The Man Who Would Be Ming

It is a January morning in old Shanghai, and the sky is the color and density of oatmeal, feebly lit by an orange disc as vague as a watermark. In urban China in the 21st century, this is known as a sunny day. At an outdoor marketplace, a teeming tenement of narrow stalls and alleys, clamoring vendors peddle knockoff Rolex watches and Nike sneakers, pirated videos, severed ducks' heads and trussed pink pigs. Into this tumult strides a 2.13-meter alien from the imperial courts of the U.S. But he is no tourist.

Daniel Raymond McClintock is a 25-year-old...

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