Marco Polo's First Impressions Of China As The Other?

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Early Western explorers' first impression of China in the 13th and 14th centuries laid the foundations for the representation of China as "the Other". In the mid 14th century, China was undeniably the most advanced nation in the world. It had reached a peak of advancement in various fields, including the arts, society, entertainment, political institutionalisation and technology. China's military strength and cultural advancement were also unparalleled and it had one of the highest literacy rates in the world. This reality was in stark contrast to Western views t the time, which characterised Europe as a superior civilisation among a myriad of 'barbarian' nations. Hence, the early explorers in China were shocked to find a civilisation that was more advanced…show more content…
Hence, colourful and utopian representations of China became prevalent in medieval Europe. This was a distinct contrast to Europe at the time, which , due to its economic, trade and population growth, was struggling with overcrowded cities that lacked sewerage and were rampant with disease. Despite the questionable validity of Polo's journeys, his memire, The Travels of Marco Polo, was widely popular in Europe and helped shape European perceptions of China at the time. Polo's was one of the first textual engagements with Asia and without evidence to the contrary, many Westerners based their perceptions of China on this text alone. Thus, Polo's travel book and its popularity provide a relatively accurate insight into Western thinking in relation to China and the extent to which the awe of the exotic "other" was widespread. Chinese products and goods brought back to Europe further perpetuated China's "otherness". Early explorers to China collected an array of unusual Chinese products during their travels, which included silk fabrics, porcelain objects, fans, wallpaper, and gold
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