The History of the Relations between the Low Countries and China in the Qing Era (1644-1911)

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The History of the Relations Between the Low Countries and China in the Qing Era (1644-1911). Edited by W.F. Vande Walk and Noël Golvers. Leuven: Leuven Univ. Press, 2003. Pp. 508. euro49.50.

This collection of papers, presented in 1995 at an international conference sponsored by the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, reminds us that small countries like Belgium and Holland played an important role in the West's remarkable encounter with modern China. The book's contributors, top scholars in their respective fields, weave a tapestry that covers the impact of the Low Countries' evangelism, commerce, and cultural contact on China's search for "wealth and strength" amid dynastic decline and the so-called unequal treaty system (1842-1943) imposed by Europe's "Great Powers."

Before becoming sovereign nations, Belgium and Holland contributed such notable Jesuits as Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-88) and Antoine Thomas (16441709) to the campaign in Catholic Europe to Christianize and exchange scientific knowledge with China. Their letters home, portraying an ethically governed Middle Kingdom devoid of the religious strife devastating Europe, made China the most-admired land in Asia. Two centuries later, the Dutch supported the German Catholic missionaries in Shandong.

Although the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) revoked the emperor's 1724 ban against Christianity, Belgian Catholics sought to become independent of Great Power imperialism. …

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