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Travelers in the Void between Cultures

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with Drs. Mariska Stevens

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I love Shanghai

If you have adopted China, as I did, all my life, then you will love it for ever. My special place in China has become Shanghai in the course of the years, even though I love many other places as well. I am fascinated by its history and currently writing a book about the Western stereotypes on Shanghai from the 17th century onward, up untill the end of World War Two.

I cannot recall the numerous times I visited Shanghai, always for work, but I found now, my visits in the future will be more on the special places in the city itself, which I like to photograph extensively. Shanghai blends in cultures from the past, from the international scene, from the future, combined with everything that is utmost Chinese. The city in some ways reminds me of Amsterdam and it has become truly my home away from home. On this page I will gradually publish the topics which are on my mind while writing. The book, alas, is in Dutch...

The period which most fascinates me starts approximately around 1800 (though not exclusively) and ends around the beginning of the current Chinese republic. It begins on the eve of the opium drama. I have been doing research in newspapers from those days, trying to establish the different views in the general public. Most of the books on the opium question do not reveal the conflict of ideas underlying the Western perception. As always reality is intensely more complex than history can tell. I remember vividly the expression Goethe used in his Faust, when Faust dramatically looks at history books and exclaims something similar to: What one once believed to be the spirit of the times, is indeed the authors own mind. It is hard to escape one's enclave indeed. I was surprised by the massive discussion on the British opium politics in Dutch newspapers. In spite of the Dutch policy in the West Indies (forcing indigenous farmers to grow poppy seed and tobacco in large quantities) the overall comments on the English China strategy were very fierce and negative. In the course of my research I realized that much of the current historical interpretations still stem from a cold war distinction between East and West. It is one of the reasons why I believe in people to people diplomacy.















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