The Hispanic world is the great blank space on the map of Western Sinology. No Spanish speaking nation, in either the New World or the Old, has a significant Sinological presence in the current century. Spanish and Portuguese navigators reached the coast of China in 1513, but when one has said that, one has said everything. Elsewhere in Europe, intellectual interest in China contributed decisively to the Enlightenment, and to a general widening of intellectual interest. Not so in Spain. In this remarkably systematic rejection of an otherwise general tendency, the dominance and the intellectual narrowness of the Catholic Church in Spain, the Church of the Inquisition, is no doubt a major factor. In Spanish Catholicism one sees little trace of the energetic outreach which in other countries produced the Jesuit missions to China (with Jesuits from Italy, France, and even Poland participating), and still less the intellectual excitement which increasing knowledge of China provoked in the Protestant countries.
Small beginnings have recently been made. In the 1990s, the Spanish government began sponsoring students who would receive advanced training in Europe or the US, and then hopefully return to establish a Spanish Sinology. The intellectual climate of Europe and the US is not at its methodological best, currently, and its export value is thus uncertain. For this and other reasons, including the difficulty of establishing any tradition de novo, the outcome of these ventures cannot confidently be predicted.
Spain proves that the need for a national Sinology is not universally felt, and thus sheds light on those European cases where a national Sinology did come into being.
- C R Crone. The Discovery of the East. St Martin's 1972
- Dolors Folch. Sinological Materials in Some Spanish Libraries. Europe Studies China (1995) 149-160
22 July 2004 / Contact The Project / Exit to Sinology Page