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, Vol. 50, No. 4, Jesuit Missionaries in China and Tibet (May 2011), pp. 325-328 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658126 . Accessed: 03/11/2012 14:27
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perhaps. and classicists myself. for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic. or even the ﬁrst to note the similarity of Indian and European languages.Trent Pomplun I N T RO D UC T I O N : CHRISTIAN MISSIONS A N D T H E H I S TO RY O F RELIGIONS The Sanscrit language. 0018-2710/2011/5004-0001$10.00 . which was delivered in 1786 and published two years later. had the same origin with the Sanscrit. All rights reserved. no longer exists. more perfect than the Greek. than could possibly have been produced by accident. The ﬁrst honor should rightly belong to Gaston-Laurent ç 2011 by The University of Chicago. which. there is a similar reason. that no philologer could examine them all three. is of a wonderful structure. both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar. For many. yet bearing to both of them a stronger afﬁnity. so strong indeed. and the old Persian might be added to the same family. theologians. without believing them to have sprung from some common source. though not quite so forcible. What student of Sanskrit has not been thrilled by this well-worn quotation from Sir William “Oriental” Jones’s third discourse before the Royal Asiatic Society? I have deployed this very quotation. and more exquisitely reﬁned than either. The only problem with its frequent quotation is that Sir William Jones was not the ﬁrst European to practice comparative linguistics. more copious than the Latin. it is the font out of which the history of religions leapt. to great effect on philosophers. though blended with a very different idiom. whatever be its antiquity.
or debated the ﬁner points of comparative linguistics. For the record. whom we usually associate with the birth of the history of religions. during the generation before Jones. and collaboration with laypeople. the head of the Académie des Inscriptions et des Belles Lettres. we should acknowledge these missionaries’ contributions to our knowledge of non-Western languages. Latin. Francis Xavier (1506–52). Richardson’s classic anthology The Rise of Modern Mythology. we discover a rich trove of writings that represent the ﬁrst “modern” contact between Europeans and the inhabitants of Asia and the New World. but his letters were not published in the Mémoires of the Académie until 1808. or Herder. At the very least. even as the erstwhile representatives of both regularly exchanged letters. noted the similarity of Greek. many of the most dramatic being written by native speakers of the languages the missionaries struggled so heroically to learn. Bayle. such as St. cultures. Manuel’s The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods or Burton Feldman and Robert D. Studies of the missions have also beneﬁtted enormously by advances in the historiography of early modern Europe. and so the Jesuit missionary was largely bypassed for the eminently quotable Jones. These authors seem to imply that “Catholicism” and “modernity” are mutually exclusive categories. 1680– 1860. Just as the most recent studies of the Society of Jesus emphasize its material culture. I quoted Jones for years before I learned about the contribution of sixteenth. are no longer the preserve of historians from their respective religious orders. Coeurdoux corresponded with Abbé Bathélemy (1716–95). and the Konkani language in a letter to his brother in 1583. Hamann. Thomas Stephens (1549–1619). The most famous missionaries. and have now been treated to extensive scholarly studies.326 Introduction Coeurdoux (1711–99). largely exclude Catholic missionaries from their discussions. too. and Roberto de Nobili (1577–1656). If we bemoan the colonialist aspirations of many of the ﬁrst Orientalists—and still more their racism— we might pause before celebrating their work of emancipating the history of religions from the theologians and missionaries who were its ﬁrst practitioners. and the more famous Orientalist Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (1731–1805). a Jesuit who lived in Goa.and seventeenth-century authors to the history of religions. Newton. The last hundred years of scholarship has slowly unearthed manuscripts that moldered in archives for centuries. Of course. Matteo Ricci (1552– 1610). Hume. such as Frank E. shared accommodations. Old standbys in the history of ideas. a Jesuit who lived in Pondicherry (now Puducherry). The voyages of discovery provide the “backstory” to the better-known authors. such as Fontenelle. scholars such as Gauvin Bailey . social initiatives. and religions. Toland. When we return to the missionaries that often accompanied the voyages. we are now all-too-aware that modernity had its fair share of prejudice.
1637)” dramatically expands our knowledge of the Chinese sources Jesuits used in their mission and deepens our understanding of the encounter between two cultures by showing how a single work combines competing notions of visual narrative. however. Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1591–1666). If Aleni (1582– 1649) sought to adapt Jesuit methods of meditation. Yu Liu’s “The True Pioneer of the Jesuit China Mission: Michele Ruggieri” argues to the same end. the Jesuits were more than happy to adopt supernatural elements from popular Confucian books to bolster the claims found in their own theological literature.History of Religions 327 have begun to explore printing and the production of art in the missions. Shin’s account of how Aleni negotiated this tension gives us some sense of the difﬁculties missionaries faced. The three articles that follow represent the most recent trends in missions history. Yu Liu shows how Ruggieri’s accomplishments were downplayed not only by modern scholars but by Matteo Ricci himself. but by different means. As Shin demonstrates. to indigenous Chinese methods of visual narrative. What is more important. Yu Liu’s article is a welcome contribution to what we once would have considered the “second tier” of missionaries who have been eclipsed in the secondary literature by the triad of Matteo Ricci. he establishes Ruggieri’s seminal role in the composition of the Portuguese-Chinese Dictionary usually attributed to Ricci and argues that Ruggieri’s Tianzhu shilu is the true “experimental blueprint” of the mission’s plan of studies (ratio studiorum) commonly attributed to Manuel Dias the Elder (1549–1639). but also of how they overcame them. especially the “composition of place” (compositio loci) in the Spiritual Exercises. that Ruggieri (1543–1607) was Ricci’s senior in the mission. “Natural Reason and Buddhist Philosophy: The Tibetan Studies of Ippolito Desideri. Qiong Zhang and Hui-neng Chen are now showing us just how much Jesuits depended on Confucian iconography. largely because Ruggieri’s ideas about how to best accommodate Christianity to Chinese religion and culture did not accord with the party line later established by the more famous missionary. and print culture itself. meditation. he still did so within a larger Confucian suspicion of images. and Ferdinand Verbiest (1623– 88).” attempts to place the Tibetan writings of the Jesuit missionary in the larger context of Jesuit Thomism. I have attempted to demonstrate that the common view that Ippolito Desideri turned from “folk religion” to “philosophy” as he gained a sophisticated knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism assumes categories that were not germane to a missionary of . At ﬁrst glance. Junhyoung Michael Shin’s “The Supernatural in the Jesuit Adaptation to Confucianism: Giulio Aleni’s Tianzhu Jiangsheng Chuxiang Jingjie Ƞ Ȯ ͣ (Fuzhou. My own article. SJ (1684– 1733). Liam Brockey has emphasized the role of lay catechists and other indigenous religious authorities in China. Yu Liu reminds us.
and their most fervent hope was the conversion of the peoples they evangelized. of course. Desideri. for example. Desideri remained consistent in his treatment of Tibetan religion. On the other hand.328 Introduction the early eighteenth century. We run the risk of distorting their contributions to the history of religions if we ignore their own religious convictions. They were missionaries. On the one hand.” It is ironic that the very things that make Desideri’s thought look so decidedly premodern allowed him to recognize that Tibetans possessed a truly philosophical consciousness—a gift that later Europeans were often loath to acknowledge in any Asian culture. It would be foolish. Loyola University Maryland . If their religious views seem odd or premodern.or twentieth-century ideas of “great tradition” versus “little tradition. but we run the further risk of failing to attend to the importance of religion in general. after all. between canonical writings and authoritative commentaries such as Tsongkhapa’s Great Stages of the Path (Lam rim chen mo) from “apocryphal” religious writings such as The Testimonial Record of Padmasambhava (Padma bka’i thang yig). and so neither argued nor assumed that Tibetan religion was somehow secondary to the allegedly “rationalist” concerns of Tibetan Madhyamaka. Michele Ruggieri. Desideri was refreshingly free of what Gregory Schopen would later call “Protestant presuppositions” in Buddhist Studies. European. did not interpret Tibetan religion in terms of the nineteenth. indebted to the Thomism of the Society of Jesus. to argue that Giulio Aleni. and Ippolito Desideri did not have assumptions of their own. In other words. or a curious blend of both. whether Asian. we might imagine how they themselves felt among the mandarins of the Ming court or the geshés of the great Tibetan monasteries. He did not distinguish.
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