Romantic Sinopolitans: Natural Philosophers, Travelers, Diplomats, and Missionaries
The two chapters that follow are focused on the European fascination with the Celestial Empire of the Qing dynasty and its charismatic and exotic ruler, Hongli, the Qianlong Emperor. Like the other chapters in the book they take as their theme the grammar of race and the ways in which the language of race thinking entwined with other critical discourses about human difference and apply this to the exoticized Other of the Manchu Empire in the period prior to the nineteenth-century Opium Wars. To some extent I am extending Edward Said’s theorization of Orientalism and its stereotyping to take in the Far East which Said mentions only fleetingly in Orientalism (1978), 1 but also complicating this hypothesis in the light of the many revisions of Said’s ideas. Adrian Hsia has attempted to apply Said’s theories of Orientalism directly to China, arguing that European thinkers constructed a notion of China in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before the development of the professional academic discipline of Sinology in the West, which began after the Macartney Embassy of 1793, a key event for my study. Hsia calls this construct “Chinesia,” which derives from a process, analogous to Orientalism, which he calls “Sinism” (Chinesia 1998, 1–22). Hsia’s thesis suffers from the same problems as Said’s in that it tends to homogenize, is not sufficiently sensitive to the historical moment of articulation, and is overly polemical.
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