Accounts of Western Nations the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty

Accounts of Western Nations the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty

Accounts of Western Nations the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty

Accounts of Western Nations the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty

Excerpt

The conventional characterization of the Chinese civilization as thoroughly disdainful of foreigners and foreign countries may perhaps have its elements of truth, but like all national stereotypes, it obscures far more than it reveals. It is true that the Chinese culture, like the Greek, was by and large self-sufficient and self-satisfied (both here in a good sense), but it would be folly to attempt to maintain that it was not almost constantly subjected to important contacts with other civilizations, or that an attitude of studied ignorance toward the rest of the world was in any way typical of the Chinese during the greater part of their history. The Chinese scholar, to whom a foreigner was a barbarian, was never amazed to find that barbarians act barbarously, but he was hardly ever on this account reckless enough to presume that this allowed him the luxury of ignoring them. In the sections on foreign countries in the dynastic histories, traditional Chinese historiography produced what is surely the most remarkable corpus of such information that has been handed down to us from either antiquity, east or west.

The present translation of a brief section of this corpus is from the latter half of the section on foreign countries from chiüan (chapter) 50 of the Chou shu, the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty (A. D. 557)-581)), compiled by Ling-hu Te-fen (583)-666)) and others, and presented to the throne in 636. The chapter begins with two long accounts of the Eastern Turks (T'u-chüeh) and the T'u-yü-hun; these are not translated here. There follows a systematic description of the countries to the west, in the order of their distance from the Chinese capital at Ch'ang-

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