Research Project


Intercultural Translation of Confucian Concepts relating to "Fate": with examples from the Latin translation of Zhongyong embodied in Confucius Sinarum Philosophus and Sinensis Imperii Libri Classici Sex

Dr. Luo Ying

This study relates to the Jesuit missionaries who arrived in China from the 16th to 18th centuries and contributed their life to studying and translating the Confucian Four Books in order to support their missionary undertaking. The translation project among Jesuits of different generations began with the first Latin manuscript of Michele Ruggeri (1543-1607) and Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), dated 1592/1593, and bore its most significant fruit in 1687 with the publication of Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, which only includes three of the Four Books (it omits Mengzi) but is generally acknowledged as the most famous work on Chinese culture, with a far-reaching influence in the era of the Enlightenment. Only with the Sinensis Imperii Libri Classici Sex (1711, Prague), translated by François Noël (1651-1729), was the first complete western translation of the Four Books formally published. Based on the historical background of "Rite Controversy" and with reference to another work of Noë l, Philosophia Sinica (1711, Prague), we can have a clearer view of the Jesuits' understanding of Confucianism at that time. In this study, the Jesuits' Latin interpretations seeped into their translation of the Confucian core-concepts relating to "Fate",, such as 天, 鬼神, and 上帝, which come from the works mentioned above and, together with other historical material like personal letters and reports about the missionary affairs and theological debates in China written by Jesuits and Dominicans, these will be inter-textually analyzed. As an archaeology of the "knowledge about China" in the West, this study focuses on the factitious resetting of the concept's significance in the intercultural translation activity practised by the Jesuits of the 17th century.

back to "Notions of Fate and Prognostication and their Taxonomies" overview