Cross-posted from Asian Review of Books
The first Portuguese embassy to China, headed by Tomé Pires, set out from Canton in 1517, reaching the capital Peking in December 1520. Although they carried gifts and letters from King Manuel, the Portuguese did not see the Emperor but were treated as spies, thrown into jail and some executed.
Meanwhile, in November 1519, a Spanish expedition led by Hernán Cortés entered Mexico-Tenochtitlán where they were received with spectacular pomp by the emperor Moctezuma. Months later, in August 1521, the Aztec capital would fall to the Spanish, opening the door to their conquest of much of the American continent.
These first encounters between the Iberians and the two world civilizations of Mexico and China took place therefore around the same time although with completely different outcomes. Serge Gruzinski’s The Eagle and the Dragon, the title referring to the iconic symbols of Mexico and China, is a groundbreaking study that sets to explain the timing and implications of these events. Continue reading “The Eagle & the Dragon: Globalization and European Dreams of Conquest in China and America in the Sixteenth Century”