By E. Ringmar
Erik Ringmar elucidates how Europeans unfold "civilization" by means of barbarian skill within the 1860 destruction of the palace of the emperor of China.
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Additional resources for Liberal Barbarism: The European Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China
64 Although such authoritarian tactics are regarded as abominations during normal and peaceful times, they may during times of great social upheaval restore a modicum of order and social consensus. The awesome performance unites the people—in submission and obedience. The Sino-centric international system, we said, was based on an elaborate protocol, which emphasized hierarchy and the acceptance of predetermined social obligations. The Sino-centric system was highly ritualistic, yet it relied on performances too.
Everywhere there were artificial hills and buildings that obscured the view and the snaking paths and waterways made it impossible to see further than to the next bend. The only way to learn about the garden was to walk or row through it, and this is also what the emperor and his visitors did. After each turn, a different aspect would open up and there would always be something new to discover. This made for great variety in the number and kinds of impressions and provided a visitor with a large number of different experiences.
In addition to the three functions we briefly discussed above, a performance will allow us to communicate also between international systems. As long as the performance in question is powerful enough it forces the audiences to drop whatever else they are doing and pay attention. 56 Awe is induced by the awesome and by the marvelous. You see something you never have seen before and never could have imagined, and you marvel. Or you are struck by awe in an encounter with the sublime. 57 Often sublime reactions are brought out by encounters with untamed nature.