This article analyses perceptions of China in Russia and of Russia in China by focusing on exchange through material culture, including the tea trade and the borrowing of architectural styles. It demonstrates that some things Chinese became domesticated in Russia, having first arrived there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whereas others continued to represent an exotic “China.” Fewer things Russian were familiar in imperial China. In twentieth-century China, Russia became closely associated with Communism, while the idea of “Russia” was also fashioned via cultural and material exchange. Other areas of historical contact between Russia and European countries and China and Asian countries have been mapped out by extensive research. This article argues that the field of contact between Russia and China has been neglected because historians have grown too used to conceptualizing relations between Europeans and Asians in terms of a confrontation of West and East.
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See G. Riello and A. Gerritsen eds.Writing Material Culture History (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic2014). On material culture forming the idea of “Japan” in the United States see C. Bush “The Ethnicity of Things in America’s Lacquered Age” Representations 99 no. 1 (2007). See also S. Berger “Comparative History” in Berger et al. eds. Writing History: Theory and Practice 2nd ed. (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic 2010).
Cf. A. Jackson and A. Jaffer eds.Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800 (London: V&A2004); P. ten-Doesschate Chu and Ning Ding eds. Qing Encounters: Artistic Exchanges between China and the West (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute 2015); F. Pouillon and J.-C. Vatin eds. After Orientalism: Critical Perspectives on Western Agency and Eastern Re-Appropriations (Leiden: Brill 2015).
Cf. L. HeretzRussia on the Eve of Modernity: Popular Religion and Traditional Culture under the Last Tsars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2008): 147-50 on the popular image of China and its evolution during the Russo-Japanese war.
V.V. Znamenov ed.Imperatorskii Farforovyi Zavod 1744-1904 (The Imperial Porcelain Factory) (St. Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg Orkestr and Global View2008) and www.ipm.ru. “Chinese teapots” produced by Russian porcelain factories in the 1830s are shown in Voobrazhaemyi Vostok: Kitai “po russki” XVIII—nachalo XX veka (The Imagined Orient: China “in Russian” Eighteenth to Early Twentieth Centuries) ed. O.A. Sosnina (Moscow: Kuchkovo Pole 2016): 157-8.
J. Scarce“Russia, Iran and Turkey,” in Tea East & Wested. R. Faulkner (London: V&A 2003): 78; cf. Sokolov Chai i chainaia torgovlia: 34. As V.H. Mair and E. Hoh put it more carefully in their The True History of Tea (New York and London: Thames & Hudson 2009): 144 the origins of the samovar “are somewhat obscure.”
J. Styles“Product Innovation in Early Modern London,”Past and Present168 (2000): 140-8. See the teapot (c. 1685) from the Victoria & Albert Museum illustrated in Chinese Whispers: Chinoiserie in Britain 1650-1930 ed. D. Beevers (Brighton: Royal Pavilion & Museums 2008): 86.
R. FinlayThe Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History (Berkeley: University of California Press2010): 127. On the massive imports of Yixing ware and their imitation in Europe see W.R. Sargent Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics: From the Peabody Essex Museum (New Haven: Yale University Press 2012): 223.
J. Hanser“Teatime in the North Country: Consumption of Chinese Exports in North-East England,”Northern History49 no. 1 (March 2012): 55 and cf. 65. See also L. Hunt Writing History in the Global Era (New York and London: W.W. Norton 2014): 134-8 on the “astounding” changes introduced through tea drinking into the Anglophone world.
Scarce“Russia, Iran and Turkey”: 80, 83. E.K. Lichtenstein, “Identities through Things: A Comment,” in Early Modern Things: Objects and their Histories 1500-1800ed. P. Findlen (London and New York: Routledge 2013): 377-8 notes that “material objects could … function as cultural liaisons bridging the divide between disparate societies [yet] things could divide as easily as they could unite”; he refers to the association of tea with female domesticity in Europe and military valour in Japan. For more see Faulkner ed. Tea East & West; Mair and Hoh The True History of Tea; M. Pitelka ed. Japanese Tea Culture: Art History and Practice (London: RoutledgeCurzon 2003); L.C. Martin Tea: The Drink that Changed the World (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing 2007) and the impressive work by M. Ellis et al. Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World (London: Reaktion Books 2015).
Chap. 7“Popolo di Pekino: Musorgsky’s Muscovy in Early Twentieth-Century Europe,” in Five Operas and a Symphony: Words and Music in Russian Cultureed. B. Gasparov (New Haven: Yale University Press 2005) discusses such perceptions by Puccini and Mahler.
See J. Milam“Toying with China: Cosmopolitanism and Chinoiserie in Russian Garden Design and Building Projects under Catherine the Great,”Eighteenth-Century Fiction25 no. 1 (2012) and the recent articles in O.A. Sosnina ed. Voobrazhaemyi Vostok a volume published to accompany an exhibition at Moscow’s Tsaritsyno Museum (November 2015-April 2016). The website peterhofmuseum.ru has much visual material and a historical introduction.
See M. Gamsa“The Cultural and the Social in Chinese-Russian Relations,”Cultural and Social History9 no. 3 (2012). N.A. Samoilov Rossiia i Kitai v XVII—nachale XX veka. Tendentsii formy i stadii sotsiokulʹturnogo vzaimodeistviia (Russia and China in the Seventeenth—Early Twentieth Centuries: Trends Forms and Stages of Sociocultural Interaction) (St. Petersburg: Izdatelʹstvo spgu 2014): 137 describes the Perlov shop from very different historiographical positions.
F.P.L. ChenChinese Shadow Theatre: History Popular Religion & Women Warriors (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press2007): 49 concludes that “there was nothing Chinese about the ombres chinoises aside from the name.”
See E. Vasilʹeva“ ‘Dve veshchi v mire dlia menia vsegda byli samymi sviatymi: Stikhi i liubov’ ” (“Two Things in the World Were always most Sacred to Me: Poetry and Love”) Novyi Mir12 (1988); V. Glotser “Domik pod grushevym derevom. Poslednii psevdonim Cherubiny” (The Little House under the Pear Tree: The Last Pen Name of Cherubina) Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie 9 (1997) and A.I. Kobzev “Sinie cherti protiv tamplierov” (The Blue Devils Against the Knights Templar) Obshchestvo i Gosudarstvo v Kitae 43 (2013).
Cf. F. DikötterThe Age of Openness: China before Mao (Berkeley: University of California Press2008): 91 on “new objects none being more popular than the kerosene lamp providing cheaper and better lighting”; and references to kerosene in the index of Dikötter Things Modern: Material Culture and Everyday Life in China (London: Hurst 2007).
J. BeckerCity of Heavenly Tranquillity: Beijing in the History of China (London: Allen Lane2008): 168-9 278-80 and Wu Hung Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2005).
Yan Li“Building Friendship: Soviet Influence, Socialist Modernity, and Chinese Cityscape in the 1950s,”Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies2 no. 3 (2014) also mentions the Sino-Soviet Friendship Buildings in Shanghai Guangzhou and Wuhan and many more Soviet-modeled constructions in the prc up to the early 1960s. Cf. M.Iu. Shevchenko “Vliianie sovetskoi arkhitektury na zastroiku Pekina 1930-1950kh godov” (Influence of Soviet Architecture on the Construction of Beijing 1930s to 1950s) in Arkhitektura stalinskoi epokhi ed. Kosenkova; on the Sino-Soviet building style and “socialist realism with Chinese characteristics” see the concluding chapter of O. Hatherley Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings (New York and London: The New Press 2016).
See e.g. V. GarrettChinese Dress: From the Qing Dynasty to the Present (Singapore: Tuttle2007): 213-15; J. Winzenburg “Aaron Avshalomov and New Chinese Music in Shanghai 1931-1947” and Hon-Lun Yang “The Shanghai Conservatory Chinese Musical Life and the Russian Diaspora 1927-1949” both in Twentieth-Century China 37 no. 1 (2012); M. Gamsa The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature: Three Studies (Leiden: Brill 2008); idem The Reading of Russian Literature in China: A Moral Example and Manual of Practice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2010).
Cf. Noda Jin“Russo-Chinese Trade through Central Asia: Regulations and Reality,” in Asiatic Russia: Imperial Power in Regional and International Contextsed. Uyama Tomohiko (London and New York: Routledge 2012).
A.M. MartinEnlightened Metropolis: Constructing Imperial Moscow 1762-1855 (Oxford: Oxford University Press2013): 37 137 267 289. See more in E. Macheret “O nekotorykh istochnikakh ‘buddiiskoi Moskvy’ Osipa Mandelʹshtama” (On Some Sources of Osip Mandelstam’s “Buddhist Moscow”) Acta Slavica Iaponica 24 (2007) and A. Di Ruocco The Buddhist World in Modern Russian Culture (1873-1919): Literature and Visual Arts PhD diss. (University of Southern California 2011).
Sobolʹ“Kitaiskie teni,” in Sobranie sochineniivol. 4 Kitaiskie teni: 5. Vysotskii was one of the largest tea magnates in Moscow. As a capitalist the owner was declared a “former person” and his family firm was nationalized in 1919; operations were moved abroad however and Wissotzky Tea is presently an international brand headquartered in Israel.