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Savages, Romans, and DespotsThinking about Others from Montaigne to Herder$
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Robert Launay

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226575254

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226575421.001.0001

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St. Confucius: The Jesuits in China

St. Confucius: The Jesuits in China

(p.62) Five St. Confucius: The Jesuits in China
Savages, Romans, and Despots

Robert Launay

University of Chicago Press

In the seventeenth century, the comparative project, whether suppressed by absolutist regimes or supplanted by a priori social theories, was maintained by the Jesuits, concerned with adapting techniques of proselytization to different kinds of societies worldwide. To the dismay of rival orders, they were able to penetrate China and gain access to the Emperor by emulating the manners and thought of mandarins, in particular by mastery of the writings of Confucius and Confucian classics. This method, pioneered by Matteo Ricci, was described in detail by Nicolas Trigault and later by Louis LeComte. Both penned elaborate and generally highly favorable accounts of Chinese government as well as of Confucian thought. Rival orders challenged the orthodoxy of Jesuit conversions, sparking the Chinese Rites Controversy.

Keywords:   Jesuits, seventeenth century, China, Confucius, Chinese Rites controversy, Matteo Ricci, Nicolas Trigault, Louis LeComte

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