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 Earlier contacts China and the West

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Earlier contacts China and the West   Mon 26 Dec 2016, 22:10

I saw a documentary where due to archaeological findings there are indices of contacts between the Greek culture and the Chinese one even BC...also as the statues of the contemporary Chinese terracotta soldiers in Xian are nothing at all resembling to the Chinese statues of that time it is hinted that the terracotta soldiers were modelled from Greek statues...perhaps Alexander's reign extending to the neighbourhood of China...so that there was cultural and art exchange...even contacts with the Celtic culture...
I have the summary in French but here in Belgium the documentary can't be seen. But as it is a documentary from the German ZDF channel I found it in German:


And the summary in French:
http://www.arte.tv/guide/fr/047512-000-A/les-momies-de-la-route-de-la-soie

Tomorrow I will translate the summary.
Meles meles if you want you can look to the documentary in French, while it is available only in France and in Germany...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Tue 27 Dec 2016, 18:46

Further for the English speaking ones...don't want you to bore too much with French and German Embarassed...


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/a-meeting-of-civilisations-the-mystery-of-chinas-celtic-mummies-5330366.html
A meeting of civilisations:The mystery of China's celtic mummies (some between 4000 and 3000 years old)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarim_mummies
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/chinamum/taklamakan.html




Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Tue 27 Dec 2016, 18:59

Greeks may have influenced terracotta army
http://www.history.com/news/greeks-may-have-influenced-chinas-terra-cotta-army
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/oct/12/ancient-greeks-may-have-inspired-china-terracotta-army-sculptors-ancient-dna
And in the article of the Guardian it is mentioned that the elaboration came in this BBC documentary



Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Wed 28 Dec 2016, 22:23

There is often too much made of what are simply obvious tangential cultural cross-influences, which abound in history, but in fact rarely provide proof of migration, political intercourse or even strong trade links. I reckon this is a case in point.

If Alexander the Great proved anything (and in fact his so-called "greatness" in pushing as far as he did is a rather moot point) it was that even a project of wilful cultural injection, as his military career could be described in some respects, and even one which carried a huge level of investment throughout its conduct with a view to establishing a degree of permanence about the changes effected, and indeed even one which was ostensibly successful in the short term, was still doomed to failure in those terms when conducted during that particular period in history over such an expanse of geography.

The bottom line, as Alexander found out, was that establishing a hegemony, and therefore standing a chance to fundamentally influence remote cultures, involves a hell of a lot more even than building cities along the way and declaring the local populations to be now "Greek". It required at the time a huge movement of people into the targeted environs, something which he didn't do and therefore his planned Greek hegemony ended up pretty quickly restricted to those areas in which his immediate successors could maintain political authority, in geographical terms a mere fraction of his so-called "conquered" territories.

In terms of a cultural cross-pollination with China therefore Greek culture (in common with every other culture west of the Caspian Sea) would have been reliant almost exclusively on trade. Migrations may move a body of people from A to B. Trade however moves a far greater number of items from A to B, and through an infinitely greater number of intermediate steps over a much longer time, so it is inevitable that the culture already existing at B will be far more likely to import influences from A through this means, especially over a sustained period, and through a huge variety of channels. In fact the number of vicarious channels would far exceed that of direct ones, and therefore in fact stand a better chance also of remaining viable. In that context it is not surprising if a cultural innovation from A eventually turns up at B in some form. From pre-history to the Roman period there are umpteen examples of this process in action, and I see no reason not to include the Chinese experience within that scope too.

Rome, which of course did move people all the time, and did intentionally export and import facets of its own and others' cultures with a strong political will, still largely succeeded in such cross-pollinisation with cultures outside its direct control also only through the trade routes it engendered, sponsored, enlarged and protected for about half a millennium. China at the time however had established a rather well defined and culturally strong hegemony of its own, so while there may not be much evidence of direct Roman influence this should not be taken therefore as proof that China was aloof to or ignorant of its large neighbouring civilisation to the west. By the same score one should not regard possible instances of earlier cultural influence, for example from Greece, as evidence of any corresponding political or migratory initiative by Greeks. Instead it might simply mean that the indigenous Chinese civilisation at that moment just happened to be more openly receptive to such influences when they occurred (the establishment of a new and dynamic dynasty would be just such an occasion), and I would maintain they occurred through the already ancient complex trade connections by which these remote areas were linked, nothing more planned or important than that.

The proof of this is in the disparity between import of the aesthetic and import of just about anything else, but especially the linguistic or the ideological. History produces very few glaring examples of the latter in pre-Roman times without accompanying military aggression preceding political takeover, whereas the former happened throughout ancient history on occasions too numerous to mention, often between cultures far removed from each other and which to all intents and purposes barely knew about the other, if at all.

In short, any suspected Greek influence on the aesthetic quality of the warrior statues is one which should never be considered a proof therefore of accompanying political or intentional cultural exchange, the phenomenon being eminently explicable through more rational and better archaeologically supported means of transmission of the aesthetic. And of course the phenomenon in this particular case, such as it is, should never be conflated with the evidences of incidental but unrelated migratory intrusions into the Chinese hegemony of non-Asian peoples, of which there are in fact several examples (the one cited in the programme above just being one of the more newly discovered), but none of which - even with a concerted will - can be made into evidence of Greek (or any other well known western culture) establishing "contact" with China in the sense inferred through the use of the term. It is bad history, though obviously profitable for those who peddle it.
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Fri 30 Dec 2016, 21:19

Nordmann,

thank you very much for your as usual elaborated message.

And yes I have to agree to what you say.
In your message you are commenting about the recent period of the third century BC, but there was also mentioning about the mummies from a period of between 3000 and 4000 years ago, there about a "celtic" link.
I guess your message is also applicable to that period too?

My question is also, can we already speak in that time frame about "Celtic"? And weren't that not common traits (I mean in culture, cloths and all that) of pre-Celtic communities?

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Fri 30 Dec 2016, 22:58

"Celtic". What does that mean for you, Paul? To me (and the Irish) it means a linguistic trend. It explains nothing about either culture or race, so would mean even less to a Chinese person. So what do you mean?
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Sat 31 Dec 2016, 23:04

@nordmann wrote:
"Celtic". What does that mean for you, Paul? To me (and the Irish) it means a linguistic trend. It explains nothing about either culture or race, so would mean even less to a Chinese person. So what do you mean?

I know what you mean, Nordmann, but in the endless "Celtic" discussions in which I occasionally took part, there were mostly for a great part those of the "linguistic" line, but also a lot (perhaps the more exalted ones) about the cultural links.
For me it is the loose cultural common ground, which appeared after the spread of the both linguistic and cultural expansion of the so-called Celts...

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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Sun 01 Jan 2017, 00:23

"Celtic" may, with some difficulty, be used to describe a very general language group. That's as far as it goes. Attempting to use it to imply a common culture, a common race, or indeed any commonality outside of linguistics is akin to using the term "barbarian" to do the same. And since both terms were coined by people attempting to describe everyone else beyond their borders of whom they had little or no knowledge this is hardly a surprising thing.

The term unfortunately was employed in the 19th century to establish a sense of nationalistic identity, especially one in opposition to the English hegemony which was then being forcibly applied to its peripheral acquisitions. Nowadays however it is regarded as in fact completely misleading in terms of the historical development of those very people, nationalist members of whom determined a need for its use at that time. In fact any continued use of it in that way only misrepresents actual history to an extent that even those with nationalist agendas these days can see that it in fact hinders rather than assists forming a clear and reputable sense of national identity at all, at least one based on credible historical analysis.

So when you postulate about a possible "Celtic" influence at one time in ancient China it is conjecture which really leads nowhere, at least not without a huge amount of qualification regarding just which people at which time that one is talking about. And of course if this particular information is to hand then one can simply drop the confusing "Celtic" appellation altogether. It can only mean less than what the data already suggests.

If I understand it correctly the lazy use of "Celtic" in connection with the Xinjiang mummies is based on the male having red hair, the female having brown hair, and the artefacts bearing a resemblance to Western European dolmens and Irish "Sheela-na-gigs". And there you have the evidence of the laziness all rolled into one - two different hair colours signifying nothing in particular whatsoever, and associated material with a resemblance to what are in fact pre-Celtic neolithic constructions and early Gaelic statuettes, themselves separated historically by a few thousand years and made by two quite distinct peoples who would have been surprised to learn that they were to be classed together by future generations as "Celtic" at all.

That the bodies are Eurasian or European in terms of racial origin appears to be correct. That they are "Celtic" is impossible to ascertain since no such people thus described ever lived except in the minds of Romans and Greeks ignorant of the world outside their immediate experience, and of course in the imagination of later misinformed nationalists who seized upon a recently coined linguistic term and exaggerated its significance incorrectly to imply racial commonality and continuity. Newspapers, New Age followers and Irish-American websites, amongst others, may still wish to imply that such a race existed. However academia these days tends to shy away from using the term at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Sun 01 Jan 2017, 19:36

Thanks again, Nordmann, for your elaborated and immediate reply.

"That they are "Celtic" is impossible to ascertain since no such people thus described ever lived except in the minds of Romans and Greeks ignorant of the world outside their immediate experience, and of course in the imagination of later misinformed nationalists who seized upon a recently coined linguistic term and exaggerated its significance incorrectly to imply racial commonality and continuity. Newspapers, New Age followers and Irish-American websites, amongst others, may still wish to imply that such a race existed. However academia these days tends to shy away from using the term at all."

There we are again as an aside with the Celtic question. Who were the Celts? What is "celtic"? Depending on the period, are it pre-celtics, celtics? As it to do with language, culture or what? Not to forget the genetics and the archaeology.

And yet there seems to be a lot of confusion , even in academic circles.
I said for culture a loose connection of resemblance in arts, building, language? And I ask myself to what period one can that presume?
I read in a hurry again! the latest about the question and what seems to me a bit serious about the matter:
https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/10175/1/Donnelly,H_Thesis_2013.pdf

I read before that:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Celtic

And a rapid lecture of I suppose  a controversial point of view?
http://www.continuitas.org/texts/alinei_benozzo_megalithism.pdf

And also a rapid read of this:
http://www.jolr.ru/files/(172)jlr2015-13-3-4(257-279).pdf


Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Sun 01 Jan 2017, 20:01

Paul R wrote:
There we are again as an aside with the Celtic question. Who were the Celts? What is "celtic"? Depending on the period, are it pre-celtics, celtics? As it to do with language, culture or what? Not to forget the genetics and the archaeology.

It is all to do with language.

The phrase encapsulates so many diverse cultures that it has become meaningless in that context. Genetically it is possible to trace DNA back to relatively stable and static over time communities in the past, but that makes them no more "Celtic" as it makes them "Barbarian" in terms of what this DNA signifies. Archaeologically the evidence mounts daily that the previously assumed cultural and behavioural commonality was misfounded.

But it is possible also to criticise the previously assumed linguistic commonality which traditionally has been defined as "Celtic" too. In much the same way that linguists these days try to avoid over-use of the term "Germanic" there is strong evidence that we are misassigning point and time of origin to both by employing such phrases to imply a common root or indeed a discernible point of transition or departure from that which prevailed before. The evolution of Indo-European language into modern variants is not quite the smooth and evenly paced transition that was once assumed, and the biggest fault of all is to assume linguistic commonality on the basis of common aesthetics or architecture. After all, would anyone draw the same conclusions when faced with Norse and, for example, Irish round-house construction or a decorated brooch from similar time periods? In this case we know that there has been a cross-cultural assimilation and interchange of the aesthetic that in no way implies a common or similar language. Why do we forget this distinction or ignore it when assessing earlier periods?

You can link to literally hundreds, if not thousands, of online sites and articles in which the term "Celtic" is used, sometimes with caution, sometimes with caveats, but most times - I agree - simply perpetuating the confusion and misinterpretation of historical data as such indiscriminate use of the word represents. That does not make it allowable, desirable, or intelligent as an option however.

I am reminded of a lecture given by the then director of the National Museum of ireland some years ago, quite a while after it too had purged its literature of all reference to "Celtic" in describing its ancient Irish acquisitions. He described how a disgruntled foreign visitor to the museum, somewhat befuddled as to why several hours walking around its chambers had yet to provide her with even one item of "Celtic" origin to admire, was overheard by the director loudly inquiring at the information desk in the lobby where on earth the "Celtic artefacts" were on display. To which she was politely advised to try travelling to Glasgow's Celtic Park where the football club had a lovely little museum dedicated to their past glories.
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Sun 01 Jan 2017, 20:16

Thanks Nordmann for the immediate answer.

And yes I have to agree as you mentioned that there is no unilateral description of what Celtic means, so it is perhaps better to drop the word as to describe these ancient circumstances. It is a quick reply, while I am tomorrow not able to reply due to a little operation of the sinusitis...all to be ready for my donor kidney...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Earlier contacts China and the West   Sun 01 Jan 2017, 20:25

Take it easy so, Paul. Hope all goes well with the sinusectomy.

We all use the term "Celtic" from time to time, I still use "pre-Celtic" in an Irish context as it reminds people, even many Irish people who should know better, that the island had been inhabited for many millennia by people whose language and behaviour had nothing whatsoever to do with that of those who arrived speaking a proto-Gaelic variant. "Pre-Gaelic" of course is what I should be using, but I notice that this allows them the option to incorrectly assume I meant a phase in which non-Irish speaking "Celts" therefore lived there. There is no evidence for this. Just as there is no archaeological indication of what language the builders of passage-tombs and ancient dolmens spoke. There is a lot of hazy and ill-thought out assumption. But no evidence.

In that instance boldly declaring the existence of a "pre-Celtic" reality for them to contemplate instead makes sense, at least for now. I hope the day comes when even this little use of shorthand amounting to a white lie becomes unnecessary when discussing history with most people.
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