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Chen Di’s record of Formosa: an alternative Chinese imaginary of otherness

Jenco, Leigh K. (2020) Chen Di’s record of Formosa: an alternative Chinese imaginary of otherness. Historical Journal. ISSN 0018-246X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0018246X1900061X


This article examines Chen Di's Record of Formosa (Dongfan ji), the earliest firsthand account in any language of the indigenous people of Formosa (now called Taiwan). Recent commentators have viewed Chen’s text as a key elaborator of Chinese imperial discourse and its various tropes of hierarchical difference. In contrast, I argue that Chen reads the perceived cultural differences between his society and Taiwan’s indigenous peoples as evidence of the contingency, rather than inevitable superiority, of a historical story that produces the outcome of ‘civilization.’ Building on a broader understanding of Chen’s intellectual biography and his extant works, I show that Chen Di places the indigenes along a different timeline in which they forge their own contingent history parallel to, rather than behind, that of a civilizational center. By doing so, Chen’s historical narrative resists aligning their society with Han Chinese forms of development and offers a glimpse of how late Ming syncretic thought could produce an account of legitimate otherness.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2020 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Government
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2019 16:24
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2020 14:27

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