Refractions of China in Russia, and of Russia in China: Ideas and Things

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This article analyses perceptions of China in Russia and of Russia in China by focusing on exchange through material culture, including the tea trade and the borrowing of architectural styles. It demonstrates that some things Chinese became domesticated in Russia, having first arrived there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whereas others continued to represent an exotic "China." Fewer things Russian were familiar in imperial China. In twentieth-century China, Russia became closely associated with Communism, while the idea of "Russia" was also fashioned via cultural and material exchange. Other areas of historical contact between Russia and European countries and China and Asian countries have been mapped out by extensive research. This article argues that the field of contact between Russia and China has been neglected because historians have grown too used to conceptualizing relations between Europeans and Asians in terms of a confrontation of West and East.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-584
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


  • Russian-Chinese relations
  • chinoiserie
  • cross-cultural contact
  • material culture
  • tea trade

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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