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200 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. i, Spring 1998 Federico Masini, editor. Western Humanistic Culture Presented to China by Jesuit Missionaries (XVII-XVIII Centuries). Bibliotheca Instituti Historici S.I., vol. 49. Rome: Institutum Historicum S.L, 1996. 396 pp. Paperback, ISBN 88-7O4I-346-2. In the history of China's first substantive encounter with Christianity, the Jesuit missionaries who entered the Empire beginning in the late sixteenth century and who found a niche among Chinese scholars at the highest levels in the capital have had a varied press. Their successful effort to find points of intellectual affinity with the Chinese ruling class, their embrace of Chinese habits of daily life, and their writings in Chinese to convey elements of European culture have brought both praise and blame. They may have garnered some favorable attention in the mission field, but they failed to win converts in significant numbers and even became objects ofharsh denunciations by Chinese officials and literati, who found their ideas—and even their presence—subversive. To the Church at home, what seemed their concessions to Chinese style brought them into pronounced disfavor by the early eighteenth century and removed them from prominence in Roman Catholic missions in China. Their travails notwithstanding, the Jesuits have been of continuing fascination to generations of observers of China's historical interaction with the wider world because they left a legacy ofbroad proportions: they were eager students of Chinese civilization and sought out its resonances with their own as a means of easing the way for evangelization. Toward mat end they introduced European geography , astronomy, and mathematics into the Chinese idiom and began to represent the Chinese language and its cultural context in Roman script. This book of fourteen essays by as many authors explores the Jesuits' intellectual experience among the Chinese. The proceedings of a conference in Rome in October 1993, the volume advances a European sinological initiative to showcase archival holdings in Europe on the history of the Jesuits in China in the late Ming and early Qing dynastic periods. The essays, texts of lectures presented at the conference , are of uneven quality and lack allocation into well-marked sections such as "bibliographical explorations," "Jesuit writings in Chinese," "European science in China," or "European humanistic culture in Chinese translation." Although unmarked, these categories nonetheless exist, and from the collection a mindful reader can draw engaging insights about the range of the Jesuits' intellectual iny niversi y (ereS(S) their relationship with Chinese scholars, and philosophical overlap across civilizations. One of the strengths of this book, as intended, is its revelation of archival sources beyond those at the Vatican. This point is clear in the first essay, by MaofHawai 'i Press Reviews 201 riña Battaglini, which lists previously uninventoried rare or even unique items acquired by the Italian state from local religious congregations in the late nineteenth century and now at the National Library in Rome. Throughout the book, authors show reliance on novel primary sources, both archival and printed, as well as relevant, sometimes unusual, secondary materials in European languages. While the bookwould benefit from a single combined bibliography, it provides access to a rich array ofscholarship through ample notes (even though they vary in intensity and complexity among the different essays). Another strength ofthe book is its message ofcultural resonance between early Catholic missionaries, almost all ofthem Jesuits, and Chinese intellectuals. By means ofthis volume the Jesuits in China in effect are in the spodight as part ofthe history ofideas in China, not as a linked (but detachable) component. Even the critics of Christianity took seriously Jesuit writings in Chinese and the religion they aimed to convey either directiy, as tracts, or indirectly, as treatises on European science or humanistic concepts. Whatever the foreignness ofChristianity, the Jesuits appealed to Chinese intellectual curiosity and even represented the prospect ofa universal standard ofmorality that found a sympathetic audience among Chinese readers. In the end, however, a Chinese insistence on the Chinese nature of universality (which, ofcourse, was the counterpart ofthe missionaries' Christian-humanist universality) undercut the very idea of universalism and drove the missionaries' scholarly contributions in Chinese to the margins of Chinese thought. This volume offers yet more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 200-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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