Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology

By D. E. Mungello | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V THE PROTO-SINOLOGIST KIRCHER AND THE HERMETIC CONNECTION IN THE EUROPEAN ASSIMILATION OF CHINA

1. THE CONTENT, COMPOSITION AND THE CONTRIBUTORS OF CHINA ILLUSTRATA

One of the most influential books in shaping the European conception of China in the late 1660s and 1670s was Athanasius Kircher China monumentis qua sacris profanis, nec non variis naturae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata ( China elucidated through its sacred, profane [literary] monuments, natural elements, arts and other arguments). The wide range of subject matter and many illustrations made China illustrata the "Chinese encyclopedia of the seventeenth century"1. The work relied heavily upon accommodative missionary sources, but Fr. Kircher's work as a proto-sinologist was dominated by European Hermetism rather than Jesuit accommodation,

China illustrata first appeared in Amsterdam in 1667 in a Latin edition, followed in 1668 by a Dutch edition, in 1669 by an abridged English edition and in 1670 by an expanded French edition2. Because of the emergence of French as a dominant European language in the late seventeenth century, the French edition has been widely cited. However, the translation by F. S. Dalquié is marred by minor errors which have given rise to misunderstandings3.

____________________
1
Adolf Reichwein, China and Europe: intellectual and artistic contacts in the eighteenth century J. C. Powell, trans. ( London, 1925) p. 20.
2
There were two nearly identical Latin editions of China illustrata published at Amsterdam in 1667. According to Sommervogel, IV, 1064, the edition by Jacobum à Meurs (Jacobus van Meurs) was a counterfeit edition of the original edition by Joannem Janssonium A Waesberge (Johannes Janssonius van Waesberge; Jean Jansson a Waesberge). One notes changes and omissions in the text of the Meurs edition (e.g. pp. 132 & 133) which support Sommervogel's claim. Waesberge also published at Amsterdam the French edition, the Dutch edition ( Tonneel van China) and the abridged English edition ( An Embassy from the East India Company of the United Provinces to China). For further detail, see Cordier, I, 26-27; Sommervogel, IV, 1063-1064; and Boleslaw Szcześniak , "Athanasius Kircher's China illustrata," Osiris 10 ( 1952): 388-389. Unless otherwise indicated, the following citations of China illustrata are to the Amsterdam edition of 1667 printed by Waesberge.
3
According to Henri Havret, Le stèle chrétienne de Si-ngan-fou Variétés Sinologiques no. VII ( 1895), XII ( 1897) & XX ( 1902), XII, 54, Dalquié mistranslated a statement by Boym, thus contributing to the mistaken belief expressed by Kircher and others that a facsimile tablet of the Nestorian Monument was made at the time of the stone's recovery ca. 1625. Also, Pelliot points out that Dalquié erred in translating the name of Boym's Chinese collaborator on the Nestorian inscription. The "Andreae Don Sin" of China illustrata p. 7, was rendered by Dalquié as "le P. André don Dion Sin," ( LaChine illustrée

-134-

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