- Feb 2011
True to an extent, though I am unsure how Du Halde exactly fits in, and how other enlightenment thinkers (though often wrong) being preoccupied with China fit into this as well.
As for Zheng He being called back for financial reasons -- this argument is not universally accepted. I believe the current theory is he was sent out to find a lost Ming Prince, and, upon not finding him, the Ming court abandoned the enterprise. Even so, the financial troubles of the Ming had not happened yet, and he could have easily helped expand commercial territories given the chance. The Ming, for example, after Zheng He continued their large scale wars with the Mongols.
But this is digression. We can nitpick examples all day, but if the most literate culture in the world has not produced as much material on other cultures as lesser, smaller countries have produced about it, it says there is a general trend wherein there is less of an interest in looking outward than inward -- hence my original point about there being no logical reason China wouldn't focus on Chinese things, or that Europe would not be preoccupied with Europe. And my original point that it is harder for me to justify the Canadian government paying for me to research China than it is for them to research Canada. That there are a few exceptions to the general self-imposed intellectual isolationism is not really the point of this discussion.
The strange thing is, with the exception of mostly Western European scholars and Japanese scholars, the majority of cultures have not thought it worth studying other cultures. Some attribute this to colonialism, but the processes began far before the first colonies were established. Chinese language scholars, for example, (including ancient writers of the classical Chinese world) were not particularly preoccupied with things beyond their periphery vision. Yan Fu, for example, is regarded as being one of the first Chinese translators of the thought of Europe -- before that they simply ignored Europe. The earliest translations of Sinitic history were much earlier, and indeed the fascination with discussing other places in Chinese discourse is a much later phenomenon than Sinology in Europe.
If you say China is the "most literate culture in the world", then that meant other cultures were less literate. This implies there's less literature to adopt from other cultures, and from the perspective of smaller countries there's more material to adopt from China than vice versa.
I find it funny you say there are "few exceptions to the general self-imposed intellectual isolationism" considering the list of exceptions I gave you:
All the quotes from Shiji by Simaqian
Explorers and ambassadors like Zhang Qian and Zheng He
Xuan Zang, his travels, and his translations on Buddhism,
Fa Xian, his travels, his Records of Buddhist Kingdoms, and his translation of Buddhist sutras
Xu Gaungqi, Yang Tingyun, Li ZhiZhao, Li Chibin, ,Han Lin, Duan Gun, Wei Douxu, Zhu Sihan and their translations of western works such as Euclid's Elements
Wang Zheng translating from translated from Victruvin's De Architectura, Agostino Ramalli's Le Diverse et Artificiose Machine, Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica and Simon de Bruges' Hypomnemata Mathmatica .
Adoption of Marxism over even Confucianism
Old Book of Tang's description of Rome
New Book of Tang's description of Rome
History of Song's description of Rome (descriptions way more than vice versa)
Yiyu tuzhi (Pictures and Descriptions of Strange Regions)
A Study of Eastern Barbarians by Mao Ruizheng (I know you don't count this because said barbarians lands were incorporated into Chinese territory)
The "Ask No questions" Complete Handbook for General Use : Contains sections of foreign customs
A Record of All Guests: Contains information of foreign countries with 850 clan names of foreign peoples
The vast majority of the 24 dynastic histories, official chinese histories which includes special section devoted to foreign peoples
Tong Dian: lists several works about foreign customs including
Record of the Custums of All the Western Tribes
Affairs and Customs Emanating from the Turks
llustrations/Maps of Foreign CountriesA Record of All Barbarians
I'm sure I missed some, but this is a compilation of what I've given you through a first skim of my posts since yesterday. I've spent a lot of time quoting from them or secondary sources mentioning them, "pages upon pages" in fact. Pardon me if I take offense that you think I only listed "a few" exceptions. On the other hand if you redirected these hours arguing to instead get the quotes required to back up your claims, then you would have the quotes I asked for by now. You said you don't have them because you don't have the time, but the length of our discussion and your discussion with heylouis is really proving otherwise here.
I'm allowed to disagree with you on things you state even if those statements of yours is not your point.