PREFACE
The title of this book is taken from a phrase that recurs often in Qin
court records. Cherishing men from afar is both a description and an in
junction. As the pivot between the Cosmos and the earth, the emperor wa
morally enjoined to order the world. The sage ruler showed compassio
and benevolence to those who were outside his immediate dominion; h
cherished those who traveled great distances to come to his court. Thes
notions were at the heart of rituals which organized relations between Qin
emperors and other powerful rulers. This study, then, is about Guest Ritua
and imperial audience, rites which I will argue were the idiom throug
which Qing foreign relations were conducted. I focus on an embassy from
one such foreign ruler, that of the king of Great Britain, whose ambassa
dor, George Lord Macartney, arrived at the court of the Qianlong empero
in
1793.
This book is a response to three issues related to the way the embass
has been treated in previous scholarship. The first arises from the critiqu
of structural-functional systems theory that emerged in anthropology b
the
1970S.
This critical analysis of systems theory encouraged a rethink
ing of classic formulations like the "Chinese world order" and the "tribut
system." The question that emerged was this: if the "tribute system" is re
moved, what does Sino-Western contact from the late eighteenth centur
forward look like?
The second problem, again stimulated in part by critical anthropology
had to do with the sociological treatment of ritual. I became convince
that the particular way in which ritual was thought about among Euro
American secular intellectuals had constructed Sino-Western conflict as
matter of cultural misunderstanding. The question that I have considere
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