Saturday, April 28, 2007

Today's Quote: The Chinese View Of The Roman Empire

This quote is an entry in Mircea Eliade's Journal III 1970-1978:

Just today I've discovered my notes on the image of the Roman Empire (Ta Ch'in) such as it appears in Chinese sources from the Han dynasty, in the second century A.D., which is just as mythical and fabulous as the one that the Romans themselves had of China. In fact, as Rolf Stein writes, the Ta Ch'in was in large part "the projection of the Chinese utopian vision of the perfect State." That "Roman Empire" was described in terms that recall the T'ai P'ing, the utopian kingdom that the revolutionary movements of the time were seeking to establish, movements that were inspired by Taoism, and at the highest level of which was found the half-secret society of the "Yellow Turbans." These politico-mystical movements sought to resuscitate the Golden Age, and thus the perfect State and universal peace--in a word, the T'ai P'ing, or primordial paradise. What is remarkable about this utopia is the "mythologization" of the Far West, the transfiguration of the Roman Empire into a perfect State, the paradise of origins. The phenomenon is attested to, moreover, in many other cultures regardless of their level: After Marco Polo, Europeans saw in China another "Terrestrial Paradise."

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