Failures East and West: Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe 9781399500531

Examines why and how cultural encounters between East Asia and Europe are framed as failures Opens up fresh perspectives

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Failures East and West: Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe

Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Failures East and West – Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe
Part I Travellers and Failures
1 Imagining East Asia: The Failure of National Knowledge in Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations of the English Nation (1589–1600)
2 Fact and Fiction in the Writings of Wilhelm Joest about His Journey on Formosa in 1880
3 ‘An Honest Failure’: Simone de Beauvoir in China
4 Lost in Laos: Failure in Henri Mouhot’s and Stephen Greenblatt’s Travel Writing
Part II Encounters at Court
5 Louis XIV and the Kingdom of Siam: The Development and Failure of a Particular Example of Diplomatic and Intercultural Relations in the Colonial Era
6 Gender, Genre and the Truth Condition: Failure in Anna Leonowens’s The English Governess at the Siamese Court
7 Chinese Kotow and European Handshake: Episodes in the History of Intercultural Etiquette in China around 1900
Part III Contemporary Failures
8 Barthes and Bouvier in Japan: The Difficult Dialogue between Semiotics and Intercultural Communication
9 Between Failure and Empowerment: Historicity, Genre and Cultural Clashes in David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
10 Marx between East and West: The Karl Marx Statue in Trier as an Example of Intercultural Failure?

Citation preview

Failures East and West

Edinburgh East Asian Studies Series

Series Editors: Natascha Gentz, Urs Matthias Zachmann and David Der-Wei Wang Covering language, literature, history and society, this series of academic monographs and reference volumes brings together scholars of East Asia to address crucial topics in East Asian Studies. The series embraces a broad scope of approaches and welcomes volumes that address topics such as regional patterns of cooperation and social, political, cultural implications of interregional ­collaborations, as well as volumes on individual regional themes across the ­spectrum of East Asian Studies. With its critical analysis of central issues in East Asia, and its remit of contributing to a wider understanding of East Asian countries’ international impact the series will be crucial to understand the shifting patterns in this region within an increasingly globalised world. Series Editors Professor Natascha Gentz is Chair of Chinese Studies, Director of the Confucius Institute for Scotland and Dean International (China) at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Urs Matthias Zachmann is the Professor of History and Culture of Modern Japan in the Institute of East Asian Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Professor David Der-Wei Wang is the Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University. Editorial Board Professor Marion Eggert, Bochum University Professor Joshua A. Fogel, York University, Toronto Professor Rikki Kersten, Murdoch University, Perth Professor Seung-Young Kim, Kansai Gaidai University Professor Hui Wang, Tsinghua University, Beijing Titles available in the series: Asia after Versailles: Asian Perspectives on the Paris Peace Conference and the Interwar Order 1919–1933 Urs Matthias Zachmann (Editor) On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s Christopher Rosenmeier Politics and Policy in China’s Social Assistance Reform: Providing for the Poor Daniel R. Hammond Japanese Racial Identities within U.S.–Japan Relations, 1853–1919 Tarik Merida Failures East and West: Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock (Editors)

Failures East and West Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe Edited by Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock

Edinburgh University Press is one of the leading university presses in the UK. We publish academic books and journals in our selected subject areas across the ­humanities and social sciences, combining cutting-edge scholarship with high editorial and ­production values to produce academic works of lasting importance. For more ­information visit our website: © editorial matter and organisation Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock, 2023 © the chapters their several authors, 2023 Cover image: Jetty. Image courtesy of Pexels/Pixabay Cover design: Stuart Dalziel Edinburgh University Press Ltd The Tun – Holyrood Road 12(2f) Jackson’s Entry Edinburgh EH8 8PJ Typeset in 10/12 Ehrhardt by Cheshire Typesetting Ltd, Cuddington, Cheshire, and printed and bound in Great Britain A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 3995 0051 7 (hardback) ISBN 978 1 3995 0053 1 (webready PDF) ISBN 978 1 3995 0052 4 (epub) The right of Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock to be identified as the editors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (SI No. 2498).


List of Illustrations vii Acknowledgementsix

Introduction: Failures East and West – Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock


Part I  Travellers and Failures   1 Imagining East Asia: The Failure of National Knowledge in Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations of the English Nation (1589–1600) Ralf Hertel


  2 Fact and Fiction in the Writings of Wilhelm Joest about His Journey on Formosa in 1880 Shao-Ji Yao

29 49

  3 ‘An Honest Failure’: Simone de Beauvoir in China Ruth Y. Y. Hung   4 Lost in Laos: Failure in Henri Mouhot’s and Stephen Greenblatt’s Travel Writing Barbara Schaff


Part II  Encounters at Court   5 Louis XIV and the Kingdom of Siam: The Development and Failure of a Particular Example of Diplomatic and Intercultural Relations in the Colonial Era Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink   6 Gender, Genre and the Truth Condition: Failure in Anna Leonowens’s The English Governess at the Siamese Court Kirsten Sandrock





Failures East and West

  7 Chinese Kotow and European Handshake: Episodes in the History of Intercultural Etiquette in China around 1900 Roland Altenburger


Part III  Contemporary Failures   8 Barthes and Bouvier in Japan: The Difficult Dialogue between Semiotics and Intercultural Communication Alex Demeulenaere   9 Between Failure and Empowerment: Historicity, Genre and Cultural Clashes in David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Eva-Maria Windberger



10 Marx between East and West: The Karl Marx Statue in Trier as an Example of Intercultural Failure? Christian Soffel





2.1 Excerpt from the map attached in Wilhelm Joest, Welt-Fahrten (Berlin, 1895) 33 2.2 General Charles W. Le Gendre, Amoy and Formosa, China: Commercial Relations of the United States, 1869 (Washington DC, 1871)35 2.3 William Hancock, ‘Tamsui Trade Report for the Year 1881’, Maritime Customs Annual Returns and Reports of Taiwan, 1867–1895, vol. 1: 1867–81, 545 37 2.4 Joest’s journal, vol. XI, 103–4. Reproduced with kind permission of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Cologne 38 2.5 Joest’s journal, vol. XI, 129–30. Reproduced with kind permission of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Cologne 39 2.6 Camille Imbault-Huart, L’île formose: Histoire et description (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1893), 274 43 4.1 Henri Mouhot, Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos during the Years 1858, 1859 and 1860 (London: John Murray, 1864), 98. Source: / BnF 73 4.2 Henri Mouhot, Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos during the Years 1858, 1859 and 1860 (London: John Murray, 1864), 134. Source: / BnF 76 9.1 Cover of Hendrik Doeff’s Recollections of Japan, translated and annotated by Annick M. Doeff (Victoria: Trafford, 2003). The cover image shows the frigates Arinus Marinus and Ida Aleida on the roadstead of the island Dejima in the bay of Nagasaki by Keiga Kawahara, circa 1825 (Maritime Museum, Rotterdam, Netherlands). Reprinted with kind permission of Marca Doeff, Trafford, and the Maritime Museum Rotterdam 155 9.2 Ground-plan of the Dutch trade-post on the island Dejima at Nagasaki. Image credit: Isaac Titsingh, Bijzonderheden over Japan, 1824–5, The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Wikimedia Commons (public domain), 156 vii


Failures East and West

9.3 Jacob de Zoet’s sketch of Dejima. Reprinted from David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (London: Sceptre, 2010). © David Mitchell 2010. Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear; special credit to the artist Jenny Mitchell157


This publication grew out of a conference held at the University of Trier in 2018. We wish to thank all participants of the conference who contributed stimulating ideas and papers, many of which are now brought together in this volume. In addition to the contributions assembled here, we would like to thank Marion Eggert, Ana Fernandes Pinto, Andreas Regelsberger, Timon Screech, Eleanor Ty and Benedikt Vogel for their input and involvement in the conference. We would also like to thank Anna Maria Duplang for proofreading several contributions as well as Lea Franken, Christine Ilinzeer and Larissa Rell, who assisted us in preparing the manuscript for publication. We are further indebted to the staff at Edinburgh University Press, in particular Laura Quinn, Sam Johnson and Joannah Duncan for guiding us so well through the publication process, as well as to Eliza Wright for the careful copyediting and Helen Bilton for putting together the index. We also thank the Research Group on Transculturalism at the University of Trier, led by Christian Soffel, which provided some essential funding. Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock Trier and Göttingen, January 2022


Introduction: Failures East and West – Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe Ralf Hertel and Kirsten Sandrock Cultural encounters between East Asia and Europe have received ample attention in various fields of studies, ranging from cultural and literary studies to history and economics. The concept of failure in these encounters, however, has not.1 Often, the story of encounters between Asia and the so-called West has been told as one of success, of cross-fertilisation, reciprocal stimulation and an exchange of commodities and knowledge. Yet, the history of East–West encounters is riddled with prominent examples of misunderstandings, ignorance, unrealistic expectations or unbridgeable cultural differences that, in certain contexts and for certain purposes, have been framed as failures. This volume opens up new perspectives on such instances by theorising failure in various historical and cultural contexts. Providing examples from different periods and disciplines, it contributes to current debates about the epistemologies of failure and shows how transcultural encounters are sites where personal and collective norms of failure and success are being shaped and challenged. In its focus on failed encounters, Failures East and West: Cultural Encounters between East Asia and Europe goes beyond the hitherto dominant inter- and transculturality research, which is only beginning to dedicate itself systematically to the failure of cultural contacts.2 Focusing not so much on forms of successful exchange and the profitable circulation of ideas or knowledge, the contributions gathered here establish a new view of cultural encounters by demonstrating the subtle ways in which failure is staged, represented and charged with meaning, thus revealing the implicit mental horizons of the cultural players involved. While there is a growing interest in failure in other academic fields (e.g. sociology, psychology, visual arts, material culture and gender studies), what we would like to call failure studies is still in the process of establishing itself in the fields of literary and cultural studies.3 Failures East and West aims to contribute to this process and to open up approaches to cultural encounters in literary and cultural studies that probe the dimensions of failure as a culturally specific concept. Failure in the context of international contacts is ubiquitous and contributes to a widespread sense of crisis today. Intercultural encounters in particular have become precarious, as is evident in debates on religious conflicts, migration and the integration of cultural minorities, as well as in the rise of i­solationist 1


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positions that discard notions of multicultural societies. Brexit, trade wars between Eastern and Western states, and the return of a nationalism that was considered overcome in large parts of Europe, but also in China and Japan, signal a turning away from multilateralism and intercultural exchange. These phenomena, however, are only the most recent manifestations in a long tradition of intercultural positions that some find irritating, others favourable. Recent work on failure has emphasised the normativity of the concept and how it is bound to sociocultural ideologies that are often Eurocentric and heteronormative in nature. For Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, the concepts of ‘failure or success’ are part of ‘an implicitly evolutionist or progressivist set of presuppositions’ that has informed the history of Western colonialism and intercultural encounters for the past centuries.4 Drawing on these insights, the essays in this collection suggest that forms of failed exchanges across borders and cultures deserve a closer look as they raise questions of wider significance: how is failure between, and within, cultures to be understood? What processes are involved in what we term ‘failures’? How can we talk about failure without reproducing what seem to be normative paradigms? What do we learn from failures, not in the sense of doing better the second time round, but with regard to the expectations and self-conceptions of the cultures involved? The contributions in this book raise these and similar questions in order to approach the widespread, yet often taboo phenomenon of failure in intercultural encounters. At the same time, they emphasise the historical dimension of the phenomenon by examining forms of failure from the sixteenth century to the present. Simultaneously, this collection of essays offers a comparative view by focusing on conceptions and representations of failure both in East Asia and Western Europe, thus pointing to the cultural preconditions of conceptions and representations of failure. How, then, may one speak of failure? As noted above, failure is a highly subjective category. It cannot be objectively determined or measured against fixed criteria, but is always determined by a historically and culturally specific context – failure is always a failure from someone’s perspective; an event only becomes a failure when it is described as such. Failure is, in other words, not simply a given. It is closely linked to power dynamics and standards determined in a specific context. As Jack Halberstam notes, ‘As a practice, failure recognizes that alternatives are embedded already in the dominant and that power is never total or consistent; indeed, failure can exploit the unpredictability of ideology and its indeterminate qualities.’5 Asking why some occurrences should be called a failure, and how this is done, promises insights into the ideological, political and religious contexts of the cultural players involved. In other words, what is required is a ‘healthy critique of static models of success and failure’, which in the present case seeks a re-evaluation of the cultural and intercultural models underlying encounters between East and West.6 In studying cultural encounters, readers often come across what Stephen Greenblatt terms ‘the breaking apart of contextual knowledge’, instances of cultural encounter in which those involved find themselves unable to revert to

introduction 3

established frames of reference. It is precisely the failed attempt to transform these ‘moments of wonder’ into stable knowledge, to reintegrate them into an epistemological frame of reference, that can be profoundly revealing for understanding the unsuccessful actors and their contexts.7 By focusing on the processes of negotiating the other encountered in what Mary Louise Pratt calls the ‘contact zone’ between cultures rather than on stereotypes or fixed images of the other, the contributions in this collection depart from previous research that attempted to delineate particular images of foreigners.8 Likewise, Failures East and West as a whole leaves behind approaches situated in the tradition of Edward Said’s Orientalism; focusing on the failure of European negotiations in Asia, it questions the Western dominance postulated by Said (though he did so in the context of the Near and Middle East), and the case studies assembled here undermine the monolithic confrontation of East and West that one might detect in Said – in matters of intercultural encounters, things are more complicated, even if they go wrong.9 It is a premise of this book that failure must be understood as constructed, as something that is not inherent in an event but attributed to it. Failure does not exist as an objective category or a simple fact of life, but only comes into existence when something – an event, a person, an entity or idea – is labelled as such. It is essentially performative in nature, to draw on Judith Butler’s concept of performativity, emerging from signifying acts.10 In order to foreground this constructed nature of failure, instead of insisting on the binary question ‘Is an event a failure or not?’, we should rather ask other questions: who describes an event as a failure and why? What does this tell us about the respective historical and cultural context, what about the actors involved, their expectations and constraints? Understanding failure as a form of attribution exposes the implicit historical and cultural norms by which an event is judged as a failure or success.11 Moreover, focusing on failure as a process of signification allows us to avoid imposing our present-day judgements onto historical material, and to become aware of how much failure is conditioned by historically and culturally specific situations. Such an approach shifts the perspective away from understanding failure as the result of an encounter to looking at the processes involved. How does failure unfold? What processes are involved when an event is described as a failure? How are events subsequently dealt with once they have been classified as failures? What does it mean if later generations consider an event no longer a failure, or label an event a failure that had not been seen as such before? These questions have particular pertinence in approaches to cultural encounters between Eastern and Western cultures. As Q. S. Tong asks, ‘If historical encounters between China and the West could be understood and presented in terms of success and failure, should it also be made clear by whom or from whose point of view they might be considered so?’12 So far, the complexity of these processes of attribution has rarely been taken into account. Instead, two forms of dealing with failure have often dominated. On the one


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hand, there are forms of repression and rejection, which consider failure as something to be avoided in the future but that, in itself, is of little interest. On the other hand, an event that was initially seen as a failure is sometimes reinterpreted as a success in retrospect, a success that can only be grasped with some temporal distance to the event itself. Failure thus becomes part of a form of retrospective self-empowerment: by arguing that only now, in hindsight, does the true benefit of an action emerge that was originally considered a failure, later generations create a narrative strategy to contain, and eventually repress, failure; it then appears as an only temporary aberration in what is essentially a story of success. Such a process reverberates with what Halberstam terms ‘toxic positivity’, the compulsion to recast negative experiences in a positive light that ultimately results in the failure to face, and eventually understand, negative experiences. Admitting and facing failure undermines such processes of repression: ‘while failure certainly comes accompanied by a host of negative affects, such as disappointment, disillusionment and despair, it also provides the opportunity to use these negative affects to poke holes in the toxic positivity of contemporary life’.13 Despite such insights, the conceptualisation of failure has only recently set in, and the processes involved in interpreting an event as a failure are rarely addressed. Going beyond the scope of this collection of essays, future research in failure studies would need to develop a terminology for describing processes of failure: how might one develop a phenomenology, or typology, of failure? What recurrent patterns in the negotiation of failure can be identified? Is there something like a poetics of failure? Emphasising the processual character of the phenomenon would allow scholars, critics and readers to question the binary – possibly Eurocentric  – juxtaposition of success and failure and to bring into focus alternative perspectives that concern themselves less with the outcome of an encounter than with the processes involved in its interpretation. The juxtaposition of East Asian and Western European cultures is particularly fruitful in this context. On the one hand, as Asian–European interrelations date back to the Middle Ages, they allow us to trace historical shifts and developments that go back a long way. On the other, from the very beginning, the European imagination had been challenged by the cultures of East Asia in ways that differed fundamentally from the challenges Europeans encountered in the so-called New World. While the Americas were often depicted as a cultural tabula rasa onto which to project, and impose, one’s own cultural values, Eastern cultures such as those of China and Japan offered strong resistance to such imperial and colonial fantasies. Often, the Europeans had to acknowledge that here they were dealing with highly developed cultures that would not easily be subjugated; instead, they often posed a challenge to European conceptions – in fact, the notion of the mysterious ‘Far East’ has in time itself become a cliché. Bringing together contributions from the fields of East Asian studies and European literatures and covering periods from the early modern to the contemporary, this collection of essays examines both the cultural and the

introduction 5

historical contexts of failure. The central question is not only how Eastern and Western cultures fail each other in intercultural encounters, but also how failure is negotiated within Western European and East Asian cultures themselves. By bringing together scholars of East Asian studies as well as experts in Western literatures and cultures, Failures East and West counters a one-sided Eurocentric or Asiacentric approach. The various methodological and theoretical approaches range from close reading to genre- and gender-specific questions as well as theoretical and material discussions of failure, thus opening up a multifaceted perspective on the research field. At the same time, the breadth of the historical focus of the essays allows readers to discern historical shifts and lines of development in dealing with the phenomenon of failure. Part I of this collection of essays is dedicated to travellers and their specific forms of failure. Ranging from Richard Hakluyt’s sixteenth-century compilation of travels in East Asia to Wilhelm Joest’s visits to Formosa, now Taiwan, in the nineteenth century, Simone de Beauvoir’s journey to China in the 1950s and Stephen Greenblatt’s travels in the 1990s in Laos in the footsteps of Henri Mouhot, this part spans four centuries of Western travels in East Asia. The first essay, by Ralf Hertel, focuses on one of the most influential early modern English texts on encounters overseas: The Principal Navigations of the English Nation by Richard Hakluyt. This massive collection of English exploits all over the known world, designed to boost national self-confidence, was first printed in 1589, that is, decades before the English actually set foot in East Asia. Literary encounters thus preceded personal ones and, the essay suggests, the English failed in East Asia even before they managed to get there. Unable to procure first-hand knowledge by English writers, Hakluyt had to resort to copying reports by England’s Catholic rivals, thus undermining the highly patriotic ambitions of his own book project. At the same time, Hakluyt’s failure to come to terms with East Asia on the basis of specifically English information occurred together with a shift in perspective, away from a narrowly national one to a mercantile one – a shift of perspective that would eventually be crucial to England’s rise to power on the global stage of trade and colonialism. In terms of the collection’s focus on failure and representation, the essay makes a strong argument for studying representational strategies in literary texts about East Asia and linking them to sociohistorical contexts of the cultures in which the target audiences – in this case, English and Western readers – abide. The contribution by Shao-Ji Yao covers the visit to Taiwan by a German explorer, Wilhelm Joest (1852–97). He arrived on the island formerly known as Formosa in the summer of 1880 and travelled through the area surrounding Taipei. He recorded his research findings, experiences and impressions in three separate documents  – very different in kind  – all of which serve as the basis of an analysis for his stay in Taiwan. These documents consist of a scientific ethnological article (1882), a chapter from an extensive travel report (1895) and a yet unpublished diary. The article illustrates that significant discrepancies exist between his diary and his scientific research, which could be considered failures


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from a logical point of view. Yao suggests, though, that further factors are to be considered when trying to come to terms with discrepancies, inaccuracies and factitious elements in Joest’s writings. Apart from aesthetic and literary factors, political and economic dynamics might have influenced the textual work and need to be kept in mind when evaluating the accuracy of historical or scientific works about East Asia of a similar nature. Ruth Y. Y. Hung discusses one of the most influential feminist writers in the West, Simone de Beauvoir, and her visit to China in 1955. Described by a critic as ‘an honest failure’, Beauvoir’s trip shows the pitfalls of East–West encounters even if the traveller arrives with the best of intentions. Schooled in Marxist thought and eager to see a fundamental renewal of social norms and ideas after World War II, Beauvoir was keen to learn about New China and the potential role models it offered. Her monumental book La longue marche (The Long March), published two years after her trip, testifies to the great interest she harboured vis-à-vis China. At the same time, Hung states, it is curious to note what little impact her own writing, most notably her now canonical work Le deuxième sexe (The Second Sex), had on her Chinese audience, especially given the fact that Mao Zedong had been hailed as ‘the liberator of women’ due to his marriage laws passed between the 1930s and the 1950s. Instead of as a thinker and novelist in her own right, Beauvoir found herself being introduced as ‘Mrs Sartre’ and reduced to being her husband’s wife. Hung closely follows Beauvoir’s journey in China, foregrounding intercultural misunderstandings and what she calls ‘displaced meanings’. Finally, she also considers how Beauvoir’s encounter with China influenced later feminist thought by writers and activists such a Julia Kristeva and Ai Xiaoming. Barbara Schaff’s essay explores the slippery nature of the term ‘failure’ in travel writing and situates it both in the aesthetic and the material conditions of travelling and travel writing. The essay illustrates how many travel texts are informed by the discrepancy between the actual successful achievement – of a discovery and the record of a journey – and the feeling of personal failure, of not reaching what one had originally set out to do. As posterity tends to privilege success over failure, or even turn failure into posthumous success, actual failure is often overwritten. At the same time, it is frequently the discursive construction of failure that makes for an interesting read in travel writing. The essay explores two intertextually connected texts about Laos: Henri Mouhot’s account of Laos in his Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos during the Years 1858, 1859 and 1860, and Stephen Greenblatt’s essay ‘Laos is Open’, published in 1992. Focusing on the self-construction and textual ­strategies of the travellers, Schaff contextualises them in the respective travel discourses of their period. Mouhot emphasises the moment of the first encounter, whereas Greenblatt self-consciously plays with the stereotype of the disaffected and disappointed traveller shaped by Tobias Smollett, drawing on Mouhot’s notes as a pretext of failed travel expectations in order to authenticate his own experience and connect it with its textual European origin.

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Part II deals with encounters at court. This part, too, presents a wide historical perspective with case studies ranging from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. As the three contributions in this section demonstrate, the court is a particularly revealing ‘contact zone’14 when it comes to the rules that govern the negotiation of intercultural encounters. Instances in which the players involved fail to play by the rules foreground ideological and political differences in telling ways. In his contribution, Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink looks at the Kingdom of Siam and its intercultural relations with the French in the seventeenth century. Siam was one of the three Asian powers, besides China and the Ottoman Empire, with which the French Kingdom under Louis XIV maintained diplomatic, political and – in a more general sense – (inter)cultural relations. Over several decades and despite the geographic distance, these relations with Siam were characterised by an increasing and surprising intensity as well as by the unmistakable fascination which the French had for Siam. In 1688, however, these relations failed: ending abruptly, they were halted for most of the following 150 years. By means of contemporary sources and reports, such as the Histoire naturelle et politique du Royaume de Siam by Nicolas Gervaise (Paris, 1688), the essay analyses both the processes of these unique diplomatic and cultural relations as well as the reasons for their failure. It discusses how differences in culturally conditioned expectations, processes of intercultural communications as well as power politics had a decisive influence on the abrupt breaking off of the relations. In arguing that even failed relations offer a basis for the production of knowledge and intercultural transfer, Lüsebrink offers a reading of this particular episode in French–Siamese history that works against a teleological or colonial understanding of failure and success in intercultural relations. Kirsten Sandrock’s essay takes Anna Leonowens’s The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) as a starting point to discuss literary discourses of failure with a particular focus on gender, genre and the truth condition in life writings. Drawing on theories of failure that ascribe a normative function to categories of failure and success, the essay explores how the literary rendering of an encounter between a nineteenth-century British woman and Siamese culture yields insight into several normative structures inherent in nineteenth-century conceptions of personal and intercultural failures. These norms of failure, visible in Leonowens’s work, have continued to shape the aesthetic traditions in later reworkings and adaptations of The English Governess at the Siamese Court, including Margaret Landon’s novel Anna and the King of Siam (1943) as well as the film, stage and musical adaptations from the 1940 and 1950s, known as The King and I. Gender, genre and the truth condition function as central assessment criteria for The English Governess at the Siamese Court, as an analysis of the reception history of Leonowens’s work shows. The essay suggests that forms and functions of failure in intercultural encounters and literary works can best be explored by using intersectional and cross-cultural approaches. Roland Altenburger’s essay explores how practices of intercultural etiquette can lead to misunderstandings and, indeed, failures in Chinese–European


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intercultural encounters. Specifically, it considers the discourse about, and the practice of, greeting gestures in European–Chinese communication, particularly focusing on the turn-of-the-century period, around 1900, when the expiring Qing Empire was under pressure internationally and there were strong tensions in their mutual perception. The essay discusses different conceptions of what ‘etiquette’ actually signifies and how it can lead to misinterpretations and misconstructions that fail the purpose of the etiquette. A recapitulation of shifting European attitudes towards the kotow (‘head-knocking’) serves as the starting point. Around 1900, Western-style greeting gestures, in particular the handshake, became increasingly widespread in Chinese–Western encounters. The clash of greeting etiquettes led to some misunderstandings and revealing conflicts. This is demonstrated through the analysis of a series of cases, as found in some episodes from turn-of-the-century Chinese novels of manner, in particular A Report on the Present State of Officialdom (Guanchang xianxing ji) and A Short History of Civilization (Wenming xiaoshi) by Li Boyuan (1867–1906), in which Western-style forms of greeting gesture, mainly handshaking but also hat-raising, are employed towards, as well as by, Chinese protagonists. The scenes include enlightening critical reflections about Chinese–European intercultural etiquette and about the ambivalence of a culturally specific gesture, such as the handshake, when it is employed in a different context. Part III of this collection of essays, which is the last part and entitled ‘Contemporary Failures’, moves to the late twentieth century and, with it, to writings about intercultural encounters that are highly theorised by the authors themselves. Alex Demeulenaere examines Roland Barthes’s L’empire des signes (1970) and Nicolas Bouviers’s Chronique japonaise (1975) as texts in which the experience of the failure of the trip is part of a practice leading to (inter)cultural knowledge and intersubjective communication. The author reads the narrative aesthetics of the two works in relation to the intercultural dimension of the travel narratives and asks to what extent the failure of an intercultural experience is the consequence or the source of aesthetic writing. Whereas Barthes eschews the search for an other opposed to a stable self and presents Japan as a production site of signs that overwhelm him, Bouvier radically questions the possibilities of intercultural knowledge and communication. Bouvier takes the initial failure of understanding Japanese culture seriously and scrutinises its origins in a writing about daily life. Barthes, in contrast, sophistically translates his intercultural misunderstanding into the discourse of structural semiotics, as indicated by the title, L’empire des signes. As was common in structuralism, Barthes refuses to accord to history the power of explaining Japanese culture, as he reads both historical and contemporary signs with the same semiotic glasses. The essay asks to what extent these different approaches are either ways to deal with what Claude Lévi-Strauss had already announced in his Tristes Tropiques, namely the end of travel (la fin des voyages), or can be read as refusals to escape the experience of intercultural failure and to replace it by alternative knowledge systems.

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The essay by Eva-Maria Windberger explores the role meta-genres of fact and fiction play in assessments of a literary work as either a failure or a success. Taking the example of David Mitchell’s novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010), Windberger argues that historical novels are particularly affected by this meta-generic pattern that influences both the reading and the reception process of a given work. Set during the Japanese period of seclusion on the human-made island of Dejima in Nagasaki harbour, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is considered a historical novel by many critics. Windberger explains why such a categorisation does not do justice to Mitchell’s endeavour and argues that, instead, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet needs to be read as a work of historiographic metafiction in order to understand Mitchell’s use of pastiche, illustration and myth. This essay analyses the narrative strategies used to represent  – and contest  – ­historicity and genre, on the one hand, and the depiction of cultural clashes between the Japanese and the Dutch, on the other. Windberger discusses to what extent the juxtapositions and failures that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is composed of suggest that the novel bolsters its agenda by challenging readers to think beyond established patterns such as fact and fiction, self and other. The final essay by Christian Soffel deals with the erection of a Karl Marx statue in the German city of Trier and, thus, with a very recent example of cross-cultural misunderstandings. Presented as a gift by the Chinese authorities to Marx’s German birthplace, the statue was erected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the philosopher’s birth in 2018. As Soffel shows by tracing in detail both the Chinese and the German reactions to this gift, the exchange of such a present is inextricably linked to culturally motivated assumptions that may give rise to irritations. Studying Chinese source material, Soffel unravels the official Chinese perspective on the statue and juxtaposes it to the debate in Germany which centred on practical concerns regarding the size and location of the statue as well as on more general fears of the gift serving Chinese propaganda purposes. By closely following the processes that eventually led to the erection of the statue, Soffel draws attention not only to cultural differences but also to structural ones when a German local authority finds itself dealing with the official Chinese state apparatus. Taken together, Failures East and West contributes to discussions about the representation of failure in general, as well as its aesthetic rendering in works of art in particular. How is the phenomenon represented in language, in texts, performances and cultural artefacts? Can patterns be discerned that are specific to particular forms of media or genre? To what extent do dimensions of gender, race and place come into play in the representation of failure? What does the way in which a work represents failure tell us about the cultural and historical context in which it is situated? And last but not least: what symbolic attributes are ascribed to failure? Why is it sometimes understood as defeat, sometimes as heroic, sometimes even as a moral success? These are guiding questions underlying the essays in Failures East and West. The aim of the collection is to give some answers, not to conclude the discussion about failure in intercultural encounters, but rather to open it up further for future investigations.


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Notes   1. Exceptions are Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures, ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017) and D. E. Mungello, The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500–1800 (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), which does not focus on failure as such but has sections on the ‘Chinese rejection of Western Culture and Christianity’ as well as on the ‘European Rejection of Chinese Culture and Confucianism’. Similarly critical of Western conceptions of East Asia, Michael Keevak’s Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011) unveils how ascribing a yellow skin colour to the Chinese deliberately misconstrued the Chinese to serve Western, often imperial, needs.   2. See for instance Fiasko: Scheitern in der Frühen Neuzeit: Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte des Misserfolgs, ed. Stefan Brakensiek and Claudia Claridge (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2015); Hertel and Keevak, in particular Q. S. Tong’s contribution ‘Lessons of Failure: Toward an Ethics of Cross-Cultural Understanding’, 156–71; Scott A. Sandage, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).  3. See, amongst others, The Material Culture of Failure: When Things Do Wrong, ed. Timothy Carroll et al. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017); Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2011); Scheitern: Aspekte eines Sozialen Phänomens, ed. Matthias Junge and Götz Lechner (Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004); Failure: Documents of Contemporary Art, ed. Lisa Le Feuvre (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2010); Understanding and Coping with Failure: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, ed. Brent Willock (London: Routledge, 2014).   4. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography’, Selected Subaltern Studies, ed. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 3–32 (7).   5. Halberstam, 88.   6. Ibid., 88.   7. Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 19.   8. Mary Louise Pratt, ‘Arts of the Contact Zone’, Profession (1991): 33–40, (last accessed 6 December 2021). For the study of auto- and heterostereotypes, see for instance A. J. Hoenselaars’s Images of Englishmen and Foreigners in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries: A Study of Stage Characters and National Identity in English Renaissance Drama, 1558–1642 (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson, 1992) and his edited volume Rhetoric of National Character, special issue of the European Journal of English Studies 13.3 (2009): 251–365. See also Stephan Köhn, Fremdbilder – Selbstbilder: Paradigmen japanisch-deutscher Wahrnehmung (1861–2011) (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2013) and Western Visions of the Far East in a Transpacific Age, 1522–1657, ed. Christina Lee (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

introduction 11

  9. Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 2003 [1978]). 10. Judith Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory’, Theatre Journal 40.4 (1988): 519–31. 11. Halberstam, 2–12. 12. Tong, 156. 13. Halberstam, 3. See also Colin Wright, ‘Happiness Studies and Wellbeing: A Lacanian Critique of Contemporary Conceptualisations of the Cure’, Culture Unbound: Journal of the Current Cultural Research 6 (2014): 791–813. 14. Pratt, ‘Arts of the Contact Zone’, 33–40.

Works cited Brakensiek, Stefan, and Claudia Claridge, eds. Fiasko: Scheitern in der Frühen Neuzeit: Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte des Misserfolgs. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2015. Butler, Judith. ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.’ Theatre Journal 40.4 (1988): 519–31. Carroll, Timothy et al., eds. The Material Culture of Failure: When Things Do Wrong. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Halberstam, Jack. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2011. Hertel, Ralf, and Michael Keevak. ‘Introduction: Telling Failures – Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe.’ Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures. Ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017. 1–9. Hoenselaars, A. J. Images of Englishmen and Foreigners in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries: A Study of Stage Characters and National Identity in English Renaissance Drama, 1558–1642. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson, 1992. Hoenselaars, Ton [A. J.], ed. Rhetoric of National Character. Special issue of European Journal of English Studies 13.3 (2009): 251–365. Junge, Matthias, and Götz Lechner, eds. Scheitern: Aspekte eines sozialen Phänomens. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004. Keevak, Michael. Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011. Köhn, Stephan. Fremdbilder – Selbstbilder: Paradigmen japanisch-deutscher Wahrnehmung (1861–2011). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2013. Lee, Christina H., ed. Western Visions of the Far East in a Transpacific Age, 1522–1657. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Le Feuvre, Lisa, ed. Failure: Documents of Contemporary Art. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2010. Mungello, D. E. The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500–1800. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005. Pratt, Mary Louise. ‘Arts of the Contact Zone.’ Profession (1991): 33–40. (last accessed 6 December 2021).


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Said, Edward W. Orientalism. London: Penguin, 2003 (1978). Sandage, Scott A. Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. ‘Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography.’ Selected Subaltern Studies. Ed. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. 3–32. Tong, Q. S. ‘Lessons of Failure: Toward an Ethics of Cross-Cultural Understanding.’ Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures. Ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017. 156–71. Willock, Brent, ed. Understanding and Coping with Failure: Psychoanalytic Perspectives. London: Routledge, 2014. Wright, Colin. ‘Happiness Studies and Wellbeing: A Lacanian Critique of Contemporary Conceptualisations of the Cure.’ Culture Unbound: Journal of the Current Cultural Research 6 (2014): 791–813.

Part I Travellers and Failures

Chapter 1

Imagining East Asia: The Failure of National Knowledge in Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations of the English Nation (1589–1600) Ralf Hertel The history of early English encounters with China is one of repeated failure and misunderstandings, and it begins with the failure of the English to even reach East Asia at all. When in 1497 the Italian Giovanni Caboto, sailing under an English flag and known in the anglophone world as John Cabot, sailed west in the hope of finding a route to China, he ended up in what is Canada today. He had planned to find a westward route to Asia, but instead discovered North America for the English, rather by accident. Later English expeditions between the 1550s and 1580s only got as far as today’s Uzbekistan and Malaysia, and Martin Frobisher’s repeated attempts in the 1570s to locate a north-west passage to China equally ended in failure. In 1637, the first English expedition reached China, or rather Macao, which was controlled by the Portuguese at the time. However, this expedition can hardly be counted as a success either: after a frustratingly long, and eventually futile, wait in the Portuguese harbour for a permit to sail up the Pearl River and trade there, the expedition decided to push forward without it – a decision that proved entirely detrimental to their plans of establishing trade relations. According to a chronicler on board, Peter Mundy, the Chinese side considered this effrontery, largely refused to deal with the English on mercantile terms and fired cannon balls until the English finally had to beat a humiliating retreat, promising to ‘never return to these shores’.1 This contribution would like to focus on what is probably the most influential English text on East Asia from this early period: The Principal Navigations of the English Nation by Richard Hakluyt, first printed in 1589. Arguably, this text was crucial in shaping the English perspective on East Asia in the late sixteenth century, and continued to be so well into the seventeenth century, not least through Samuel Purchas’s continuation Hakluytus Posthumus or, Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). Interestingly, Hakluyt’s text was published decades before the English actually set foot in East Asia; with its help I would like to demonstrate in the following that the English failed Asia even before they managed to get there. Even before there was an actual encounter, there was failure in the sense that the descriptions of China and Japan incorporated in Hakluyt’s book run counter to its own nationalist agenda, as I shall explain. Hakluyt’s text reveals an i­ nteresting 15


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tension specific to early modern England. On the one hand, East Asia  – and China in particular – is described as a land of knowledge, ruled by philosopherkings.2 On the other, it presents a challenge to English knowledge; it is a place where the English understanding of the world obviously reaches its limits. How Hakluyt deals with this lack of knowledge, how his text fills this  lacuna with intelligence acquired elsewhere, lays bare not only the boundaries of English knowledge at the time in general but more specifically the boundaries of the national perspective championed by Hakluyt’s project. At the same time, the failure of Hakluyt’s nationalist agenda vis-à-vis East Asia coincides with a shift towards a supranational perspective that would eventually prove crucial to England’s rise to power on the global stage of trade and colonialism. The failure of one approach, then, is concomitant with the emergence of another that would eventually prove more fruitful; this demonstrates that ‘in historical actuality, success and failure are inseparable terms and should be considered together’.3 Juxtaposing these two approaches, and foregrounding the tension between them in Hakluyt’s work, I agree with Q. S. Tong that it is of necessity to recognize and acknowledge the value of difference, contradiction and discontinuity, by developing a cross-cultural immanent critique which takes ‘failure’ as a point of departure for a full examination of the complexities of the Sino-British historical relations and as the locus of possibilities of understanding, knowledge and critique.4

Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations is massive not only in length, eventually amounting to 1.5 million words, but also in scope. It attempts to bring together information from, and on, all English voyages abroad, aiming to be an encompassing encyclopaedia of the state of English knowledge of the world. Accordingly, it collects innumerable travel reports, letters, treatises and other material by English explorers, merchants and diplomats travelling the seven seas. Its ambition is already visible in its full title: The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over Land, to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at any Time within the Compasse of these 1500 Yeeres. Hakluyt’s project is not least a celebration of one and a half millennia of English triumphs abroad. A second edition published between 1598 and 1600, and Samuel Purchas’s continuation in the 1620s, enlarged the project even further to a monumental four million words. Writing in the early twentieth century, James Froude accordingly called The Principal Navigations the ‘Prose Epic of the modern English nation’.5 The book is certainly epic in scale and national in ambition, and by mapping out English exploits all around the globe, it aims at boosting English patriotism, not unlike many epics at the time. As Jack Beeching observes, ‘Hakluyt’s great narratives are still permeated by a sense of national unity. […] The original identity of interest linking trade and science, literature and knowledge – the need for national survival – is still vividly apparent.’6

imagining east asia 17

Hakluyt is spurred on from the start by what he perceives to be an unfair neglect of English achievements as seafarers and explorers. At the outset of the first edition he clearly states his motivation for compiling his massive work in his ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ to Sir Francis Walsingham: I both heard in speech, and read in books other nations miraculously extolled for their discoveries and notable enterprises by sea, but the English of all others for their sluggish security, and continuall neglect of the like attempts […] either ignominiously reported, or exceedingly condemned. […] Thus both hearing, and reading the obloquie of our nation, and finding few or none of our owne men able to replie heerin […]: for stopping the mouthes of the reprochers, my selfe […] determined […] to undertake the burden of that worke.7

With his massive book project, he aims to bring about ‘that just commendation which our nation doe indeed deserve’.8 Proudly, he depicts the English as ‘men full of activity, stirrers abroad, and searchers of the remote parts of the world […], in compassing the vaste globe of the world more then [sic] once’ and ‘excell[ing] all the nations and people of the earth’.9 In its patriotism, Hakluyt’s book participates in a larger project of defining, and propagating, Englishness in the sixteenth century. After the Wars of the Roses (1455–87) and the enthronisation of Henry VII as the first king of the new Tudor dynasty in 1485, and after the break with Rome under his son and successor Henry VIII in the 1530s, the English struggled to define their national identity. ‘This realm of England is an Empire’, declared the Act of Appeals in 1533 – but just what kind of Empire remained to be defined.10 As Richard Helgerson writes, ‘King Henry and his royal servants had made a revolution; their Elizabethan successors were left to make sense of the result.’11 Attempts at establishing what made England different, and special, took place in various fields: cartographers such as Christopher Saxton mapped out the national territory; chorographers such as Michael Drayton and William Camden aimed at providing the various parts of Britain with voices of their own; dictionaries, such as A World of Words (1598) by John Florio, an acquaintance of Hakluyt, can be understood not least as projects of defining a national language; orthographers such as John Hart attempted to standardise, and nationalise, spelling; lawyers such as Edward Coke proposed a specifically English law; and playwrights, among them most prominently William Shakespeare in his history plays, performed the national past for all to see.12 The Principal Navigations forms part of this project and boosts pride in the English nation by suggesting that, essentially, the English were about to conquer the world. In this context, focusing on English perceptions of East Asia is particularly interesting because it points towards a fundamental dilemma of Hakluyt’s project. When he compiled the various accounts of English exploits around the globe in the 1580s, and then again in the 1590s for the revised edition, there was nothing to be proud of in terms of English expeditions to East


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Asia – despite repeated efforts, the English had not yet reached the area. His book is divided into three parts, each on a different part of the world, providing accounts of English travels for instance in the Americas, in Africa, in the Ottoman Empire, in Persia and in Russia. However, Hakluyt faced a major problem when composing his volume on English travels in East Asia, as there was little to write about. What to do? In his first edition, Hakluyt resorts to including Latin excerpts from what was probably the best-known available text on East Asia in England at the time: Sir John Mandeville’s Travels.13 The book by Mandeville – whom Hakluyt believed to have been English but who might have been French or Flemish14  – dated back to the mid-fourteenth century and had remained the principal source of information on Asia in English well into the sixteenth century. This was the case not least because after the time of Mandeville’s travels, the Ottoman Empire’s rise to power, culminating in the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, had complicated further European travels to the East, resulting in a lack of information in the West. Mandeville claims to have reached the fabled Cathay, as China was then called, and to have served the emperor for sixteen months, but his report is so fabulous that some argue that in all likelihood his longest journey had taken him to the nearest library.15 For him, Asia beyond India is a wondrous place populated by ‘ugly folk without heads, who have eyes in each shoulder’ and strange creatures, some of which ‘have one eye only, in the middle of their foreheads’ while others have mouths that are ‘round, like a horseshoe, in the middle of their chest’.16 ‘Ugly fellows’ are to be found ‘whose upper lip is so big that when they sleep in the sun they cover all the face with it’ as well as ‘people whose ears are so big that they hang down to their knees’.17 In Mandeville’s text, Asia is a place of natural resources and riches, but his descriptions thereof make readers wonder whether he had actually ever set eyes on it. By the time of the second edition, published in three successive volumes between 1598 and 1600, Hakluyt must have realised that Mandeville, writing in the fourteenth century, could no longer serve as an authoritative source. He needed more up-to-date knowledge – but from where? In what might have been a moment of embarrassment in view of Hakluyt’s patriotic purpose, he resorted to translating foreign sources, often by Continental Jesuits, into English. This can be seen as a double failure, a practical one and an ideological one. On a practical level, Hakluyt failed to obtain first-hand accounts by English explorers as he had set out to do. The ideological failure consists in the fact that the national perspective motivating Hakluyt’s work fails, as East Asia defies his patriotic ambitions. Apparently, knowledge of this part of the world is not to be had on national terms, at least not for the English. The foreign sources Hakluyt incorporates are interesting, not least because they implicitly undermine the national thrust of his oeuvre. One of the foreign sources on East Asia that we find in Hakluyt’s second edition is a Latin treatise on China printed in Macao in 1590. In his preface, Hakluyt tells us how he came into possession of this text:

imagining east asia 19 I have here inserted two speciall Treatises of the sayd Countries [China and Japan], […] which last discourse […] was printed in Latine in Macao, a citie of China, in China-paper, in the yeere a thousand five hundred and ninetie, and was intercepted in the great Carrack [a large merchant ship] called Madre de Dios two yeeres after, inclosed in a case of sweete Cedar wood, and lapped up almost an hundred fold in fine calicut-cloth, as though it had beene some incomparable jewell.18

Protected by precious materials (‘sweete Cedar wood’, ‘fine calicut-cloth’), handled with great care, the treatise itself appears to be a costly object coming out of the East. In fact, among the many goods pirated on this ship, such as pearls, gold, silver, ebony, cloth and spices, Hakluyt presents the text as a good more precious than any other: knowledge about China becomes the crowning jewel among the commodities to be gained in the East. As such a commodity it can, like others, be acquired, transported on ships, pirated and appropriated – as in this case where it is stolen (‘intercepted’) from a Portuguese ship. Like other goods, knowledge about East Asia, materialised in this text, participates in the circulation of objects; it participates in a mercantile logic – a logic that ultimately questions a narrowly national perspective and is based on international exchange. Let us stay a moment with this ‘Excellent Treatise of the Kingdome of China’, as Hakluyt proudly calls it. What is it that makes it so precious? What sort of knowledge do we find here? The treatise is written in the form of a dialogue between three Japanese, named Michael, Leo and Linus. All three have apparently been converted by the Jesuits, as they repeatedly speak about what ‘our fathers of the society’ report from China.19 This would also explain their Western, non-Japanese names. Linus, who has heard many rumours about China, wants to know ‘the trueth of things’.20 Thus prompted, Michael, his interlocutor, at length provides information on China’s geography, government and resources, as well as on Chinese religion and manners. In general, the information given is not very surprising and differs little from that provided by other contemporary sources. Yet, the fact that in his preface Hakluyt singles out this particular text from the hundreds contained in his book shows its importance. On the one hand, it underlines the special status of China: a place of wonderful riches, not yet colonised by England’s rivals, China represents the ultimate goal of English efforts in Asia. Ralph Fitch, Martin Frobisher, John Cabot, Anthony Jenkinson, Arthur Pet  – the second edition of The Principal Navigations is full of English explorers risking, and sometimes losing, their lives in search of passages to China, either north-west via North America, north-east via the Barents Sea or overland through Russia. On the other hand, Hakluyt’s singling out of this particular treatise in his introduction perhaps implies that this is the sort of knowledge he aims to collect: geographical, ethnographical, economic knowledge of hitherto unknown places, places that could potentially become trading partners, if not colonies of the English. The popularity of his work suggests that this knowledge was in high demand. At the same time, Hakluyt’s texts on East Asia signal a shift in the


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English ­perspective: after a phase of internal, often bloody, strife following the Reformation, England in the late sixteenth century increasingly turns towards the world. This shift from an inward-oriented perspective towards an outwardoriented one interestingly coincides with a shift in genre from the national epic  to the travel account. What makes Hakluyt’s text so interesting, and so telling, is the fact that it is situated precisely between these two genres. Around the same time that Hakluyt was composing his text, the epic was establishing itself as the prime genre for celebrating, and promoting, patriotism through prominent examples such as Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590) or, later, Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612). The Principal Navigations shares the national ambitions as well as the epic scope of such works. At the same time, however, it also differs crucially from the genre of the epic. Drayton’s Poly-Olbion is a chorography, a text in which we follow a muse travelling the many regions of England, and in which the various rivers, mountains or valleys acquire voices of their own. Spenser’s massive book project likewise focuses on England, on its legendary past and on the figure of its ‘faerie queene’, a mythical ruler who is to be understood as an allegory of the ruling Elizabeth I. While these epics zoom in on Britain, or England, as it were, Hakluyt’s project is quite different in its trajectory: it is a panorama of everything beyond England. The epic frequently roots England in a most venerable tradition, reaching back to the origins of Western civilisation, to Rome, Greece and the Bible. Spenser’s Faerie Queene is based on Arthurian legend, and the narrative voice in Drayton’s work refers to Britain’s Roman and pre-Roman past. Other contemporary book projects such as William Camden’s Britannia (1586) combine maps and a historiographically inspired county-by-county description of Britain with the express purpose to ‘restore antiquity to Britaine, and Britain to his antiquity’.21 Later epics such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), followed by Paradise Regained (1671), are modelled on biblical motifs. Essentially, one might argue, the epic is a backward-looking genre, focusing on ‘the meaning of the past on the present’.22 Sometimes this turn towards the past is even visible in its language, for instance in Spenser’s deliberately archaic diction. In this regard, Hakluyt’s travel accounts are quite different; rather than focusing on the past, they often look forward to the potentials of future exploits. It appears that Hakluyt’s genre – the travel account – implicitly undermines the nationalism of his project, fostering a change in perspective from anxiously focusing on oneself, one’s past and heritage, towards a supranational, perhaps even proto-imperial outlook. Such a questioning of the national perspective is hinted at in The Principal Navigations, not least in the section on East Asia. Among the descriptions of Japan to be found in the text, Hakluyt includes a text by a source identified as ‘R. Willes’ entitled ‘Of the Iland Japan, and other litle Iles in the East Ocean’. The terms used to describe the Japanese are remarkable – they are the terms of chivalry. Here the Japanese are ‘courteous’, ‘without deceit’, full of ‘vertue’, ‘honest’, all ‘desirous of praise and honour’; ‘the greatest delight they have is in

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armour’.23 They surpass, the source informs us, ‘all other nations in comparison of their manhood and prowesse, putting not up one injurie be it never so small in worde or deede’.24 The Japanese, as they are depicted here, almost seem to be in line with the chivalrous heroes of the English epics such as Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Surprisingly, however, chivalry is not a positive stance in relation to the Japanese at all; honour not an aim to be followed. On the contrary, it is depicted as a false god: the Japanese are ‘so much standing upon their reputation, that their chiefe Idole may be thought honour’.25 Injured honour is depicted as the source of serious problems and crimes; it ‘causeth among them much discord and debate, manslaughter and murther’; even infanticide, since honour would not allow the poor to see their children in want.26 In an early description of harakiri, or rather seppuku, this Japanese form of suicide is presented as the apogee of an erroneous striving for honour even unto death. According to Hakluyt’s source, it is common, for instance, among convicts: The condemned person asketh […] whether it may bee lawfull for him to kill himselfe: the which thing when the king doeth graunt, the partie taking it for an honour, putteth on his best apparel and launcing his body a crosse from the breast downe all the belly, murthereth himselfe.27

Another source, the Jesuit Aloisius Froes (or Luís Froís), is quoted speaking ‘of the Japans madnesse’, suggesting that the Japanese are ‘most desirous of vaine glory’.28 It is as if the chivalrous striving for honour  – something depicted as very admirable, and English, in texts such as Spenser’s  – was projected onto the Japanese, a people at the extreme end of the known world, in an act of distancing oneself from it. Yet why are honour and chivalry so fervently rejected? We may only speculate, but the chivalrous knights of national epic tales perhaps no longer offer useful models in the context of Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, that is, in the context of the increasingly global mercantile world around 1600. This, one might argue, is not the world of individual heroes who pursue their quest alone; rather, this is the world of trading connections, of networks, intermediaries and exchange. This is not the world of standing on one’s honour, and of defending it with a sword; rather, this is the world of negotiations, compromises and deals. This is not the world of protecting oneself from outside influences; rather, the implicit perspective evidenced by Hakluyt’s book is one of exploration, inquiry and openness to new information and knowledge. Indeed, on close inspection the texts on first encounters with East Asia assembled in Hakluyt often evince a willingness to be impressed by the Asian other, and to learn. Readers familiar with Stephen Greenblatt’s seminal study on the discovery of the New World, Marvelous Possessions (1991), will notice the many moments of wonder described in these texts. ‘Moments of wonder’ are, according to Greenblatt, those instances in first encounters when the participants are faced with entirely new situations in which they can no longer rely on p ­ revious


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knowledge and are consequently at a loss. According to Greenblatt, these moments of wonder mark the breaking apart of contextual knowledge, instances in which one’s received knowledge is called into doubt in a most fundamental manner.29 The reports on East Asia collected in Hakluyt repeatedly note how China and Japan cause the European visitors to ‘wonder’, for instance at the abundance of fish and pearls to be found, the great number of people living in dwellings erected on water, the efficiency of the penal system, the layout of towns and cities, the splendour of interior design, the architecture of buildings, engineering feats and, not least, the Great Wall and other fortifications.30 Of course, we need to take into consideration that these texts about East Asia are not English in origin but sources appropriated from elsewhere; in the case of the two texts discussed above, they are Portuguese. It is telling, however, that Hakluyt selects precisely these sources. Obviously, he felt that they were adequate for an English readership; clearly there is some affinity between the Portuguese perspective and Hakluyt’s own. The reliance on such foreign sources, however, further undermines Hakluyt’s national agenda and implies that the English perspective overlaps with the Portuguese one; or, what is more, that perhaps there is no genuinely English perspective on East Asia at the time. The complex narrative situation in Hakluyt’s sources underlines the ­questioning of a national perspective. For his information on China, Hakluyt relies on the captivity narratives of Portuguese prisoners incarcerated there. His information on Japan stems from a number of letters, some unidentified, others by Portuguese missionaries writing to their companions in China; apparently, these letters were written in Italian and then translated into Latin before they were once more translated, this time into English by Richard Willes, or perhaps Hakluyt himself. The ‘Excellent Treatise of the Kingdome of China’ discussed above presents China from the perspective of three Japanese speakers, who have been converted to Christianity and are European in name. They are given voice by a Portuguese author who composed his text in Latin, the text then being pirated on a Portuguese ship before it was finally translated into English by Hakluyt. Whose knowledge are we dealing with here? Apparently, knowledge that can no longer be contained by national boundaries; circulating knowledge that is as supranational as the new world of global trade the English so much wished to enter. There is a strange mingling and merging of voices in Hakluyt, and often we cannot be certain who is speaking: the Japanese narrator, his Chinese sources, the Portuguese author, some English translator or Hakluyt the editor. There is a de-individualising, de-nationalising dynamic at work as Hakluyt disappears behind the many voices of his international sources. What we are presented with is no longer the story of the English nation that Hakluyt set out to compose but the polyphony of a globalising world. Despite Hakluyt’s national agenda, this is no longer a national world. Tellingly, Hakluyt slightly alters the title of his book for the second edition to The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, inserting the word ‘traffiques’ which had not been in the title of the first edition of 1589. It is as

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if he had realised that on the global stage his book depicts, ‘traffiques’, that is, the commercial transportation of merchandise or passengers, or more generally exchange and interaction, is the key word. In this context, genre adds a political dimension. Sometimes, it is argued that the novel, in its early beginnings, is a colonising genre, taking over elements from other genres, appropriating them for its own purposes.31 Something similar holds true for Hakluyt’s compilation: digesting travelogues, captivity narratives, letters, diaries, treatises, dialogues, historical documents and maps, this omnivorous compilation appropriates a vast variety of genres in an attempt to disseminate knowledge that will enable the English to ride the wave of international commerce in the short term, and to rule those waves in the long term. Hakluyt’s inability to meet with East Asia on explicitly national terms is a telling failure, ideologically preparing the ground for the step towards becoming an empire that England was about to take. At the same time, his failure reveals the ambivalent nature of failures. Viewed in relation to Hakluyt’s patriotic agenda, his treatment of East Asia may be considered a failure in the sense that he does not achieve the goals he sets out to achieve: providing specifically English information on the world. Then again, his narrowly national ambition is perhaps anachronistic to some degree in a world of increasingly global trade and commerce. The international outlook Hakluyt is forced to adopt in his section on China and Japan befits those nascent ambitions that go beyond the national and envision England as an emergent player on the stage of global trade. With its intermingling of the national and the supranational, Hakluyt’s text thus lays bare the overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, ambitions circulating in late sixteenth-century England, showing a country at a crucial stage of its historical development towards becoming an empire. What may seem like failure in view of a national perspective thus could also be regarded as successful in paving the way to a different form of English self-fashioning that would eventually cater for global ambitions. In Hakluyt’s case, failure is not simply an instance of a writer not reaching his aims but it rather puts these aims to the test in the first place, suggesting that setting out with a decidedly national agenda is a problematically limiting approach when it comes to capturing late sixteenth-century English knowledge of the world. The paratexts of Hakluyt’s two editions are revealing in this context. The 1589 edition, published a year after the defeat of the Spanish Armada and during a surge of patriotic feelings, clearly sounds a national note. This is particularly obvious in the opening dedication to Walsingham explaining, as we have seen, Hakluyt’s patriotic motivation to compile his book. It also holds true for Hakluyt’s preface to the reader. Here, he explains the national perspective that informs his enterprise: Moreover, I meddle in this worke with the Navigations onely of our owne nation: And albeit I alleage in a few places (as the matter and occasion required) some strangers as


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witnesses of the things done, yet are they none but such as either faythfully remember, or sufficiently confirme the travels of our owne people.32

These ‘our own people’ are at the heart of the project, and ‘strangers’ only merit a place in it insofar as they contribute to, and affirm, England’s glory. This patriotic note still informs his second edition ten years later, and in the preface as well as in the dedication to Sir Robert Cecil, ‘our nation’ still functions as a leitmotif. However, by the time Hakluyt reaches the third and final volume of this second edition, he has grown much more aware of the benefit of a perspective that is no longer limited to the national. In his dedication he writes: Albeit my worke do carry the title of The English voyages, aswell in regard that the greatest part are theirs, and that my travaile was chiefly undertaken for preservation of their memorable actions, yet where our owne mens experience is defective, there I have bene careful to supply the same with the best and chiefest relations of strangers.33

He shows fewer qualms about adopting foreign sources of information now. Rather self-consciously, Hakluyt advertises the incorporation of foreign knowledge, for instance when he mentions how through the taking of Spanish ships and the sacking of Spanish towns ‘their secrets of the West Indies […] are fallen into our peoples hands’, and how he decided to publish ‘such secrets of theirs, as may any way availe us or annoy them’.34 Taking a step back, one might tentatively trace a development here. Hakluyt’s 1589 edition originates in a patriotic impulse, and this is seen in the description of Asia: relying on Mandeville, Hakluyt chooses the only (allegedly) English source at his disposal, putting Englishness before credibility. Simultaneously, with Mandeville’s Travels he relies on a text that, with its single hero-knight braving all adventures abroad, displays elements of the national epic. Ten years later this changes in the subsequent edition. Realising that the type of knowledge offered by Mandeville’s account will no longer serve his purpose, Hakluyt embraces the strategy of resorting to sources by England’s Catholic rivals. As a result, The Principal Navigations unwittingly undermines its own national agenda. Simultaneously, it introduces a supranational attitude in which the nationality of knowledge no longer plays a crucial role, an attitude that, in its eagerness to appropriate and devour the resource of foreign knowledge, almost seems imperial, if not colonial. In sum, The Principal Navigations demonstrates how the English fail East Asia even before they arrive there. It shows how theirs is a double failure, manifesting itself not only on the practical level of obtaining first-hand English knowledge but also on an ideological level as knowledge of East Asia defies a national agenda. At the same time, this failure is a telling one, as it anticipates a different outlook that goes beyond the national one, an outlook that in its appropriation of foreign knowledge becomes key in the development towards an empire. The descriptions of China and Japan in Hakluyt’s works thus open up to

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scrutiny the competing forms of English self-perception in the 1580s and 1590s, bringing to the fore a country that is poised between patriotic pride and global aspirations. Reading Hakluyt’s depictions of East Asia as manifesting the failure of one specific perspective – the narrowly national one – allows us to foreground the interplay of contrary discourses defining England’s position in the world around 1600 and to understand The Principal Navigations as the embodiment of a fundamentally transitory phase in English history. The story of English failure vis-à-vis East Asia does not end here, of course, and the mercantile perspective emerging in Hakluyt’s work eventually proved similarly lacking when applied to East Asia. Queen Elizabeth I might have been convinced that this mercantile logic of exchange could be applied to China and Japan, as it was to other countries. In her 1583 letter to the Emperor of China she states apodictically, ‘It cannot otherwise be, but that […] we are borne and made to have need one of another, and that wee are bound to aide one another […].’ She envisages ‘mutual trade’ and ‘the transporting outward of such things whereof we have plenty, and […] bringing in such things as we stand in need of’.35 Yet, the English idea of trade on an equal footing, too, soon proved impracticable in East Asia. The very concept of mutual negotiations must have bewildered the Chinese; the thought that foreigners such as the English could be considered as equal partners was alien to them, and they rather expected tribute bearers from abroad.36 The Chinese emperor never graced Elizabeth with a reply. All endeavours by the English to set up lasting trade relations with China or Japan at the time – William Adams’s attempts to initiate Anglo-Japanese and Anglo-Chinese trade via a so-called factory in Hirando, Japan, after his landfall there in 1600; John Weddell’s expedition to China via Macao in the 1630s; the efforts to enter Chinese trade by setting up a trading post on Taiwan in the 1670s – failed. East Asia remained outside the grasp of the English, not only often geographically but also economically and conceptually. For centuries to come, it proved incommensurable to English ideology, be it national, mercantile, imperial or colonial. In other words, Hakluyt’s text presents only the first step in the story of English failure vis-à-vis East Asia. At the same time, it demonstrates that such failures can be revealing, laying bare underlying English assumptions and ideologies precisely by mapping out their limitations.

Notes  1. Letter by the commander of the English fleet, John Weddell, to the Chinese mandarins, quoted in Peter Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy, in Europe and Asia, ­1608–1667, ed. Richard Carnac Temple, vol. 3.1 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1919), 264.   2. One encounters this topos already in Sir John Mandeville, writing in the fourteenth century, who states that ‘beside the Emperor’s table sit many philosophers and men learned in different branches of knowledge’ before outlining the great influence of


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philosophers on the government of China. John Mandeville, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, trans. C. W. R. D. Moseley (London: Penguin, 1983), 150.   3. Q. S. Tong, ‘Lessons of Failure: Toward an Ethics of Cross-Cultural Understanding’, Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures, ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 156–71 (164).   4. Ibid., 168.  5. James Anthony Froude, Essays on History and Literature (London: J. M. Dent, 1906), 36.   6. Jack Beeching, ‘Introduction’, Richard Hakluyt: Voyages and Discoveries, ed. and abridged by Jack Beeching (London: Penguin, 1985), 27.   7. I quote Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations from the following editions: the first edition, abbreviated as ‘Hakluyt (1589)’: Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over Land, to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at any Time within the Compasse of these 1500 Yeeres (London: 1589); the second edition, abbreviated as ‘Hakluyt (1598)’: Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over-Land, to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at any Time within the Compasse of these 1600 Yeeres, 12 vols (Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1903–5 [1598–1600]). The quote here is from Hakluyt (1598), vol. 1, xix.   8. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 1, xx.   9. Ibid., xx. 10. ‘The Restraint of Appeals’, Documents of the Christian Church, ed. Henry Bettenson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 218. For the rise of English national identity in this period, see Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003 [1992]), 27–87. 11. Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994), 4. 12. See Helgerson. On the contribution of the history play to an emerging sense of national identity, see Ralf Hertel, Staging England in the Elizabethan History Play: Performing National Identity (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014). 13. Hakluyt (1589), 25–77. 14. See for instance John Larner, ‘Plucking Hairs from the Great Cham’s Beard: Marco Polo, Jan de Langhe, and Sir John Mandeville’, Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, ed. Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Iannucci (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 133–55. 15. See C. W. R. D. Moseley’s introduction to his edition of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, 12. 16. Mandeville, 137. 17. Ibid., 137. 18. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 1, lxxii. 19. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 6, 348–9, 351. 20. Ibid., 348. 21. William Camden, Britannia, trans. Richard Gough (Hildesheim: Olms, 1974 [1806]), 1: xxxv.

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22. Rudolf B. Gottfried, ‘Our New Poet: Archetypal Criticism and The Faerie Queene’, PMLA 83.5 (1968): 1362–77 (1363). 23. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 6, 328. 24. Ibid., 328. 25. Ibid., 328. 26. Ibid., 328. 27. Ibid., 330–1. 28. Ibid., 340. 29. Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 19. 30. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 6, 318, 355, 352, 307, 300, 320, 314, 315, 320. 31. See for instance Lee Morrissey, ‘The Restoration and Eighteenth Century, 1­ 660–1780’, English Literature in Context, ed. Paul Poplawski (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 211–305 (257). 32. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 1, xxiv. 33. Ibid., lxxvi. 34. Ibid., lxxvii. 35. Hakluyt (1598), vol. 5, 451. On Elizabeth’s letter – and the alleged reply – see Ralf Hertel, ‘Faking It: The Invention of East Asia in Early Modern England’, Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures, ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 31–49. 36. On the incompatibility of Western and Chinese concepts of trade and exchange, see Michael Keevak, Embassies to China: Diplomacy and Cultural Encounters before the Opium Wars (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

Works cited Beeching, Jack. ‘Introduction.’ Richard Hakluyt: Voyages and Discoveries. Ed. and abridged Jack Beeching. London: Penguin, 1985. 9–29. Camden, William. Britannia. Trans. Richard Gough. Hildesheim: Olms, 1974 (1806). Froude, James Anthony. Essays on History and Literature. London: J. M. Dent, 1906. Gottfried, Rudolf B. ‘Our New Poet: Archetypal Criticism and The Faerie Queene.’ PMLA 83.5 (1968): 1362–77. Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Greenfeld, Liah. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003 (1992). Hakluyt, Richard. The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over Land, to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at any Time within the Compasse of these 1500 Yeeres. London: 1589. Hakluyt, Richard. The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over-Land, to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at any Time within the Compasse of these 1600 Yeeres. 12 vols. Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1903–5 (1598–1600).


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Helgerson, Richard. Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994. Hertel, Ralf. ‘Faking It: The Invention of East Asia in Early Modern England.’ Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures. Ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017. 31–49. Hertel, Ralf. Staging England in the Elizabethan History Play: Performing National Identity. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Keevak, Michael. Embassies to China: Diplomacy and Cultural Encounters before the Opium Wars. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Larner, John, ‘Plucking Hairs from the Great Cham’s Beard: Marco Polo, Jan de Langhe, and Sir John Mandeville.’ Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West. Ed. Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Iannucci. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. 133–55. Mandeville, John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Trans. C. W. R. D. Moseley. London: Penguin, 1983. Morrissey, Lee. ‘The Restoration and Eighteenth Century, 1660–1780.’ English Literature in Context. Ed. Paul Poplawski. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 211–305. Moseley, C. W. R. D. ‘Introduction.’ The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Trans. C. W. R. D. Moseley. London: Penguin, 1983. 9–40. Mundy, Peter. The Travels of Peter Mundy, in Europe and Asia, 1608–1667. Ed. Richard Carnac Temple, vol. 3.1. London: Hakluyt Society, 1919. ‘The Restraint of Appeals.’ Documents of the Christian Church. Ed. Henry Bettenson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963. 218. Tong, Q. S. ‘Lessons of Failure: Toward an Ethics of Cross-Cultural Understanding.’ Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures. Ed. Ralf Hertel and Michael Keevak. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017. 156–71.

Chapter 2

Fact and Fiction in the Writings of Wilhelm Joest about His Journey on Formosa in 1880 Shao-Ji Yao Although it is not particularly noticeable nowadays, considerable and keen German interest in the island of Taiwan has existed for a long time. This is reflected by the large body of, albeit relatively unknown, German works covering the island. The major part of these works was produced in the second half of the nineteenth century, but some sources date as far back as the seventeenth century. These include missionary reports, scientific articles about regional ethnology, geology, zoology and botany, as well as individual travel journals and diaries, which paint authentic pictures of Taiwan at the time. These descriptions reveal information about their authors as well, and they illustrate how scientific disciplines participate in the exchange of knowledge and commodities but also in the creation of personal and collective norms of cross-cultural encounters. In the summer of 1880, Wilhelm Joest, a German ethnologist born in Cologne, landed on Taiwan with the goal of getting to know the inhabitants of the north of the island, and he explored the surroundings of Taipei as well. What had been planned as a side trip to the then capital city of Taiwanfu (today’s Tainan 臺南) in the south of the island turned into a three-week stay as poor weather conditions prevented him from leaving. Altogether, his stay lasted more than a month. He documented his research findings, experiences and impressions in three works: a scientific article, an extensive travel report in the style of a novel and an as yet unpublished diary. By bartering and trading with the local people, he acquired numerous commodities and historical photographs, which he donated to the Ethnological Museum of Berlin during his lifetime. These artefacts allow an in-depth analysis of his stay on the island, at the time known as Formosa. In this essay, I will first of all provide the historical context of Joest’s journey to Taiwan, which took place at a time when ethnographic and anthropological research in Europe was interested in ideas of cultural evolutionism and classifications of societies. After a short biographical introduction of the author, I will then focus on several events mentioned in his travel report that at first glance seem to be realistic in order to inspect their authenticity, where authenticity is to be understood in relation to the intertextual nature of the accounts. Through a comparative analysis with Joest’s other work, discrepancies, inaccuracies and even fictitious elements can be identified. These analyses are ultimately used 29


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to produce a set of references that should be taken into consideration when evaluating the accuracy of historical or scientific works of a similar nature. They should also be taken into account when it comes to understanding the scientific basis of nineteenth-century ethnography and its evolutionist models, which are apparent throughout Joest’s writings. Finally, failures Joest experienced on his expedition will be discussed to find out their causes, followed by a conclusion looking at my research field on historical writings concerning Taiwan in the German language.

Historical background Taiwan had been under the rule of the Chinese Empire since the capitulation of Zheng Keshuang (鄭克塽), the grandson of Coxinga, in 1683 and was largely neglected afterwards. Only after the reopening of the Japanese and Chinese markets in the middle of the nineteenth century, and Taiwan’s establishment as both a military and economic hub, did the island attract growing international attention. Prussia and later the German Empire were two of the Western powers that exhibited great interest in the island. The relationship that developed through the interaction between Germany and China is particularly noteworthy. The second half of the nineteenth century was characterised by radical changes for both the Chinese and the German Empires. China had just lost the Second Opium War and had to open up many of its harbours to free trade with the United States, Russia, France and Great Britain under the Treaty of Tianjin (1858). Two of Taiwan’s ports were also affected: Tainan (Anping 安平) in the south and Tamsui in the north of the island. The practical implications were that the two ports of Takao in the south (today’s Kaohsiung) and Keelung in the north were also involved and the official opening followed in 1862–4, meaning Western businesses, as well as missionaries, were allowed to establish themselves there. However, first interactions soon led to conflict. In 1868, tensions with British camphor dealers escalated, leading to a military intervention, dubbed the Camphor War. Another problem was the fact that the island’s inhabitants had a long-standing habit of looting shipwrecked vessels which became stranded on the coast. As the island was only partially under the rule of the Chinese Empire at the time, such events led to several international conflicts. In 1867, the American merchant barque Rover was damaged and drifted towards the South Cape, the area today known as Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻). All the crew except for one man was killed by the aboriginals. Since the Chinese government claimed that this area was out of its control, the US representatives themselves had to negotiate with the chiefs of the local tribes. When several dozen shipwrecked sailors from Miyako-jima (宮古島) were robbed and murdered by the locals along Taiwan’s south-east coast in 1871, failed diplomatic talks resulted in a fully-fledged Japanese military invasion of the south of the island three years later. Following this, China became increasingly aware of the island’s ­political

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 31

and economic importance, while Western interest in the island continued. The Sino-French War of 1884 that erupted due to colonial territorial claims to Annan (north Vietnam) quickly spread along the south-eastern Chinese coast, involving Taiwan’s north, which was of strategic importance due to its storage capacity for and simple access to coal. After the war, Taiwan was finally declared an autonomous province by the Chinese government in 1885 (after having previously been an administrative annex of Fujian), but ten years later the island was handed over to the Japanese together with the Pescadores Islands (today’s Penghu 澎湖) after China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895. German interest in Taiwan grew. Whilst only a few German reports or studies about Formosa existed in the first half of the nineteenth century, publications concerning the island began to increase in number by the end of the 1850s. Much of the interest in, and systematic study of, Taiwan was probably related to the Prussian East Asia expedition of 1859–62. During the preparation for this expedition, colonial interests concerning Taiwan were under discussion, but the idea was eventually abandoned in order not to risk the trade agreement with China which was the expedition’s main objective.1 Nevertheless, talks of colonising Taiwan continued throughout the 1860s, propagated extensively by Ernst Friedel, who conducted an in-depth study on the matter in 1867.2 The idea remained on the Germans’ minds well into the 1880s, as suggested by this quote from Joest: At the end of the 70s, people in our fatherland spoke of Formosa on many occasions as well, when it was said that Bismarck intended to acquire the island as a German colony. A scream of horror sounded through the German press at that time, whereas, with calm consideration, we have to admit today that Formosa was more suitable as a colony for migration or agriculture than any island in South Seas or even Africa. – These times are past.3

After the opening of the Chinese harbours following the Treaty of Tianjin, it was not only missionaries, explorers and adventurers who visited Formosa. Some German businessmen conducted regular business there, and some German companies established branches on the island. Such were the circumstances when Joest decided to travel there in the summer of 1880.

A brief biography of the protagonist Wilhelm Joest was born on 15 March 1852 into a wealthy industrialist family near Cologne. Their sugar business, founded by his grandfather, would become one of the largest in the Rhineland under his father’s management.4 After the Franco-German War, which Wilhelm joined as a volunteer, he began his studies in natural sciences and languages. His interest in ethnology only grew during this time. His family’s considerable wealth allowed him to pursue his ethnological studies through travelling, and by 1874–5 he had set sail to the Middle


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East and North Africa. Soon afterwards he travelled throughout the American continent in 1876–8, and, after only several months of rest, he journeyed to Asia (1879–82). After his return, his dissertation on the language of Holontalo on the island of Celebes (today’s Sulawesi) earned him a PhD at the University of Leipzig in 1883. In the same year, he departed on another journey through South and East Africa that was continued to Australia and the South Pacific islands. However, this journey had to be interrupted in Aden (in Yemen) due to illness. In 1885, he married Clara von Rath and settled in Berlin. In the same year, he was awarded membership of the Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. His next expedition in 1889 led him to Guyana in South America. In 1890, he was awarded the title of professor in Berlin. After his divorce in 1896, he embarked on his last journey to Australia in May of 1897. On 25 November of that year, forty-five-year-old Joest died of a heart attack near the Santa-Cruz islands.

Joest’s sojourn in Taiwan Joest’s main motivation for his journey to Taiwan was research concerning the locals to discover what he considered the ethnological ‘missing link’ between the Asian mainland and the Malaysian archipelago, the Philippines and the South Pacific Islands. This ‘missing link’ constituted a gap in ethnological research at the time and was particularly interesting to those scientists that followed a cultural evolutionist line of thought. Finding a ‘solution’ to what seemed to be the ‘problem’ of the missing link would have been a success to researchers like Joest and illustrates how strongly nineteenth-century conceptions of failure and success were linked to knowledge acquisition: What race do the natives belong to? They are neither Negritos nor Melanesians; neither pure Malays nor Papuans, nor Alfur People nor Poly-, nor Micronesians. They are not akin to Mongols, Miao, nor Ainu People. What are they?  – we don’t know. In my opinion, they are close to the yellow ‘savages’ of the Philippines (e.g. the Igorot people). But where is the evidence? Formosan people resemble Negritos as much as the stockfish resembles the parrot. It is certain that Malays, Chinese, maybe even Japanese had immigrated here. But who or what are the indigenous people? Should no remains of them have survived? Of course! One just has to try to find them. Studying their language will provide us with the solution to the great mystery of Malay-Polynesian languages in general.5

The language is strongly normative here, and it reflects the discursive standards of nineteenth-century Western travel writing. With the help of European traders Joest did not only interact with the local Han Chinese but was also able to spend two days with Formosan locals in the vicinity of Tokoham (today’s Daxi 大溪). As mentioned above, Joest compiled his experiences in Taiwan in three writings of different types. Immediately after the Asia expedition, Joest published the scientific article ‘Studies on the Natives of the Islands of Formosa and

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 33

Ceram’ (‘Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Eingebornen der Inseln Formosa und Ceram’) in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 14 (1882). The part on Taiwan (53–63) begins with some general information on the island, followed by the author’s observations of the aboriginals in north Taiwan. In the chapter ‘Among Savages and Chinese on the Island of Formosa’ (‘Unter Wilden und Chinesen auf der Insel Formosa’) in the second volume of his travel reports in three volumes, Welt-Fahrten: Beiträge zur Länder- und Völkerkunde (1895), Joest detailed his sojourn on Formosa extensively, albeit in a more novel-like style of writing. Several experiences in other Asian countries are drawn upon for the sake of comparison, as well as several entertaining events, whose truthfulness might at times be questionable. His travel journals, on the other hand, offer a more realistic view. They have not been published yet, but a draft transcript has already been completed. At my request, the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne kindly provided me with the segments – both as a transcript and as images of the original – covering South East and East Asia (volume XI) for my research.

Figure 2.1  Excerpt from the map attached in Wilhelm Joest, Welt-Fahrten (Berlin, 1895).


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These three documents are the basis of my analysis, whilst contemporary sources and modern studies are used in addition. Not only can Joest’s journey be reconstructed in detail through the use of these sources, it is also possible to identify most of the people mentioned in his journal. Joest started his Asia expedition in 1879 and returned to Europe in the spring of 1882. Volume XI of his unpublished journals contains a detailed itinerary between 5 April and 30 October 1880. It reads as follows: 14 April – 9 May: Sumatra 11 May – 16 May: Penang, Singapore 18 May – 20 May: Saigon (Ho-Chi-Minh-City) 23 May – 11 June: Hongkong, Macao, Canton (today’s Guangzhou 廣州) 14 June – 2 July: Manila and surroundings 05 July – 8 July: Hongkong 10 July – 12 July: Amoy (today’s Xiamen 廈門) 13 July – 19 August: Formosa 20 August – 1 September: Amoy 05 September – 12 September: Shanghai 16 September – 7 October: Tianjin, Beijing and surroundings 10 October – 13 October: Shanghai 15 October – 19 October: Nagasaki 23 October – 30 October: Wladiwostok and surroundings

After his stay in Saigon, Joest arrived in Hong Kong on 23 May, exploring the neighbouring cities of Macau and Guangzhou before travelling to Manila in the Philippines; after that he travelled along the Chinese coast before finally crossing the Taiwan Strait via Amoy. After a short stay of two days in Amoy, where Joest was hosted by the German consul Franz von Aichberger, he departed for Formosa on the steamship Hailong (meaning sea dragon) around 4 o’clock in the afternoon of 12 July. The ship belonged to the British company Douglas Lapraik & Co., based in Hong Kong, which specialised in sea transport on China’s south-east coast, in particular between Amoy, Tamsui (淡水) and Takao (today’s Kaohsiung 高雄). The journey from Amoy to Tamsui took an estimated twenty hours, and Joest arrived in Tamsui the following day. From there he travelled upstream to Twatutia (today’s Dadaocheng 大稻埕) and Banka (艋舺, today’s Wanhua 萬華), at that time the centre of Taipei, by steam launch. This route took one to one and a half hours when the tide was convenient. In Twatutia he was welcomed by British traders mainly specialising in tea. These contacts were most likely organised during Joest’s visit to Amoy. After preparing to travel further inland, Joest embarked on his journey on 14  July. He continued by boat and followed the Tokoham River (today’s Dahanxi 大漢溪) upstream, the Tamsui River’s (淡水河) largest headstream. Apart from two ferrymen, he was accompanied by a servant named Jack, who

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 35

Figure 2.2  General Charles W. Le Gendre, Amoy and Formosa, China: Commercial Relations of the United States, 1869 (Washington DC, 1871).

also acted as a translator. They spent the night in a village named Komakan (perhaps the village Kamakan mentioned by Le Gendre, the US consul in Amoy and Formosa; see Figure 2.2) right on the river bank and arrived in the town of Tokoham (today’s Daxi 大溪) on 15 July, where for the first time Joest came into contact with Taiwanese locals who had been captured. Early in the morning of 16 July, the journey continued towards the south-east into the mountains. Besides Jack, Joest’s entourage now consisted of a chef, three coolies and several indigenous people who followed him voluntarily. Around 9.30 a.m. they arrived at a settlement named Chi-lau-tang (today’s Shuiliudong 水流東 in Fuxin District, Taoyuan City 桃園市復興區). This area marked the border between Han Chinese and aboriginals, who were mortal enemies at the time. A ten-mile-wide neutral zone existed between the two in which much bartering occurred. They continued their journey thirty minutes further into the neutral zone to the final destination of Sankyat. The location is unidentified to date. The next day (17 July) Joest spent observing the aboriginals and their way of life and in addition he acquired several objects by bartering with the locals. Joest departed for Daxi in the early morning of the 18th and continued


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drifting downriver, arriving at Taipei around noon, where he had dinner with the well-known Scottish tea trader John Dodd (1838–1907) around 5 o’clock. In the following days Joest explored the city of Taipei and its surroundings, experiencing a violent earthquake in Tamsui on the 19th, visiting the volcanic springs near Beitou (北投) on the 22nd and inspecting the actual city of Taipei, which was still under construction at the time, on the 25th. Instead of directly returning to Amoy on the 22nd from Tamsui as planned, Joest decided to wait several days for another ship named Albay that belonged to Douglas Lapraik & Co. (like the Hailong) and travelled to Tainan before returning to Amoy. While this change of itinerary was mainly motivated by Joest’s desire to visit the then capital city of Taiwan, it also saved him £45 in travel costs. Although he had already boarded the ship on the 26th, it took until the following day for the ship to actually depart. It arrived at Tainan on 28 July but, due to poor weather conditions, was not able to land until the 29th, making an unplanned stop in Penghu to wait out the bad weather. Due to this unexpected development, Joest was completely dependent on good luck. Through a fellow traveller, a Parsee named Methar, he met the German Robert Dross, an employee of the relatively well-known German company in Tainan, Julius Mannich & Co. Upon learning that the Albay had departed early due to bad weather warnings, he was able to stay with Dross for the following nineteen days/eighteen nights, waiting for the next ship. In the meantime, he was able to explore the city and the way of life of the Han Chinese in greater detail, for example watching a regatta in the canals of the city and a religious procession (31 July). He also witnessed the disassembled equipment of the first Chinese railway (Woosung 吳淞) near Shanghai that had been built in 1876 but torn down in the following year due to the inhabitants’s protesting. These materials were then transported to Taiwan and stored in Tainan (1 August). He was further impressed by the prison, the governmental building (Yamen) where soldiers were training in the yard (2 August), and the display of three prisoners in cages who had been sentenced to death by starvation (13 August). Otherwise, Joest did not undertake any further excursions as either the weather did not permit further trips or he did not feel well enough to travel. He finally got to board the Albay on 16 August. However, the weather conditions were again so dangerous that the ship had to turn back to Tainan on the 18th. On 19 August, the ship and Joest finally left Taiwan at 5 a.m., and they arrived in Amoy on the following day.

Fact and fiction in the travel report (1895) Joest turned this actual itinerary into an adventurous report in the style of a novel that was collected in his anthology Welt-Fahrten, published in 1895. The preparation for this is still clearly visible in blue in the original journal. The horizontal lines on pages 104 and 141 mark the beginning and the ending of the Taiwan journey respectively, whilst the pages in-between are marked with

Figure 2.3  William Hancock, ‘Tamsui Trade Report for the Year 1881’, Maritime Customs Annual Returns and Reports of Taiwan, 1867–1895, vol. 1: 1867–81, 545.

Figure 2.4  Joest’s journal, vol. XI, 103–4. Reproduced with kind permission of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Cologne.

Figure 2.5  Joest’s journal, vol. XI, 129–30. Reproduced with kind permission of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Cologne.


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a vertical line. The stopover on Penghu, on the other hand, is marked by two shorter horizontal lines (130 and 131), which simultaneously indicate the transition from north to south. Despite using his itinerary as a basis, Joest made some changes. The chapter ‘Among Savages and Chinese on the Island of Formosa’ (‘Unter Wilden und Chinesen auf der Insel Formosa’) is structured as follows: after an introduction to the geographical location and the history of the island until the Sino-French war in 1884–5, as well as the current circumstances, Joest begins retelling his  journey starting with his time in Tainan, taking the reader to the north of the island only later. In comparison to the journal, four differences can be noticed: 1. Except for the earthquake in Tamsui and the arrival in Tainan’s Anping harbour, the travel report contains no further dates. 2. All the names of the numerous people Joest encountered on his journey are abbreviated with their initial or completely left out, except for the Parsee named Methar (in the journal spelled ‘Meter’). 3. The order of the events in both parts of his journey is altered. 4. Joest adds several amusing anecdotes which are not mentioned in his journal and thus it cannot be verified whether they describe the author’s own experience or just hearsay. This may be due to a memory lapse fifteen years after the journey, or perhaps he did this to increase the entertainment factor and create suspense. What follows is an analysis of several segments of the travel report from 1895 to illustrate how Joest treated the facts from his journal. Depending on their verifiability, three types of scenes or events can generally be distinguished: the authentic, the half-truth and the non-verifiable. In the following, I will illustrate my classification with examples. The description of the city of Taipeifu is authentic: Between the city districts of Twatutia and Banka, construction of the present capital Taipeifu was begun in 1880. Five stately gates had already been erected, but the city wall connecting them has not been built yet. On the desolate terrain where the new city was going to be established, one only saw a quite pretty ‘Yamen’, the government building for the commanding prefect and his officials, as well as an ‘ExaminationHall’, which was impressive for the circumstances there.6

In 1879, the city of Taipeifu was planned in-between the settlements of Twatutia (today’s Dadaocheng) and Banka (today’s Wanhua) with five city gates. When Joest visited Taipeifu, the five gates had just been constructed; the wall that was to connect them had not. It was only completed in 1884. This depiction is corroborated by the American correspondent and diplomat James W. Davidsons’s observations:

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 41 So rapidly was the work pushed forward that, before the end of the year (1879), the north, south, east, and west gates were approaching completion, the Examination Hall accommodating 10,000 students was entirely completed, and the Confucian Temple and the Prefect’s Yamen were in course of construction. A year or so later the various buildings had been practically completed.7

The descriptions of the earthquake in Tamsui on 19 July are also authentic.8 Most likely, this one is related to the earthquake in Manila; its main shock occurred on the 18th at 12.40 p.m.9 In addition, the business and everyday life of the foreign traders, the neutral zone dividing aboriginal and Han Chinese territory, and the decommissioned railway equipment in Tainan are equally based on reality. These images help visualise the contemporary living conditions as well as the social and commercial interactions between Han Chinese, indigenous people and foreign traders. As an example of half-truth sections, I will use the description of the ferry during the landing in Tainan, about which only simple notes can be found in the journal: At Anpeng-Taiwanfoo. Got into a tub on a catamarana. Passed the sand bar almost dry. The wrecks of two ships ran aground on the bar. […] A reef barely protruding above the water encircles the marsh and river delta of Taiwanfu for miles in an almost circular form. The only stretch that is not covered by the reef is blocked by a very dangerous sand bar, so that almost every day somebody drowns there.10

The scene at departure should also be taken into account: Quite depressed early in the morning, farewell to Taiwanfu, by Tek-Pei through the surging bay despite bad weather. I firmly held a rope in case we were to capsize, hard work, often in the middle of roaring waves. Climbed aboard the Albay arduously.11

Tek-Pei is the Minnan-dialect word for a particular type of bamboo raft that is still in use in Taiwan today. Joest must have learned the colloquialism during his travels. Joest combined these notes in his scientific article (1882), in which he offered a different perspective on these experiences and instead placed an emphasis on an illustration of the geographical particularities of the harbour location, explaining why a landing with such a ferry was necessary at the time: The entire west coast of Formosa has been rising from the sea for centuries, slowly but clearly measurable. Where Dutch ships used to anchor, people can walk now on dry land. The walls of Fort Nova Zelandia had once been washed by the sea, which has receded 5 miles over the centuries. On the resulting swamp and sand bank, a fishing village now stands. The actual entrance to the port is made difficult by a dangerous coral reef, and even the gateway is so shallow due to a sand bar that passage by boat


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is impossible in the slightest wind. Therefore, a kind of small original raft, also called catamarana here, is in use. These are made of 12 poles of bamboo tied together through which a board is pushed that acts as a kind of keel. The traveller crouches down in a Chinese bathtub firmly tied to the raft and is stuffed with canvas; a rope tied to the rear end of the raft is handed to him should the raft capsize. Both in front and behind, a Chinaman stands with crossed oars and they steer the elastic and swaying vehicle in such a way that with the roaring billows one is thrown over the sand bar and towards the coast.12

The same scene is illustrated even more elaborately and dramatically in the travel report (1895): These are nearly 10 metre long and 3 to 4 metre wide rafts made of bamboo stalks tied together which have been slightly bent over fire, so that it is not flat like our raft, but more trough-shaped; a board is pushed through as a kind of keel. In the middle of the whimsical vehicle, a short strong mast with a heavy sail made of palm bast is pulled up; a rudder serves as a sail pole. In addition, a small wooden Chinese bathtub is tied with reed to the bamboo stalks; the traveller has to squat down in it; it is then filled with canvas and all kinds of old rags. Someone gives him a rope tied to the rear end of the raft for the (very rare) case of capsizing. A Chinese stands with two oars crossing over his chest in the front part of the vehicle, another one in the back, and then the raft goes off into the roaring billows. The people row and steer (in the manner of the Venetian gondoliers) with great agility; often you see the person in the back part perpendicularly above you and you are convinced that the raft is going to capsize – in such moments you don’t think about adhesive force and other laws of nature – until suddenly a huge wave hurls the flexible, unbreakable vehicle with its load away over the sand bank to the shore. I know other more comfortable ways to go ashore.13

First of all, various discrepancies can be found here. The fact that accidents during landing rarely happen does not correspond to the statement in the journal (25 July). Despite the intent to increase the excitement, it just produces the opposite effect, however, and the admiration of the author for the stability of this vehicle is suggested. Then, the raft is described in even greater detail. All this information, together with a description of how it is made, cannot be found either in the journal or in the article, but a corresponding description does exist in a French work published in 1893, which Joest himself mentions in his travel report as a reliable source about Taiwan.14 The following segment, together with an engraving from that book (Figure 2.6), illustrates the correspondence: It’s a kind of raft about ten metres long and three or four metres wide, made of twelve or fourteen stalks of the largest bamboo species: these poles are curved by fire to give the raft a curvilinear shape and are joined together with rattan, or pieces of wood

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 43

Figure 2.6  Camille Imbault-Huart, L’île formose: Histoire et description (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1893), 274. placed across them. On a solid block of wood, fixed in the centre of the raft, the mast is planted which carries a large mat sail. Not a single nail is used in the construction of these strange boats.15

Also, the fact that Joest arrived at the swampy coast ‘completely soaked’ as he wrote in his travel report is not true.16 According to his journal (25 July), he crossed the shallows without getting wet (‘ziemlich trocken passierte die Barre’). It was the boarding process on the return trip that was much more difficult by comparison due to the bad weather. The author purposefully created suspense by exaggerating his struggles. All in all, however, he painted a realistic picture of the high-risk landing in Tainan, which several foreign travellers have described in similar fashion, such as the Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837–1921), who experienced such a landing in 1871: We, however, determined to land in a native surf-boat or catamaran, composed of a number of lengths of bamboo lashed together with ratan, so as to form a raft, to which is added a mast and mat sail. There is, also, a wooden tub placed on the raft for the accommodation of passengers going ashore; these tubs are never fixed in any way to the raft, so that when the raft is upset by a wave, a not infrequent occurrence, the


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passenger is washed ashore in the tub. Thoroughly wet with the surf, we landed near the ruins of Fort Zelandia.17

Differently from Joest’s description, the tub is not tied to the raft here. Thomson describes the same scene in more detail twenty-five years later, much like Joest: As for ourselves, we went ashore in a catamaran, a sort of raft made of poles of the largest species of bamboo. These poles are bent by fire so as to impart a hollow shape to the raft, and are lashed together with ratan. A strong wooden block, made fast to the centre of this surf-boat, supports the mast, which carries a large mat sail. There is not a nail used in the whole contrivance, and the most curious feature about the strange vessel is the accommodation provided for passengers. This is nothing more than a spacious tub. I thought it possible at first that these were the boats of the local washerwomen; but, so far as washing is concerned, the natives of Formosa confine themselves to washing their customers occasionally ashore in the tub and mangling them on the beach – a very simple process, for the tub is in no way fixed to the raft, so that a heavy sea would, and does frequently, send it adrift. The tub into which we descended would hold four persons, and when we squatted down inside it we could just see over the top. Not feeling very comfortable, we came out and sat on the bare raft, to which we had at times to cling, manibus pedibusque, as the waves broke over us.18

The description is reminiscent of Imbault-Huart’s. But more evidence is needed to prove that Joest and Thomson used the same source of information and to certify these cases as plagiarism, which was not unusual in these kinds of writings in the nineteenth century and before. A few scenes in Welt-Fahrten that are not mentioned at all in the journal will now be highlighted. Whether they are truthful cannot be determined, which makes them non-verifiable. An example of this is a scene in a gambling house in Anping (Tainan): Most of all, we amused ourselves in the gambling saloons, which were much more exciting than the noble casinos in Monte Carlo. The crowd was a little mixed, but in Monte Carlo it is as well. Since I wanted to lose, not to win, I gambled very heavily and often won considerable sums by local standards, 300 to 400 Marks. As soon as we finished, the bank was closed. I handed my win back to the owner and instructed him to organise a party with the account. The Chinaman gladly took the opportunity to advertise his gambling house at my expense; rockets and fireworks were set off; girls with the most incredible musical instruments poured in; tea and samschu – a kind of warm Chinese rice brandy – were given to anyone who wanted some; people sang, played, danced and at the end we were escorted home with much accompaniment after everyone had lit a colourful shimmering paper lantern.19

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 45

Of note are the earnings Joest claimed to have made with just one bet. According to a historical statistic of the German Federal Bank, we know that in the year 1880 one mark had the purchasing power of 7.10 euros today; for the year 1895 (the year of publication of the travel report), that ratio was 1:7. Winnings of 300–400 marks would thus equal a sum of roughly 2,100–2,800 euros today. According to the journal (30 July), Joest was only carrying a small bag with several belongings during his landing in Tainan, and spent the following time waiting for the return of the steam ship without money or baggage.20 In the travel report, on the other hand, Joest claimed to have had ‘enough money’.21 Otherwise, he could not have experienced the night life the way he did. Considering his trip to Tainan was only planned as a one-day trip, however, it seems unlikely that Joest was travelling with much money or luggage, and thus the veracity of his gambling activities seems questionable. The authenticity of another description concerning his lodgings whilst in Tainan cannot be verified, as this is only provided in the novel-like travel report: During the three weeks, we lived not badly at all in our Chinese home. I hired a ‘boy’ who had learned Spanish in Manila and was quite capable; my host’s housekeeper was an English-speaking Japanese girl; our cook was a Chinese from Macao who understood a little Portuguese; a younger lovely Chinese girl had been brought up by the Jesuits in Sikawé-Shanghai, therefore, she wore stockings and babbled a very foolish French; D. spoke Chinese pretty well, my Chinese was quite bad – in short, the time spent here will always remain a pleasant memory.22

It may be no coincidence that Joest only mentioned places that he had visited during his Asia expedition (Manila, Japan, Macau and Shanghai), and that all the persons speak a relevant foreign language is historically logical and possible: the Philippines was a Spanish colony until the end of the nineteenth century. The American expedition led by Commander Matthew Perry in 1853–4 forced Japan to open up to international trade. On Macau, the Portuguese had had settlements since the sixteenth century. When Jesuits – mainly French – resumed missionary activities in China in the middle of the nineteenth century, they established their base in Xujiahui (徐家匯), a district of Shanghai. However, if this was supposed to be a realistic representation, then Tainan was quite an international city at the time, which is not at all the case in South Taiwan today. Joest survived his adventurous trip after all. Perhaps it was not possible for him to organise the detour to Taiwan differently in the course of his entire Asian journey. Thus, he had to visit the island despite its being the typhoon season (especially intensive from July to October), which led to his being held up longer in Tainan. In addition, the heat together with high humidity in July and August is hardly bearable for Europeans and would have made further exploration difficult. On the other hand, the knowledge about the indigenous people of Taiwan at that time was insufficient. It was known that ‘savages’ (‘Wilde’ in German), a common term in the writings of that time, lived on the island next to Chinese


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people including Hakkas. Furthermore, Pepohoans (平埔番), that is, Sinicised aboriginals or others living in the flat areas would be distinguished from the so-called schin-huan (生番), literally ‘raw savages’, or ‘uncivilised’ tribes23 – but even this distinction is not completely correct from today’s point of view. Joest restricted his interest exclusively to the tribe of northern Taiwan, whose name ‘Atayal’ is not mentioned in his writings. Obviously, he also did not know that the tribes in central Taiwan (e.g. Tsou, Shao and Bunun) as well as those in the south (e.g. Paiwan, Rukai and Puyuma) have different characteristics. All this reflects the state of knowledge about Formosa at that time, which increased rapidly shortly after Joest’s stay due to the increasing political and economic interest in the island. At the turn of the century, expeditions such as his took place mainly between December and March, and Western explorers definitely knew to distinguish the individual indigenous tribes better.

Conclusion Of the three documents covering Joest’s stay in Taiwan, the travel report in particular can be called into question. The goal of this study is not to accuse the author of lying. After all, he did indeed travel to Taiwan, contrary to others such as the fabricator Psalmanazar. Joest did not create a false image of the island. On the contrary, by employing his own experiences, paired with other references, his work paints a vivid picture of contemporary life in Taiwan. Incidentally, Joest is not the only German who supplemented his travel report with fictional elements in this way. Heinrich Heine, for example, adapted his return journey from Hamburg to Paris and thus created the famous travel story Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen (1844), which even included places he himself had not actually visited. Of course, Heine had his own personal motivations, which we will not delve into here. Travel reports are sometimes utilised as historical sources, and this analysis aims to raise awareness that one should exercise caution when doing so. It also suggests that the accumulation of knowledge was an ideal in nineteenth-century ethnography writing in the West, where cultural encounters between East and West were seen as successful when new knowledge was gathered or ‘missing links’ between different cultures were found. The Western gaze is strongly connected to the scientific gaze of nineteenth-century writers. If we imagine there had been no access to Joest’s journal, one would have to regard his travel report as fact, as the scientific article is solely focused on the indigenous people. If only the journal existed, one would lack all of Joest’s personal impressions and opinions, which are not covered in the detailed but factual journal. My contribution should also be seen in the framework of a larger, more in-depth study of Joest’s stay in Taiwan. We can count ourselves fortunate that he produced three different and extensive works, which are moreover backed up by artefacts and photos, further supporting the travel report’s authenticity, which is rare for similar contemporary writings. This study has two main

fact and fiction in the writings of wilhelm joest 47

goals. First, it reintroduces a forgotten persona of the nineteenth century who could be considered a multifaceted character, both researcher and travel writer, in the tradition of Humboldt’s world experience (Welterfahrungs- und Weltvermittlungsprogramm). Second, discoveries and observations the traveller made allow the public in Taiwan to become aware of the island’s image and the local way of life as outsiders experienced and observed them. I thus consider this an intercultural project that makes hidden connections between Taiwan and Germany visible again and fosters mutual cultural understanding.

Notes  1. Cf. Andreas Steen, ‘Der Zwang zur Diplomatie: Kommunikation, Übersetzung und die Verhandlungen zum deutsch-chinesischen Vertrag, 1859–1861’, Preußen, Deutschland und China: Entwicklungslinien und Akteure (1842–1911), ed. Mechthild Leutner et al. (Münster: Lit-Verlag, 2014), 71.   2. Ernst Friedel, Die Gründung preußisch-deutscher Kolonien im Indischen und Großen Ozean, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf das östliche Asien: Eine Studie im Gebiete der Handels- und Wirtschaftspolitik (Berlin: Eichhoff, 1867).   3. Wilhelm Joest, Welt-Fahrten: Beiträge zur Länder- und Völkerkunde, vol. 2 (Berlin: Asher, 1895), 233. Here and in the following, the English translation is my own.  4. For details refer to Ulrich S. Soénius, ‘Neue Impulse in der Kölner Wirtschaft durch protestantische Zuwanderer’, paper presented on 29 September 2002, 5,