Asian Empire and British Knowledge: China and the Networks by U. Hillemann

By U. Hillemann

British wisdom approximately China replaced essentially within the eighteenth and 19th centuries. instead of treating those alterations in British figuring out as though Anglo-Sino relations have been in simple terms bilateral, this research seems at how British imperial networks in India and Southeast Asia have been severe mediators within the British stumble upon of China.

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While tea itself became increasingly ‘British’, the tea services that accompanied its use were mainly kept in the ‘Chinese style’. The core element of the fashion of Chinoiserie, which became popular in Britain in the 18th century for interior design and garden architecture, was its The Decline of Mythical China 23 foreignness and exoticism, despite being produced mainly in Britain or on the European continent. While there had been earlier examples of Chinoiserie in England, particularly during the Restoration period,30 it was only to reach its height from the 1740s onwards, coinciding with increased imports of tea and porcelain by the EIC.

For him however this meant that the Chinese could not have invented writing at all but must have received it from the Egyptians. 17 About ten years later, the Scottish thinker Lord Monboddo put forward the same idea in his Of the Origin and Progress of Language, making 20 Asian Empire and British Knowledge a major contribution to the ongoing discussion about the origin of language. 18 He argued that human beings developed a ‘barbaric’ language on the basis of sensual experiences and due to the need of society, but it was only the ‘art of language’ which made it possible to express, ‘accurately and distinctly all the conceptions of the human mind’.

37 In his second tract, A Dissertation on Oriental Gardening of 1772, he followed this up by a description of a fantastic Chinese garden, which is a place of luxury, excitement and sublime extravagances. 39 This influx of foreign ideas, which were a source of entertainment and fantastic splendour for some, were seen as a danger to a healthy British state for others. It thus could come in combination with a certain The Decline of Mythical China 25 uneasiness about the extended contact with the foreign which the British expansion brought with it.

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