Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Kay Koppedrayer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This thesis considers the cultural transactions that occur in Robert Hans van Gulik's Judge Dee stories, a set of "Chinese" investigative fiction works written by a Dutchman in English. These works are investigated through the interpretive lens of chinoiserie --an extension of Edward Said's Orientalism, named for a design aesthetic that featured the creation of "Chinese" goods by European artisans who were less interested in closely emulating Chinese styles than in creating fashionable exotica for the domestic market. Chinoiserie investigates the alterations done to foreign cultural products as they are changed to meet the domestic culture's preferences and expectations. The object of this thesis is to explore the ways in which van Gulik's "Chinese" investigative fiction was adapted to his Western audience by focusing on his presentation of the ideological domains of rationality versus the supernatural and the religious traditions of Buddhism and Daoism. Using his authority as a scholar of Chinese culture, van Gulik wrote these works in opposition to the popular misconception of China. The study demonstrates that van Gulik catered to Western preferences by positioning Judge Dee as a far more rational investigator than was the norm for Chinese investigative fiction, and that van Gulik wrote with Western expectations in mind, replicating in his works the position held on Chinese religions by the Western scholars of his day. In so doing, he disseminated his own conception of China and also demonstrated how removed a work can be from its origins and still be called "Chinese."

Convocation Year


Convocation Season