Sino-European displacement: the circulation of prints between Europe and China

by on Wednesday, 19 May 2010 8339 hits Comments
Rate this item
(0 votes)

On Friday 16 April 2010, Professor Nicolas Standaert S.J. presented to a full house at the National Central Library of Taiwan.

The audience assembled to hear Professor Standaert elucidate upon the circulation of religious prints between China and Europe in the seventeenth century. As part of the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Matteo Ricci’s death, this talk was an opportunity to learn about Ricci’s spirituality through the concept of displacement and the use of visual culture as a communication medium.
 
An elaborate world map formed the foundation of Professor Standaert’s presentation. In drawing this map, and other prints, Ricci and his collaborators created a space where the dialogue of displacement could take place. Such displacements occurred in the minds of readers, who while they may have been sitting on a stool in Europe, would be able to visualise a scene on the other side of the world. Ricci drew upon the established knowledge in China and reflected this in these maps. Places that might seem laughable to cartographers of the 21st century (‘The Land of Birds’, ‘The Land of Women’) were presented just as earnestly as China and Europe were. Ricci undoubtedly believed that these places really existed.
 
Professor Standaert emphasised that the flow of images and ideas was not all in one direction; it was a dialogue. Biblical scenes were reproduced for Chinese audiences in a manner that would resonate with them: buildings reflected Chinese architecture and were furnished with local items. Likewise, prints designed for Western audiences incorporated aspects of Chinese culture. Over time, ideas and images were adopted and reinterpreted in both Europe and China. During the audience discussion, Professor Standaert clarified the use of isometric perspective (favoured by Chinese artists) and geometric perspective (favoured by European artists). These two perspectives are evident in seventeenth century prints from both areas. However, it is not an issue of who influenced or admired whom, but rather a chance to consider the many ways ideas travelled at the time.
 
The fantastically ornate maps and gifts that circulated during this period vouch for the importance of this global dialogue. Compared to the present day, the almost glacial speed at which the transfer of ideas occurred is remarkable. One book took 20 years to arrive in Beijing from Europe. Despite this slow delivery time, the contents must have remained relevant as the Emperor was impressed with what he read.
 
Those present at Professor Standaert’s talk were fortunate to hear a fascinating insight into the early stages of a religious and cultural exchange that will continue long into the future.
 

 

Dr. Nicolas Standaert got his Bachelor and Master's degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Leiden in 1982. Later he spent a year in studying Chinese history and philosophy at Fudan University, Shanghai. In 1984 he got his Ph.D Chinese Studies at University of Leiden. He also got a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Theology at Centre Sèvres, Paris in 1990. And in 1994 he got his Licentiate in Theology, Fujen University, Taipei.

Now a professor of Chinese Studies, K.U. Leuven (Belgium). He worked as a research assistant in Sinological Institute Leiden in 1984 and collaborator of China News Analysis, Hong Kong from 1990 to 1992. Since 2003 he has been a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Belgium.

 

 

 
Last modified on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 13:14
Paul Farrelly (范寶文)

Paul is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University in Canberra. His primary research interests are new religious movements and religious innovation in China and Taiwan.

Website: twitter.com/paul_farrelly

Help us!

Help us keep the content of eRenlai free: take five minutes to make a donation

AMOUNT: 

Join our FB Group

Browse by Date

« September 2018 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

We have 7151 guests and no members online