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Becoming YellowA Short History of Racial Thinking$
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Michael Keevak

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691140315

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691140315.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Before They Were Yellow

Before They Were Yellow

East Asians in Early Travel and Missionary Reports

(p.23) Chapter 1 Before They Were Yellow
Becoming Yellow

Michael Keevak

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how East Asians were seen by medieval travel narrators and missionaries before they became yellow at the end of the eighteenth century. The story begins in 1511, when the Portuguese established a permanent outpost for East Asian trade at Malacca. Persistent rumors of “white” people in the Far East had turned into a reality, as both Chinese and Japanese (as well as Arabs and other East Asians) became a common sight. The “whiteness” of these people was constantly highlighted as a term that described their presumed level of civilization. The chapter considers a number of surviving accounts by merchants and (later) missionaries that are full of references to the whiteness of both Chinese and Japanese natives, including those attributed to Tomé Pires and Duarte Barbosa. It also explores how Western descriptions of East Asian people shifted from calling them white to calling them yellow.

Keywords:   whiteness, East Asians, travel narrators, missionaries, Far East, Chinese, Japanese, merchants, yellow, Tomé Pires

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