Cross-Cultural Encounters Between China and the World: The Challenges of Cultural Inclusiveness

By Kay Li.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

China attracts global attention in 2008, intentionally because of the Beijing Olympics in August, and unintentionally because of the catastrophe caused by the big earthquake in May. In view of the massive cross-cultural encounters between China and the world, this paper traces literary meetings over the last one half century to discover the challenges of cultural inclusiveness. Modern global encounters with the Chinese show that cultural inclusiveness is a complex issue. In the nineteenth century, cultural imperialism and the institutionalization of Sinology added a power relationship to cross-cultural appropriations hinged on othering. There was a binary dichotomy between the better informed Western outsider and the Chinese native who needed to be taught. The construction of the West and the East as the strong/courageous and the weak/fearful can be seen in Sidney Webb’s impression of China in 1911. Others, however, found China a favourable comparison to the Western world. Bertrand Russell found that a Chinese angle to his pacifism would help him to promote his ideas at home in England. There were even those who arrived at a recognition of egalitarian cultural exchange, mutual cultural transformation, and even in Sinicization of the foreign expert. Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson’s Letter from John Chinaman is a famous example. The passage to China would facilitate a departure from Eurocentrism. John Dewey’s visit to China also sparked off the appreciation and consideration of a Chinese perspective. While nineteenth century Western Sinologists used the Chinese to celebrate the British empire and the successes of imperialism by highlighting orientalist concerns, English writers soon found the Chinese perspective a useful alternative to the West. Arthur Waley shows an alternative way incorporating the Chinese into the everyday, the ordinary life of common people in his own Western society. William Empson admired China’s invincible vitality despite the military turmoil. Ezra Pound’s engagement with China is an example of constructive cultural transmission resulting in new developments of his modernism, leading to new literary theory, new translations, not to mention new poetry forms. Although these writers were never faithful translators of the Chinese classical literature, their readings nonetheless engendered new eras in Western literature.

Keywords: Cultural Inclusiveness, Cross-Cultural Encounters, China, Literature

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 8, pp.53-58. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 530.042KB).

Dr. Kay Li

York University, Toronto, Canada


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