Contact and Exchange: China and the West (conference)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 2009 conference. Speakers included Liam M. Brockey (Michigan State University), Craig Clunas (University of Oxford), Walter Cohen (Cornell University), Benjamin A. Elman (Princeton University), Mordechai Feingold (California Institute of Technology), Laura Hostetler (University of Illinois at Chicago), Haun Saussy (Yale University), and Eva Ströber (Ceramic Museum Princessehof, The Netherlands). This conference was supported by a grant from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. It was coordinated with the 2009 exhibition Imagining China: the View from Europe, 1500–1700.

While China and Europe developed asymmetrically over many centuries, historical moments of contact and exchange profoundly affected both. This one-day conference introduced scholars of western European cultures to cutting-edge topics in fields outside their normal ken and engaged them in conversation with experts studying the history of China, circa the Ming and early Qing Dynasties. Four pairs of scholars identified and examined points of significant historical exchange, influence, conflict, or divergence for a non-specialist audience. Broadly defined, the four session topics included literary traditions; ethnography, travel writing, and cartography; science, technology, and instrumentality; and economic trade, especially the developing Western market for decorative arts including porcelain and silk.