Synopses & Reviews
D. R. Howland explores Chinaandrsquo;s representations of Japan in the changing world of the late nineteenth century and, in so doing, examines the cultural and social borders between the two neighbors. Looking at Chinese accounts of Japan written during the 1870s and 1880s, he undertakes an unprecedented analysis of the main genres the Chinese used to portray Japanandmdash;the travel diary, poetry, and the geographical treatise. In his discussion of the practice of andldquo;brushtalk,andrdquo; in which Chinese scholars communicated with the Japanese by exchanging ideographs, Howland further shows how the Chinese viewed the communication of their language and its dominant modesandmdash;history and poetryandmdash;as the textual and cultural basis of a shared civilization between the two societies.
With Japanandrsquo;s decision in the 1870s to modernize and westernize, Chinaandrsquo;s relationship with Japan underwent a crucial changeandmdash;one that resulted in its decisive separation from Chinese civilization and, according to Howland, a destabilization of Chinaandrsquo;s worldview. His examination of the ways in which Chinese perceptions of Japan altered in the 1880s reveals the crucial choice faced by the Chinese of whether to interact with Japan as andldquo;kin,andrdquo; based on geographical proximity and the existence of common cultural threads, or as a andldquo;barbarian,andrdquo; an alien force molded by European influence.
By probing Chinaandrsquo;s poetic and expository modes of portraying Japan, Borders of Chinese Civilization exposes the changing world of the nineteenth century and Chinaandrsquo;s comprehension of it. This broadly appealing work will engage scholars in the fields of Asian studies, Chinese literature, history, and geography, as well as those interested in theoretical reflections on travel or modernism.
About the Author
D. R. Howland is Associate Professor of History at DePaul University.