Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe

Telling Failures, 1st Edition

Edited by Ralf Hertel, Michael Keevak


184 pages

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pub: 2017-07-11
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While inquiries into early encounters between East Asia and the West have traditionally focused on successful interactions, this collection inquires into the many forms of failure, experienced on all sides, in the period before 1850. Countering a tendency in scholarship to overlook unsuccessful encounters, it starts from the assumption that failures can prove highly illuminating and provide valuable insights into both the specific shapes and limitations of East Asian and Western imaginations of the Other, as well as of the nature of East-West interaction. Interdisciplinary in outlook, this collection brings together the perspectives of sinology, Japanese and Korean studies, historical studies, literary studies, art history, religious studies, and performance studies. The subjects discussed are manifold and range from missionary accounts, travel reports, letters and trade documents to fictional texts as well as material objects (such as tea, chinaware, or nautical instruments) exchanged between East and West. In order to avoid a Eurocentric perspective, the collection balances approaches from the fields of English literature, Spanish studies, Neo-Latin studies, and art history with those of sinology, Japanese studies, and Korean studies. It includes an introduction mapping out the field of failures in early modern encounters between East Asia and Europe, as well as a theoretically minded essay on the lessons of failure and the ethics of cross-cultural understanding.

Table of Contents



Notes on Contributors

  1. Introduction: Telling Failures—Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe
  2. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak

    Part 1: Trade

  3. A Failure far from Heroic: Early European Encounters with ‘Far Eastern’ Slavery
  4. Rotem Kowner

  5. Faking It: The Invention of East Asia in Early Modern England

Ralf Hertel

Part 2: Embassies

4 The Travel Report of the Castilian Embassy to the Court of Tamerlane at Samarkand (1403–1406): The Failed Response from Tamerlane to King Henry III of Castile and León

Inke Gunia

5 The ‘catastrophe of this new Chinese mission’: The Amherst Embassy to China of 1816

Peter J. Kitson

Part 3: Religion

6 Failed Missions in Early Korean Encounters with ‛Western Learning’

Marion Eggert

7 The Christian Manchu Missions during the Qing Period (1644–1911): Perceptions and Political Implications

Lars Laamann

Part 4: Knowledge

8 Persian Apples, Chinese Leaves, Arab Beans: Encounters with the East in Neo-Latin Didactic Poetry

Claudia Schindler

9 Failure, Empire, and the First Portuguese Embassy to China, 1517–1522

Michael Keevak

10 Lessons of Failure: Towards an Ethics of Cross-Cultural Understanding

QS Tong




About the Editors

Ralf Hertel is Professor of English Literature at the University of Trier, Germany. Michael Keevak is Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages at National Taiwan University, Taiwan.

About the Series

Transculturalisms, 1400-1700

This series presents studies of the early modern contacts and exchanges among the states, polities and entrepreneurial organizations of Europe; Asia, including the Levant and East India/Indies; Africa; and the Americas. Books investigate travellers, merchants and cultural inventors, including explorers, mapmakers, artists and writers, as they operated in political, mercantile, sexual and linguistic economies. We encourage authors to reflect on their own methodologies in relation to issues and theories relevant to the study of transculturism/translation and transnationalism. We are particularly interested in work on and from the perspective of the Asians, Africans, and Americans involved in these interactions, and on such topics as:

-Material exchanges, including textiles, paper and printing, and technologies of knowledge

-Movements of bodies: embassies, voyagers, piracy, enslavement

-Travel writing: its purposes, practices, forms and effects on writing in other genres

-Belief systems: religions, philosophies, sciences

-Translations: verbal, artistic, philosophical

-Forms of transnational violence and its representations.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / General
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Historical Events