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A Comparative History of Travel: Late-Ming and Early Modern Travel Writers in China (1550-1644)

Teo, Emily (2018) A Comparative History of Travel: Late-Ming and Early Modern Travel Writers in China (1550-1644). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, Free University of Berlin. (KAR id:73753)

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Abstract

Early modern Europe and late-Ming China were societies which witnessed considerable advancements in transportation and communications infrastructure. Such developments enabled the proliferation of travel, alongside the creation, publication and dissemination of travel accounts, written by well-travelled and scholarly individuals.

This thesis focuses on the accounts of travel to and in China by four early modern European writers-Galeote Pereira, Gaspar da Cruz, Martin de Rada and Matteo Ricci- and three late-Ming Chinese writers-Wang Shixing, Yuan Zhongdao and Xu Xiake. One of its aims is to address the relative lack of a comparative perspective in current research on travel writing by offering an intercultural account of European and Chinese travel texts. This approach allows the juxtaposition, across different travel cultures and literary traditions, of accounts relating to the same time period (1550-1644) and geographical space (Ming China).

The assumption that Chinese and European travel accounts from this period are incommensurable due to differences in context, culture, purpose and form is challenged throughout. Instead, the thesis establishes a sustained conversation between Chinese and European travel accounts of late-Ming China by arguing that there were broad thematic similarities across the travel texts, ranging from writing the self into travel accounts, descriptions of travel infrastructure, the utopian impulse in travel texts, and ethnographic writing. This thematic approach allows for a focussed reading of the travel texts, locating the similarities and differences between Chinese and European accounts on a given topic-and analysing what these texts reveal about the writers' approaches and their historical and cultural contexts.

This thesis contributes to the ongoing discussion about 'global' travel writing. Travel writing scholars in Western academia have challenged Eurocentrism in travel writing studies and have sought to broaden the field by introducing texts from various cultural and linguistic traditions, providing historical overviews and translations of selected texts. This thesis seeks to go one step further in 'global' travel writing, by drawing Chinese and European travel texts into a conversation, allowing new insights to emerge from old texts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Klein, Bernhard
Thesis advisor: Mühlhahn, Klaus
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 08 May 2019 12:42 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2021 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/73753 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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