This paper describes intriguing accounts of various encounters of people between the ninth and 17th century. Ibn Fadlan, an Arab Chronicler, gives an account of his encounter with the Rus (One of the Swedish tribes) in the ninth century. Fadlan experienced a different culture from his Arabic. He described it as an alien and backward culture. Referring to the Rus, he says, “They are the filthiest of God’s creatures”.
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Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, gave a historic account of his first encounter with the Japanese people in the 15th century. He described the Japanese as the best people known among the heathens. “Portuguese Views of Chinese” is an account of the first impression the Portuguese had upon encountering the Chinese.
Canton described the Chinese as foolish people without knowledge of war. He also described, He also described the Portuguese plan to invade and conquer China through a military warfare. “Commentary on Foreigners from Ming official” is a description of the opinions of the Chinese about foreigners. According to the commentary, the foreigners invaded China at first without much effect.
They were friendly in their engagements. However, their settlement and participation in Chinese trade had become intolerable because of their infiltration of Chinese culture with their foreign cultures. The Ming official described a plan of evicting foreigners from the Kingdom of Ming in the commentary.
In general, East Meets West is a description of various encounters of people between ninth and 17th century. Each of the four encounters had a different reception by the involved parties. The Eastern and Western encounters formed a prelude to major trends in world history. Briefly, the four perspectives of encounters of different people in the past had similar reactions.
St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary of the 15th century, landed in Japan in 1552 on a missionary journey to spread Christianity. The warm reception he was given by the Japanese made him describe them as “courteous people”. He described the Japanese as the best and most friendly people in the heathen world. He described them as slow to anger and violence, despite their high regard for arms.
Xavier also described the Japanese as people who had high regard for their arms and intolerance of contemptuous words and insults. He envisioned an easy missionary work of converting Japanese people to Christianity because of their high literacy and willingness to listen to foreign ideas. Besides many praises, Xavier also described the Japanese people as sinners because of their tolerance of some social evils such as the generational class system.
Fadlan described the Rus as a backward people with primitive cultural practices. He described the fondness and love of Rus men for women. He noted in his encounter that each man had several slave girls for his sexual gratification. This cultural orientation made Fadlan describe the Rus as filthy people with barbaric cultural practices. Backward funerary rituals and human sacrifice are among the cultural practices of the Rus people that Fadlan regarded as barbaric.
These cultural practices are different from the Islamic practices known to Fadlan. He saw several men line up to have sex with one slave girl in a funeral ceremony. Fadlan found this an awkward and filthy practice. Fadlan encountered the Rus on an emissary journey to the King of Bulgars of Middle Voga in 921 A.D. He was in service of the Caliph of Baghdad. The encounter can be described as positive because of the warm reception he was given by his horsts in their territory and guidance to understand their culture.
The Portuguese people encountered the Chinese in the 13th century as trading partners. Although, their first voyages were navigational and missionary ventures for exploring new lands and spreading Christianity, the Portuguese also explored mineral resources that interested their country. The Portuguese exchanged silver with Chinese ceramics, silk, and cotton.
The Chinese people accorded the Portuguese visitors a warm reception and accommodation without resistance. The Portuguese took courtesy of their horsts for foolishness and cowardice. In a letter written by Canton in 1517, the writer described the Chinese as foolish and cowardly people who had never fought in a war. Canton also described them as people with high regard for themselves. He said that the Chinese people referred to foreigners as savages and their country as the kingdom of God.
Despite the warm reception towards the Portuguese, Canton described in the letter the ill motives of Portugal to attack and conquer this new foreign land. The Portuguese wanted to control Chinese trade and gain profit from the immense resources of China. They successfully besieged and took control of all trade routes in the Indian Ocean in the 15th and 16th centuries. They introduced the pass system, otherwise called the Cartaz, which required all merchants in the trade network to pay a fee to them.
The commentary on foreigners from a Ming official was a negative reaction the Chinese people developed against foreigners. The Portuguese and Spaniards entered China as trade partners. However, their settlement in the Asian country caused inconveniences to the Chinese. The Portuguese infiltrated Chinese culture with western lifestyle, which the Chinese people considered backward. In this commentary, the Chinese people wished for the quick exit of all foreigners from their land.
This perspective differs from the first view the Portuguese had about the Chinese. The Portuguese viewed Chinese foolish and cowardly people in a rich territory for them to conquer. In the second perspective, the Chinese people discovered the ill motives of their visitors and wanted to terminate their relationship with them.
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In conclusion, the above description of the four perspectives showed that various people in the past reacted differently to encounters with others. Fadlan’s encounter with the Rus people was intriguing. He encountered a sharp clash of cultures and religious practices. Fadlan encountered funerary rituals that were unheard off in Baghdad.
Xavier’s encounter with the Japanese people was awe striking. Xavier described the Japanese as the best people among the heathens. The Portuguese encounter with the Chinese people was very positive during the first time. However, with time, the Chinese developed hatred for foreigners because of the clash between western culture and local Chinese culture.
Montgomery, James E. “Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah”.” Journal of Arabic and IslamicStudies 3, (2000):n.p. Print
Tignor, Robert. “Contact Comerce, and Colonization. 1450s-1600.” In Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the Modern World from the Mongol Empire to the Present, by Robert Tignor, 511-550. New York : Norton& Company, 2011. Print.
Xavier, St. Francis. “A Jesuit Missionary Gives His First Impression of Japan.” (1549): .10-13. Print.
- Montgomery, James. “Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah”. Journal of Arabic and IslamicStudies vol. 3, 2000, par 8
- Xavier, Francis. “A Jesuit Missionary Gives His First Impression of Japan.” (1549):10-13.
- Tignor, Robert. “Contact Comerce, and Colonization. 1450s-1600.” In Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the Modern World from the Mongol Empire to the Present, by Tignor Robert, 511-520. (New York,Norton& Company, 2011), 545
- Ibid., 519.
- Ibid., p.546
- Xavier, p. 10, par 2
- Ibid., 9, par 2
- Montgomery, par 7
- Tignor, p.519
- Tignor, p. 520.
- Ibid., 546