The Enlightenment European Perception of China: Sinophilia, Sinophobia, and Modernity
Haverford College. Department of History
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
This thesis examines the shift in Western Europe's attitude towards China during the Enlightenment. In 1700, Europeans on the whole had a positive view of China. They appreciated what they perceived to be China's strengths, and identified those fortes as having the utmost importance to societies in general. Foremost among these was what Western Europeans saw as China's adherence to the "natural law" or "natural order". Likewise, while Westerners perceived problems with China, they placed little weight on China's alleged flaws, which were either dismissed as minor in the face of all of China's achievements or else cast as flukes that would soon be remedied. However, by 1800 European attitudes had undergone a near-complete reversal. China was generally portrayed as a backward, stagnant nation. By the close of the eighteenth century, China was placed within a fully articulated Eurocentric worldview. This paper attempts to elucidate the motives and means behind this reversal of views by closely examining selected travel texts on China and certain works informed by them.