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This book is about space. When the Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century brought with them the first works of Chinese art with their characteristic parallel perspective, they were probably unaware of the fact that these pictures contained the key to a new conception of space. For space to classic China was not what it was to Renaissance Europe. For the Chinese it was the field of the movements between two opposite cosmic poles, a vital tension. For the Europeans, embracing the newly rediscovered linear perspective, whereby parallel lines converge to a point on the horizon, space became eventually just a form of optical depiction -— a form of perception, as Kant would put it.
It was the 18th century philosopher Leibniz, who first appreciated the Chinese feeling. With the Chinese he conceived the universe as a relational harmony rather than as a mould for perception. Conceptual as it was, the Renaissance idea of space was bound to lose its vitality. China's vital space revitalized it in two ways. The one was scientific and led from Leibniz to systems theory and cybernetics, the other artistic and led through the mediation of the Japanese wood-block print to the Impressionists and Frank Lloyd Wright, and was further developed by modernist artists such as Theo van Doesburg. The two ways converge in the technology of today's visual computing, which, according to Krikke, is a product of Eastern influence.