Since our knowledge is limited, we are all eager to be instructed by famous men, but the problem is: Which is better–to listen to men with wide knowledge or to experts? The answer seems simple enough: To both. Naturally both are good. But after being instructed many times by both types, I feel we must take what they say with a grain of salt. For those with wide knowledge are usually superficial, while experts are usually wrong.
Lu Xun, 'Famous Men and Famous Sayings,' 1 July 1935 (tr. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang)
What a successful China Expert needs, first and foremost, is not so much China expertise as expertise at being an Expert. Does this mean that accidental competence in Chinese affairs could be a liability for a China Expert? Not necessarily–at least not as long as he can hide it as well as his basic ignorance.
Simon Leys, 'The China Experts,' 1981
No expertise comes without constant doubt and a willingness to challenge established truths. Chinoiresie represents our attempt to question some of today’s understandings and certainties about China. It blends the image of a ‘chinoiserie’—a foreign interpretation and imitation of Chinese artistic traditions, a term that over time has come to assume the meaning of a cliché, a stereotypical view of China—with the concept of ‘heresy’—an unorthodox view aimed at challenging a given truth.
Through this website, we will strive to offer our readers those ‘mismatched shards of china’ that we have collected through our personal engagement with this country. Inevitably, the narratives that we carry with us do not necessarily match each other—nor do they match the various narratives promoted by the Chinese authorities or by others who seek to frame and define contemporary China’s dramatic transformation. At Chinoiresie.info we seek to lay bare the challenging processes involved in constructing knowledge about China, with the awareness that (T)truth will remain a mere chimera.
In addition to China-related essays, Chinoiresie is home to Made in China: A Quarterly on Chinese Labour, Civil Society, and Rights and the Tianxia Podcast Series.
We welcome any feedback and proposals for possible contributions to the various components of this project. To reach us, you can fill the form on our Contact page.
Louisa Lim is an award-winning journalist and the author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited (Oxford University Press, 2014). She reported from China for a decade for the BBC and NPR, and now works as a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.
China Program Officer at the International Labor Rights Forum. His research interests focus on labour and employment relations in China’s state sector, and China’s labour movement and civil society.
Fellow in the Anthropology of China at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His work circles around the study of past, present and future human projects for the natural environment in a time of capitalism-induced ruination and explores issues of water scarcity and distribution in East and South-east Asia.
Graeme Smith is host of The Little Red Podcast and Visiting Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance at the Australian National University. His research focuses on the politics of rural China and China’s footprint in the Asia Pacific, particularly Papua New Guinea and Myanmar.
Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University. Her research interests include China’s foreign propaganda policy, the English-language treaty-port press, public diplomacy during the Sino-Japanese conflict, international relations in the Asia-Pacific region during the interwar period, and the development of the media in contemporary China.