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Asian Empire and British Knowledge: China and the Networks by U. Hillemann

By U. Hillemann

British wisdom approximately China replaced essentially within the eighteenth and 19th centuries. instead of treating those alterations in British realizing as though Anglo-Sino relations have been in simple terms bilateral, this learn seems to be at how British imperial networks in India and Southeast Asia have been severe mediators within the British stumble upon of China.

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Asian Empire and British Knowledge: China and the Networks of British Imperial Expansion

British wisdom approximately China replaced essentially within the eighteenth and 19th centuries. instead of treating those alterations in British figuring out as though Anglo-Sino relations have been merely bilateral, this examine seems to be at how British imperial networks in India and Southeast Asia have been severe mediators within the British come upon of China.

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However, the meaning of China could change depending on the context. It could be a stagnating civilisation, a metaphor for decaying British morals or an escapist fantasy. The influence of William Alexander’s paintings on Chinoiserie designs in the Royal Pavilion shows that the contact with China in the context of the British imperial expansion became increasingly important for the way in which China was imagined in Britain after the Macartney embassy and how new, allegedly scientific knowledge about it was constructed.

Most prominent amongst them was the work of William Alexander, who had accompanied the Macartney embassy as a draftsman. 63 However, these drawings also did not give an objective image of China, partly due to the choice of the depicted objects, but more particularly due to the style of the sketching. 65 A strand that was even more dominant in the drawings of William Alexander than Chinoiserie, was the method of ethnographic painting, which from the middle of the 18th century was influenced by the natural history paradigm.

41 The indulgence of the British upper and middle classes in this fashion, so associated with the foreign, was also seen as a danger to British virtues. For the classicist critics, Chinoiserie stood for everything that quickened the decay of British society by featuring a foreign and grotesque false taste, which would lead the observer away from the path of moral and virtue. The critic Joseph Warton thus remarked If these observations are rightly founded, what shall we say of the taste and judgement of those who spend their lives and fortunes in collecting pieces, where neither perspective nor proportion, nor conformity to nature are observed; I mean the extravagant lovers and purchasers of China, and Indian screens.

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