Between 1250 and 1450 a saying about China spread across Eurasia, from Castile to the Indian subcontinent. It is the proverb known as the “eyes of the world”, according to which when it comes to arts and crafts, the Chinese see with two eyes, the Europeans with one, and other nations are blind. This metaphor was widely used by pre-modern Eurasian intellectuals to synthesize the high degree of sophistication and splendour reached by Chinese culture. It has been suggested that the adage originated either in the Byzantine world or in Mongol China, whence it spread to central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe. A study of Persian sources, however, seems to invalidate this hypothesis, suggesting a Persian origin. Such Eurasian diffusion of a Persian saying about China illustrates how easily literary images, tropes, and lore could spread across the Mongol empire and how Asian geographic and ethnographic discourses could contribute to the new representation of the world which emerged in the Mongol period. It also advocates for the inclusivity of Persian literary imagery, at times so influent as to trespass the borders both of the Persianate and of the Islamicate world.

China, the Abode of Arts and Crafts: Emergence and Diffusion of a Persian Saying on China in Mongol Eurasia

Calzolaio, Francesco
2018

Abstract

Between 1250 and 1450 a saying about China spread across Eurasia, from Castile to the Indian subcontinent. It is the proverb known as the “eyes of the world”, according to which when it comes to arts and crafts, the Chinese see with two eyes, the Europeans with one, and other nations are blind. This metaphor was widely used by pre-modern Eurasian intellectuals to synthesize the high degree of sophistication and splendour reached by Chinese culture. It has been suggested that the adage originated either in the Byzantine world or in Mongol China, whence it spread to central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe. A study of Persian sources, however, seems to invalidate this hypothesis, suggesting a Persian origin. Such Eurasian diffusion of a Persian saying about China illustrates how easily literary images, tropes, and lore could spread across the Mongol empire and how Asian geographic and ethnographic discourses could contribute to the new representation of the world which emerged in the Mongol period. It also advocates for the inclusivity of Persian literary imagery, at times so influent as to trespass the borders both of the Persianate and of the Islamicate world.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3736394
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