The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

The Arabian Nights and Orientalism in Resonance

Joint Research Coordinator NISHIO Tetsuo

Reserch Theme List


Orientalist Antoine Galland’s translation of the Arabian Nights (1001 Arabian Nights; Le Mille nuites contes arabes traduit en francais) in 1704 was the first translation of the classic into French. The 300th anniversary in 2004 marked exactly the anniversary of that landmark event. MINPAKU will take advantage of this opportunity to mount a special exhibition looking at the Arabian Nights. This research project is designed for the preparatory work for the event.
Not only did the introduction of the Arabian Nights to Europe serve as the fuse that ignited the subsequent fascination with the East (Orientalism), it also played a decisive role in shaping the view of the Mideast Islamic world in the minds of people in the European world. The influence of this European view of the Mideast and Islam was transplanted to thrive in Japanese cultural soil in such a way that the Arabian Nights became the wellspring for Japan’s view of the Middle East. Far away from their original homeland in the Middle East, the Arabian Nights were reborn, transformed within the current of European Orientalism and spread across the face of the earth as world literature, with some of the stories becoming accepted as children’s literature. This joint research focuses on how the Arabian Nights were received and changed, especially in Europe and Japan.