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Sojourners in a Strange LandJesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China$
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Florence C. Hsia

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226355597

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226355610.001.0001

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Familiar Letters and Familiar Faces

Familiar Letters and Familiar Faces

Chapter:
(p.129) Chapter Eight Familiar Letters and Familiar Faces
Source:
Sojourners in a Strange Land
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226355610.003.0008

The mixed legacy of the intense image-making that characterized the first century of the Society of Jesus's presence in the Middle Kingdom underwrites the reappearance of the various personae of the Jesuit missionary man of science in a forum outside their generic homes: the familiar letter. First articulated in Louis Lecomte's Nouveaux memoires sur la Chine, then serialized in the pages of the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, and ultimately synthesized in Jean-Baptiste du Halde's Description...de la Chine (1735), the Enlightenment's touchstone for matters Chinese, this epistolary form provided a stage on which the scientific missionary could reenact all of his various personae, free of the burdens and limitations imposed by their native genres. This chapter explores these manifestations and sets the sundry personations of the missionary man of science against the backdrop of the closing decades of the Jesuits' adventure in late imperial China.

Keywords:   Society of Jesus, science, familiar letter, personations, China, Jesuits, Jean-Baptiste du Halde, Louis Lecomte, scientific missionary

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