On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900

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Chinese literati borrowed in turn new algebraic notations of Hindu-Arabic origin, Tychonic cosmology, Euclidian geometry, and various computational advances. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, imperial reformers, early Republicans, Guomindang party cadres, and Chinese Communists have all prioritized science and technology.

In this book, Elman gives a nuanced account of the ways in which native Chinese science evolved over four centuries, under the influence of both Jesuit and Protestant missionaries. In the end, he argues, the Chinese produced modern science on their own terms.


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On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900

Shop Textbooks. Add to Wishlist. USD The success of Adam Schall in the still partial reform of the Imperial Calendar would earn him the highest honors. He had baptized the influential eunuch Pang Tianshou, and could celebrate Mass for the staff of the Forbidden City in a private chapel. He also oversaw the deployment of guns for the Ming Dynasty used during the final assault of the Manchu troops. During the dramatic change of dynasty , he stayed in Beijing against the advice of his superiors and, under great peril, continued to use the Jesuit residence, chapel, and library. His subsequent allegiance to the Manchu regime proved providential for the Jesuits, who initially thought they had lost everything with the end of the Ming dynasty.

The new regime quickly confirmed Schall as director of the office of astronomy—again, the correct prediction of an eclipse played a key role in the confirmation—and he formed a quasi father-son relationship with the young Emperor Shunzhi — His position and, more important, his obvious intellectual superiority earned him great hostility both within the Society of Jesus and among other congregations. His confreres Magalhaes, Buglio, Furtado, Longobardo, and Ferreira petitioned for his dismissal from the Society, but a committee exonerated him from all charges.

Still, the accusations found their way out of the Jesuit order, and they were used after the death of Schall in the context of the Rites Controversy Dunne, : sq. The appearance of a comet and an earthquake that shook Beijing while he was in prison helped him to escape that fate: a number of mandarins convinced the regent that Heaven obviously opposed the verdict. Schall was released, but he would be rehabilitated only after his death in At the time of his condemnation, thirty out of the thirty-three foreign missionaries in China were ordered to remain in custody in Canton.

Focusing on scientific work at the expense of apostolic preaching posed problems of conscience to some Jesuits: Giacomo Rho — , associated with Schall in the calendar reform, related the torments he experienced before his guardian angel revealed to him the solution: by missing a few hours sleep he could still produce some religious books. And, in fact, with the help of literary friends, he published six such books before his untimely death, among them an adaptation of one hundred maxims of Teresa of Avila and explanations of the Pastor Noster and the Ave Maria.

This story illustrates a general trend. The success of Schall and Verbiest, as well as their amazing productivity, gave them more intellectual latitude: their writings illustrate a partial return to the attempt to link astronomical demonstrations and proofs of the existence of God as a whole, an attempt that had been costly to the Jesuits at the time of the Nanjing persecution Dudink, : — Their success in curing the emperor of fever by administering quinine Witek, : 62 earned them the gift of a plot of land inside the Imperial Palace grounds on which was later constructed a church, a residence, a library, an astronomical observatory, and a collection of scientific objects.

Within fifteen years after their arrival, forty French Jesuits would arrive in China Jamy, In its own way, the Jesuit Mission was entering the Age of Enlightenment. In , disagreements between Portuguese and French Jesuits led to a restructuring of the mission into two new vice-provinces, one with a Portuguese Superior and the other with a French one.

Moreover, in the same year, four French Jesuits received the order from Kangxi to map the area around the capital. This would be the starting point for a complete mapping of the empire Hostetler, However, at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, metaphors other than that of mapping may help realize what was at stake in this new period: the Figurist project, which involved the systematic search for correspondences between the Chinese classics and the Bible, was an exploration of the linguistic and sapiential resources proper to China in order to establish a metalanguage transcribing the beliefs and knowledge of humankind.

Music and dance also figured as a metalanguage in the research led by Joseph Marie Amiot. Descriptions of Chinese political and technological practices similarly deconstruct the codes of Western knowledge. In other words, a China-generated episteme questioned spheres of knowledge biblical chronology, logic and metaphysics, the distinction between human wisdom and biblical revelation that were previously thought unbreakable from the faith being proclaimed. There were eighty-two active Jesuits in Chinese territory in This number would never be reached or exceeded during the first Jesuit mission.

Note, however, that in the early eighteenth century, the total number of Jesuits in the world oscillated between 17, and 19, During the time of Matteo Ricci there were never more than twenty-one Jesuits in China, and in the s there were between thirty and forty. From onward, the Rites Controversy negatively affected the number of Jesuits in China—with the exception of Chinese Jesuits, who went from six to twenty-two between and Chinese became the largest national group in the Jesuit mission in As for other nationalities, the Italian group remained relatively stable in proportion throughout the course of the mission, while the Portuguese Jesuits predominated until the first third of the eighteenth century, before the French became the most numerous group during a short period — By , the Jesuits who were not stationed at the Court were responsible for the service of the churches, 14 chapels, and oratories founded by the Order throughout a significant portion of the territory.

A catechist is normally in permanent residence in each church. The vice-provincial Antoine Thomas estimated the number of Christians then served by the Jesuits at about , Brockey, : — After , this number declined steadily due to progressive restrictions and, later on, persecutions.

When the suppression of the Jesuit order became effective in China , only twenty-six of its members were still present in the territory of the empire. That they were sent directly by Louis XIV, in defiance of the padroado , irritated their Portuguese colleagues, and dissension followed in turn within the Jesuit community in Beijing, thus illustrating the rise of European nationalisms occurring at the time. One of these Jesuits, Joachim Bouvet, corresponded with Leibniz, suggesting to him the connection between the binary system of arithmetic and the hexagrams of the Yijing Mungello, Bouvet was an enthusiast of this system, although his superiors progressively hindered research on the subject, but Bouvet believed in the prophetic character of his mission.

The Figurist endeavor illustrates the intricacy of the questions that China was raising for the traditional Christian understanding of history, religions, and the human spirit Collani, ; Witek, Such a quest, almost alchemical in nature, characterized the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century Zeitgeist and had been already initiated by Athanasius Kircher — , in large part on information collated from China. Approximately a third of the French Jesuits stationed in China were connected to the Figurist current.

Some of them were identifying the legendary figure of Fuxi with the biblical patriarch Enoch, others or the same ones were seeing in the first five Chinese emperors typos of Christ. They also found in the Yijing the doctrine of the three ages of the world Bouvet in his later years even attempted to calculate the total duration of the world and in the Daodejing The Book of the Way and Its Virtue the dogma of the Trinity. China was providing material for a new theological language that still could not reach maturation.

Benjamin Elman – Department of History

An excellent scholar of Hebrew and an avid reader of the Kabbalah since his formative years, he brought new acuity to Figurist lexicography, which led him in particular to deplore the doctrinal prohibition that had struck terms such as Tian and Shangdi , the only ones, according to him, that were apt to express the notion of God hidden at the heart of Chinese Classics Lundbaek, His work was continued by Joseph-Anne Mailla — , who labored eighteen years to produce maps of the empire.

Mailla also wrote the first comprehensive history of China in a European language, which was not published until thirty years after his death. Antoine Gaubil — , another Jesuit of renown, was an excellent astronomer and historian and also a keen observer of Christian communities Gaubil, [—]. One of his pupils, Joseph-Marie Amiot — , although far from being as good a scientist as Gaubil, became the father of ethnomusicography and provided very detailed information on Chinese ritual music and dances Lenoir and Standaert, The disparition of the First Jesuit Mission in China went through various stages: the imperial edict of ; application in Macao of the decree of the Portuguese King ordering the confiscation of all Jesuit properties and the arrest of all members of the Society ; application in China of the Brief Dominus ac Redemptor by Clement XIV , which abolished the Society of Jesus.

Utter confusion prevailed in the process until, in , the last ex-Jesuit died in Beijing. Knowledge and interpretation of the Second Jesuit Mission remains a field largely unexplored and partly obscured by prejudices. Even if the quasicolonial context of the enterprise differed very much from the conditions prevailing in the development of the First Mission—and if global Catholicism was driven by factors differing from one period to another—it remains that Jesuit missionaries were more diverse and hesitant in their opinions than often thought.

On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900 / Edition 1

Bernadette Truchet has highlighted the contrast existing between Fr. Claude Gottelant — , who epitomized Catholic intransigence, and Fr. Victor Vuilaume — or Fr. Joseph Gonnet — , who leaned toward attitudes and methods anchored in the First Jesuit Mission Truchet, , , and Similarly, the correspondence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin illustrates the theological interrogations that their lived experience of China awakened in the mind of some Jesuits Teilhard, An interesting exception in the academic landscape of the Second Mission is the attention devoted to Ma Xiangbo — —a Chinese who left the Jesuit Order while continuing to collaborate closely with it—but the historical importance of this first-class educator still calls for further study Hayhoe and Lu, The nineteenth century underwent fundamental changes in the nature and intensity of the exchanges between the West and China.

The Second Jesuit mission is to be understood within a global historical sequence:. The gradual arrival of Protestant missionaries enriched and diversified the knowledge of China by the West, as well as the faces of Chinese Christianity. The history of Protestant missions in China began with Robert Morrison, who around was almost alone at the border. But in the early twentieth century, around 1, Protestant missionaries and their wives were present in China versus approximately Catholic missionaries Latourette, : At first, the Catholic missionaries—including the Jesuits—who returned to China after favored direct apostolate and showed far less interest in Chinese culture than their predecessors, but some of them eventually operated a return toward lexicographic, cultural, and ethnographic studies.

At the same time, sinology became progressively a secular and academic endeavor. The tormented relationships between Europe and China, including the gradual transition from the European sinophilia of the eighteenth century to the sinophobia of the late nineteenth century, weighed heavily on Chinese Christians and clergy. The first Chinese national council, held in Shanghai in , had prepared these changes in governance Wang, Catholic missions resumed in China in a context profoundly different from the one that had marked the arrival of Matteo Riccci.

60 years in 60 seconds: Science university in central China turns 60

In a period marked by contradictions, missionaries—Jesuits or not—were often working with rural populations in Fujian, Hebei, Shanxi, or Sichuan. It was not always their original choice: the Jesuits were first dreaming to convert the elite by the scientific apostolate on the model of their elders Truchet, , But a very different technological and political environment compelled them to change their apostolic model. Still, the Jesuit Shanghai Observatory, built in , was like a nostalgic evocation of the glory formerly attached to the Bureau of Astronomy. Three French Jesuits arrived in Shanghai in , after repeated requests from the Christian communities of the region to its apostolic administrator Wiest, In —, the Vatican divided the Chinese territory into Apostolic Vicariates, which were assigned to different religious congregations.

The Jesuit province of Champagne covering the north and east of France inherited rural areas of Hebei, while the Province of France i. Jesuit provinces in charge of a missionary territory received support from other provinces until the latter were given an independent territory once the Mission had grown sufficiently for justifying a new territorial division.

After the Revolution of , the reorganization of the Jesuit missions in China eventually led to their division into new apostolic vicariates or prefectures. In , shortly after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, out of a total of Jesuits living in China there were Chinese and foreigners. In addition, Chinese secular priests, trained in seminaries directed by the Society, were working in close association with it.

In total, there were 1, Jesuits working in China between and , men of 26 nationalities, including Chinese, French, Spaniards, 86 Italians, 79 French Canadians, 72 Irish, 54 Americans, 54 Portuguese, and 36 Hungarians Mateos, and n. Even the tragedies brought about by the Taiping Rebellion — could not inhibit the growth of the mission: the flight of entire Catholic villages before the rebel advance eventually led to the growth of the Catholic population of Shanghai, where they were refugees.

Having operated in autarky from the imperial edicts of persecution until , the Christian communities of Shanghai and its surroundings were governed through local Catholic clans in charge of the management of churches, with the help of informal groups of consecrated virgins who were leading liturgical assemblies. In , the Apostolic Vicar, Mgr. If reforms and stiff governance were sometimes causing severe misunderstandings, the Shanghai Catholics were undoubtedly proud of their integration into the universal Church, as well as of the convergence toward their city of abundant material and intellectual resources.

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The Jesuit headquarters of Xujiahui Zikawei in Shanghaiese dialect were progressively gathering around them a very large church, a seminary, a library, a high school, a museum of natural history, an observatory, an orphanage, a vocational school harboring a printing press and several artistic workshops, and similar institutions managed by religious sisters.

The experience inspired the drafting of Annex I to the Geneva Convention of on the protection of civilians in time of war Ristaino, The context of the Second Jesuit Mission made both missionaries and converts particularly vulnerable to political and social upheavals.

The Boxer rebellion was driven in part by anti-foreign sentiment, the clash of rival factions at the Court, and the revival of millenarian cults, but it can also be explained by the succession of natural disasters, which encouraged plunder Tiedemann, : — The attack on Christian villages by troops from elsewhere could therefore be interpreted in a context of fierce competition for resources.

The intervention of Qing troops, however, showed the animosity of several military commanders to a Christian population that was organized outside state structures.

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Boxers and Qing troops required from all prisoners a solemn act of apostasy, and they systematically put to death all those who refused to do so Clark, : 89— Besides direct apostolate, the Jesuits progressively resumed intellectual research.