The Chinese Impact: Images and Ideas of China in the Dutch Golden Age


China holds a special place in the European imagination. The Chinese economy, politics, and culture are increasingly attracting foreigners, but preconceptions and stereotypes often distort the European perspective. This is not a new dynamic. It is rooted in the first period of intensive contacts, the 17th century, when the Low Countries were the European hub for products from and images of China, shaping Western conceptions that persist to the present day.

This research program pioneers the comprehensive study of China's impact on low and high culture in the Netherlands, from the Chinese ceramics in Rembrandt's studio to the popular comparison of Spinoza to Confucius. It establishes how the self-image of the fledgling Dutch Republic was honed in the Chinese mirror, from Delftware imitations of porcelain to ideals of religious toleration and republicanism. Historians have neglected the 17th-century Low Countries because they failed to analyze art and ideas in an integrated manner. Only interdisciplinary study does justice to the mutually dependent images by craftsmen and scholars from the Netherlands which were widely influential. Understanding the development of these popular stereotypes enlightens Chinese-Western relations that continue to be relevant in a globalized world.

Building on and critically elaborating the method of imagology, four closely related projects chart the process of image formation in a comprehensive manner. The first project analyzes relevant prints and porcelain depicting Chinese themes and styles, foregrounding Johan Nieuhof's (1618-1672) illustrations. The second project studies textual sources from the viewpoint of intellectual history, singling out Isaac Vossius's (1618-1689) writings. The third project explores Chinese reactions to Netherlandish art and scholarship, emphasizing the role of Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688). The fourth, synthesis project analyzes art, ideas, and the perspective from China in a comparative manner, thereby criticizing traditional imagology and the related approach of Orientalism.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • W. van Noord(2013): Solving Puzzles: the Inscription on a Chinese Snuff Bottle Raises Questions of Date and Origin The British Museum Magazine pp. 52 - 53
  • T. Dijkstra, R. Jagersma(2013): Uncovering Spinoza'?s printer by means of bibliographical research Quaerendo pp. 278 - 310
  • L. Gesterkamp(2013): Review of Shih-shan Susan Huang, Picturing the True Form: Daoist Visual Culture in Traditional China Journal of Chinese Religions pp. 154 - 157
  • W.J.L. van Noord, T. Weststeijn(2015): The Global Trajectory of Nicolaas Witsen’s Chinese Mirror The Rijksmuseum Bulletin pp. 325 - 361
  • J. Kursell, J. Maat, L. Bod, M.A. Weststeijn(2016): A New Field: History of Humanities History of Humanities pp. 1 - 8
  • M.A. Weststeijn(2016): The Sublime and the "Beholder's Share": Junius, Rubens, Rembrandt Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art pp. 1 - 33
  • G.W.H. Dijkstra(2016): ‘It is said that…': The Chinese Rites Controversy in Dutch newspapers and periodicals in the seventeenth century Jaarboek voor Nederlandse Boekgeschiedenis pp. 172 - 191
  • T. Weststeijn, L. Gesterkamp(2016): A New Identity for Rubens’s “Korean Man”: Portrait of the Chinese Merchant Yppong Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art pp. 142 - 169
  • M.A. Weststeijn, T. Dijkstra(2017): Constructing Confucius in the Low Countries De Zeventiende Eeuw pp. 137 - 164

Hoofdstuk in boek

  • K.B. Tsang, L. Gesterkamp, L. Gesterkamp, K. Ruitenbeek(2013): Beyond Clouds and Waves: Daoist Paintings in the Royal Ontario Museum pp. 75 - 99 , Toronto
  • R. Bod, R. Bod, J. Maat, J. Maat, T. Weststeijn, T. Weststeijn(2014): pp. 13 - 24 , Amsterdam
  • J. Rutgers, M.A. Weststeijn(2014): Rembrandt in perspectief: de veranderende visie op de meester en zijn werk pp. 12 - 40 , Zwolle
  • T. Weststeijn, T. Weststeijn(2014): Art and Knowledge in Rome and the European Republic of Letters, 1500-1750 pp. 247 - 262 , Turnhout
  • M.A. Weststeijn(2014): Chinese and Japanese Porcelain for the Dutch Golden Age pp. 213 - 229 , Amsterdam
  • M.A. Weststeijn(2016): pp. 6 - 27
  • M.A. Weststeijn(2016): The Ashgate Research Companion to Dutch Art of the Seventeenth Century pp. 202 - 233
  • M.A. Weststeijn, W. Franits(2016): The Ashgate Research Companion to Dutch Art of the Seventeenth Century, London: Ashgate/Taylor & Francis, 2016 (accepted). pp. 202 - 233
  • S. Gang, M.A. Weststeijn(2016): pp. 9 - 26
  • S. Dupre, M.A. Weststeijn, S. Goettler(2017): Knowledge and Discernment in the Early Modern Arts pp. 236 - 264
  • M. Jonker, W. Van Noord, M.A. Weststeijn(2017): pp. 83 - 91
  • M. Jonker, T. Dijkstra, M.A. Weststeijn(2017): Babaren en Wijsgeren: Het beeld van China in de Gouden Eeuw pp. 59 - 64
  • M.A. Weststeijn, M.A. Weststeijn, M. Jonker(2017): Barbaren en Wijsgeren: het beeld van China in de Gouden Eeuw pp. 9 - 24

Boek of monografie

  • K. Ruitenbeek, L. Gesterkamp, K.B. Tsang(2013): Beyond Clouds and Waves: Daoist Paintings in the Royal Ontario Museum , Toronto
  • T. Weststeijn(2014): Art and Knowledge in Rome and the European Republic of Letters, 1500-1750 pp. 380 , Turnhout
  • R. Bod, J. Maat, T. Weststeijn(2014): The Making of the Humanities, IV: The Modern Humanities
  • T. Weststeijn(2015): Art and Antiquity in the Netherlands and Britain: The Vernacular Arcadia of Franciscus Junius (1591-1677). Studies in Netherlandish Art and Cultural History 12 pp. 452 , Leiden & Boston
  • E. Jorink, F. Scholten, M.A. Weststeijn(2016): Netherlandish Art in its Global Context pp. 295
  • M.A. Weststeijn, M. Jonker(2017): Barbaren & Wijsgeren: Het beeld van China in de Gouden Eeuw , Nijmegen

Publicatie bedoeld voor een breed publiek

Professionele publicatie


  • R. Bod, M.A. Weststeijn, J. Kursell, J. Maat(2016): History of Humanities





Prof. dr. M.A. Weststeijn

Verbonden aan

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Kunst- en Cultuurwetenschappen


Drs. G.W.H. Dijkstra, Dr. L. Gesterkamp, Dr. L. Gesterkamp, Drs. W.J.L. van Noord, Prof. dr. M.A. Weststeijn, Prof. dr. M.A. Weststeijn


01/01/2014 tot 31/12/2018