The Barbarians

“Swaying the wide world, I have but one aim in view, namely, to maintain a perfect governance and to fulfil the duties of the State: strange and costly objects do not interest me. If I have commanded that the tribute offerings sent by you, O King, are to be accepted, this was solely in consideration for the spirit which prompted you to dispatch them from afar. Our dynasty’s majestic virtue has penetrated unto every country under Heaven, and Kings of all nations have offered their costly tribute by land and sea. As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures. This then is my answer to your request to appoint a representative at my Court, a request contrary to our dynastic usage, which would only result in inconvenience to yourself. I have expounded my wishes in detail and have commanded your tribute Envoys to leave in peace on their homeward journey. It behoves you, O King, to respect my sentiments and to display even greater devotion and loyalty in future, so that, by perpetual submission to our Throne, you may secure peace and prosperity for your country hereafter.”
-A letter from Emperor Qianlong of China to King George the III of the United Kingdom of England, Whales and Scotland.

By the 1700’s Britain was not in a good place. It had just lost the majority of its New World colonies after the American Revolution and had a ludicrously huge trade deficit to what was then the world’s most powerful economy, China. This was due impart to the various trade restrictions placed on any foreigners attempting to trade. As a result the British government sent a group of men carrying the greatest inventions of the Western World to demonstrate the benefits of trade with Britain. The result of this can be seen in the Emperor’s letter.

In the eyes of the Chinese, China was quite literally the center of the universe. Their name for themselves was Zhong Guo, literally Central Kingdom, as in the center of the world. Any outsider was a barbarian destined to one day be conquered by the emperor. Any arts or sciences from these people was to be ignored. This letter eventually lead to Britain to sell ungodly amounts of opium to the Chinese to make up for the loss. China did not like this and started the Opium Wars as a result, leading to China’s century of humiliation.

The reason as to why I am bringing this up is to Illuminate the fact that the driving reasoning behind what Said calls Orientalism is in fact merely human nature. It is a cross cultural phenomena unique to nobody. We are discussing this from a European perspective, flip it around 180 degrees and we see the the same thing from an Oriental perspective.

Orientalism in Law and Order

Law and Order has seen many soon-to-be stars make appearances on the show: Idris Elba, Bradley Copper and Kerry Washington to name a few. However these guest stars tend to play some very stereotypical roles. Young African-American men always seem to be portrayed as gang members and young Middle-Eastern actors always seem to play someone connected to a terrorist or a terrorist themselves.

This reminded me of Orientalism. This viewing of people from the East as less then and in a very stereotypical way despite knowing it can’t always be true. Law and Order is unique example because it has been on even before 9/11. The show has a distinct shift in how Middle Eastern actors are portrayed on the show. Everyone that was Middle Eastern was put into a box of terrorism.

This racist idea is very harmful for the relationship between the West and the East. I read an article which made the connection that the majority of serial killers are White American men but that does mean that everyone assumes all white men are serial killers. However, this not making assumptions does not seem to stretch to people of color. Despite the fact, that majority of terrorist do come from the Middle East, it does not mean that everyone from the Middle East are terrorist. Orientalism is a way to describe this generalization in Law and Order.

Orientalism and the Real Orient.

As I was reading the Orientalism article, I feel like I need to step out and say something as a Chinese as well as a transfer student. Personally, I never received any weird comment since I came here. However, I can say people here do have some prejudices or misunderstanding about the Asia. Although I don’t talk much, I record the world by my mind like an observer. One of my friend called Amy, she is also a student of OP. I remember she once asked me if she looked like Chinese because people around her all assumed she was a Chinese. I told her that, first of all, she doesn’t look like Chinese. What’s more, if I can’t tell, I will ask her nationality before making any conclusion as a respect to you. I am not saying that people here are rude, but most Western people actually regard the south Asia as a whole. In other words, people may not recognize that so many different countries lie in that place.

Shanghai highway in city

Another example is that different events no matter from big to small as long as it’s about China here are all kinda of lacking creativity. What does it mean by that? Most of the Chinese-Americans, American artists or Asian scholars prefer to perform the ancient part or traditional culture of China or other Asian countries, but what I want to say is that those old-fashion things can hardly attract me not to mention foreigners. I can understand those people them want to present the cultural charm of Asian, but too much same artworks just make people’s thoughts got locked. Like, if I say what you think of Chinese culture, you may come up with lanterns, dragons or dumplings. It’s fine if you really like those things. However, the reality is that we have not only lanterns, dragons or dumpling, we have share bikes that they are available in all the streets in cities in China which nicely solve the environmental problems; we have the best transportation system in the world that in Shanghai, it just looks like a sky maze which made of intricate highways; we have the widest spectrum of food that includes 8 main styles of cooking that each province got over hundreds of localized dishes and we change the menu along with seasons, weather, even your health condition; Our famous novel series is known as the fantasy of heroes with Kongfu’s adventure, and how many people know the deep love and hatred behind martials and the pageantry existing between the sky and the earth before they criticize Chinese literature.

The return of the condor heroes

If Covid-19 Began in Italy…

Hello all! This has been an interesting break from school to say the least. From reading the news about the spreading virus and its global impact, I thought that Edward Said’s novel, Orientalism, tied perfectly into the current state of the world.

Orientalism is essentially the lens in which the West looks through at the East. Throughout history, it has been seen that the East is portrayed as the “other”, seeming to be far different from Western society. Orientalism, therefore has made it very easy for prejudices in the West to be formed against the East.

We all are aware that Covid-19 can be traced back to Wuhan, China; with many sources pointing to the large animal market in the city as being the epicenter of the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak, when the virus was primarily only seen in Wuhan, I saw many disturbing posts directed towards marginalizing and blaming Chinese people. For example, there were images surfacing of a woman eating bat soup (presumably in China), and without even knowing the source of the photo I heard people were BLAMING the virus on that one woman/the people in China eating bat soup. In addition to this, The President also stated in one of his tweets that this was a “Chinese Virus”. Although yes, the origin of the virus was in China, placing such a name on the virus only leads to racism and discrimination! (There are many more examples of racism I saw online, these just stood out the most to me).

For starters, blaming anything on a group of people/race marginalizes that group from the “western” society we are used to. This in effect leads to mass racism. Asian-American’s are coming out online saying that non-Asian people literally walk away from them on the streets… as if they somehow automatically have the virus for looking a certain way? Unbelievable.

I have seen many people post and make racial jokes/comments about the virus, when most of the time, the people making the comments are simply not educated on the topic. It is heartbreaking to see this happening because this is a time when we all need to support one another. People are being hateful towards Chinese people without realizing all that the Chinese have done to try and minimize the spread of this virus. Instead of spreading hate during this difficult time, we should lift one another up and talk about all the good things that are being done around the world to stop this pandemic.

Overall, my question is: would the world look different if this virus originated in Italy? Would people be avoiding “Little Italy” as they were “China Town” in Chicago?

I hope everyone ruminates upon this, and thinks twice about a racial comment they may choose to say. The entire world is suffering, so again, let us take our orientalist glasses off, and appreciate all that is being done to help stop this virus.