‘The study of China’ has a long history, and obtained for itself academic status in many countries. Therefore, to demand of sinologists to produce certificates of legitimacy is almost lèse-majesté, a crime being liable to capital punishment. Yet, with the number of books about China increasing exponentially, nobody could reasonably object to assuming a vantage-point one step removed from where the authors of these publications usually stand, and having a critical look at how they operate.
Nourri dans le sérail, the Sinological Institute in Leiden, I did have a look, and what I found was rather surprising: the emperor is wearing no clothes; sinologists, in and of themselves, have no optique on the object of their inquiries.