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Keywords scheme

For transcultural research, the project has decided upon a list of keywords. Entries connected to these keywords are being looked up in the different encyclopedias, and are integrated into the Encyclopedia Database.

An important aim of the project is to compare the contents of the encyclopedias under these categories and thus to write a transcultural history of these terms. 

Our current list of 18 keywords under research is:

  • Asia-East
  • Europe-West
  • State
  • Nation
  • Governance
  • City
  • Ideology
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Art
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Education
  • Information
  • Knowledge
  • Religion
  • Culture
  • Civilization  

Expectations in the choice of these keywords:

 1) Asia-East

How is Asia, or "the East" perceived in different cultures? Is there any concept of Asia at all, or a distinction of 5 continents? Which features does the idea of Asia imply? Is there a thinking of "the East" or "the Orient"? What perception of "Asia" or specifially "China" or "Japan" etc. appear in European encyclopedias, or how do encylpepedists in Asia depict their country and people in distinction to the West? How do these perceptions vary or change in time and space?

Recent publication by former project member Georg Lehner on this topic:

Georg Lehner: China in European Encyclopaedias, 1700-1850 (European
Expansion and Indigenous Response 9; Leiden: Brill, 2011). ISBN13:



2) Europe-West

How is Europe, or "the West" perceived in different cultures? This question can be posed parrallel to the keyword Asia-East.

3) State 

What do people understand under the institution of the state? When does the idea of a state appear in the different countries? How is the historical appearance of the idea of the state depicted? How and when is this concept introduced in Asia? Is the transformation from Dynasty to State depicted in a partricular way?

4) Nation

What is a nation and how does it come into existence? Why is it perceived to be important to form a nation? Did the concept travel from Europe to Asia? How does the idea of a nation change traditional world views like tianxia (all-under-heaven)?

5) Governance

What is the understanding of governance, how does it change, and where do the triggers come from? What are the particular ideas of how people are to be governed, and how a dynasty or a state has to be run? How are central concepts like "freedom", "security", "administration" understood, and how do these ideas change  through cultural contacts between East and West?

6) City

Since when did the idea of the City occur in what areas? How do mutual perceptions of East and West, or domestic circumstances, define the idea of the city?

7) Ideology

Ideologies may be invented by certain persons in certain circumstances. What happens to specific ideologies when they travel to another culture? How are ideologies like capitalism or socialism perceived and modified in different cultures?

8) Science

What is science? Are there changing ideas and terminologies for the field of science? How are distinctions made between science and arts, or science and technology? How did Western sciences find their way into Asian encyclopedias, under what topics were they presented?  How are differences between Eastern and Western sciences depicted, if such distinction is made? How and where did modern terms for science form in Asia?

9) Technology

How is technology seen, and what is subordinated to it? How is technology defined in different cultures, and how does this change through cultural exchange? The keyterm of technology may often be closely connected to that of science.

10) Art

Is the concept of "art" presents throughout time? If not, when and how does the concept appear? What are the core features of the concept, and what may be the reasons for this concept to appear? How were ideas of "art" conceptualized before the borrowing of an abstract concept?

11) History

How is history and historiography described and perceived in different cultures? How does a Darwinian concept of evolution and a traditional Asian view of history interact in times of intercultural contacts? What are reasons for change?

12) Philosophy

Philosophy in an abstract sense is present in any Asian encyclopedia today, but is this also true for traditional Asian thought? How was the concept integrated, and how did it find its way into existing taxonomies? How exactly did the field of philosophy change in times of translations and transcultural borrowings? How does Asian philosophy manifest in Western thought, what elements did this comprise and how was it adapted in European philosophy?

13) Education

The education system changed a lot in 19th and 20th century Europe as well as Asia. What were the determining ideas, how was this translated into a different cultural context, and who were the actors of such transcultural spread of educational ideas? What role did missionaries play in this area? What specific ideas can be found in the depictions of foreign educational thought, both in Asia and Europe?

14) Information

How were information system revolutionized through press, telephone, railways, telegraph, post, etc.? To what extend can direct transcultural borrowing be seen as responsible for crucial changes? How is information structured, organized and transported into another culture?

15) Knowledge

Knowledge and the transmission of it are key elements that shape the characteristics of a people. It is closely connected with the organization of information and education. How exactly is knowledge perceived and conceptualized in different cultures, and why do changes appear? How does a clash of different knowledge systems appear and develop? How come a certain set of knowledge looses or gains importance, and what institutional changes are responsible for shifts of knowledge? How is the whole process of changing knowledge influenced through transcultural borrowing and interaction?

16) Religion

Religion, a term today often seen as a natural characteristic of man in Asia and Europe, was in fact a new and abstract concept in many Asian countries in the 19th century. It was however and important concept that gained strength in both political discussions and everyday contact with Western missionaries. Why could religion become part of central reform ideas for the country? What role did Confucius play in shifting interpretations of religion? How was today's term Chinese and Japanese term for 'religion' formed and what impact did this have in a changing system of knowledge? How are the abstract term 'religion' as well as concrete information on foreign beliefs handled in different cultures?

17) Culture

What are different concepts of culture in the different areas?  How and why do such perceptions change with the knowledge of different countries and people?

18) Civilization

Civilization may be defined as a certain stage in the development of society, or it may be understood as a set of certain practices. As civilization played and plays a pivotal role in views of the foreign and the self, changing conceptualizations of the concept are crucial to our understanding of transcultural exchange.