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Ref ID: 22226
Ref Type: Book Section
Authors: Lejosne, Jean-Claude
Title: Gerrit van Wuysthoff's visit to Laos: a unique intercultural encounter that made history
Date: 2010
Source: Van Wuysthoff and the Lan Xang Kingdom: a Dutch Merchant's Visit to Laos in 1641
Place of Publication: Leiden, Netherlands
Publisher: Gingko Publishers
Notes: Introduction Gerrit van Wuysthoff’s journal is an invaluable document from many points of view. Of course the historical dimension has had pride of place on the basis of the wealth of information on the political and economic history of Laos and its neighbours at the beginning of King Suriyavongsa’s reign. Another most interesting dimension is that of intercultural studies: the Dutch merchant, together with his two assistants, having been commissioned by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to act as an ambassador and, shall we say, a scout having to investigate the potential of the region to make business and money, was very keen to observe, listen, assess, and make detailed notes to prepare for the report to be submitted to the Governor General of the Company. Moreover, they had to face unexpected situations and adjust their behaviour to the evaluation they could make of the ways of living, standards, values and modes of governance that were, to a large extent, new to them. The goal of this contribution is to examine the document as a testimony of an intercultural face-to-face, an encounter between two cultures, with people on both sides burdened with prejudice, though surely not to the same extent. For that purpose, we will first recall the terms of the meeting, the backdrop of the information that was available to the parties involved in the meeting. We will then collect the elements and references scattered in the original text that reveal or betray the way these parties view or seem to consider each other, trying in the process to separate what might reflect features of individual temperaments from what can indeed be taken as cultural traits rooted in a tradition and from the attitudes imposed by the needs of diplomacy. Finally, after this systematic analysis, we will seek to assess whether the persons and peoples involved remained on parallel lines of thought and evaluation, or whether there was mutual influencing and possibly some form of ‘conversion’ to the other party’s philosophy. In the following, all references will be drawn from the second edition of Wuysthoff’s text in French by J. C. Lejosne (reference below). A third edition, with expert comment and additions provided by the team of specialists led by Dr. Michael Lorrillard, the director of the EFEO branch in Vientiane, is due to appear soon, most probably in the form of an on-line publication. The latter medium may also be used for the publication of an English version of the logbook itself, with notes restricted to commentary on the content of the text provided by Van Wuysthoff and the assistants, and this publication on the web, the colleagues who would like to have specific excerpts from this English translation are welcome to ask the author of this contribution by mail ( Expert software now makes it possible to retrieve all items (words, expressions, collocations) related to a predefined semantic field or cluster so that all the data required for this study could be extracted from the ‘data base’ created after translating the Dutch original into French. In this case, the search was focussed on items elements betraying the observation of or a judgment on the traits and features assigned by the Dutch to the Lao and vice versa, as developed in Section 3 below. Most of the data used for this thematic study are also presented in the French edition, Section 6 <i>Historiographie</i>, sub-section 6.2.2 <i>Exploitation des index ‘culture et civilisations’,</i> with a further distribution of entries introduced by a § symbol.
Identifier: 978-90-71256-15-8
Date Created: 1/30/2019
Editors: van Krieken-Pieters, Juliette
Page Start: 105
Page End: 124