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The History of European Studies of East Asian Culture & Languages

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Park, Hyun
Term Paper, Medieval History Class, June 2011

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Definition
III. The History of European Studies of East Asian Culture & Languages
III.1 Early Times
III.2 The Beginning
III.2.1 The Explorers
III.2.2 The Missionaries
III.2.3 The Studies of East Asian Culture
III.2.3.1 Until the 16th century
III.2.3.2 From the 16th century
III.2.4 The Studies of East Asian Languages
III.3 The Age of Enlightenment
III.3.1 The studies of East Asian culture in the 18th century
III.3.1.1 Continuation: the missionaries
III.3.1.2 Chinoiserie
III.3.1.3 The influence of Enlightenment philosophy
III.3.1.4 The Opposition
III.3.2 The Studies of East Asian Languages III.4 The 19th Century
III.4.1 The Studies of East Asian Culture
III.4.1.1 China
III.4.1.2 Japan
III.4.1.3 Korea
III.4.1.4 Orientalism
III.4.2 The Studies of East Asian Languages
III.5 From Post-colonialism to Today
III.5.1 The Studies of East Asian Culture
III.5.1.1 Post-colonialism
III.5.1.2 Modern study methods
III.5.1.3 China
III.5.1.4 Japan
III.5.1.5 Korea
III.5.2 The Studies of East Asian Languages
III.5.2.1 Chinese
III.5.2.2 Japanese
III.5.2.3 Korean
IV. Conclusion
IV.1 Changes by time in the trend of the European studies of East Asian culture & languages
IV.2 Distinction between China, Japan, Korea
V. Notes
VI. Bibliography

I. Introduction
            In 1993 Foreign Affairs article, Samuel P. Huntington argued that "The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics" (1) in the post-Cold War world. His claims might seem exaggerated but are not completely groundless. More than 700 years have passed since Marco Polo sailed to Asia, but the differences between diverse cultures still remain unresolved. Undoubtedly, the process of interaction between the West and the East ? two completely different cultures ? must have been fairly complicated. This paper will follow the process from the very beginning by mainly looking at the records of the central figures in the process, focusing on the changes in European point of view towards East Asia and their methods of study.

II. Definition
            1. East Asia - This paper defines East Asia as China, Japan and Korea, the countries in East Asia that had relatively constant and significant interaction with Europe.
            2. Europe - The term ¡°Europe¡± indicates all the countries in continental Europe, but in this paper the term excludes much part of the East European countries such as Russia who were themselves cut off from what we often refer to as ¡°Western culture¡± for a long time.

III. The History of European Studies of East Asian Culture & Languages

III.1 Early Times
            Before the explorers, European knowledge of East Asia was not much more than a myth. The Silk Road trade provided indirect connection between Ancient Europe and China through the Middle Eastern countries, but there was little direct interaction. ¡°Seres,¡± ancient Greek and Roman term for the inhabitants of eastern Central Asia, extends to the people in China and India. The term can be translated as ¡°of silk¡±. Not many accounts on Seres can be found, most of which briefly mention the people in Seres as ¡°temperate, shy people of longevity.¡± (2)
            The first record of direct contact between Rome and China is in 166 CE. A Chinese document specifically states that it was the first contact between two countries, when a Roman envoy, supposedly from Antonius Pius or Marcus Aurelius arrived at what is modern Hanoi. A few envoys, either from Rome or China, seem to have been sent intermittently from 166, but this did not add anything significant to the Roman knowledge of China. Although Romans clearly knew about the existence of China, importing Chinese silk and exporting Roman glass artifacts, the geographic knowledge was rather vague, and the Chinese were not clearly distinguished from other Asian people such as Indians. (3) According to a Chinese semi-professional historian Yu Huan¡¯s book Weilue, the people of Da Qin (Rome) had always wanted to communicate with China but Anxi (Parthia) intentionally blocked the communication. (4)
            Han China seems to have acquired certain extent of knowledge about the West and we can expect the same for the Western knowledge of China, but anything we might call ¡°studies¡± did not develop until the era of European explorers.

III.2 The Beginning

III.2.1 The Explorers
            The real beginning of European studies of East Asia started with explorers. From the travel of Marco Polo, the first European to provide detailed description about Far East, many explorers followed through the Age of Discovery mainly in search for precious products such as gold, silver and spices. Although these explorers did not establish systematic studies of East Asia, they provided relatively detailed accounts for the public in the European continent, also creating much more accurate cartography than that of earlier times. Still, their information was limited, sometimes fueling misunderstandings or imaginative fantasies about East Asia among some continental Europeans. (5)

III.2.2 The Missionaries
            The missionaries to Asia began with an Italian Franciscan missionary Giovanni da Montecorvino (1246 ? 1328). As ¡°the conversion of unbelievers¡± was one of the chief concerns of Roman Catholic Church, commissions were sent to convert the Middle East and later the Far East. (6) Jesuit missions thrived in the 16th century, starting from St. Francis Xavier. The missionaries were the first to establish systematic studies of East Asian culture and especially languages. In consequence, most of the early East Asian studies in Europe were in relation with the spread of Christianity.

III.2.3 The Studies of East Asian Culture

III.2.3.1 Until the 16th century
            The earlier part of European explorations, without any basis of systemized studies, mainly relied on the information gathered from the experience of certain individuals. Among the early travelers, Marco Polo is notable for the beginning of East Asian studies, especially Sinology.
            Marco Polo (1254 - 1323), having spent a long time in Yuan China of Khubilai Khan, provided a detailed account of Chinese culture, lifestyle and politics which was later put into the book The Description of the World by a writer. In the process of closely examining many regions of China, he also might have made some contribution to cartography. He was a devout Catholic and therefore maintains Catholic point of view, but he recognized many more religions than other friars who have travelled to Asia before him. Allegedly having served in Khubilai Khan¡¯s court for a long time, his accounts are influenced by Sinocentrism, praising the grandeur and successfulness of the Mongolian Yuan China. His description of Japan, which is based on second-hand information and imagination, also provides a magnificent fantasy. (7) Since his books were widely read among the Europeans, they fueled the urge for exploration, and probably further influenced the first wave of Orientalism during the Enlightenment period, which praised Eastern culture. Giovanni de Marignolli, in 1338, followed Marco Polo¡¯s steps as a member of the envoys sent by the Pope. He left accounts, but they can hardly be called as ¡°narratives¡±. It seems like most medieval travelers were not concerned very much with publishing their records. (8)
            The missionaries started their exploration of East Asia later on in 16th century, during which time most of the traders were more concerned with the Americas and India. Since then, missionaries started playing the main role in European studies of East Asia. St. Francis Xavier, a founding member of the Society of Jesus, was one of the pioneers. Xavier, however, was never allowed in mainland China, and died in 1552 on Shangchuan Island off the coast of Guangdong, the only place in China where uninvited Europeans were allowed to stay at the time, but only for the purpose of seasonal trade. Although his missions entered to Japan as well as China, he could not convert as many East Asians as he did Indians, for he lacked sufficient knowledge in Chinese and Japanese customs as well as language which his successors acquired. (9) His start of mission in China, however, still significantly influenced European perspective on East Asia.
            In the 1632 book of Orazio Torsellino, ¡°The Admirable Life of St. Francis Xavier¡±, Torsellino depicts China as a nation of power and grandeur but at the same time a subject for missionary work, glorifying the work of Francis Xavier: ¡°There is almost no nation more apt than they to receive the Christian religion, were it not that Luxury, and the craft of Devil did hinder the fame¡¦ and it came to his mind, to return again into India, there to deal with the Viceroy, and Bishop of Goa, concerning the sending of an Embassage to the king of the China¡¦ And because so many people and provinces were governed by the command of one King, it seemed as an evident token from God, that the propagation of religion there would be more easy.¡± (10)

III.2.3.2 From the 16th century
            The later part of the 16th century saw an important turn in the path of Jesuit Missions to East Asia. It was the new regional manager of the order, Alessandro Valignano, who, on his visit to Macau in 1578-1579 realized that Jesuits weren't going to get far in China without a sound ground in the language and culture of the country. In his visit to Japan from 1579 to 1582, he formed a basic strategy for Catholic proselytism in Japan, which is usually called "adaptationism". He put the advance of Jesuits' influence above adherence to Christian principles. He attempted to avoid cultural frictions by making a compromise with Japanese customs that conflicted with Catholic values. After realizing the immensity of his missionary work, he summoned Matteo Ricci, and the two together became the first European scholars of China and Chinese language. (11)
            In 1594, Valignano founded St. Paul¡¯s College in Macau, as a center for missions to China, since the access to the mainland was impossible. Valignano emphasized the importance of thoroughly learning the native languages and culture before spreading the mission, and thus St. Paul¡¯s College became a main center for East Asian Studies. (12) Matteo Ricci, during his study, realized the significant part Confucianism held in Chinese culture, as unseen in South Asian culture, and tried to accommodate Christianity into Confucian thoughts. He later became the first to translate the Confucian classics into Latin. (13)
            Activated missionary works increased the European public¡¯s interest in East Asia, and the new types of scholars who studied East Asia without having been there started to appear. One of the most renowned was Athanasius Kircher. He drew from the writings and oral accounts of many travelers, missionaries and scholars to complete his book ¡°China Illustrata¡±. For about more than two hundred years until European knowledge of China was greatly advanced, this book was the single most important written source for Western understanding of China, especially for the public in European mainland. ¡°China Illustrata¡±, although recognizing the magnificence of Chinese culture, expresses strong opposition against the native religions in China and regions around it and strongly advocates the missionaries. In the chapter dealing with Chinese political system, the book again elevates China: ¡°The entire republic is administered solely by literary men just as envisioned by Plato in his Republic. As Plato said, ¡°Happy is the kingdom in which the king were a philosopher, or in which a philosopher would be king.¡± A great multitude of people testify that the king rules with no more difficulty than the head of a household runs his home. A multitude of cities testify to this by their incredible splendor and magnificence and their frequent bridges, which are marvelous from the standpoint of their structure or architecture.¡± It seems that everything except Chinese religion and idolatry appeared highly marvelous to Kircher and the travelers. (14)
            By the 16th century, the existence of Korea was known to several travelers and missionaries, many of whom learned about Korea through Chinese and Japanese accounts. Some of them actually met Koreans out of Korea, such as Luis Frois who testified to have converted a lot of Korean prisoners of war in Japan. (15) However, direct and active contact between Europe and Korea so as to form a significant method of studies did not develop.

China map, from China Illustrata (15a)

III.2.4 The Studies of East Asian Languages
            The missionaries were the ones who attempted seriously studying native languages, but it did not happen until 1579, when Michele Ruggieri, invited by Alessandro Valignano, arrived from Portuguese India to study Chinese, and to prepare for spreading the Jesuits' missionary work from Macau into Mainland China. During 1583-88 Michele Ruggieri, who was talented in language, collaborated with Matteo Ricci in creating a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary - the first ever European-Chinese dictionary, for which they developed a consistent system for transcribing Chinese words in Latin alphabet. (16)
            Alessandro Valignano made similar efforts in Japan. It was Valignano's first official act upon arriving in Japan that all new missionaries in the province spend two years in a language course. By 1595, Valignano could boast in a letter that not only had the Jesuits printed a Japanese grammar and dictionary, but also several books (mostly about the lives of saints and martyrs) entirely in Japanese. The main body of the grammar and dictionary was compiled from 1590-1603; when finished, it was a truly comprehensive volume with the dictionary alone containing some 32,798 entries. (17)
            A later missionary to China, Francisco Varo, continued engaging in language studies. In 1670, he completed his famous Portuguese/Spanish-Chinese ¡°Vocabulary of the Mandarin Language.¡± He also authored another pioneering linguistic work, ¡°Arte de la Lengua Mandarina¡± (Grammar of the Mandarin Language; printed in Canton, 1703), which is the earliest published description of any spoken form of Chinese. (18) St. Paul¡¯s College of Macau was where what those missionaries learned was passed to others. Between 1597 and 1762 it had immense influence on the learning of Eastern languages and culture by missionary Jesuits, making Macao a base for the spreading of Christianity in China and in Japan. (19)
            Although the missionaries formed the majority of Europeans who studied East Asian languages, the people who engaged in trade also conducted the study. Engelbert Kaempfer (1651 - 1716), a German naturalist, physician and an employee of the V.O.C., who is known for his tour of Russia, Persia, India, South-East Asia, and Japan between 1683 and 1693, provided elaborate account of Japan through his two books. Especially the book History of Japan, published posthumously in 1727, was the chief source of Western knowledge about the country throughout the 18th century. He left a diagram explaining Japanese alphabet. Other V.O.C. employees such as François Caron (1600 - 1673) and Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796 - 1866) engaged in similar studies.
            By this time, Korean language was much less known to Europeans than Japanese and Chinese. Hendrick Hamel (1630 - 1692), a bookkeeper of the V.O.C., was the first European to write about Joseon Korea. He was shipwrecked on Jeju island and when he escaped after 13 years of captivity, his report provided a detailed description of Korea. (20)
            Scholars who stayed in Europe also started to study East Asian languages, mainly Chinese, based on the sources from other European visitors to East Asia. The scholars, however, were not satisfied with merely putting together the information from various sources. Instead, they started to add their own conjectures, most commonly relating Chinese language with early Christian religion. Their conjectures often led to amusing misunderstandings. One of the first scholars who gave concrete shape to these conjectures was a British architect John Webb, who wrote "The Antiquity of China or An Historical Essay: Endeavoring a Probability That the Language of the Empire of China Is the Primitive Language spoken through the whole word before the confusion of Babel"(20a) in 1669. In this book, he tried to demonstrate that Chinese was the Primitive of Adamic language, the language spoken before the Confusion of Tongues. (21)
            Athanasius Kircher believed that Chinese language derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics, as expressed in his book China Illustrata: "I have said that about 300 years after the flood in the time in which the sons of Noah dominated the earth and spread their empire all over the earth that the first inventor of writing was the emperor Fohi. I can scarcely doubt that he learned this from the sons of Noah¡¦ The old Chinese characters are a very strong argument for this, for they completely imitate the hieroglyphic writings." (22) Various conjectures of these kinds seem to have added mystical aspects to the appearance of East Asia to the European public.

"Japanese Alphabet" by Engelbert Kaempfer (22a)

III.3 The Age of Enlightenment

III.3.1 The studies of East Asian culture in the 18th century

III.3.1.1 Continuation: the missionaries
            Missions to East Asia continued to take place and the missionaries still held important positions in the East Asian studies of the 18th century. Although centered mainly on China, European interest in and knowledge of East Asia constantly increased. In the process of development there was Matteo Ripa, an Italian priest sent to China by Propaganda Fide, who brought back several young Chinese Christians with him to eventually establish ¡°Collegio dei Cinesi¡± in 1724 in Naples, the first Sinology school of European continent. Sanctioned by the pope only under the ground that the institution stands for spreading missions to China, it first started as a school mainly for Christians from China or future missionaries to China. (23) The institution developed, and it still exists in the name of "Naples Eastern University" (Universita degli studi di Napoli L'Orientale). (24) Several other missions continued to be sent, despite the Chinese emperors¡¯ opposition to Christianity due to new papal edict of objecting Chinese rituals and traditions.

III.3.1.2 Chinoiserie
            The Jesuit missionaries, who attempted to reconcile Christianity with Chinese culture so that they could convince the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church of the value of their endeavor in China and justify their concessions to Chinese customs, slanted their accounts of China, carefully selected certain ideas from the Chinese classics and traditions, and revised and reinterpreted them. This way the Jesuits formed an idealized image of China among Europeans, making them think China as at least equal with themselves.
            Thus in the European world of art, the cult of China started to grow from the seventeenth century. Chinoiserie, a French term referring to a recurring theme in European artistic styles that reflected Chinese artistic influences, reached its height in the mid eighteenth century, when it was easily assimilated into rococo. It is characterized by the use of fanciful imagery of an imaginary China, asymmetry in format and whimsical contrasts of scale, and by the attempts to imitate Chinese porcelain and the use of lacquer-like materials and decoration. The influence reached broad range of arts, including pottery, interior decoration, architecture and gardens. (25)
            Fad of Chinoiserie began with Louis XIV and his courtiers, who were fascinated by the splendor of the palatial court of China and were impassioned collectors of Chinese objects. Louis XV also gave special favor to Chinoiserie, painting Entire rooms, such as those at Chateau de Chantilly, with Chinoiserie compositions, with artists such as Antoine Watteau and others to brought expert craftsmanship to the style. Pleasure pavilions in "Chinese taste" appeared in the formal parterres of late Baroque and Rococo German and Russian palaces, and in tile panels at Aranjuez near Madrid. Entire Chinese Villages were built in Drottningholm, Sweden and Tsarskoe Selo, Russia. Pagodas imitating those of China appeared in gardens of various European countries.
            From the Renaissance to the 18th century Western designers attempted to imitate the technical sophistication of Chinese ceramics, although with only partial success. Direct imitation of Chinese designs in faience began in the late 17th century, was carried into European porcelain production, most naturally in tea wares, and peaked in the wave of rococo Chinoiserie. Early ceramic wares at Meissen and other centers of true porcelain naturally imitated Chinese shapes for dishes, vases and tea wares. (26) Artists such as Francois Boucher eagerly adopted Chinoiserie style, and Boucher was especially successful in carefully capturing the relatively realistic image of China. However, many artists ignored or misunderstood the Chinese culture and lumped together various countries, labeling the lot as ¡°China.¡± (27)

Sir William Chambers' Pagoda at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London (27a)

III.3.1.3 The influence of Enlightenment philosophy
            In the Age of Enlightenment, possibly backed up by the popular sentiment elevating China as in Chinoiserie, new light was shed on the scholars¡¯ view towards Asia. Unlike the ¡°Orientalism¡± that we are currently familiar with, the Orientalism of the 18th century was mostly composed of admiration. The political system and Confucian ideas were considered as the opposite of flawed European systems and ideas. Even Eastern mode of religion was put into a much favorable light, as the power of Christianity decreased and criticism increased.
            Many publications of the missionaries, such as Prospero Intorcetta¡¯s ¡°Life and Works of Confucius¡±, increased interest on East Asian philosophy. Among the first scholars who ardently adopted Chinese philosophy was Gottfried Leibniz (1646 - 1716). This philosopher-mathematician was especially fascinated with Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism. He drew from both the politics and religion of China to contrast with and criticize European politics and Christianity. In his Preface to the ¡°Novissima Sinica¡±, Leibniz wrote that the Chinese emperor, despite his divine status, ¡°is educated according to custom in wisdom and virtue and rules his subjects with an extraordinary respect for the laws and with a reverence for the advice of wise men. Nor is it easy to find anything worthier of note than the fact that this greatest of kings, who possesses such complete authority in his own day, anxiously fears posterity and is in greater dread of the judgment of history, than other kings are of the representatives of estates and parliaments.¡± (28) The Kangxi Emperor represented, for Leibniz, the polar opposite of the despotic French monarch, Louis XIV, whom he sarcastically described as ¡°the most Christian war God.¡± (29)
            Christian Wolff, who learned from Leibniz, continued his teacher¡¯s interest in China. He also sought to promote the teaching of Confucianism in the West, and like Leibniz he maintained that the Confucian ethics was founded on principles of natural reason. Wolff held that the Chinese had no natural theology at all because they lacked a conception of God. Thus, he maintained that Confucian morality was based solely and exclusively on natural reason. In his 1721 public discourse in University of Halle, Wolff praised the moral purity of Confucius and argued that by his example he had proved that it was possible to achieve moral excellence by the power of human reason alone, without the concept of God. While his interpretation appealed to certain French intellectuals, it aroused the fury of Pietists and thus intensified the conflict between secular and religious factions in Europe. The faculty of theology at the University was enraged, and when King Frederick William I was informed of Wolff¡¯s views, he was so furious that he not only dismissed Wolff from his teaching position but commanded him to leave Prussia within 48 hours or be hanged. (30)
            The deistic accommodation of Confucianism, as that of Christian Wolff, was most ardently favored by Voltaire, one of the leading philosophers of the Enlightenment period. Voltaire praises Christian Wolff in his work ¡°Philosophical Dictionary¡±: ¡°Wolff, I must tell you, attracted to Halle a thousand students from every nation. There was in the same university a professor of theology named Lange, who attracted nobody; in despair at freezing to death alone in his lecture hall, he quite reasonably decided to ruin the professor of mathematics; following the custom of his kind, he promptly accused him of not believing in God.¡± Voltaire frequently alludes to Confucianism chiefly in order to criticize Christian religion which he believed to be superstitious and irrational: ¡°Once again, the religion of the men of letters of China is admirable. No superstitions, no absurd legends, none of those dogmas which insult reason and nature and to which the bonzes give a thousand different meanings, because they don't have any. The simplest cult has seemed to them the best for more than forty centuries. They are what we think Seth, Enoch, and Noah were; they are content to worship a God with all the sages of the world, while in Europe we are divided between Thomas and Bonaventure, between Calvin and Luther, between Jansenius and Molina.¡± (31)
            During the Age of Enlightenment, Chinese philosophy appeared as an alternative to replace the irrationality of European philosophy and politics for some scholars. The Chinese system of the strong Emperors¡¯ rule and Confucian values were considered as example of rational morality according to natural laws, which was in accordance to Enlightenment philosophy. In religious aspect, as more and more philosophers ventured to criticize Christianity, the accounts of the very Christians were used to denounce them: the writings of Jesuit missionaries became the primary source base for the Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire who criticized European religion.

III.3.1.4 Opposition
            Although several of the prosperous Enlightenment thinkers were fascinated with Chinese values, opposing viewpoints, other than that of the Pietists, also appeared from the mid 18th century. Those were the positions that would form the majority later in the 19th century. Montesquieu was the first to oppose the enlightenment view of China, laying down the principles that would completely reverse the prevailing opinion in his book Spirit of the Laws (1748). Montesquieu condemned the spirit of China as the spirit of slaves and labeled the Emperor¡¯s rule as despotism as opposed to monarchy: ¡°China is therefore a despotic state, whose principle is fear. Perhaps in the earliest dynasties, when the empire had not so large an extent, the government might have deviated a little from this spirit; but the case is otherwise at present.¡± (32) Some other scholars started to follow Montesquieu in criticizing the praise of China and the Orient as a whole, foreboding the upcoming change of sentiment in the 19th century.

III.3.2 The Studies of East Asian Languages
            By the 1700s, the missionaries have largely become well-acquainted with Chinese language. The Notitia linguae sinicae (1720) of the missionary Joseph Henri Marie de Premare became the first important Chinese grammar in Europe. (33) Many other missionaries such as Joseph-Anne-Marie de Moyriac de Mailla were deeply engaged in studying Chinese language and introduced various Chinese writings, such as Shujing, in European translations. (34)
            What newly developed in the 18th century was the Chinese language teaching in mainland Europe, although highly limited. Arcadio Huang (1679 - 1716), a Chinese Christian brought to Europe by Matteo Ricci with other young Chinese Christians, took a pioneering role in the teaching of the Chinese language in France around 1715. His protectors continued his religious and cultural training with plans to ordain him for work in China, but Arcadio preferred to turn to civilian life. He settled permanently in Paris as a "Chinese interpreter to the Sun King" and began working under the guidance and protection of Abbot Jean-Paul Bignon. He is also said to have become the king's librarian in charge of cataloging Chinese books in the Royal library. Huang, who had much interaction with Montesquieu, is also considered to have been the philosopher¡¯s inspiration for the narrative device in the book Persian Letters. Helped by the young Nicolas Freret (1688-1749), Huang began the hard work of pioneering a Chinese-French dictionary, a Chinese grammar, and a system of 214 character keys. (35)
            Since Japan renounced any interaction with Europe except with the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C) during the 18th century, progress in Japanese language studies was scarce. Isaac Titsingh (1745 - 1812), a senior official of the V.O.C., was devoted to the studies of Japanese culture and language. He continued Japanese languages studies for the rest of his life, the result of which includes published compilation of a preliminary Japanese lexicon, ¡°Eenige Japansche Woorden" (Some Japanese Words, 1781) (36) Korean language was still not much known to Europe.

III.4 The 19th Century
            The 19th Century was a period by which European knowledge of East Asia was highly well-established. Studies of East Asian culture and languages, especially those of China, were much more systematized than before, with many professionals to engage in the studies. An example of great advance in Asian studies is the Royal Asiatic Society, first founded in Great Britain in 1823. It was established by the eminent Sanskrit scholar Henry Colebrooke and a group of likeminded individuals, according to its Royal Charter of 11 August 1824, to further "the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia." From its incorporation the Society has been a forum, through lectures, its journal, and other publications, for scholarship relating to Asian culture and society of the highest level. When the Oriental Club of London was formed in 1824, membership of the RAS was stated as one of the four qualifications for membership of the new club. Its branches were established in Asian countries including China, Japan and Korea during the 19th century. (37)

III.4.1 The Studies of East Asian Culture

III.4.1.1 China
            By the 19th century, European knowledge of China has greatly increased, and sinology developed as a solid field of study. The chair of Chinese culture and Chinese language started to appear in various European colleges, and secular sinologists started to outnumber the missionaries, although missionaries continued their contributions.
            One of renowned European sinologists in this period was James Legge. He went in 1839 as a missionary to China, but remained at Malacca three years, in charge of the Anglo-Chinese College there. The College was subsequently moved to Hong Kong, where Legge lived for nearly thirty years. After he came back to Europe, he worked as a professor in Oxford where he attracted few students but worked hard for 20 years on the translation of Chinese classics. Legge wrote The Life and Teaching of Confucius (1867); The Life and Teaching of Mencius (1875); The Religions of China (1880); and other books on Chinese literature and religion. (38)
            In 1858 the branch of Royal Asiatic Society was established in Shanghai. The Society¡¯s intent was to investigate subjects connected with China and surrounding nations, to publish papers in a Journal and to establish a library and a museum. Its journal started in 1858 and continued for 90 years. (39)

III.4.1.2 Japan
            In 19th century, Japan met with the most important event in the history of European contact with Japan. Since 1635, Japanese policy of seclusion has prevented the country from interacting with any Europeans other than Dutch merchants. Consequently, the European knowledge of Japan remained mostly unchanging for about two hundred years. It was only in 1854 that Japan opened up to contact with Europe.
            Ernest Mason Satow (1843 ? 1929), a key figure in East Asia and Anglo-Japanese relations, served as a diplomat in Japan while the Restoration proceeded. In his book based on his diaries, A Diplomat in Japan, he recorded the situation in Japan when there was little interaction between Japan and Europe. His Japanese language skills quickly became indispensable in negotiations. Satow was promoted to full Interpreter and then Japanese Secretary to the British legation, and, as early as 1864, he started to write translations and newspaper articles on subjects relating to Japan. Satow was one of the founding members at Yokohama, in 1872, of the Asiatic Society of Japan whose purpose was to study the Japanese culture, history and language in detail. He lectured to the Society on several occasions in the 1870s, and the Transactions of the Asiatic Society contain several of his published papers. (40)
            Since Meiji restoration, Japanology rapidly developed in Europe and in a few decades Japan was one of the best known Asian countries in Europe. From the late 19th century, ¡°Japonism¡± appeared in Europe, as did Chinoiserie in the Age of Enlightenment. Japonism started with the frenzy to collect Japanese art, particularly print art called ukiyo-e of which some the first samples were to be seen in Paris. Baudelaire wrote in a letter in 1861: "Quite a while ago I received a packet of japonneries. I've split them up among my friends..", and the following year La Porte Chinoise, a shop selling various Japanese goods including prints, opened in the rue de Rivoli, the most fashionable shopping street in Paris. Japonism influenced many famous artists and musicians such as van Gogh. (41) This fashion formed a contrast with the general sentiment of negative Orientalism, although this fad was not enough to make Europeans recognize Japan as equal with themselves.

Cover of the French magazine Le Japon artistique (1888) showing Hiroshige's Reeds in the Snow with a Wild Duck (41a)

III.4.1.3 Korea
            Korea, which maintained the policy of seclusion until the Japanese rule in early 1900s, was still in large part unknown to Europe in the 19th century. Ongoing missionaries in East Asia also could not directly enter Korea until the late 19th century. The first protestant missionary, Robert Jermain Thomas, arrived in 1865, but became a martyr without being recognized by Korean authority. A series of missionaries arrived at Korea after Thomas and information from Europe spread in Korea, but little information came from Korea to Europe until the end of the 19th century. (42) The Royal Asiatic Society of Korea was founded in as late as 1900.

III.4.1.4 Orientalism
            While European knowledge of East Asia constantly increased, in terms of perspective, Orientalism in negative sense thrived in the 19th century unlike during the Age of Enlightenment. As a wave of change pushed into Europe with Industrial Revolution and the rise of Imperialism, the static and unchanging appearance of East Asia came under criticism. Hegel, a leading scholar to criticize China, described the country as servile and unscientific. Hegel¡¯s criticisms conveyed through his lectures were published as a book Philosophy of History (1873): ¡°¡¦This is the character of the Chinese people in its various aspects. Its distinguishing feature is, that everything which belongs to Spirit - unconstrained morality, in practice and theory, Heart, inward Religion, Science and Art properly so-called - is alien to it. The Emperor always speaks with majesty and paternal kindness and tenderness to the people; who, however, cherish the meanest opinion of themselves, and believe that they are born only to drag the car of Imperial Power¡¦ and it appears nothing terrible to them to sell themselves as slaves, and to eat the bitter bread of slavery. Suicide, the result of revenge, and the exposure of children, as a common, even daily occurrence, show the little respect in which they hold themselves individually, and humanity in general. And though there is no distinction conferred by birth, and everyone can attain the highest dignity, this very equality testifies to no triumphant assertion of the worth of the inner man, but a servile consciousness - one which has not yet matured itself so far as to recognize distinctions.¡± (43)
            Leopold von Ranke, the historian highly renowned for beginning source-based history, also described the people of China as "das Volk des ewigen Stillstands (The people of eternal standstill) (43a). Johann Gottfried von Herder said "The [Chinese] empire is an embalmed mummy painted with hieroglyphics and wrapped in silk". (44) Even the sinologist James Legge saw Confucianism as against progress. Hegel, Adam Smith and Marx¡¯s view that human history had developed in certain stages from primitive to modern age promoted the West as the most advanced part of the world and labeled the Eastern countries as those who are lagging behind and who need help from the West. This idea justified Western colonialism and imperialism.

III.4.2 The Studies of East Asian Languages
            As sinology greatly developed, the systematic studies of Chinese languages also started to establish itself in European mainland. Professorship of Chinese language appeared. Jean-Pierre Abel-Remusat (1788 - 1832), who was born in Paris and educated for the medical profession, was attracted by Chinese herbal in the collection of the Abbe Tersan, and he taught himself to read it by great perseverance and with imperfect help. At the end of five years of study he produced in 1811 the work Essai sur la langue et la litterature chinoises. In 1814, a chair of Chinese and Manchu was founded at College de France, and Remusat became the first European professor of Chinese in Europe. (45)
            In 1837, Nikita Bichurin opened the first European Chinese-language school in the Russian Empire. Since then sinology became a distinct academic discipline in the West, with the secular sinologists outnumbering the missionary ones. Some of the eminent linguists of the time got interested in the language and studied it. Sir William Jones dabbled in Chinese language and Wilhelm von Humboldt seriously engaged in studying the language (46), leaving the book "Ueber den grammatischen Bau der Chinesischen Sprache" (On the Grammatical Structure of the Chinese Language, 1826) (47) He also studied Japanese language.
            Sir Thomas Francis Wade (1818 - 1895) a British diplomat and Sinologist produced a syllabary in 1859. Herbert Allen Giles (1845 - 1935), a British diplomat and sinologist, modified this system by Wade, resulting in the widely known Wade-Giles Chinese transliteration system. Giles is also known for his translations of Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the first widely published Chinese-English dictionary. (48) Hans Georg Conon von der Gabelentz (1840 - 1893) was a German general linguist and sinologist. His Chinesische Grammatik (1881), according to a critic, "remains until today recognized as probably the finest overall grammatical survey of the Classical Chinese language to date." (49) Among the missionaries, the first protestant missionary in China, Robert Morrison, translated the whole bible in Chinese. (50)
            To the fledgling study of Japan's language and history in the 19th century, William George Aston (1841 ? 1911) made a major contribution. Along with Ernest Mason Satow and Basil Hall Chamberlain, he was one of three major British Japanologists active in Japan during the 19th century. Aston was the first translator of the Nihongi into the English language (1896). Other publications were two Japanese grammars (1868 and 1872) and A History of Japanese Literature (1899). He lectured to the Asiatic Society of Japan several times, and many of his papers are published in their Transactions. (51)
            Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850 - 1935) was a professor of Japanese at Tokyo Imperial University beginning in 1886. Here he gained his reputation as a student of Japanese language and literature. He was also a pioneering scholar of the Ainu and Ryukyuan languages. His many works include the first translation of the Kojiki into English (1882), A Handbook of Colloquial Japanese (1888), Things Japanese (1890), and A Practical Guide to the Study of Japanese Writing (1905). (52)
            William George Aston, in 1884, was also the first European diplomatic representative to reside in Korea. Although political instability caused him to leave in 1885, from 1885 to 1887, Aston continued Korean language studies in Tokyo with Kim Chae-guk. (53) In this period, the studies of Korean culture and language was just beginning, resembling what was done in China in the late 16th century.

III.5 From Post-colonialism to Today

III.5.1 The Studies of East Asian Culture

III.5.1.1 Post-colonialism
            Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism. The ultimate goal of post-colonialism is combating the residual effects of colonialism on cultures. It is not simply concerned with salvaging past worlds, but learning how the world can move beyond this period together, towards a place of mutual respect. The critical nature of postcolonial theory entails destabilizing Western ways of thinking, therefore creating space for the subaltern, or marginalized groups, to speak and produce alternatives to dominant discourse. (54)
            Although none of the three East Asian countries (China, Japan and Korea) was colonized by any European country, post-colonialist point of view influenced the European studies of those countries. In the 20th century, especially after the Second World War, ¡°Orientalistic¡± view greatly diminished and more and more scholars tried to study East Asian cultures with less prejudiced viewpoint. Books such as Ruth Benedict¡¯s Chrysanthemum and the sword (1946) tried to look into East Asian culture with close attention to the natives¡¯ point of view. With these changes, European scholars came to have better understanding of East Asian cultures in addition to detailed knowledge. Until now, however, the legacy of 19th century Orientalism still remains.

III.5.1.2 Modern study methods
            With the advance of communication and transportation technology, convenience in cultural and language studies greatly increased, with East Asian studies being no exception. The limitations and informational barriers that the scholars faced until the late 19th and even early 20th centuries almost disappeared. European public access to East Asian culture and language also greatly increased. While before the field of study was confined to the minority of scholars or missionaries who studied in isolated environment, increased institutions and easier communication enabled the public to receive cultural education and study East Asian languages, and the demand for such education also increased. Now the European students of East Asian culture and languages benefit from great academic freedom, with countless institutions and exchange programs to support their studies.

III.5.1.3 China
            In the 20th century sinology slowly gained a substantial presence in Western universities. At Oxford University, the formal commitment to Chinese Studies began in 1876 with the appointment James Legge as its first Professor of Chinese. His critical translations of the Confucian scriptures and other classic texts are still used as a standard reference today. A full honours degree in the subject has been taught in Oxford since the late 1940s. (55) Most of other European colleges have separate department dedicated to Chinese Studies. From 1945, the institutions for Chinese studies started to rapidly increase, and In the 1990s Germany, Austria and Switzerland had more than twenty institutes of sinology with more than forty professors. (56)
            In 1975, European Association for Chinese Studies (EACS) was founded in Paris. The purpose of the Association is to promote and foster, by every possible means, scholarly activities related to Chinese Studies in Europe. The EACS serves not only as the scholarly representative of Chinese Studies in Europe but also as contact organization for academic matters in this field. (57) In modern history, sinology has seen its influence in politics, due to its role in think tanks. The divide between the mainland People's Republic of China and the Taiwan Republic of China has further added to the complexity of study. (58)

III.5.1.4 Japan
            The foundation of the Asiatic Society of Japan in 1872 was an important boost to Japanese studies which has since grown into an internationally respected field. Until World War I, British scholars dominated Japanese studies. The leading figure of the British school was Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850?1935) and William George Aston (1841-1911). German scholars such as Karl Adolf Florenz (1865-1939) concentrated on the study of Japanese language and literature. During and right after the two World Wars, the USA and Soviet Union took the most active part in Japanese studies. (59)
            Although Japanology is now well-established as an academic discipline, it took longer than Chinese Studies to settle down. Nevertheless, European Association for Japanese Studies was formed in 1973, 2 years earlier than EACS. The purpose of EAJS was to stimulate interest in and encouraging research in Japanese studies in all the countries of Europe as well as USA and Japan, promoting the flow of information and communication in this particular field of studies. (60) The following year, 1974, British Association for Japanese Studies was founded. (61)

III.5.1.5 Korea
            Korean studies developed the latest among the three East Asian studies. A series of missionaries to Korea contributed to the studies, as well as secular scholars and visitors. William E. Skillend (1926 - 2010) was the first British academic specializing in the Korean language, and the first professor of Korean at School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He established the Association for Korean Studies in Europe (AKSE) in 1977. (62) British Association for Korean Studies (BAKS) was also founded along with BAJS. Korean Studies are now well-established as a distinct academic discipline, with departments in worldwide universities and research institutes.

III.5.2 The Studies of East Asian Languages

III.5.2.1 Chinese
            In the 20th century, Chinese language studies in mainland Europe greatly increased. Starting with Bulgaria in 1952, China also dispatched native Chinese teachers abroad, and by the early 1960s had sent teachers afar as Congo, Cambodia, Yemen and France. Chinese courses have been blooming internationally since 2000 at every level of education although still, in most of the Western universities, the study of the Chinese language is only a part of Chinese Studies or sinology, instead of an independent discipline. Currently there are 330 institutions teaching Chinese as a foreign language, receiving about 40,000 foreign students (63) In 2004, ¡°Confucius Institute¡± was established in countries all over the world including European countries, aiming to promote Chinese language and culture and to support local Chinese education internationally. (64)

III.5.2.2 Japanese
            From the World War II, Japanese language studies grew substantially. In 1940, only 65 Americans not of Japanese descent were able to read, write and understand the language. Now most major universities throughout the world provide Japanese language courses, and a number of secondary and even primary schools worldwide offer courses in the language. About 2.3 million people studied the language worldwide in 2003. Lately, people¡¯s interest in Japanese popular culture greatly influenced the increase of Japanese language studies. (65)

III.5.2.3 Korean
            The size of population learning Korean as a foreign language is relatively small compared to that of Chinese or Japanese. Nonetheless, major universities provide Korean language education within the Korean Studies discipline, and institutions such as AKSE are engaged in studying the language. In the 20th century, several scholars published works analyzing Korean language and its linguistic or cultural aspects. (66)

IV. Conclusion

IV.1 Changes over time in the trend of the European studies of East Asian culture & languages
            Although the Silk Road trade connected the culture of East Asia with that of Europe since ancient times, absence of direct interaction prevented the two regions from learning about each other. Consequently, Europe was almost void of information on East Asia, and for almost 2000 years the area remained as a mythical place with abundance and splendor. Only after the Age of Explorers did Europe gain any substantial knowledge of the remote region.
            Even after the pioneering explorers of 13th century, most notably Marco Polo, the accounts remained largely mythical for a few hundred years. With often exaggerated and slanted accounts, the Far East at first often appeared to Europeans as the world of vague fascination. As East Asia, after the New World, came to be considered as the object of missionary work, more accurate observations were made, although conjectures and errors still intruded. Before the Age of Enlightenment, European interest in East Asia was chiefly religious. The missionaries quickly realized the need for smooth assimilation to native culture, and thus tried their best to maintain among the Europeans the good image of East Asia and its culture. The missionaries continued to accumulate knowledge of native customs and languages, and their knowledge soon arrived at European continent to interest some scholars within the continent.
            The good image formed by the missionaries continued until the Age of Enlightenment, and it was sometimes much intensified. In terms of popular culture, the cult of China, or Chinoiserie, became a new fashion in 17th and 18th century Europe. As new ideas developed among the Enlightenment thinkers, East Asian culture was promoted but with an entirely different purpose than before. Ironically, the favorable accounts of the East created in religious purpose were used to criticize the very religion. Ideas such as Confucianism were considered superior than European philosophy and religion by many enlightenment scholars.
            This praise of the East, however, started to meet with some criticism in the later part of the Enlightenment period. When the Western world saw rapid change with industrial revolution and civil revolutions, the situation was completely reversed from the mid 18th century. Most prominent thinkers of the 19th century described the East as stagnant and undeveloped. The fascinating image of the Orient was now replaced with the notion of ¡®the advanced Occident¡¯ and ¡®the backward Orient¡¯. Colonization and imperialism were justified under the logic, and although East Asia was safe from direct colonization, it could not escape from being considered as a part of the undeveloped Orient.
            After these vibrant changes in the trend of European contact with East Asia, the movement for more neutral understanding of different cultures, post-colonialism, came in. Even though the prejudices still remain, there have been continuous efforts to get rid of the mindset of colonialism. Post-colonialism, along with the technological development of communication methods, greatly increased the freedom in the studies of East Asian Languages and Culture. Today, there are countless specialized institutions with unlimited resources, and also countless opportunities for the general public to study East Asian languages and culture.

IV.2 Distinction between China, Japan, Korea
            Until mid 19th century, most of the European accounts of East Asia is that of China, partly due to the immense size of the country. Furthermore, in the earlier accounts, often times the term ¡°China¡± is used to indicate the large area combining Central and East Asia. The various different cultures of countries around China are often mixed so as to form the imaginary image of China. Thus it is often meaningless to distinguish China from other countries when discussing the early history of European encounter with East Asia.
            Nonetheless, Japan is also frequently mentioned as a separate entity, and missionaries started learning Japanese languages and customs from as early as the late 16th century. However, before there is farther development in Japanese studies, Japan starts its policy of seclusion and interaction with Europe practically ceases. Korea, ¡°the hermit kingdom¡±, was scarcely accessible for the Western visitors of East Asia although the countries existence was known to several.
            The presence of Japan reemerges after the Meiji restoration. From then on, Japan Westernize rapidly with active interaction with Europe, therefore greatly increasing the European knowledge of the country in short time period. From then on, Japanese Studies emerge as a separate discipline rather than as a part of the studies of the Far East. Korea, with the Japanese rule and the following opening of the country, joins the last as a distinctly known entity. By the 20th century, the studies of each country develop in distinctive manners. While for Japan and Korea, the national policies greatly influenced the European knowledge of the country, for China, the size of the nation made it inevitable for the Europeans to learn about the country.

(1)      Huntington 1993
(2)      Wikipedia Article: "Seres"
(3)      Wikipedia Article: "Sino-Roman Relations"
(4)      Weilue 2004
(5)      Wikipedia Article: "Age of Discovery"
(6)      Wikipedia Article: "Giovanni da Montecorvino"
(7)      Hubbard 1994
(8)      Wikipedia Article: "Giovanni de Marignolli"
(9)      Wikipedia Article: "Francis Xavier"
(10)      Torsellino 1632
(11)      Wikipedia Article: "Alessandro Valignano"
(12)      Wikipedia Article: "St. Paul Jesuit College (Macau)"
(13)      Camus 2007
(14)      Kircher 1677
(15)      Ulfvidardottir & Lucas 2009
(15a)      China map, from Kircher's China Illustrata, taken from Wikipedia
(16)      Wikipedia Article: "Michele Ruggieri"
(17)      Wikipedia Article: "Alessandro Valignano"
(18)      Ricci Roundtable on the History of Christianity in China : Francisco Varo
(19)      Wikipedia Article: "St. Paul Jesuit College (Macau)"
(20)      Wikipedia Article: "Hendrick Hamel"
(20a)      Webb 1678
(21)      Kircher 1677 Part VI, Chapter. 1 (p.214)
(22)      Ripa 1855
(22a)      "Japanese Alphabet" by Engelbert Kaempfer, taken from Wikipedia
(23)      Wikipedia Article: "Naples Eastern University"
(24)      Chang 2006
(25)      Wikipedia Article: "Chinoiserie"
(26)      Chang 2006
(27)      Leibniz 1697, preface
(27a)      Sir William Chambers' Pagoda at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London, taken from Wikipedia
(28)      Stichler 2009
(29)      Ibid.
(30)      Voltaire 1764 Vol. 1, pp.169-170
(31)      Montesquieu 1748 Book VIII, Chapter. 21
(32)      Wikipedia Article: "Joseph Henri Marie de Premare"
(33)      Wikipedia Article: "Joseph-Anne-Marie de Moyriac de Mailla"
(34)      Wikipedia Article: "Arcadio Huang"
(35)      Wikipedia Article: "Isaac Titsingh"
(36)      Royal Asiatic Society website
(37)      Wikipedia Article: James Legge
(38)      Royal Asiatic Society Chinese branch website
(39)      Wikipedia Article: "Ernest Mason Satow"
(40)      Wikipedia Article: "Japonism"
(41)      Wikipedia Article: "Robert Jermain Thomas"
(41a)      Cover of the French magazine Le Japon artistique (1888) showing Hiroshige's Reeds in the Snow with a Wild Duck, taken from Wikipedia
(42)      Hegel 1837
(43)      Herder 1800 Book XI, Chapter. 1 (p.14)
(43a)      Leopold von Ranke, Weltgeschichte (Leipzig, 1881), Vol.1,
(44)      Wikipedia Article: "Jean-Pierre Abel-Remusat"
(45)      Wikipedia Article: "Chinese as a Foreign Language"
(46)      Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, article: "Wilhelm von Humboldt"
(47)      Wikipedia Article: "Herbert Giles"
(48)      Wikipedia Article: "Hans Georg Conon von der Gabelentz"
(49)      Wikipedia Article: "Robert Morrison"
(50)      Wikipedia Article: "William George Aston"
(51)      Wikipedia Article: "Basil Hall Chamberlain"
(52)      Wikipedia Article: "William George Aston"
(53)      Wikipedia Article: "Post-colonial Studies"
(54)      University of Oxford - Faculty of Oriental Studies
(55)      Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
(56)      European Association for Chinese Studies website
(57)      Wikipedia Article: "Sinology"
(58)      The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979), article "Japanese Studies", quoted after article Japanology from encyclopedia2
(59)      European Association for Japanese Studies
(60)      British Association for Japanese Studies
(61)      Wikipedia Article: "William E. Skillend"
(62)      Wikipedia Article: "Chinese as a Foreign Language"
(63)      Wikipedia Article: "Confucius Institute"
(64)      Wikipedia Article: "Japanese Language"
(65)      Wikipedia Article: "Korean Language"

Visual Sources

1) Map of China from China Illustrata, posted by Wikipedia,
2) "Japanese Alphabet" by Engelbert Kaempfer, posted by Wikipedia,,
3) The Pagoda in the Botanic Garden of Kew, London, posted by Wikipedia,
4) The cover of the magazine Le Japon Artistique, No.1 May 1888, posted by Wikipedia,


Note : websites quoted below were visited in May-June 2011.

Primary Sources

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61.      Wikipedia Article: Hendrick Hamel -
62.      Leopold von Ranke, Weltgeschichte (Leipzig, 1881), posted on Internet Archives
63.      Wikipedia Article: "Chinoiserie"

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