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  • Published: 14 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241434444
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $75.00

The Light of Asia

A History of Western Fascination with the East




This various, rich and enjoyable book tells the story of the many ways in which Asia has influenced Europe and North America over centuries of tangled, dynamic encounters

From the time of the ancient Greeks onwards the West's relationship with Asia consisted for the most part of outrageous tales of strange beasts and monsters, of silk and spices shipped over vast distances and an uneasy sense of unknowable empires fantastically far away. By the twentieth century much of Asia might have come under Western rule after centuries of warfare, but its intellectual, artistic and spiritual influence was fighting back.

The Light of Asia is a wonderfully varied and entertaining history of the many ways in which Asia has shaped European and North American culture over centuries of tangled, dynamic encounters, and the central importance of this vexed, often confused relationship. From Marco Polo onwards Asia has been both a source of genuine fascination and equally genuine failures of comprehension. China, India and Japan were all acknowledged to be both great civilizations and in crude ways seen as superseded by the West. From Chicago to Calcutta, and from antiquity to the new millennium, this is a rich, involving story of misunderstandings and sincere connection, of inspiration and falsehood, of geniuses, adventurers and con-men.

Christopher Harding's captivating gallery of people and places celebrates Asia's impact on the West in all its variety.

  • Published: 14 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241434444
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $75.00

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Praise for The Light of Asia

‘This beautifully written, deeply absorbing and revelatory account … offers a fresh perspective … a judicious, far-reaching exploration of how the discovery of Eastern beliefs, customs and mores helped to shape Western ideas as much as Western advancements were in turn being taken up in the East … fascinating … makes an elegant and entertaining progress from the Ancient Greeks to the "raga rock" of the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood

Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph

‘A rich history … Harding writes with energy and insight, wearing a tremendous amount of learning lightly’

Rana Mitter, Financial Times

‘A very interesting book … I found his history fascinating. The book is a fine complement to Edward Said’s Orientalism, as Harding fills many of the gaps in Said’s famous thesis’

Ian Buruma, Spectator

‘Well-researched, well-written’

Craig Clunas, Literary Review