Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European by Kim M. Phillips

By Kim M. Phillips

A specific eu viewpoint on Asia emerged within the past due heart a long time. Early stories of a homogeneous "India" of marvels and monsters gave option to money owed written through medieval tourists that indulged readers' interest approximately far-flung landscapes and cultures with out displaying the attitudes obvious within the later writings of aspiring imperialists. Mining the bills of greater than twenty Europeans who made—or claimed to have made—journeys to Mongolia, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia among the mid-thirteenth and early 16th centuries, Kim Phillips reconstructs a medieval eu imaginative and prescient of Asia that used to be through turns severe, impartial, and admiring.

In providing a cultural heritage of the come across among medieval Latin Christians and the far away East, Before Orientalism finds how Europeans' winning preoccupations with nutrition and consuming conduct, gender roles, sexualities, civility, and the international physique contributed to shaping their perceptions of Asian peoples and societies. Phillips supplies specific recognition to the texts' identified or most probably audiences, the cultural settings during which they discovered a foothold, and the wider impression in their descriptions, whereas additionally contemplating the motivations in their writers. She unearths in wealthy element responses from ecu tourists that ranged from pragmatism to ask yourself. worry of army may well, admiration for top criteria of civic lifestyles and court docket tradition, or even appreciate overseas beauty hardly ever assumed the type of secular Eurocentric superiority that might later symbolize Orientalism. putting medieval writing at the East within the context of an emergent "Europe" whose explorers sought to benefit greater than to rule, Before Orientalism complicates our knowing of medieval attitudes towards the foreign.

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Example text

Before Asian locations became formal crown colonies they had often long been in the hands of trading companies, notably the various East India companies (Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British). China, apart from Russian Manchuria and some small but significant areas such as Hong Kong and Macau, was not formally in European hands, but it was subject to intense economic pressure, particularly from the British from the time of the First Opium War (1839–­42). American military and economic interests in Asia saw the growth of its “informal empire” there from the turn of the twentieth century.

They are partly human. ”31 Some mappaemundi such as the Hereford World Map (c. 1300) depicted monstrous creatures in the extreme East (in this case, sciapods, pygmies, dogheads, and people who live off the scent of apples), but on this and other celebrated exemplars such as the Ebstorf (c. 1230–­50) and “Psalter” (c. 1250) maps the monsters are usually placed on the African margins of the world. ” On these maps the extreme East was pictured as the location of the Terrestrial Paradise and the source of the four ancient rivers that gave the Orient its extraordinary fertility.

They could never have envisaged the extraordinary European takeover of later centuries. To them, Mongolia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Burma, the kingdom of Champa (southern and central Vietnam), and the multitudinous islands scattered across the ocean at the farthest reaches of their known earth represented On Or ie n t a li s m 27 new and fascinating worlds meriting diverse responses. The peoples of these places were variously regarded with fear, disdain, wonder, and awe and were the focus of wariness, curiosity, and pleasure.

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