Now that you know exactly what person, event, etc., that Thoreau was referencing, you can research it further in reference sources. Your status as a student at Olympic College gives you access to a number of electronic reference databases available through the library web site. Most of these are proprietary databases that libraries either own outright or have subscriptions to. While they share many attributes of print sources, such as content written by authorities in the field, they also have many features unique to the electronic environment. These are audio and video clips, links to vetted Web sites, and sophisticated internal search engines.
The best one to use for this assignment is:
Oxford Reference Online
This "Premium Collection" includes 100 dictionary and reference titles as well as 18 Oxford Companions from Oxford University Press. Content ranges from short, factual summaries to scholarly articles. Subject coverage is broad and includes law, history, literature, politics, philosophy and Shakespeare. It also provides links to reputable Web sites.
The reference titles that will be most helpful to you are found under the links English Dictionaries & Reference for definitions of words; Literature for information on the Arabian Nights; and Religion & Philosophy for information about the "Hindoo book" and the book from which the Chinese tale is taken. (Hint: You need to look in an annotated editon of Walden for the titles of the "Hindoo book" and the Chinese tale.)
You will need to look elsewhere to find background information on the historical references. Click on the Books tab above for good sources to find this information.
Remember, that spellings may differ for transliterated words and names; i.e., to represent or spell in the characters of another alphabet.