knives (the favorite weapons of the yellow peril), in anticipation of the word from their inhuman leaders to start a new round of pillage, rape and killing. Useless to say, prejudice and discrimination were by- products of the yellow peril stereotype. They built an authenticity in which it was justifiable for white Americans to discriminate against Oriental Americans in a variety of crisis situations.
The development of the yellow peril stereotype in international politics started even before the Chinese Coolie emigration to the American West Coast during the 1850s. Its beginning can be traced back to the initial contacts between the European and Chinese cultures. In almost all pre-medieval European mythologies there existed the conviction that to the west lay a paradise or Eden where people lived in bliss and where society, according to Plato and Homer, was a virtual Utopia (Billington 1-28). (Phillips Payson O’Brien, 2004).
Previous to the discovery of the Americas, this paradise was thought to exist in the lands of China, which, in part, elucidates why European explorers and merchants were so anxious to develop travel routes across the Atlantic. Christopher Columbus, upon his discovery of the New World, thought that he had exposed a passage to the Orient. Afterward European explorers, understanding that what Columbus had discovered was a new land mass between the European continent and Asia, endeavored to locate a Northwest Passage to the Indies, which they never did however which nevertheless facilitated the exploration of America.