The Chan's Great Continent: China in Western Minds

The Chan's Great Continent: China in Western Minds

Jonathan D. Spence

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 039331989X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Like everything else written by Jonathan Spence, The Chan's Great Continent is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in China. Spence is one of the greatest Sinologists of our time, and his work is both authoritative and highly readable." ―Los Angeles Times Book Review

China has transfixed the West since the earliest contacts between these civilizations. With his characteristic elegance and insight, Jonathan Spence explores how the West has understood China over seven centuries. Ranging from Marco Polo's own depiction of China and the mighty Khan, Kublai, in the 1270s to the China sightings of three twentieth-century writers of acknowledged genius-Kafka, Borges, and Calvino-Spence conveys Western thought on China through a remarkable array of expression. Peopling Spence's account are Iberian adventurers, Enlightenment thinkers, spinners of the dreamy cult of Chinoiserie, and American observers such as Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Ezra Pound, and Eugene O'Neill. Taken together, these China sightings tell us as much about the self-image of the West as about China. "Wonderful. . . . Spence brilliantly demonstrates [how] generation after generation of Westerners [have] asked themselves, 'What is it . . . that held this astonishing, diverse, and immensely populous land together?' "--New York Times Book Review

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Novissima Sinica, or Latest News from China (Leibniz), 83, 173 Odoric of Pordenone, 11, 12, 27 Olcutt, Sidney, 166 O’Neill, Eugene, xv, 175–80, 187 opera, 65–66 opium, 102, 103, 124, 138, 146, 155, 167 Opium War, 156 Oriental Despotism (Wittfogel), 207, 213, 214, 215, 217 Orientalism, 148 Orphan of Chao, The, 74–75, 95, 97, 176 Orphelin de la Chine, 95–96 Outline of a Philosophy of the History of Man, The (Herder), 99 Overland Monthly, 128 painting, 36 Panigarola, 32 papacy,

while Chinese music generally was of “very good harmony . . . very good consonancy,” and Chinese plays on the public stage “very well acted and to the life.”18 Da Cruz fills in with accuracy and clarity each of the three significant areas of Chinese life that Polo and Pereira had failed to mention: footbinding, the nature of the language, and the drinking of tea. Footbinding, he sees, has a mainly aesthetic justification: “The women commonly, excepting those of the sea coast and of the

the varying layers of memory and experience. One can see that this is a book about cultural stimulus and response as much as it is in any way a book about China. As such, it is not in the business of assigning blame or praise to those who made the sightings. Often the stimulus was viewed as a negative one, and the response was correspondingly harsh. But at other times the stimulus was sweet, and those making the sightings remained in a state of blissful self-denial, regardless of other levels of

rancheros, but included a part for a Chinese named Hop Sing. Harte had obviously borrowed the name of his own friend Hop Sing from “Wan Lee, the Pagan” to serve for a Chinese laundryman in the play. In a literal sense, Hop Sing has only a bit part in Two Men of Sandy Bar, but it is a crucial one, since the drama hinges around problems of mistaken and deliberately concealed identities, and Hop Sing—as the only laundryman in the area—is also the only man who knows the crucial secrets of the key

successful activities at a field of battle is at first sight far more convincing than these other seven. Every detail seems to be in place. The mighty Mongol Khan is asking his assembled advisers how he should subdue the Chinese city of “Saianfu,” which is stubbornly resisting his armies. The Khan’s generals admit they are baffled, for the walls of Saianfu are so strong they resist direct assault, and the city also continues to receive regular relief supplies by river. But among the listeners are

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