Karl Vocelka

title.none: Yaofu, ed., Selected Essays on Court Culture in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Vocelka)

identifier.other: baj9928.0104.007 01.04.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Karl Vocelka, Institut f|r die vsterreichische Geschichtsforschung,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Yaofu, Lin, ed. Selected Essays on Court Culture in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Taepei: National Taiwan University Press, 1999. Pp. iv, 279. $32.75. ISBN: 9-570-25069-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.04.07

Yaofu, Lin, ed. Selected Essays on Court Culture in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Taepei: National Taiwan University Press, 1999. Pp. iv, 279. $32.75. ISBN: 9-570-25069-0.

Reviewed by:

Karl Vocelka
Institut f|r die vsterreichische Geschichtsforschung

This volume comprises the papers of a conference of scholars in the fields of European, Chinese and Japanese studies held at the National Taiwan University in 1997. Unfortunately the cross-cultural perspective indicated in the title of the conference can only be achieved by comparing similarities and differences between court life in Asia and in Europe in the few articles addressing similar themes within comparable time frames. In addition it is surprising that the majority of the articles concerning European topics deal with the middle ages and only one with the early modern period, although court culture in this period is extremely well documented and certainly offers extensive material for comparison.

The first article consists of a study by Eugene Vance, "The Court of Medieval Champagne and the Economics of Desire", dealing with cultural production in twelfth century France. The following paper by Stephen H. West, "The Emperor Sets the Pace: Court and Consumption in the Eastern Capital of the Northern Song During the Reign of Huizong", addresses the influence of the court on festive ceremonies in eleventh century China. The next article written by the editor of the volume, David R. Knechtges, "Criticism of the Court in Han Dynasty Literature", analyzes a phenomenon well-known from research of European courts, court criticism as an indicator of moral standards. A very similar problem is treated by Robert Joe Cutter in his article "Sex, Politics and Morality at the Wei (220-265) Court", utilizing the literary motive of the mulberry picker. Particularly interesting is the paper by Scott L.Waugh, "The King´s Anger. Emotion and Politics at the Court of Edward III.", demonstrating how the English court of the fourteenth century dealt with emotions and etiquette.

The next four articles cover the field of court culture in China and Japan, including the active role of the rulers in China who were not only art collectors but also artists in their own right. Pao-chen Chen writes about "Emperor Li Hou-chu as a Calligrapher, Painter and Collector", Ronald Egan about "Productive Antipathies in Court Service and Painting in Northern Song Dynasty China", Kuo-ying Wang about "Poetry of Palace Plaint of the Tang: Its Potential and Limitation" and Robert Borgen about "Court Culture, Conventional Wisdom and the Sources of Japanese Zen". The last contribution in this volume by Francis K. H. So leads us into the early modern period in British history: "Political Drama and the Elisabethan Court".

This volume clearly demonstrates one of the main problems of such an approach to history, as the synthesis unfortunately lies mainly in the fact that these articles are jointly published in one book. One would have expected a more comparative approach clearly addressing structural similarities--or differences--between the phenomena of court life in Eastern Asia and Europe. A cross-cultural perspective should also be interdisciplinary, but like most other attempts this is a multi-cultural--not a cross- cultural--and a multi-disciplinary but not an interdisciplinary book.