Vol.9, No.2 | [Article] The Orient reflected in the Mediterranean Mirror



This paper explores the modes of connectivity that, in diverse ways and through myriad perspectives, link the Asian continent to the Mediterranean basin.The world map of the Middle Ages called the T-O map, may show most directly what medieval Europeans thought of the world or of the Orient, which is itself evidence of their world view. Asia was very significant to the world view of Europe at that time. Asia was not just a geographical space, but a space of Christianity. It was considered that Asia, a kind of special symbol, was the paradise in which the ancestors of humankind lived and to which humankind should get back. In particular, much emphasis would be placed on China in the European literature. This is because The Travels of Marco Polo were at the very beginning of the relationship between the West and the East. The primary difficulty in studying what China is in the light of the West (and the Mediterranean as one part of it) is that the West and China cannot be defined. F. Nietzsche said that only non-historical concepts could be defined in the genealogy of morality. The West and China are not what they were originally but what they have been formed into by history, which means that they are defined as the objects not of definition but of interpretation. With regard to China seen in the light of the West, the West is the subject of interpretation while China is the object. But the problem is that the West is an imaginary community created by the concept of the non-western, or not-China. As the self-identity of the West has been created through reflection in the mirror of the other, changes in the perception of China in the West shall be examined in association with the process whereby the identity of the West has been formed. Cultural exchanges happened on the basis of Orientalism, in which China was appropriated by the subject called the West. In this regard, the "Re-Orient" in its true sense, shall refer to the restoration of the pre-modern relationship between subject and predicate, as Andre Gunder Frank argued. To conclude, in this study I would like to analyze how Westerners have read the book called China and what role such a reading plays in the self-fashioning of the West.