Wei Yuan and Xu Jiyu, civil servants in mid 19th century China, were deeply disturbed by British expansion into Asia. On the theory that one should know one's enemies, both wrote pioneer historical geographies designed to introduce Chinese officials to the sources of Western power. They both made extensive use of missionary sources; however, there were significant differences between the works of Wei and Xu. Wei never abandoned the Middle Kingdom concept whereas Xu came to realize that the West had developed its own civilization, and he encouraged China's development of trade and commerce, especially in Southeast Asia. Wei and Xu's works circulated among a small number of Chinese officials on China's east coast, but it was not until after China's defeat in the Opium War, 1839-42, and the near over throw of the Qing dynasty by the Taipings that the works were reprinted and served as introductions to the West.
Social Sciences and Missions (preceeded by Le Fait Missionaire until 2006) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2012
Keywords: Wei Yuan; Xu Jiyu; Chinese historical geographies; Lin Zexu; Britain's expansion into Asia; revival of tributary system
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