Tales of an open world: The fall of the ming dynasty as Dutch tragedy, Chinese gossip, and global news

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This essay explores different seventeenth-century accounts of the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644-Chinese vernacular novels and literati memoirs, Jesuit histories, and Dutch poetry and plays-to investigate a developing notion of openness in both Europe and China. In Europe, the idea of openness helped to construct an early-modern global order based on the free flow of material goods, religious beliefs, and shared information. In these accounts, China's supposed refusal to open itself to the world came to represent Europe's Other, an obstacle to the liberal global order. In doing so, however, European accounts drew on Chinese popular sources that similarly embraced openness, albeit openness of a different kind, that is the direct and unobstructed communication between ruler and subject. This is not to say that Chinese late-Ming accounts of the fall of the Ming are the source of European ideals of liberalism, but rather to suggest that, at a crucial early-modern moment of globalization, European authors misapprehended late-Ming ideals of enlightened imperial rule so as to consolidate their own worldview, foreclosing late-Ming ideals in the process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-234
Number of pages45
JournalFrontiers of Literary Studies in China
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 19 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Chinese literature
  • Dutch history
  • Early modern globalization
  • Jesuit history
  • Ming dynasty literature


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