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This article argues that certain Enlightenment approaches to world history developed through engagement with Chinese texts. In the eighteenth century, two French savants, Michel-Ange le Roux Deshauterayes and Joseph de Guignes, read original Chinese language histories and deployed them to ask and answer world-historical questions. Deshauterayes drew from the sixteenth-century historian Nan Xuan to argue that the mariner's compass was invented in ancient China and diffused to the west. De Guignes looked to Ma Duanlin's fourteenth-century encyclopedia to explain how the Huns came from Central Asia to threaten the Roman Empire. Their conclusions and their methods contributed to Enlightenment historiography through the works of philosophes such as Voltaire and Edward Gibbon. Enlightenment authors not only learned about China; they also learned from China.