Hospitality: The China-Europe connection

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This essay will use China's Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity to reconstruct the China - Europe connection in a global context within the broad framework of hospitality studies. It goes back to the eighteenth century when trading with China had huge impact on Europe - not only in terms of luxury goods to the elite but also to our ideas about hospitality. The aim of the essay is to understand the development of hospitality, in particular hospitality to strangers, in the light of the China – Europe connection by examining how did practices of hospitality change through time during the eighteenth century. At focus is the Pearl River Delta, China’s gateway to the world-out-there. Canton (Guangzhou) was “the main Qing port for trade with Europe and North America, and together with Macau it formed a pivot for early modern trade” (Hellman 2018 ) – it was a meeting place of business and the only way Europeans could get a glimpse of the closed China. The essay has two foci:
1. Hospitality connected to the political- legal system: China's bureaucracy is often seen as its Achilles heel, but during this period a rigid political-legal system for interacting with foreigners, i.e. the Canton system, enabled the Chinese to set the terms. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant was enthusiastic with the system, ”The chief difference between European and American savages lies in the fact that many tribes of the latter have been eaten by their enemies”….”China and Japan (Nippon), who have had experience with such guests, have wisely refused them entry, the former permitting their approach to their shores”. Research question: What did the Canton system mean for the perception of non-European people?
2. Hospitality connected to the network of port cities in South East Asia’s diaspora corridor, with the focus on Macau – a note within a network of port cities constituting a geography of finance “where extraordinary amounts of information flew, of financial, economic, scientific and news data and images, into which some groups were extremely well plugged” (Urry 2010 ). Our focus is Macau as a free port city - in late 18th century a migration corridor to trade diaspora’s, who succeeded to evade trial by moving to Macau from where they could resume their business. Research question: In what ways could the trade diaspora's make use of Macau as an 'open city' or a 'city for refuge'?
Original languageEnglish
Publication date17 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019
EventInternational Convention of Asia Scholars - Leiden, Leiden, Netherlands
Duration: 15 Jul 201919 Jul 2019
Conference number: 11


ConferenceInternational Convention of Asia Scholars
Internet address


  • Hospitality
  • Mobility
  • Transnationalism
  • Network of port cities
  • Geography of finance

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