Comparison and East-West Encounter
The Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Centuries
East and West as cultures and traditions become possible to conceptualize only in comparison and in the encounters of trade, travel and other kinds of interactions. If Marco Polo in the thirteenth century represented an early stage of East-West encounter in trade and the expansion of geographical knowledge in Europe, the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries became the important time of intellectual contact in East-West encounters through the mediation of Jesuit missionaries and because of the internal development of European culture and society during the time of the Enlightenment. Not only the trend of chinoiserie changed European taste and aesthetics in material life, but philosophers like Leibniz and Voltaire found in China what they were seeking for a state and society built on reason rather than religious faith. To revisit East-West encounter of that time may help us attain a better understanding of comparison and difference in cross-cultural interrelations, which remains an issue of particular relevance and importance for our time today.