View Full Version : Oriental legacy in literature - is it that important?

06-22-2007, 06:55 PM
On one of the writing forums that I use to look through I've found quite a hot discussion on the importance of European-Asian culture and even comparison. This discussion grew into a real conflict.

Just a quick look:

"Well, I understand your patriotism, but try to read French poets, German philosophers, listen to Italian Opera (as I remember, you like theaters so probably you will enjoy opera) and then you will understand that there are a lot of beautiful things, not just England and English."

"You mention only European legacy. But how about Asia?
Take into account all those masterpieces created in oriental languages."

"Well, I'm not interested in Asia because I'm interested in Britain.
Now I read the Selected works of Sir Francis Bacon, and I have no time in discovering Asia."

"China, India and Babylon had a great developed civilization.
They left their legacy in multiple sciences and we use their knowledge till now.
At the very same time people in Britain were living in caves, they were barbarians."

"Hey you! Stop talking about caves and barbarians.
The ancient culture which disappered is a very broad topic, not for the discussion on the internet forum.
By the way it isn't related to the personal writing style. I don't want to be banned by the admin so I won't discuss anything.
I just advise you to read more about ancient history ask yourself a question: how will you explain Stonehenge?"

"May be it's not for the discussion in this particular thread but who are you to tell me what can be discussed on the internet forum."

"And don't show me that pathetic set of stones. I can show you the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China, but I won't)))"


06-22-2007, 07:08 PM
It's almost as if all of these civilizations, including our current ones, are only stories. None are "important." But they could be interesting and even entertaining, if they have a story worth telling, or fragments thereof. We should not feel guilty for ignoring Timbuktu, if nothing worth remembering happened and we didn't collectively learn anything as a result. We remember Romans, Samurai and a handful of others, because they touch us as an audience, saying and doing imaginative things in nifty ways.

06-22-2007, 09:42 PM
It all sounds pretty juvenile to me, from what I read. Does a bigger monument make a civilization "better"? I don't see how the any of that is related. I don't understand the rationale of assigning higher value to one or the other. It's not a freakin' video game.

And with some evidence that civilization's advancements had more to do with material conditions like the proper temperatures to store food than inherent greatness, I don't know that it matters that one group did this or that before the other.

Penguin Queen
06-26-2007, 05:45 PM
I think it's vital to understand about the past, in order to understand the present. There are a number of advances in science and discoveries that are today in the West widely credited to Western scientists which were in fact made decades and centuries earlier by Asian or Muslim scientists (printing was invented in China, not by Gutenberg in Germany; an Islamic scientist whose name escapes me discovered the circulation of the blood, not the English (I think) scientist whose name now also escapes me who is generally credited with it (I am a fount of wisdom, me....). Early forms of total anaesthetic were used by Islamic medics in the Middle Ages; long, long before the West caught on.


And of course there was lots of interchange and ideas, things and stories travelled. The apple originated in Persia. The tulip in... somewhere else. Turkey? Persia? China? The fairy tale Cinderella is Chinese in origin and travelled west along the silk route.

Etc. :)

Of course not everybody needs to know all of this in detail (indeed, I dont know it in detail, as is obvious from the above :D) but I do think that just concentrating on one country, or continent, or culture, is a severe limitation, not only to one's own konwledge, but to one's view of the world. And if you write something like historic fiction, or certain type of children's books, say, that are set in the past, you will need to know this stuff to avoid mistakes.
And in any case, I do believe that every bit of knowledge one has is an enrichment.

Edit: and of course for everybody who is from an Asian, and/or Muslim, and/or African etc. background, it's pretty vital to know where one's roots are., culturally speaking. So yes -- it is important.

06-26-2007, 06:44 PM
All history and literature is important; however it may not be relevant to what you're writing.

There are a lot of discoveries that were credited to the European west that were really made much earlier by people of other cultures. However, this may or may not be important to what you're writing. If you're writing a historical with a setting where everyone believed in the European discovery, you can safely ignore the previous discovery. If however, your novel covers another area or culture it may be vital.

Use the knowledge that matters to your story, and don't worry about things that everyone believed then which we now know to be false.