BRITISH TRANSLATORS AND THE SISHU (FOUR BOOKS),
Richard James Burden
B.A., Colorado State University, 1986
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Richard James Burden
has been approved
Burden, Richard James (M.A., History)
Sacred Subjects: British Translators and the Sishu (Four
Thesis directed by Assisstant Professor Lionel M. Jensen
This thesis explores the contours of the
imaginative relationship between Great Britain and China
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, by examining
it through the prism of the British translations of
the Confucian Four Books (Sishu) from the first partial
English translation in 1691, to the publication of James
Legge's Chinese Classics in 1893. As the relationship
itself is multifaceted, I examine these translations
as multiple readings, and attempt to situate each
translation in its historical context. I argue that,
in the process of translating the Sishu into the Four
Books, the translators themselves appropriated this
work into the British imagination. Therefore the context
of translation is one where both text and translator,
Britain and China are mutually entailed. I emphasize
the multiplicity of the readings by offering three
discrete, but interdependent interpretations of these
The first chapter provides an overview of the
structure of the work, and a brief historical definition
of the Sishu. Chapter 2 traces the history of
translations as a genealogy, from early literature of
cultural contact to the works of James Legge. The
genealogy form allows me to point out continuity and
disruptions along the line. Chapter 3 adopts a
theoretical approach and positions the nineteenth century
translations in the framework of orientalist critique.
Using this model, I expand the frame of genealogy, and
more fully historicize the translations, by situating
them within a nineteenth century hierarchy of eastern
religions. I show the conceptual appropriations the
British selected from the initial Jesuit project in
China, and argue that these selections were made in
order to establish Confucianism in a hierarchical
relationship with other sacred traditions. Chapter
4 turns the focus towards Britain, and looks at the
highly reflective nature of translation. Here I examine
the Protestant British translators repositioning of
Confucius as a model of Victorian morality, I then show
how these translations became mutually entailed with
nineteenth century theological debates. The epilogue
is a brief meditation on the value of these multiple
readings, and the scope of the work.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Romanization in this thesis follows the hanyu
pinyin system, even in those cases when the older
Wade-Giles spelling is accepted, e.g., dao rather than
tao. In the case of authors who wrote prior to the
institution of pinyin transcription, and whose works
are listed in databases under the older style, I have
modified their names to reflect the pinyin spelling,
but include the other romanization in brackets following
their listing in the notes and the bibliography.
The bibliography is not an exhaustive list of
books on this topic, however it is more than a list
of works cited. It is a collected bibliography that
consists both of works cited, and works consulted.
A word about style is in order. As, I hope, it
will be clear throughout this work, I believe that
concepts and traditions such as history, religion,
"Confucianism," and Christianity, are not reified
entities, things that a priori exist and need merely
to be understood. I believe they are social forms of
knowledge, and as such they are perpetually and
simultaneously appropriated and dispersed through time.
They are reimagined and refashioned by each person who
chooses to adopt them. They are reformed or
"manufactured," i.e., made by hand, with each subsequent
interpretation. Such terms are convenient but imprecise;
what do we mean by "Christianity," the Judaic belief
professed by Jesus of Nazareth, the belief of the Creeds,
Coptic, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist,
Mormon, or Christian Scientist? What do we mean by
"Victorian," or for that matter "Britain," or "China?"
With this in mind I am compelled to bracket all such
problematic terms as they occur. However, to prevent
this thesis from being littered with scare quotes, I
have adopted an alternate strategy. The only term I
will consistently bracket is "Confucius" and its
derivatives, others will be highlighted sparingly, and
then only for clarity. I hope that this will have the
kind of effect Brecht sought in his theatrical works,
that of momentarily distancing the reader, and
encouraging them to contemplate, and problematize other
terms that should be similarly set apart, but are not.
1. INTRODUCTION ...................................1
Excursus: Enumerating the Four Books........12
2. GENEALOGY OF TRANSLATION ........19
Equivocal Origins ..........................19
Charting the "Imaginative Geography"
of the Eighteenth Century...................38
The Lion and the Dragon:
Essentialism in the Nineteenth Century ....51
Missionary Translations and the
Avalanche of Texts ....................63
3. TAXONOMY, HIERARCHY, AND THE CANONICAL
BOOKS OF THE EAST...........................81
Bifurcated Hierarchies: Sacred Subjects
in the Nineteenth Century...................85
"Discovering" the Sacred: Constructing a
Religious Hierarchy of the East.............94
Creating a Canon ........................100
Ceci N'est Pas La Chine: Jesuit
Tropme L oeil, and the Conceptual
Frame of Sinology.......................108
Positional Strategies and the Sishu........117
Reflections on Orientalism...............132
4. IN VISIBLE CITIES:
THE MUTUAL ENTAILMENT OF THE SISHU
AND PROTESTANT BRITAIN...............146
Degenerationist Genesis and
the Humanity of "Confucius.................150
The Luther of China? The Protestant
Imagination and the Religions of China....162
"Confucius" and the "Victorian
Crisis of Faith"...........................178
Faithful Dissent: "Confucius,"
Evangelicalism and the Nature of
5. EPILOGUE: MULTIPLICITY AND SACRED SUBJECTS...220
There are a number of people who deserve an
unending amount of thanks and praise. I wish primarily
to thank my family, who have provided an unshakable
foundation of love and support for me in all of my
endeavors. To my friends, colleges, and fellow students,
who continue to inspire and challenge me, I owe a great
debt of gratitude. I would also like to thank the
faculty of the History Department at the University
of Colorado at Denver, for their support and
encouragement. Among those I would especially like
to thank, Dr. Jim Wolf for having the wisdom and grace
to provide me with the space to discover my own path,
and Dr. Lionel Jensen who sparked the tinder of my
imagination, and then with unswerving devotion, rigor,
and care, pushed me well beyond the limits of where
I believed I could go. He also did the calligraphy.
Finally, my undying gratitude goes to Paula, who has
been an inspiration to me, and a welcome and much needed
companion along this portion of our journey, and as
"I cannot heave my heart into my mouth," my thanks will
have to suffice.
"From now on, I'll describe the cities to you," the
Khan had said, "in your journeys you will see if they
But these cities visited by Marco Polo were always
different from those thought of by the emperor.
"And yet I have constructed in my mind a model city
from which all possible cities can be deduced," Kublai
said. "It contains everything corresponding to the
norm. Since the cities that exist diverge in varying
degree from the norm, I need only forsee the exceptions
to the norm and calculate the most probable
"I have also thought of a model city from which I
deduce all others," Marco answered. "It is a city made
only of exceptions, exclusions, incongruities,
contradictions. If such a city is the most improbable,
by reducing the number of abnormal elements, we increase
the probability that the city really exists. So I have
only to subtract exceptions from my model, and in
whatever direction I proceed, I will arrive at one of
the cities which, always as an exception, exists. But
I cannot force my operation beyond a certain limit:
I would achieve cities too probable to be real."
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
The danger is in the neatness of identifications.
It is the purpose of this thesis to explore
the shifting contours of the imaginative relationship
between Great Britain and China throughout the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. I say "imaginative" because
this thesis does not focus on the political, economic,
or military aspects of the relationship, e.g., the
various diplomatic missions, the East India Company,
the Opium Wars. These are aspects that, for better
or worse, are lengthily discussed in a plethora of
documents, commentary, statistics, and a century or
more of professional historiography. However, by
identifying the relationship between Britain and China
as "imaginative," I do not wish to suggest that it is
in any way inauthentic.
While political, economic, and military aspects
are frequently viewed as more tangible, and productive
of results, it will be my contention that the imagination
itself, in conjunction with intellect, exegesis, and
translation, produces results that are both
epistemological and ontological. Further, these results
are equally tangible, and can be explored in any number
of the vast range of texts left to us. It is my
belief--hardly novelthat history is a "social form
of knowledge,"'*' and within this form the imaginative
confluence between cultures plays an intensely active
role, and is both historically conditioned and
conditioning. The epistemological results of this
relationship can be described as a textual map, or,
even better, as maps of textualities.
The "maps" in this thesis describe the work
of translation done mostly by missionaries beginning
in the sixteenth century and continuing to the present
day. Specifically, the works collectively known as
the Sacred Books of the East from the series of the
same name edited by Max Muller during the last third
of the nineteenth century. To delineate further, as
the Sacred Books of the East series runs to over forty
volumes, the focus of this study will be on four of
these books-the Sishu or Four Books that form the nucleus
f "Confucian" studies, with some ambient spill from
this focus illuminating some other texts, both Chinese
and English, as they stand in relation to the main
corpus. The chronological bookends that loosely frame
the limits of this study are the earliest partial English
translation of the Four Books, the Morals of Confucius
(1691), and the last nineteenth century British
translation the second edition of James Legge's Chinese
Classics (1893). I say loosely framed because placing
limits on a topic, whether chronological, historical,
or theoretical, is like putting a glass chimney over
a candle in the wind, it assures the consistent glow
of the topic, but can't really control the limits nor
the direction of the illumination. Therefore, the focus
of this paper is on the Four Books, not as they
necessarily exist or are read and understood in China,
but how the British imagination translated, understood,
shaped, and was affected by them.
This then is a history of translations.
However, in (re)reading these specific translations
and their ambient commentary, I do not mean to attempt
to offer any kind of corrective reading, such as a point
by point catalog of misreadings, faulty interpretations,
or buried alternative structures. What I intend is
to "site the.translations" within various British
discourses and pose "questions about how the
translation/retranslation worked/works, why the text
was/is translated, and who did/does the translating."
The purpose in siting the translations in this way and
posing these questions is to critically reexamine a
subject that is either, occasionally regarded as
transparent, or is critically refocused in other
Transparency occurs when the texts are reified,
and taken to be objects merely to be interpreted and
understood. This poses problems because it denies the
very palpable effect the act of translation can have
on a translator. An extension of this, critical
refocusing takes place when the problematic effects
of translation are resituated in the incomprehensibility
of the Chinese original. Libraries have been filled
with books from both ends of the Eurasian landmass which
debate nuances, decipher obscure texts, reconcile
incongruities between text and commentary, and otherwise
attempt to come to some kind of understanding of the
"Chinese mind." Many of these attempts should be
applauded and a few should be celebrated, it is not
my place to belittle any of these efforts. However,
when this critical refocusing occurs, and the onus is
assigned to either the difficulties of the texts, or
on a particular western reading, the portraits which
frequently emerge are either exclusivist, i.e., the
Chinese mind is wholly other, distinct and ultimately
incomprehensible to the west, this occurs when either
the Chinese themselves decide to remain "inscrutable"
(to use a nineteenth century epithet), or are deemed
so by their interpreters; or inclusivist, which reduces
and explains Chinese difference only in terms of western
epistemological or ontological categories rendering
the Chinese mind to be merely an extension of the
western, or worse by obscuring authentic differences
in an attempt to insist on similarities that may not
In his essay Dante . . . Bruno. Vico . . Joyce.
[sic], from which the epigraph to this chapter comes,
Samuel Beckett wrote, "There is the temptation to treat
every concept like 'a bass dropt neck fust in till a
bung crate, and make a really tidy job of it." So
it can be with critical work done on translations of
sacred subjects. The effort to understand the text
frequently closes down understanding of the context,
and ultimately damages the subjects it had sought to
explain. Beckett recognized this tendency and argued
Must we wring the neck of a certain system
in order to stuff it into a contemporary
pigeon-hole, or modify the dimensions of that
pigeon-hole for the satisfaction of the
analogymongerg? Literary criticism is not
I would hasten to add, neither is history. What the
present study tries to do then, is critically examine
these pigeon-holes, i.e., the variant readings of the
Four Books; focusing on the European, specifically
British, contexts from which they emerged, were read,
debated and understood. What I hope to do is open some
new ground wherein the translations of the Sishu can
be seen to exist, not only within a European discourse,
but also actively participating in the British
In order to stress the multiplicity of
imaginative renderings in this project, I have adopted
a kind of Faulknerian approach to the overall format
of this thesis. William Faulkner insisted that The
Sound and the Fury was his greatest failure; apparently
he had intended to tell the simple story of a young
girl in a tree, looking in on her grandmother's funeral
while her two brothers looked on from below. He first
tried to tell the story in Benjy's voice, then in
Quentin's, then Jason's; feeling he had failed in this
he tried a final time in the guise of the family maid.
When his subject once again eluded him, he declared
the book to be full of its own title and "signifying
nothing," and signed off on one of the most magnificent
"failures" of modern literature. I make no pretentions
to place this present fizzle in such august company,
the (probably apocraphyal) epithet, "Why Mr. Faulkner,
do you write?" could easily be applied to me without
a trace of irony. Nevertheless, I find that my "sacred
subjects" are also "walking shadows." Therefore, without
disguising my authorial voice, what I will present in
the following chapters are three linked but variant
readings of this imaginative relationship.
Chapter 2 begins the process by offering a
history of the English translations of the Sishu in
a fairly straight forward, linear narrativea "Genealogy
of Translation." I will trace the lineage from The
Morals of Confucius to the works of James Legge, noting
appropriations and disjunctures along the line.
Beginning with the difficulties in establishing an
originary moment of contact, I trace the chronological
development of the various translations, paying
particular attention to the source material common to
many of them. I also try to address some of the
hermeneutic concerns, peripheral to the translations
themselves, but engendered by them. As it is a narrative
of homology, more time is devoted to the earliest
literature than in the subsequent chapters. This is
important not only to the structure of a genealogy,
but also because of the primacy given to the early work,
especially that done by the Jesuits in China, by all
subsequent interpreters. It was the Jesuits (Matteo
Ricci et al.), who established the lion's share of the
vocabulary that was to be used in all subsequent
endeavours.^ The following chapters explore the
appropriations and contested negotiations of this
Chapter 3 attempts to rearrange synchronically
the diachronic lineage of Chapter 2. The avalanche
of translated texts which accrued in the nineteenth
century has recently been linked to certain
epistemological shifts in western thinking which also
occurred during that time. Therefore, I begin this
chapter with a substantial meditation on recent
theoretical concerns, specifically the "orientalist"
critique, which attempts to outline these epistemological
shifts. Establishing a theoretical foundation enables
me to better examine the context in which the Sishu
was translated, read, and understood.
Contemporary scholarship has accustomed us
to speaking of this nineteenth century context in terms
of "immagined communities" and imperial epistemologies;
we have seen how the British "imagined India," how they
"discovered" Buddhism, and before long many of us will
be discussing the Jesuit "manufacture of Confucianism."
The construction of Hindu India, and the establishment
of the textual world of Buddhism, have both been outlined
as projects undertaken by the British for the express
purpose of extending British authority and maintaining
the east in a position of alterity. Both are therefore
practical examples for extending my theoretical
meditation. They also resonate with the British
understanding of "Confucianism." However,
"Confucianism" itself, was somewhat different having
been "manufactured" by the Jesuits some centuries
earlier, and transported wholesale into the European
imagination via The Confucius Sinarum Philosphus (1687).
Nevertheless, I will argue that it is not necessarily
the initial construction, but rather the creative
maintenance of "Confucianism," by the British, which
indexes it alongside other, more obvious British
constructions, within The Sacred Books of the East.
Working with these theoretical tools enables
me to punctuate the homological lineage of genealogy
with bursts of insight. It allows us to explore the
creative appropriations and imaginative congruences
which influenced the British rendering of the Sishu
and The Sacred Books of the East. It also encourages
us to test the limits of orientalist theory, for it
is not unproblematic. The genealogy of translations,
with its easily palatable chronological narrative
structure, is nevertheless an insubstantial diet.
Venturing into the theoretical world of orientalism
is intellectually more satisfying, and permits the
conceptualization of historical context. However, at
the limits of this discourse, fissures open up which
invite further exploration.
One of the problems with orientalism, I believe,
is that it too often ends by essentalizing both "west"
and "east." In endeavoring to explain how Europeans
of the nineteenth century read eastern texts in ways
which maintained the east in a position of alterity,
the portrait which emerges is often one of a "west,"
reified, and stabilized by its powerful control and
use of "eastern" knowledge. It is perceived as unique,
and wholly other from the "east" which it controls.
Like genealogy, this portrait is accurate to an extent;
however, it misses several important nuances. It is
the aim of Chapter 4 to address these limitations, in
order to show how translations of the Sishu functioned,
not only in opposition to, but also within the British
imagination. I will demonstrate the entailment of the
Sishu within the British imagination by exploring the
maintenance and very particular Protestant reading of
"Confucius" as a moral exemplar; and further by examining
the highly self-reflective criticisms of "Confucian"
morality, offered by the British translators. It is
my contention throughout that concepts such as, "east,"
"west," "Confucian," "Victorian," and even "Britain,"
and "China," are not things or entities merely to be
"understood," but rather maps of terrain to be
negotiated. Occasionally, in these negotiations,
categories break down and seemingly oppositional texts
function interdependently. The Epilogue serves as a
coda, and an opportunity to critically and
impressionistically reflect on the value of this project.
Excursus: Enumerating the Four Books
As this thesis focuses on the translations
of Chinese works which remain readily available,
nevertheless somewhat uncommon outside of sinological
circles, a brief explanation is probably in order.
The "Confucian" canon translated by James Legge consists
of the Wu.iing, or Five "Classics", and the Sishu, dt.
literally the Four Books The Wuj ing includes the
Yij ing usually rendered as The Book of Changes,
the Shu.j ing or Book of History, the Shiiing
1C. Book of Poetry, the Li j i '%'&} Pj Record of
Rites, and the Chunqiu Spring and Autumn
Annuals. This study will focus on the Sishu which
contains the Daxue typically translated as The
Great Learning; the Zhongyong ^which has been
rendered variously as The Doctrine of the Mean, and
The Unwobbling Pivot; the Lunyu which Legge
translated as Analects, and which remains the most common
translation, eventhough the term suggests a translation
more like, "Digested Conversations," or "Selected
Sayings;"^ and the Mengzi which was Latinized
by the Jesuits, in the sixteenth century, as "Mencius;"
the work, which is actually two books, now carries the
English title The Works of Mencius.
Until the twelfth century, all of the works
contained in the Sishu existed independently of each
other. The Daxue and the Zhongyong were contained in
the Liji. At the time of the Tang dynasty (618-907),
the Classics were ordered into thirteen j ing. This
compilation contained the Lunyu and the Mengzi, but
not the other two. However, the four works, together
with the Xiaoj ing
or Classic of Filial Piety
were know of collectively as the Xiaoj ing or
It was not until 1190, that they
existed as a collection, distinct from the rest of
Chinese literature. In that year, Zhu Xi (1130-1200),
the "protean genius" behind the orthodox "Confucian"
tradition, published his redaction of these works.
Titled the Sizi The Four Masters, these works
formed in Zhu Xi s mind, and in many subsequent centuries
the essence of "Confucian" teachings.
Zhu Xi's ordering, redaction of, and commentary
on the Sishu, was initially regarded as spurious,
however, in the early part of the fourteenth century
his works were established, by imperial edict, to be
the symbolic core of officially sanctioned studies.
Zhu Xi insisted that the ordering of the books was of
I want men first to read the Ta-hsueh [Daxue]
to fix upon the pattern of the Confucian way;
next the Lun-yu [Lunyu ] to establish its
foundations; next the Meng-tzu [Mengzi] to
observe its development; next the Chung-yung
[Zhongyong] to dj^cover the subtle mysteries
of the ancients.
When the first Jesuit missionaries arrived in China
at the end of the sixteenth century, they found the
Four Books still at the heart of "Confucian" scholarship.
Intent on establishing themselves as serious students
of the rujiao ("Confucian" school), and extending their
i practice of accommodation, the Jesuits, through inventive
translation and theological inference worked through
the Sishu. They provided a cross-textual field and
indexed the Chinese texts to Christian Scripture; their
efforts emerged in Europe as the Confucius Sinarum
Philosophus, and the orthodox core of "Confucian" studies
began to be appropriated into western thought.
However, in their zeal to conflate "Confucian"
studies and Christianity one with the other, the Jesuits
managed only to translate three of the Four Books;
further, they followed an alternate ordering. The Jesuit
work contains the Daxue, Zhongyong, and the Lunyu.
When the British set about their work in the nineteenth
century, they appropriated much of what the Jesuits
had accomplished, but rendered it in their own inimitable
way. Both Joshua Marshman (1768-1837) and Robert
Morrison (1782-1834) attempted translations of the
Daxue. and Marshman worked part of the way through
the Lunyu. It was not until James Legge (1815-1897),
began his work that the entirety of the Four Books was
available in English. However, the English-speaking
world still does not publish them under one cover, as
they exist in China. Following Legge, the Lunyu is
given primacy and is generally published separately.
Legge's work, which is still in print, binds the Lunyu,
Daxue, and Zhongyong together, and issues the Mengzi
as a separate edition.
Legge drew on Zhu Xis interpretation as well
as the Jesuits. He fundamentally reordered the work,
placing the Lunyu first, and through his translations
and commentary, he presented a unique confluence of
traditions, traditional "Confucian" scholarship, Jesuit
reflection, and his own Protestant views. The body
of this study will explore this confluence, not only
as it influenced the works of James Legge, but as it
functioned within and around the British imagination.
1. This was most recently reiterated by Raphael
Samuel, see Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory vol. 1:
Past and Present in Contemporary Culture (London: Verso,
2. The study could easily be carried forward into
the twentieth century with translations such as; William
Edward Soothill, The Analects (Edinburgh: Oliphant,
Anderson, & Ferrier, 1910), and Arthur Waley, The Analects
of Confucius (New York: Macmillan Company, 1938).
However, because of the already broad scope of this topic,
I have limited myself to pre-twentieth century works.
3. Tejaswini Niranjana, Siting Translation:
History, Post-structuralism, and the Colonial Context
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) 37.
4. Examples of this can range from the cultural
vs. national debates during the "self-strengthening"
movement, and the age of the "ti/yong" dichotomy, to
Tu Wei-ming's advocacy of a "wenhua Zhongguo," ("cultural
China") as a new definition of "Chineseness." Cf. Joseph
R. Levenson, Confucian China and Its Modern Fate: A
Trilogy, part 1, The Problem of Intellectual Continuity
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1958), 49-
133; Tu Wei-ming, ed., The Living Tree: The Changing
Meaning of Being Chinese Today (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1994), and Lionel M. Jensen, review
of The Living Tree, ed. by Tu Wei-ming, in China Review
International 3.2 (Spring 1997).
5. For an extended critique of this, see Niranjana,
Siting Translation, 1-86; Marshall Sahlins, How "Natives"
Think: About Captain Cook, For Example (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1995), 1-15, and 117-189;
and Haun Saussy, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 1-188.
6. Samuel Beckett, Dante . . . Bruno. Vico . .
Joyce., in I Can't Go On, I'll Go On ed. Richard Seaver
(New York: Grove Press, 1976), 107-126.
7. On the Jesuit missionaries and their importance
in establishing the conceptual vocabulary of
"Confucianism," see Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing
"Confucianism" (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997),
page numbers for subsequent citations of this work are
from, Lionel Millard Jensen, "Manufacturing
'Confucianism'" (Ph.D. diss., University of California,
Berkeley, 1992) TMs [photocopy]; Lionel M. Jensen, "The
Invention of 'Confucius' and His Chinese Other, 'Kong
Fuzi'," positions 1:2 (Fall 1993): 414-449; Kenneth Scott
Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China
(New York: Russell and Russell, 1929); and D. E. Mungello,
Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of
Sinology (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985).
8. See Ronald Inden, Imagining India (Cambridge,
MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1990); Philip Almond, The
British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988); and Jensen, Manufacturing
9. Jensen, Manufacturing "Confucianism", 552-555.
10. James Legge trans., Confucian Analects, The
Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1893; reprint, New York: Dover
Publications Inc., 1971), 2.
11. Lauren F. Pfister, "Some New Dimensions in
the Study of the Works of James Legge (1815-1897): Part
II" Sino Western Cultural Relations Journal 13 (1991):
12. Quoted in, Daniel K. Gardner Chu Hsi [Zhu
Xi] and the Ta-hsueh [Daxue]: Neo-Confucian Reflection
on the Confucian Canon (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1986), 6. Gardner provides a detailed analysis
of the process of Zhu Xi's ordering and the impact of
13. See Jensen, Manufacturing "Confucianism",
and Mungello, Curious Land, 247-300.
14. See Joshua Marshman, "The Ta-hyoh [Daxue]
of Confucius," in Elements of Chinese Grammar (Serampore:
Mission Press, 1814); and Robert Morrison, "To-hiu
[Daxue]: The Great Science," in Horae Sinicae:
Translations from Popular Liturature (London: Black and
Parry, 1812) .
GENEALOGY OF TRANSLATION
As children we played many games of
one-up-manship, but one of the most common forms was
the infinity game. Juvenile boasting, or preadolescent
role-play in dominion, the infinity game was used
primarily to proclaim ones own prowess at some ethereal
feat. "I can do ten." "Oh yeah, well I can do twenty."
The contest would escalate with each trying to outdo
the other, "I can do fifty." "A hundred." "Two
hundred." "Three hundred." The duelists would continue
in this progression until one offered the coup-de-grace,
"I can do infinity." Silence fell as those who had
gathered contemplated the gravity of this pronouncement-
-what could possibly top that? Smug in the
accomplishment, the victor would begin to accept
accolades from the witnesses, until the one who had
been offered the challenge countered with, "Well, I
can do infinityplus one!" and the game began again.
As time disperses in the present, we imagine
that it recedes/extends into the future; but it also
must then recede/extend into the past. As students
of time's past dispersion, historians, geologists,
philologists, and anthropologists perpetuate this same
kind of fanciful debate when they struggle to find the
origin of some historical event or cultural trait.
For each origin posited there is another, that with
a mere shift in emphasis, will be found to be more
authentic, older, more accurate, or more congenial to
present political demands, or current fashion.
Nevertheless, the path to the present remains important
to historical discourse. The path is perpetually
important because we seem to stand at the end of it,
in the eternal denouement of the present; and important
because it is our story-we make it up, and it makes
us who we are. If we stand at the end of it, the
culmination of all that came before, it must have begun
somewhere. The importance of where it began, and why,
remain crucial to teleological linear thinkingchange
the origin, change the outcome.
So, where does one place the first contact,
between west and east? Economically, long before the
silk route was established, trade engendered much cross
continental interchange. Records exist in China which
chronicle pre-Christian Rome, and in Rome which tell
of China.'*' Other scholars have adduced evidence of
an antediluvian connection. Probably the most famous
"original" connection was the celebrated voyages of
the Polo family, Maffeo, Niccolo and young Marco, as
set down in Marco's Description of the World ca. 1298.
Marco "Millions" Polo, as every school child knows,
not only went to China in the thirteenth century, but
brought back pasta and ice cream. Marco, however famous,
remains fantastic; his veracity continually challenged
by skeptics. In terms of religious contact, claims
have been advanced in support of: Nestorian Christians,
who were unquestionably in residence in China as early
as the eighth century, St. Thomas, Zoroaster, and perhaps
equally as fanciful, Prester John; the list goes on
and on. All of which suggests that the search for
"origins" is an entirely academic exercise carried out
by those who would privilege certain narratives over
certain others. It begs the questions, for whom is
this an "originary" moment, and for which present
denouement is this the instigating crisis?
In this chapter I will not attempt to site a
genesis for the mutual and perpetual entailment of west
and east. Rather, what I intend to do is trace the
genealogy of English translations of the Sishu, and
will argue that within the "imaginative geography" of
imperial Britain, China had an amount of refracting
significance. By using the term genealogy, I intend
for it to resonate in several ways, initially in its
most conventional sense as a lineage, or a history of
descent from a common source. Next, it should also
imply Foucault's use of the term, as read from Nietzsche,
one in which the history of descent is read as a history
of disruption. The fictive nature of genealogy points
up the accidents and the errors, and arranges them in
ways which makes the past unusually comprehensible to
Finally, I also wish to invoke an idea that is
implicit in genealogy, but rarely expressed, that is
the idea of marriage or union. Within every historical
lineage, if it is for instance paternal, lies the often
unmarked maternal lines, which are implicated ^e facto
in the production of offspring, and the continuation
of the line. In this case, the lineage of sacred
translations is conjoined with the "imaginative
geography" of secular constructions. The genealogy
I propose, therefore, can be read as a union between
the homological rendering of the "sacred" translations
of the Sishu, and the analogical treatment of China
and Chinese texts at the hands of secular interpreters.
It is therefore, a genealogy extracted from the
interpretive confluence between: the Jesuit project
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the British
missionaries of the nineteenth, and popular forms such
as Chinoiserie, drama, letters, and political critique.
What I hope to accomplish is twofold; by considering
both the lineage and its counterpoint, I am seeking
to establish a symbolic fund from which the translations
of the Sishu simultaneously emerged, and in which they
were submerged, while still remaining cognizant of the
fictive nature of genealogy by consciously forcing both
into a diachronic narrative.
Therefore, though tenuous and equivocal, the
origins of this narrative can begin with the texts we
do have, and through these we can place, with a degree
of certitude, early references. However, we cannot
account for the possibility of pre-existing, but no
longer extant texts, nor for the probable preponderance
of oral, or other non-written traditions and sources.
Nevertheless, it appears that the earliest reference
to China that appeared in English occurred in Certayne
Reportes of the Province China, learned through the
Portugalles, there imprisoned, and by the relation of
Galeotto Perera, a gentleman of good credit, that lay
prisoner in that countrey many yeres translated from
Italian and published in London in 1577. The Reportes
were extracted in both Hakluyts Principal Navigations
(1589) and Samuel Purchas's Hakluytus Posthumus or
Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625) and contain descriptions
of Chinese geography and customs. Most notably, the
Reportes has China divided into "shyres" but denies
that this coterie of shires is called China, rather
Perera notes that the natives called it "Tamen.
Through Hakluyt and Purchas, the Reportes circulated
widely and formed a basis for much subsequent
Much more influential however, was Padre Juan
Gonzalez de Mendoza's History of the Great and Mighty
Kingdom of China, first published in English in 1588.
Mendoza's account also found its way into Hakluyt and
is touted there as the "earliest detailed account of
that country ever published in the English language."^
It is a rambling chronicle full of various and multiple
idols, and "well proportioned and gallant men." The
details are interesting for they provide much of the
vocabulary that subsequent writers echoed in their
attempts to explain the religions of China. For
instance, while Mendoza insisted that the Chinese lacked
the truth of the Christianity and had a host of deities,
he allowed that "heaven is the creator of all things,"
that there was one resident in heaven, and that heaven,
in China was referred to as "Tayn" [tian ] "Pauzon"
[Pangu?the legendary first man of China] was created
by "Tayn," according to Mendoza. Although lacking
Christian "truth," Mendoza reported that there were,
manye ceremonies used amongest them which dou
resemble those of our Christian religion, and
againe in their living moraly they doo observe
in manie thinges the Tenne Commandementes of
Throughout, Mendoza recorded that many things in China
of "strange and marvellous [sic ] making," when
"interpreted Christianly," were comprehensible to
Interpreting things Christianly became the
standard model for several centuries. Though perhaps
dismissed as fabulous today, these early reports are
indicative of a sixteenth century desire to chronicle
the works of God in all its earthly glory. The piety
of these early compilers was clearly not threatened
by the "various and multiple idols," they encountered.
Rather, as illustrated in Mendoza's assessment, there
was a desire to meet the "new" face to face, and to
experience the real existence of God in all parts of
the globe. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the
works of the first Jesuit missionaries to China.
The well of Christianly interpreted signs was
deepened by Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and his cohorts.
Part of De Christiana Expeditione apud Sinas ab Societate
Jesu (1615), a work by Ricci and Nicholas Trigault (1577-
1628) appeared in English translation in the 1625 edition
of Purchas his Pilgrimes.^^ In 1655 two works were
published in England; Imperio de la China (originally
published in Madrid 1642), under the English title The
History of That Great and Renowned Monarchy of China,
and De Bello Tarrarico (originally published in Antwerp
1654), retitled Bellum Tartaricum. The first was by
P. Alvarez Semedo (1586-1651) a Portuguese Jesuit, who
took over Ricci's project after the former's arrival
in China in 1613. Bellum Tartaricum was penned by
Martino Martini (1614-1661) and deals predominantly
with the Manchu conquest of China in the seventeenth
century.^ All three publications were instrumental
in the formation of an interest in inchoate sinology,
the assimilation of knowledge about China, and the
production of propaganda to ensure the continuation
of the Jesuit mission.
The major work of the Jesuits was published in
1687, and titled The Confucius Sinarum Philosphus
(hereafter CSP). It was the result of a centuries worth
of effort by the Jesuits in China. Published by Prosper
Intorcetta, Christian Herdritch, Francis Rougemont,
and Philippe Couplet, and several others, and dedicated
to Louis XIV, the body of the work revolved around Fr.
Ricci's incomplete translation of the Sishu, but it
also contained introductory material, culled from the
various recensions of the Four Books, which outlined:
the Chinese classics, Chinese history, the etymology
of shangdi and tian, and Chinese religious practices.
any first-hand knowledge of China, and consequently
it was the Jesuits who established the vocabulary for
speaking about China for Europeans. This vocabulary
contained, among a wealth of other information: a belief
in the ancient monotheism of the Chinese and the use
the knowledge of the great antiquity of Chinese history;
some appreciation of the Chinese language; and with
the publication of the CSP, the person of "Confucius"
as the embodiment of all the great learning, the once
and future sage king; beliefs and information that
It was through the Jesuits that Europe gained
of the Chinese term
for the supreme being;
recurred again and again in subsequent centuries.
However, the impact of their work, according to twentieth
century historiography, was apparently felt most keenly
on the European continent.^ Certainly, the CSP exerted
no influence on the seventeenth century. For the Tudors
and Stuarts, and those living under their reigns, China
and the works of the Jesuits remained "no more than
a small piece in the mosaic of the rapidly ever-expanding
A colorful piece of that mosaic was John Webb.
Webb (1611-1672), a student of Inigo Jones, remains
primarily known as the editor of many of the great
architect's tracts. Denizens of sinological circles
however, remember Webb for his Historical Essay
Endeavoring a Probability That the Language Of the Empire
of China is the Primitive Language. Published in 1669
the Essay is a bizarre excursion into the world of
seventeenth century philology. Webb's purpose in the
essay was, as his title suggests, to prove that the
Chinese language was the primitive language of mankind,
i.e. the language of Adam.
The search for the primitive language had been
going on, to a greater or lesser degree, for centuries;
but it reached a zenith in the seventeenth century,
when it became a fetish for the inchoate nation-states
of Europe. The search hinged on the story of the Tower
of Babel from Genesis 11:1-9,
And the whole earth was of one language, and
of one speech. . . . And they said, Go to, let
us build us a city and a tower, whose top may
reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name,
lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of
the whole earth. . . . And the LORD said, Behold,
the people is one, and they have all one language;
and this they begin to do: and now nothing will
be restrained from them, which they have imagined
to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound
their language, that they may not understand
one another's speech. So the LORD scattered
them abroa|gfrom thence upon the face of all
The belief was, that prior to the confusion of tongues,
the whole earth was of one language and that one language
was Hebrew (Hebrew being the language of the Pentateuch).
This monogenetic hypothesis began to be challenged in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when many
complex and varied theories arose. Among them were
beliefs in polygenesis, and national theories, i.e.
the argument that if the languages were indeed confused
at Babel, then any national language could be more
"perfect" than another. The game was to prove that
your language (Flemish, Italian, French etc.) was somehow
"perfect," i.e. closer to the primordial language than
any other. ^ This was not an innocent development and
owed much to the advocacy of vernacular languages,
especially in the newly developing print medium. Yet,
not only the vernacular, but other ancient languages
challenged Hebrew for the primordial title, Egyptian,
and Sumerian to name but two; but Webb seems to have
been on his own in championing an Asian language, at
least until the Indo-European synthesis was adduced
m the eighteenth century.
The search in the seventeenth century for the
Adamic language rested on the theoretically confused
presumption that the perfect language was one in which
the words precisely mirrored things, i.e. no difference
between sign and signifier. Drawing from Athanasius
frircher's (1601-1680) China Illustrata (1667) and Oedipus
Aegyptiacus (1652), yet deviating substantially from
them, Webb argued for Chinese as the primitive language
because of the simplicity and alleged pictographic nature
of the Chinese characters; they were, he believed, "Real
Characters," not invented words. As D. E. Mungello
many European readers were struck by the apparent
grammatical simplicity of Chinese and its
one-to-one relationship between a word and a
real thing. . . .[This] reinforced their belief
that the Ch^gese language contained Real
Webb thus introduced to the English speaking world a
proposition which continues to languish, i.e. that
Chinese characters are somehow uncritically linked to
the things they ostensibly portray.
Webb argued for the primacy of Chinese as the
antediluvian language based on this and on chronologies
and other information culled from Semedo and Martini,
his own peculiar reading of the first eleven chapters
of the book of Genesis, as well as a very creative
linkage between Noah of Genesis and the emperor "Jaus"
(Yao), mythic first emperor of China. By simply adding
the letter 'n' between the vowels, Webb changed Jaus
to Janus, and concluded that, as Janus was another name
for Noah, they must have been the same person. He
followed this bold and imaginative, yet highly suspect,
philology with a series of parallels drawn to prove
that Noah and Jaus/Janus were one and the same. This
is in stark contrast to the more common, and Jesuit
influenced conflation of Noah and Yu, the successor
of Yao and Shun, who tamed the waters of the great flood.
Webb's reasons for this unique reading are still unclear,
but his logical contortions are a pleasure to observe,
but perhaps have rightly been consigned to the cabinet
of ephemeral curiosities.
However, a reading of Webb is instructive. His
sources were Mendoza, Semedo, Martini, Purchas, and
Kircher; consequently Webb acted as a lens for viewing
the ways in' which part of the Jesuit interpretation
of China was assimilated into at least one strain of
mainstream English culture. Qian Zhongshu believed
that, "Webb was the first Englishman to interpret China
instead of merely retelling "travellers' [sic ] tales."
However, his "interpretation" revolved solely around
his singular use of the letter 'n', and the rest hewed
close to the Jesuit line. However fanciful, Webb's
work articulated for his English audience several ideas
that constituted a field of reference for subsequent
China scholars. First, by explicitly linking Noah and
Yao, Webb reinforced the mutual indexing of Chinese
and Biblical chronology, specifically the Vulgate
chronology which placed the date of the Noadic flood
at 2349 B.C.E.^ Second, Webb used shangdi as the
Chinese term for the supreme being. This term, and
its specific use as a sacred referent was therefore,
firmly established in English discourse. Its recurrent,
and contested, use virtually assured its symbolic cache,
which predicated its position in the theological debates
of the nineteenth century. Third, Webb's analysis of
the Chinese language, and his unequivocal praise of
Chinese antiquity and Chinese culture opened the ground
for the myriad debates on the relative merit or weakness
of Chinese culture and institutions. The following
centuries would see many sides of this debate, reflecting
not only a changing China but a changing Britain as
Another Englishman who enthused about things
Chinese was William Temple (1628-1699). Temple was
a diplomat and a prolific essayist. His most imaginative
contribution to the study of China in the seventeenth
century seems to be his coining of the word "sharawagdi,"
which has to do with the irregular nature of Chinese
gardens then all the rage among English
horticulturists. In terms of Chinese religions,
Temple was among the earliest to sing the praises of
"Confucius." He had apparently read the CSP, for in
his essay Of Heroic Virtue he offers a brief (twenty
page) redaction of the monumental Latin work. In it
Something above two thousand years ago lived
Confuchu [sic], the most learned, wise, and
virtuous of all the Chinese; and for whom both
the King and Magistrates in his own age, and
all of them in the ages since, seem to have had
the greatest deference that has any where been
rendered to any mortal man. The sum of
his writings seem to be a body or digestion of
ethics, that is of all moral virtues, either
personal, oeconomical [sic ] civil or political;
and framed for the institution and conduct of
men's lives, their families, and their
governments, but chiefly of the last ... In
short, the whole scope of all Confucius has writ
seems aimed only at teaching men to live well,
and to govern well; how parents, masters, and
magistrates should rule, and how children,
servants, and subjects should obey. ... So
as the man appears to have been of a very
extraordinary genius, of mighty learning,
admirable virtue, excellent nature, a tijge patriot
of his country, and a lover of mankind.
This glowing and uncritical view of "Confucius" aped
the views of the Jesuits who had originally translated
the material in the CSP, and would continually resurface
throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
with the greatest advocates of this view residing on
the continent, especially France, but with a few notable
English proponents as well.
Shortly after the publication of Temple's work,
there appeared in England a translation of the CSP under
the title The Morals of Confucius (1691). Actually,
it was a translation of a French redaction titled La
Morale de Confucius, Philosophe de la Chine. On the
continent, the publication of the CSP was met with
"intellectual giddiness," and the advertisement, which
precedes The Morals of Confucius, reveals the English
translators caught in this ebullient atmosphere,
We may say that the Morals of this Philosopher
are infinitely Sublime, but at the same time,
pure, sensible, and drawn from the purest
Fountains of Natural Reason. . . he
["Confucius"] has a very considerable Advantage,
not only over a great number of Pagan Writers
that have Treated of Things of this Nature, but
likewise over several Christian Authors, who
abound with so many false, or over-subtile
The Morals is brief, a mere 142 pages, and was published
in a size clearly designed to be carried in a pocket.
It was to be a kind of moral Baedeker, inviting the
reader to contemplate the moral truths of the great
sage and to consequently apply those teachings to
contemporary life. As such it should probably be
considered among the wealth of other pamphlet literature
that flooded England in the years following the
Restoration, and the 1688 Revolution.
In addition to the glowing advertisement, The
Morals of Confucius, followed the CSP closely. It
contains a section on "The Antiquity and Philosophy
of the Chinese" which traces the history of China,
following the Septuagint chronology, from antiquity
to the time of "Confucius;" a biography of the sage,
and a statement on the fallen nature of Chinese religion
since the time of "Confucius,"
From this unhappy time, the Generality of the
Chinese have followed after Idols; and
Superstition and Idolatry, daily making new
Progress, they little by little forsook the
Doctrine of their Master, have neglected the
excellent Instruction of the Ancients, and in
fine, being grown Contemners [sic ] of all sorts
The Englishmen of the eighteenth century would also
neglect the wisdom of these ancients and focus almost
exclusively on either the hidden nature of God, and/or,
the fallen nature of man, engendering a desire in the
ninetenth century to reasess these "excellent
instructions." The remainder of the Morals consists
of the Daxue, the Zhongyong, and the first half of the
The work was extremely popular, a second edition
was published in 1724, and another printing ran ca. ,
1780. The reasons for its popularity are perhaps
obvious; this was the great age of Chinoiserie in
England. Gardens, textiles, furniture, porcelain, tea,
lacquer, interior design, all were either imported from
the east, or designed to look as if they were. This
craze for things "oriental" extended into political
and moral philosophy as well. Emerging as the Europeans
were from the political and religious crucible of the
seventeenth century, and emboldened by Enlightenment
"science" and "natural reason," they found in The Morals
of Confucius that, "the Lights of Divine Reason, ha[d]
never appear'd with so much Illumination and Power."
The materialism found in the Morals appealed to deists;
the idea of an enlightened ruler appealed to absolutists,
and the exhortation towards self cultivation appealed
to the ruling classes. In his work A Cycle of Cathay,
William Appleton wrote,
Confucius was the supreme apostle of the orderly
status quo. It was the temper of the Augustans
to find their Elysium not, as their descendants
did, in the primitive innocence of the South
Seas, but in the glories of a civilized past.
With their instinctive Hobbesian distrust of
a disorganized society, the classicists, both
French and English, preferred the sage to the
savage, the static to the dynamic. The Morals
of Confucius (1691), as interpreted by Father
Couplet, in most respects left unruffled the
most die-har(^principles of the Roi Soleil and
The Morals of Confucius is an important work, a kind
of watershed for English understanding of Chinese
religions. Yet, it remains relatively ignored in the
historiography of this topic, perhaps because of the
incontestable influence of its Latin parent the CSP
(Legge made extensive use of the CSP, but nowhere cites
the Morals). Qian Zhongshu in his bibliographic account
gives it a paltry few sentences in the midst of a
discussion about Temple. It is entirely absent from
T. H. Barrett's Singular Listlessness. Appleton dealt
with it to a degree, but concluded,
The English do not easily succumb to heroes and
hero worship. Confucius might well be pleasing
to the liberal philosophers of France and Germag^,
but John Bull did not take readily to rhapsody.
Appleton's claim might have surprised Thomas Carlyle.
Certainly the English rhapsodize their heroes, if they
didn't "Once more unto the breech," would not continually
harmonize with "Their finest hour," all to the tune
of "The White Cliffs of Dover." However, political
insurrection and the threat of invasion at the end of
the seventeenth century, and another century of almost
incessant warfare following in its wake, engendered
intense xenophobia among many British, consequently
the English of the eighteenth century were far less
likely to wax rhapsodic over a Chinese sage, than those
who lived in the years bracketing that century.
Charting The "Imaginative Geography"
of The Eighteenth Century
In terms of sinology, the eighteenth century
in England is typically viewed as an age of intense
criticism of China. Qian Zhongshu argued,
The English literature of the eighteenth century
is full of unfavourable criticisms of Chinese
culture and the prevailing fashion of chinoiserie
in particular. It seems to be a corrective rather
than a reflecting of the social milieu in which
it is produced,
and Barrett concurs,
Indeed, while the eighteenth century in Europe
as a whole was marked by a considerable
willingness to take China seriously . . . the
average British writer seems to have gone out
of his way to deb^k the notion that China was
That the rather blunt criticisms of China and things
Chinese that are especially noticeable among English
writers of the eighteenth century are prominent is
uncontroversial, yet, pace Qian, they are also reflective
of the social milieu. I would argue that they are highly
reflective of the dissonance created by the rapid and
radical reconfiguration of traditional narrative
structuresas theology gave way to ethnography. As
the time-honored method of "figural" reading crumbled
in regards to the biblical narratives, the more novel
form of "realistic" reading came to supplant it. Whereas
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the task
of explorers, collectors, and interpreters had been
to read the real world they experienced into the unified
biblical narrative, as Webb had done with Noah/Jaus/Yao;
by the middle of the eighteenth century, "interpretation
was a matter of fitting the biblical story into another
world with another story.
The God who was omnipresent and manifest, even
in China, in the sixteenth century was being supplanted
by the Deus Absconditus of Luther, Hobbes, and Locke.^
Though this debate between the manifest, or revealed,
and the hidden God recurred throughout the century,
for many, "the preeminently real . . . [w]as not here
and now. 11 Consequently, the emphasis tended to shift
away from the figural linking of the manifestations
of God across boundaries, and towards a more critical
examination of the "realistically" perceived differences
between cultures. Therefore, the highly critical
attitude of many British towards the Chinese in the
eighteenth century was not entirely due to the willful,
and "profound ignorance," on the part of British as
Barrett condends; but is also symptomatic of the
profound hermeneutic changes underway.
Certainly there was a paucity of textual material
and a dearth of actual contact in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries; indeed most English based the
lion's share of their knowledge of China, not on first
hand accounts, but on translations of translations of
first hand accounts. Mendoza never made it to China,
he wrote his work in Mexico drawing on information
gathered from missionaries who resided in the
Philippines. Webb may not have ventured much outside
of London, let alone England. William Temple was a
diplomat dispatched to the Netherlands. The Jesuits,
Ricci et al., certainly had first hand knowledge of
China, a greater and more intimate knowledge than we
can probably imagine; yet their work was colored by
their own polemics and propaganda to keep their mission
alive in the face of increasing Papal disapproval.
In addition, English contact with the Jesuit project
was filtered through a French redaction and translation
of the CSP. The trickle of information about China
that reached England in the seventeenth century does
appear to have dried up in the eighteenth.
Eighteenth century interpreters, however, did
not entirely lack sources. The Bodelian catalogue of
1697 lists a number of Chinese works, mostly medical
texts but also dictionaries and an edition of the Mengzi,
which is listed as a popular novel; no one seems to
have bothered to translate it. Yet, the majority of
literature produced in the eighteenth century was travel
literature driven by the desire for commercial gain.
The relative lack of centralized control in information
gathering, royal patronage, and state sponsored
academies, as compared to Paris the hub of sinological
studies in the eighteenth century, also played a pivotal
role, in the British interpretation of China.^ In
terms of translations of sacred works, specifically
the Sishu, no attempt was made until the first decade
of the nineteenth century.
What, then, constituted this "imaginative
geography?Bibliographer Qian Zhongshu pointed out
that English writers of the eighteenth century relied
most heavily on two sources for the majority of their
information about China. The first, written on the
cusp of the eighteenth century, was Fr. Louis Daniel
Le Comte's (1655-1728), Nouveaux memoires sur l'etat
present de la Chine. Originally published in France
(1696), it appeared in England as Memoirs and
Observations made in a Late Journey through the Empire
of China in 1697 and 1699, and again in substantially
revised versions of 1737 and 1739. The second was J.
B. Du Halde's Description geographique, historique,
chronologique, politique et physique de l'empire de
la Chine et de Tartarie Chinoise (1735), published in
an abridged form as The General History of China (1736),
and in full between 1738 and 1741, by subscription,
as A Description of the Empire of China and Chinese
Tartary, together with the Kingdoms of Korea and Tibet:
Containing the Geography and History of those Countries.
Together these works mapped the "imaginative geography"
of China for the eighteenth century, but after the
condemnation of Le Comte's work by the Sorbonne in 1700,
and the suppression of the Jesuits in 1704, Du Halde
"became the standard authority on matters Chinese for
much of the eighteenth century.
Le Comte, for his part, remains significant not
only because his work served as a source for Du Halde,
but because of the role it played in the Rites
Controversy. Le Comte followed the accommodationist
line in praising "Confucius" and insisting on the
monotheistic nature of the Chinese, but went further
by claiming the Chinese had, "knowledge of the true
God and practiced the purest maxims of morality, while
Europe and almost all the rest of the world lived in
error and corruption."^ This kind of apostasy was
not to be tolerated in the early years of the eighteenth
century; although the idea of China as a model for Europe
echoed, especially in France, later in the century with
physiocrats such as Quesnay
The English, however,
remained relatively unaware of the theological
implications of the Rites Controversy. Though the
particular repression of the prisca theologia (ancient
theology) returned in the nineteenth century with
Protestant British interpreters as its main advocate.
With so many texts, specifically Christian sacred
texts, undergoing renarrativization British commentators
appeared unwilling or unable conceptually to imagine
alternative sacred works, the focus shifted to more
secular forms of writing. In addition, with the
theologically questionable exegesis expunged from the
most prevalent and popular sources, the image of China
that remained was an exotic one, and one which existed
in eighteenth century Britain as either set dressing
for Jacobean style tragedies, or as a rhetorical device
for social critics. Yet even in these limited
capacities, English writers were able to find in this
"imagined geography" a series of ad hoc equivalences,
critical, and far removed from the actual China to be
sure, but not always as outright hostile as they were
to become when increased contact forced a
reconceptualization towards the end of the century.
One imaginative map that was extremely popular
in England, as well as France, in the eighteenth century
came straight from the pages of Du Halde. L1Orphelin
de la Chine originally translated from Chinese into
French by Pere Premare was included in Du Halde's
Description of China. It was adapted from the English
version of Du Halde by William Hatchett in 1741, titled
The Chinese Orphan. Voltaire conceived a French version
f it in 1755, and finally Arthur Murphy wrote his own
version of the story. Murphy's version first played
21 April 1759 with David Garrick in the lead role.
The play was tremendously popular on both sides of the
Atlantic; it played regularly in London for twenty years,
was in the Comedie Francaise repertory until 1837, and
was produced with some regularity in America from 1764
until well into the nineteenth century.
The play revolves around the Tartarian (Manchu)
conquest of China, but how much actual information about
China it provided its many audiences is highly suspect,
as all versions were substantially rewritten to suit
European tastes. For instance, in Hatchett's version
the orphan is none other than Cam-Hy (the Kangxi emperor,
1654-1722), and the role of the sage courtier is named
as Lao-Tse (Laozi), who, legend has it, shuffled off
this mortal coil some two millennia before the Kangxi
emperor ascended the dragon throne. Voltaire's version,
typically took on a more philosophic tone; he styled
it as a "dramatization of the morals of Confucius."
Murphy's retelling is even further afield, with not
only characters but plot completely reworked.^ Oliver
Goldsmith's review of Murphy's play is telling, "In
proportion as the plot has become more European, it
has become more perfect.The perfection of this
work remains contestable, but what seems clear is that
by the middle of the eighteenth century it was no longer
a Chinese play, but a European one set in an imagined
China. This is not to say, however, that The Orphan
of China needs to be relegated to the gulag of
orientalism. Eighteenth century theatre was governed
by the Licensing Act of 1734; it was, consequently,
the age of the "well-made play." Plays were routinely
reworked, updated, made "more perfect." Juliet awoke
before Romeo could drink the poison, Lear always managed
to regain his faculties and save Cordelia. The China
of The Orphan of China was indeed fantastic, but no
more so than Shylocks Venice, the Scotland of Macbeth,
the Athens of Midsummer Nights Dream, or the Asia of
Another, and probably more famous, example of
this kind of unapologetic appropriation is Goldsmiths
Citizen of the World, which was originally published
serially in The Public Ledger 1760-1761. Again,
Goldsmith drew substantially from both Le Comte and
Du Halde, but the work is wholly English. The literary
conceit of the work is revealed in the complete title,
The Citizen of the World; or Letters from a Chinese
Philosopher, Residing in London to His Friends in the
East. The epistolary style was exceedingly popular
in the eighteenth century and Goldsmith used it to great
advantage.. Goldsmith concocted a series of some one
hundred letters between the "philosopher" Lien Chi
Altangi, and his friend Fum Hoam, "first president of
the Ceremonial Academy at Peking in China,on a
variety of subjects. The conceit is transparent, the
rara avis (wise traveler), allowed Goldsmith to comment
unequivocally on all matters of English society and
Although Citizen of the World is an English book,
written for the English about English subjects, there
is throughout an attitude towards the Chinese that many
subsequent scholars have found occasion to comment on.
Goldsmith makes clear at the outset that the cult of
"Confucius," then so prevalent on the continent, held
no sway in England. Lien Chi Altangi is no "Confucius."
Further, Goldsmith essentialized all Chinese traits
and embodied them in Lien,
The Chinese are always concise, so is he. Simple,
so is he. The Chinese are grave and sententious,
so is he. But in one particular, the resemblance
is peculiarly striking: the Chinese are often
dull; and so is he.
Are these synecdoches indicative, of a general English
attitude towards the Chinese, or merely Goldsmith the
satirist trying to head his potential critics off at
the proverbial pass? Whatever the reason, Citizen of
the World remains an important piece of Augustan satire
and a shining example of the imaginative use of China
as a rhetorical device.
The only actual piece of translation from Chinese
into English, although still highly imaginative, was
Hau Kiou Choaan or the Pleasing History, A Translation
from the Chinese Language. Much speculation still
surrounds the; authenticity of the translation,
nevertheless it remains the "first work of Chinese prose
fiction to be brought before the British public.
The translation of the Hau Kiou Choaan (Haoqiu zhuan)
was apparently undertaken in 1719 by a James Wilkinson,
an employee of the East India Company, under the tutelage
of a Portuguese. When Wilkinson's family decided to
publish his efforts posthumously they contacted Bishop
Thomas Percy (1729-1811), who polished the prose and
issued the work in 1761. It was a great success and
was translated into Dutch and French. Percy himself
appears to be one of the few British sinophiles in the
eighteenth century; Qian Zhongshu concluded, "anything
about China that could be known without knowing the
Chinese language, Percy knew." However, anything
that could have been known about China, with the single
exception of The Pleasing History, was filtered through
France. This is not to say that the information received
through France was not accurate; however, it continued
to follow the same lines of interpretation set down
in the seventeenth century by the first Jesuit writings,
with most of the accommodationist arguments, i.e.,
ancient monotheism, shangdi/God, etc., expurgated.
Most English writers of the eighteenth century were
far less likely than Percy to put their faith in anything
the French said, let alone the Jesuits.
These imaginative efforts can appear more self-
reflective than critical. In the works that centered
on what was at least believed to be substantiated textual
material, i.e., works derived form Le Comte and Du Halde,
there remained a willingness to suspend disbelief and
to deal equivocally with these texts. The use of these
few items, even if to self reflective ends, and their
tremendous popularity suggests not the utter demonization
of China and the Chinese, but rather the simultaneous
act of appropriation and dispersion.
In counterpoint to this, the prevailing line
of interpretation was more damning. Without any effort
to acquire new or more substantial information about
China or the Chinese, many English writers did begin
to challenge the perceived favorable interpretation
by denegrating China. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), in
the second part of Robinson Crusoe (1720), attacked
Chinese government as "absolute tyranny," and the
religion of "Confucius" as "refined Paganism." Joseph
Spence (1699-1768), though he praised the Chinese style
of gardening, declared that "Chinese philosophers are
'all atheists'.The "fabulous pretensions to
antiquity"^ were vehemently attacked by a number of
British writers in the eighteenth century. The Chinese
language was declared "dead," and the study of Chinese
government as a model to be followed by Europeans only
taught one author, "to love the Constitution of my own
free country still more." In short many British
writers of the eighteenth century took a jaundiced view
towards a country few, if any, had actually seen and
declared it "defective in morality, fictitious in
chronology, and wanting an alphabet."
Moreover, several British writers began to assert
a belief in the myth of monolithic China, i.e. the
static, ossified, singular, giant. David Hume spoke
of China as, "one vast empire, speaking one language,
governed by one law, and sympathising in the same
manner." Adam Smith believed them to be "stationary,"
though prosperous; and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, early
in the nineteenth century declared China to be "a
permanency without progression." This belief would
itself become static in the nineteenth century as the
British struggled to ingratiate themselves with the
leaders of China in order to establish more pro-British
trading practices, and ossified further as they struggled
to explain their failure to do so.
The contempt with which many British viewed China
during the course of the eighteenth century was not
bred of familiarity. Although the objects of
Chinoiserieporcelain, gardens, lacquer etc.surrounded
them, and images of Chinese philosophers and Chinese
heroes wound their way through some English literature,
these remained scattered yet pertinent images, more
reflective of the internal struggles within Britain,
and among European powers. As the century wore on these
ad hoc appropriations commingled with the more and more
virulent, though not necessarily better informed,
critiques of Chinese institutions, and forced a
renegotiation of this imaginative terrain.
The Lion and the Dragon:
Essentialism in the Nineteenth Century.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, as
the drive to increase trade with China accelerated the
"singular listlessness"^ of the British gave way to
a desire to.resolve the dissonant strains of the
"imagined geography." This took the form of correcting
the Jesuit/French interpretation, responding to intense
but uninformed internal criticism, and putting forth
their own understanding of the Chinese. This came slowly
and painfully through a process of "failed" diplomatic
missions, missionary struggles, war, and massive
scholarly effort. It forced, once more, a return to
the questions of translation and conversion, and
recentered the sacred works as the medium of
John Davis, in 1822, articulated this corrective
The first thing needful in our inquiries was
to divest the picture of all that false colouring,
which had been so plentifully bestowed on it
by the Romish missionaries, who for certain good
reasons, . . . modified their most authentic
accounts of China in such a way, as tended rather
to mislead, than to inform; and it remained for
the English to give the first correct account
of a nation, whom they discovered to be neither
perfectly wise, nor perfectly virtuous, but who
were occasionally reduced to the necessity of
flogging integrity into the^j magistrates, and
valour into their generals.
The increase in the demand for Chinese products,
especially tea, drove the commercially minded English
into more intimate contact with the Chinese where they
found, not a world of pleasing histories and morally
upright scholar-bureaucrats, but a world of greedy Cohong
merchants and otiose court rituals* It was clear from
these initial frustrating encounters that a reassessment
of China had to be made, as Davis pointed out. Again,
the trade missions themselves, and the criticism which
followed produced a range of responses. It is not my
purpose here to assess the entire range of these British
responses, but merely to point out the historical
conflation of one, and the significance of another,
in order to shed light on this congruence which led
to the reassessment of the nineteenth century.
The names of those British who established first
hand contact with the Chinese are legend: Anson, Flint,
Amherst, Napier, but the kairos came in 1793, with a
man named Macartney. The reasons for Macartney's mission
and the details of that mission are too numerous and
too well documented and known to bear repeating here,
as is the reply from the Qianlong emperor; what is
important is how the embassy has been viewed throughout
the subsequent two centuries. Davis, writing several
years after the embassy, viewed it as a middling event;
while a century later Earl Pritchard wrote that it was
"an ill-conceived but well-executed measure. Its failure
was certain before it left England." By the middle
of this century it had become a trope of the "striking
instance of the clash between advanced and traditional
societies." While this last is a blatant
overstatement, it gives an indication of the direction
historiography took in the years following 1793.
Regardless of the historiographical hyperbole, the
mission did, in some small degree, succeed in its
failure; with the publication of Sir George Staunton's
Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great
Britain to the Emperor of China in 1797, British interest
in China turned, however reluctantly, from the
imaginative to the more practical. As John Davis pointed
One of the principal effects of the mission was
to draw a greater share of the public attention
towards China, and to lead gradually to the study
of language, literature, institutions, and manners
of that vast and singular empirea field which
had hitherto b^gn occupied almost exclusively
by the French.
Yet, the turn was gradual, and it was lead not by
scholars in England, but once again by missionaries,
not stationed in China, but in India and Malaya.
The evangelical fervor of the late eighteenth
century had created missionaries; missionaries who,
unlike their Jesuit predecessors, were not so much
interested in experiencing God in all its manifest glory
as in bringing the "true" word of God to all the children
of the world. This desire itself produced a vast number
of translations, but the direction of this scriptural
flow is important to note. These were predominantly
translations of the Bible into indigenous languages;
if any translations of foreign texts were undertaken
it was initially for purely pedagogical purposes. The
evangelical charge was lead by the British and Foreign
Bible Society which was established in 1804. By 1809
the Society boasted 109 new translations of the Bible.^
However, none were in Chinese. China remained
inaccessible to British missionaries, and in their
efforts at translating the Bible into that language,
they were forced to rely on what help they could get
from Chinese living abroad, especially in the British
colonies of Malacca in Malaya and Serampore, India.
The first to accomplish the task was Joshua
Marshman (1768-1837), a Baptist missionary of Fort
William College in Bengal. In 1806, under the
instruction of Johannes Lassar, an Armenian Christian
who had been born in Macao, Marshman began translating
the Bible into Chinese. In 1810, the Gospel of St.
Matthew was published in Chinese by the Mission Press
at Serampore. The whole Bible took until 1822-23 to
appear. Along with his translation of Matthew, Marshman
published, in 1809, a fragment of the Lunyu in English,
which carried the very inaccurate and synecdochic title
The Works of Confucius. Marshman's effort was not met
with the same glee as the Morals of Confucius, and indeed
seems to have passed rather quickly into obscurity.
Barrett criticizes it as, "a rather poorly handled
partial attempt.However, the simultaneity of these
translations must be noted. In coterminously translating
the Lunyu and Matthew, Marshman had returned to Ricci's
project. Clearly Marshman must have viewed the Lunyu
as a pedagogical tool, but in offering a cross
translation he reasserted its position as the pedagogical
tool for unlocking sacred texts. His efforts also
conceptually reindexed it to the synoptic Christian
At the same time that Marshman was working in
India, other English missionaries were concentrating
on the same subject in Malaya. Robert Morrison
(1782-1834) was actually the first Protestant missionary
to live in Canton. A Presbyterian, Morrison offered
his services to the newly formed London Missionary
Society in 1804; by 1807 he was in Canton, and two years
later he was working as a translator for the English
East India Company. He served as an interpreter on
the Amherst mission (1816), and in 1818 established
the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca. Morrison was
rare in that he was one of the few English missionaries
who actually began his studies of Chinese while still
in England. In 1810 Morrison began work on the
translation of the Bible, by 1819, with the aid of
William Milne (1785-1822) had both Old and New Testaments
translated. The Canton-Malacca Bible was not published
Adding to the coterie of missionaries at Malacca
was Walter Henry Medhurst (1796-1857), a printer sent
by the London Missionary Society in 1817. Medhurst
became highly respected as a translator, and instrumental
in the formation of the British missions, and the
dissemination of knowledge, both religious and secular.
Medhurst believed the only way to convert the Chinese
was to establish some ground of mutual understanding.
He translated Chinese grammars into English, and he
wrote hundreds of tracts on a variety of topics: history,
geography, translated magazine articles and school books.
According to one Roman Catholic source, T. W. M.
Marshall, by 1844 Medhurst claimed to have printed and
distributed: 1,128,400 tracts, 30,000 copies of
scripture, 500,000 tracts in Chinese, 150,000 in Malay
and 450,000 volumes released in Canton. Yet, Marshall
also charged, "It seems that, as they [Protestant
missionaries] could not convert 'the millions of the
east,' they could console themselves by supplying them
. . 79
with waste paper.
The college was funded by a generous grant from
Morrison himself, and supplemented by funds from the
English East India Company. Although T. W. M.
Marshall, a vociferous critic, railed that the college
was a waste of money and that the prodigious efforts
at translation were merely a means of producing something
(in lieu of actual converts), in order to fulfill annual
reports, which would insure the continuation of funding;
the college nevertheless, established and to a large
degree mapped out the British understanding of China
for the nineteenth century. This understanding was
built upon an increasing awareness of and contact with
actual Chinese, albeit this understanding was forced
through the prism of a somewhat peculiar nineteenth
century British worldview, but also on a rather
uncritical return to what had passed before. In their
effort to understand China, the British of the nineteenth
century refocused their attention on what was deemed
essential to the Chinese character, i.e., the "Confucian
canon," which they conceptually indexed to the Christian
scriptures, and by so doing they rediscovered, rather
unsuprisingly, much of what their Jesuit predecessors
had already claimed was there.
The first full version of the Sishu translated
directly from Chinese into English was completed by
the Rev. David Collie and published posthumously in
1828. Little is remembered about Collie; Barrett says
that he attained the position of Professor of Chinese
at the Anglo-Chinese College in 1823 after only a year
of language instruction from Morrison. Collie admitted
that the translation was undertaken primarily to aid
in learning Chinese, but he betrayed the early nineteenth
century British attitude towards the Chinese texts and
the previous Jesuit interpretation of them when he wrote,
"It [the English translation] might perhaps be
of some use to the Chinese who study English
in the College, not only assisting them in
acquiring the English Language, but especially
leading them to reflect seriously on some of
the fatal errors ggopagated by their most
Apparently, Collie felt his mission was to correct both
the British understanding of China, as well as the
Chinese view of themselves. He argued that the Jesuits
and the French were too effusive in their praise of
"Confucius," and that the ideas found in the Sishu,
compared to the "more excellent way" of Christianity
were at best harmless yet misguided, and at worst
If Collie questioned the validity of "Confucius's"
teaching, and the Jesuit commentary of it, he
nevertheless retained the form of the Morals of Confucius
and the CSP. There is first, a brief biography of
"Confucius" and a slight assessment of the sage's work.
Collie refused to place "Confucius" in the same rank
as the Greek sages as the Jesuit authors of the CSP
had, but acquiesced that "Confucius" was probably not
an atheist because he showed reverence for Teen [tian]
usually translated as "heaven." Then follows his
translations of the Four Books. Collie chose to follow
the Morals of Confucius order which reduplicated the
ordering of the CSP with the addition of the Mengzi.
He places first, the Ta Heo [Daxue ] which Collie left
untranslated but refered to as "Superior learning;"
followed by the Chung Yung [Zhongyong ] or "Golden Medium"
(Collie's translation); the Lun Yu [Lunyu ] which Collie
translated as "Dialogues;" and finally the Shang Mung
[Mengzi part one] and Hea Mung [Mengzi part two]. In
addition, Collie provided "the substance of various"
commentaries, or rather his redaction and translation
of a number of the myriad commentaries available on
the Four Books, plus his own sniping comments on the
fallacy of the ideas contained in the text.
Collie's text appears to have made a substantially
minor impact on British sinology, although it did enjoy
some degree of popularity in America. James Legge
made use of it, and the differences between Legge's
and Collie's versions are instructive and will be
addressed later, but for the most part Collie's Four
Books appeared and vanished without fanfare. With these
few exceptions, British exposure to China and the Chinese
remained tangential. The more popular books continued
to be description and travel journals: Davis's The
Chinese: A General Description of China and Its
Inhabitants (first published 1836 expanded 1840); T.
T. Meadows's, a consular officer, Desultory Notes on
the Government and People of China (1847) and Chinese
and Their Rebellions (1856); Medhurst's China: Its State
and Prospects (1861); William Wells's Middle Kingdom
(1848); and Karl Gutzlaff's Journey of Three Voyages
Along the Coast of China (1834) and China Opened (1838).
All of them tended to focus on descriptions of geography,
botany, history, morals, customs and manners, and which
tended to emphasize the seemingly singular and exotic
nature of the Chinese.
Davis made a handful of translations from Chinese
literature, but no real serious attempt was made to
attain any deeper level of understanding of Chinese
religion or the "Confucian" canon than was found in
Collie. However, with Marshman and Collie, the
exegetical work on China was beginning to cohere once
more around the Sishu. Certainly the prevalence of
the text in China as a pedagogical tool accounts for
some of the renewed interest; however the mere ubiquity
of it does not explain its continued indexing to the
four canonical Christian Gospels. Perhaps the discursive
nature of the Four Books resonated with the Synoptics.
Perhaps, the British of the nineteenth century found
in the works, as the Jesuits had, a felicitous
application of principles deemed universal. Clearly
these reasons, in whatever combinationa similar set
of canonical, instructive texts, filled with recognizable
universal truths, yet lacking the unique, unified
narrative of Christianity-proved irresistible to
missionaries awash in evangelical zeal.
Missionaries in the east began using the Sishu
to establish a vocabulary that would allow them to
translate their own sacred works into Chinese for the
sole purpose of conversion. What then entailed was
a renegotiation of the imaginative landscape between
the two countries in which both Britain and China were
mutually implicated. Pedagogy and conversion recurred,
mutatis mutandis, to accommodation and appropriation.
Missionary Translations and the Avalanche of Texts
"[First], to tell the millions of [China's]
people about Jesus Christ. To do this with effect
I must be able to speakggnd write their language
like one of themselves.
This was the goal set down by James Legge in his diary
dated 5 May 1847. Evangelical to be sure, but there
can also be seen in this a desire to deepen his
knowledge. Legge was one of the great sinologists,
the only nineteenth century translator of Chinese texts
whose work is still in print. His translations of the
Chinese Classics originally published in eight volumes
between 1861 and 1875, is a truly monumental work that
set off a veritable avalanche of other translations,
commentaries, and redactions. Legge's works have become
the prism through which much subsequent scholarship
on China has been filtered; but they are not simply
a prism reflecting only China, more like a kaleidoscope,
reflecting and refracting a multitude of issues: China,
England, Britain, James Legge, missionary politics,
theology, to name a few.
James Legge was born in 1815 near Aberdeen,
Scotland, graduated King's College (now part of the
University of Aberdeen) in 1836. Raised in the
Independent Church, he received the call to minister
in this non-Conformist Church in 1837. The next year
he offered his services to the London Missionary Society.
In January of 1840 he and his wife arrived in Malacca.
Following the first Opium War, the Society relocated
its mission to Hong Kong; Legge resided there for two
years. Poor health had Legge returning periodically
to England, but from 1842 to about 1870 the lion's share
of his life was lived in and around Hong Kong. Friends
and admirers cobbled together money upon his return
to England and financed a Chair of Chinese at the
University of Oxford; accordingly Legge became the first
professor of Chinese at Oxford in 1876. He died in
Apparently dissatisfied with most previous
translations, and feeling "that he should not be able
to consider himself qualified for the duties of his
position, until he had thoroughly mastered the Classical
Books of the Chinese," Legge set about learning and
translating, "The Books [sic] now recognised as of
highest authority in China," i.e., the Yijing (Book
of Changes), the Shu j ing (Book of History), the Shij ing
(Book of Poetry), the Li.j i (Record of Rites), the Chung iu
(Spring and Autumn Annuals), and the Four Books. He
began, as many before and since both within China and
without, by concentrating on the Lunyu which Legge dubbed
"The Analects." The first volume of his translations
which included the Lunyu, the Daxue and the Zhongyong,
was published in 1861, followed shortly by volumes two
and three. They were republished as part of Max Muller's
series The Sacred Books of the East, appearing from
1879 through 1891. In 1893, the Clarendon Press, Oxford
published a significantly reworked second edition of
the Four Books, it is this second edition which remains
Legge's works were received with almost universal
yet qualified acclaim. While many congratulated him
on the "elaborate and conscientious translation,"
many others pointed out the inaccessibility of the
scholarly language and the prohibitive cost of the large
octavo volumes and urged the republication of them in
smaller more affordable and popular editions.
first popularizer was an American, the Rev. A. W. Loomis.
Confucius and the Chinese Classics, edited by Loomis
was published in San Francisco in 1867. Loomis referred
to Legge's translation as a "literary curiosity, and
of immense value to every student of the Chinese
language." Loomis sought to familiarize the lay reader
with China. Confucius and the Chinese Classics is
cribbed directly from Legge. He followed Legge's overall
organization, which diverged from the CSP, establishing
the Lunyu as the first of the Four Books, yet deviated
substantially within this framework. He began with
the obligatory history of China and biography of
"Confucius," then the Lunyu, then the Daxue, the
Zhongyong and the Mengzi. In Part Three, Loomis clabbered
together a hodgepodge of disjointed writings on various
topics most likely pulled from William Wells's Middle
Kingdom. What is fascinating about Loomis is the way
topics within the main headings are treated. In the
preface he explained his organization:
So far as regards the selections from the Four
Books, our design has been to go carefully through
them, and gather a few sentences on the various
subjects which were treated by the Chinese
authors^and arrange them under appropriate
Apparently the Chinese were, as far as Loomis was
concerned, as free with their garden designs as they
were with their "Scriptures," (which is how he referred
to the Four Books). Loomis completely reworked the
substance of the Sishu and recompiled them under headings
such as: "What the Disciples of Confucius Say of Him,"
"Theology and Religion," "Domestic Relations," "Ethics,"
"Self Cultivation," "Path of Duty," and three different
"Maxims," or "Miscellaneous" sections which apparently
couldn't be pigeonholed under any of the "appropriate
Concomitant with Legge's scholarly work and the
subsequent popularization of it, came renewed theological
disputes. There still remained the problem of how to
translate "God" into Chinese. In addition to this,
there re-emerged debates on: the primal monotheism of
the Chinese, Daoism, the position of Buddhism in China,
was "Confucianism" complementary or antithetical to
Christianity, had it once been complementary but had
since declined into mere idolatry and superstition?
Tracts and tomes flooded the gully of British sinology,
carved out by a handful of missionary translators.
And the missionaries contributed to the torrent:
Medhurst's Dissertation on the Theology of the Chinese
(1847), Legge's Notions of the Chinese Concerning God
and Spirits (1854), Joseph Edkins's Religious Conditions
of the Chinese (1859), F. D. Maurice's The Religions
of the World and Their Relation to Christianity (1847),
and a plethora of other works on "comparative religion."
The question is, did this avalanche of texts,
this flurry of debate, increase British understanding,
and further, did they add anything to the already
formidable scholarship of the Jesuits and the European
continent? The answer has to bea qualified no. Coming
late into the game as they did, the British, including
Legge, appropriated what was already known or assumed,
and used this information to reexamine critically both
the China they encountered and the popular
misrepresentations of it back in Britain. However,
they read these translations in their own inimitable
way, and offered critiques which were again reflective
of the singular British predicament in the nineteenth
Although many of the themes with which the British
translators dealt can be read as homologically recurring,
e.g., the antiquity of the Chinese, the exaluted position
of "Confucius," the ancient, revealed, and monothestic
nature of God in China; the disruption of genealogy
should highlight the differences in interpretive
congruence. A hermeneutic shift in the eighteenth
century coupled with an emerging science of geology
had unhinged the necessity for Biblical chronology,
thus the length of Chinese history no longer posed a
threat. Further it was accepted a priori that
"Confucius" was a fully historical person who lived
ca. 500 B.C.E., that he was a sage and a moral exemplar,
yet in the nineteenth century the euhemerization of
him undertaken by the Jesuits was reversed by the
British, not simply to smash his feet of clay as
eighteenth century critics had, but to establish him
more firmly as a truly historical, and therefore merely
human, man. However, his role as a mere mortal remained
contested throughout the nineteenth century, depending
on the bent of any particular interpreter: he either
remained the "transmitter" of ancient knowledge he
claimed to be, or he became a reformer of a once great
but now decrepit system. Finally, the most hotly
contested point remained the question of the monotheistic
nature of the Chinese "religions." The Jesuit project
of accommodation and insistence on the pricia theologia
were viewed as substantial threats to papal authority
in the seventeenth century. The British return to this
notion in the nineteenth century began as a pedagogical
dispute over the most effective way to translate Elohim
and Theos into Chinese, whether as shangdi, tian, or
in some cases, shen (spirits); yet, as these debates
continued the belief in an ancient monotheism became
mutually implicated in much larger theological concerns,
that reflected the renegotiation of faith underway in
nineteenth century Britain.
The forms these debates took, and the reflective
nature of British critiques provide the field for the
rest of this thesis. What this genealogy of translation
provides us with is a lineage to question, and a frame
in which to examine these imaginative appropriations
and negotiated recurrences. In the next chapter I will
expand on these themes of appropriation and negotiation;
first, by using the recent model of orientalist critique
as a springboard, I will explore the British creation
of a taxonomy for the religions of the east, and how
"Confucianism" was situated within this. Second, I
will show that while British interpretations of the
Sishu mimicked the Jesuit project in many important
ways, they also presumed to maintain the "Confucian
canon" in its position within this taxonomy. What this
will enable me to do is to add contextual and
interpretive depth to the genealogy of these
translations. It will also, I hope, draw out some of
the interpretive problems of the orientalist critique.
1. Adolph Reichwein, China and Europe:
Intellectual and Artistic Contacts in the Eighteenth
Centuryi trans. J. C. Powell (London: Kegan Paul, Trench,
Trubner and Co. Ltd., 1925), 15.
2. Most notably John Webb, An Historical Essay
Endeavouring a Probability that the Language of the
Empire of China is the Primitive Language (London: Nathan
Brook, 1669), passim.
3. See Frances Wood, Did Marco Polo go to China?
(London: Martin Seeker and Warburg Limited, 1995), for
the most recent challenge to the Polo legacy.
A. See Wood, Marco Polo; James Legge, Nestorian
Monument of Hsi-An Fu (London: Trubner and Company,
1888; reprint, New York: Paragon Book Reprint Corp.,
1966); Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza, History of the Great
and Mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof,
(London: Hakluyt Society, 1853) .
5. See Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy,
History," in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New
York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 81; also Michael Mahon,
Foucaults Nietzschean Genealogy: Truth, Power, and
the Subject (Albany, NY: State Universtiy of New York
Press, 1992), 1-17 and 81-127.
6. Qian Zhongshu, [Ch'ien Chung-shu], "China
in the English Literature of the Seventeenth Century,"
Quarterly Bulletin of Chinese Bibliography 1:4 (December
7. Mendoza, Great and Mighty Kingdom, ii, emphasis
in original. See also Qian Zhongshu, "Seventeenth
Century," 354. T. H. Barrett points out that Perera's
account, especially the part about "shyres," was later
incorporated into Mendoza, see T. H. Barrett Singular
Listlessness: A Short History of Chinese Books and
British Scholars (London: Wellsweep Press, 1989), 30.
8. Mendoza, Great and Mighty Kingdom, 29.
9. Mendoza, Great and Mighty Kingdom, 29-50.
10. Qian, "Seventeenth Century," 362. See also
Mungello, Curious Land, 46ff.
11. Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 39; see
further, Mungello, Curious Land, 74-90 and 106-116.
12. Though Ricci's own translation is no longer
extant, most scholars agree that his manuscript
translation of the Lunyu, Daxue, and the Zhongyong,
(but not the Mengzi), formed the basis for the subsequent
work found in the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus. See
Mungello, Curious Land, 247-299.
13. See Mungello, Curious Land, 257-277, and
Jensen, Manufacturing "Confucianism".
14. cf. Mungello, Curious Land, 13-133 and passim;
Qian, "Seventeenth Century," 351-384; Barrett, Singular
Listlessness, 35-40; and William Appleton, A Cycle of
Cathay (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951),
3-20. Mungello provides extensive analysis while
Barrett, Qian, and Appleton gloss it as rather
15. Appleton, Cycle of Cathay, 19. This is a
highly problematic assumption and one which will be
addressed in the following chapter.
16. Genesis ll:l-8a KJV.
17. This game frequently took on nationalistic
forms, Goropius Becanus in 1569, for instance, insisted
that the ancient burghers of Antwerp had descended from
the Cimbri, the sons of Japheth. Consequently, as the
Cimbri were not at the Tower of Babel their language
remained pure. Therefore, he concluded, Dutch and
especially the dialect of Antwerp was the original
language. This "Flemish thesis," through nationalistic
fervor, was kept alive until the nineteenth century.
It was joined by arguments for the primacy of Swedish,
German, Celtic, and of course English. For a full
account of these various theories see Umberto Eco, The
Search for the Perfect Language, trans. James Fentress
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 73-116.
18. See Eco, Search, 103f.
19. See Eco, Search, 73f. Eco argues that this
belief in the perfect language is theoretically confused
because it blurs the distinction between a perfect
language and a universal language, i.e., one that mirrors
"the true nature of objects," vs. one that everyone
"ought to speak."
20. Mungello, Curious Land, 188. For a full
analysis of Kircher's contribution to the search for
a universal language see Mungello, Curious Land, 134-
207, and Eco Search, 154-176.
21. John Webb, An Histoical Essay, 60. See also
Chen Shouyi [Ch'en Shou-yi], "John Webb: A Forgotten
Page in the Early History of Sinology in Europe," The
Chinese Social and Political Science Review 19:3 (October
1935): passim; Appleton, Cycle of Cathay, 27ff.; Mendoza,
Great and Mighty Kingdom, 18. Mendoza has it that the
Chinese themselves claimed to be descended from Noah's
nephews, in light of this Qian Zhongshu concludes that
Webb gave only a cursory reading to Mendoza; see Qian
"Seventeenth Century," 370.
22. Qian, "Seventeenth Century," 371, emphasis
23. There were two competing biblical
chronologies, the Vulgate which was the more accepted
and the Septuagint which placed the flood before 3000
B.C.E. Accepted Chinese chronology fit more easily
with the Septuagint and actually challenged the Vulgates
supremacy. This didn't deter some scholars from trying
to put the square peg of China into the round hole of
24. Chen, "John Webb," 325-328.
25. The Chinese etymology is highly suspect.
The O.E.D. states that it is "of unknown origin; Chinese
scholars agree that it cannot belong to that language."
Oxford English Dictionary, 2d. ed., s.v. "sharawagdi."
cf. Qian, "Seventeenth Century," 375, and Hugh Honour,
Chinoiserie: The Vision of Cathay (London: John Murray
Ltd., 1961), 145.
26. William Temple, The Works of William Temple,
Bart: Complete in Four Volumes, vol. 3 (London: S.
Hamilton, 1814-; reprint, New York: Greenwood, 1968),
27. Jensen, Manufacturing "Confucianism", 240.
28. Morals of Confucius, (London: Randal Taylor
and J. Fraser, 1691), Alf.
29. Jensen, Manufacturing "Confucianism", 241.
30. Morals of Confucius, 5
31 . Ibid., 24.
32 discussion see below This followed the CSP order. For on the adjustments to the order of Chapter 3. further the Sishu
33. See Honour, Chinoiserie, passim.
34. Morals of Confucius, Al. For the siting
of "Confucius" in political and moral life see Reichwein,
China and Europe, 75-126.
35. Appleton, Cycle of Cathay, 41.
36. Qian, "Seventeenth Century," 375.
37. Appleton, Cycle of Cathay, 47.
38. Qian Zhongshu [Ch'ien Chung-shu], "China
in the English Literature of the Eighteenth Century
(I)," Quarterly Bulletin of Chinese Bibliography, 1:4
(December, 1940): 8.
39. Barrett, Singular Listlesness, 41.
40. Hans Frei, The Eclipse of the Biblical
Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth Century Hermeneutics
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974) 130. ~
41. See Joshua Mitchell, Not By Reason Alone:
Religion, History, and Identity in Early Modern Political
Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993),
42. Ibid., 3, emphasis in the original.
See Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 42.
44. See Mungello, Curious Land; Jensen,
Manufacturing "Confucianism", and Latourette, History
of Christian Missions.
45. Barrett, Singular Listlessness," 36f.
46. P. J. Marshall and Glyndwr Williams, The
Great Map of Mankind: British Perceptions of the World
in the Age of Enlightenment (London: J. M. Dent and
Sons Ltd., 1982), 46ff.
47. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random
House Inc., 1978), 49.
48. As my focus is China I am not including the
increasing wealth of material collected on India, North
America, or the South Pacific. As noted earlier most
travel literature focused around trade and came from
specialists sent out with trade expeditions: botanists,
surveyors, epigraphers, etc. See Marshall, Great Map,
49. Marshall, Great Map, 84. On Le Comte's
comdemnation see Mungello, Curious Land, 297f. and 329-
50. Mungello, Curious Land, 125.
51. Louis Daniel Le Comte, Memoirs and
Observations Made in a Late Journey Through the Empire
of China (London: Benjamin Tooke and Samuel Buckley,
1697), vol. 2, 146-147.
52. See Francois Quesnay, Le Depotisme de la
Chine, trans. Lewis A. Maverick, in Lewis A. Maverick,
China: A Model for Europe (San Antonio: Paul Anderson
Company, 1946). See also Reichwein, China and Europe,
53. Marshall, Great Map, 85.
54. See Qian Zhongshu [Ch'ien Chung-shu], "China
in the English Literature of the Eighteenth Century
(II), in Quarterly Bulletin of Chinese Bibliography,
2:3-4 (December 1941) : 124, and Edward D"! Graham, "The
'Imaginative Geography' of China," in Reflections on
Orientalism (East Lansing MI: Asian Studies Center,
Michigan State University Press, 1983), 34.
55. Appleton, Cycle of Cathay, 83ff.
56. Oliver Goldsmith, The Works of William
Goldsmith, vol. 2, quoted in Qian, "Eighteenth Century
57. Oliver Goldsmith, Citizen of the World
(London: J. M. Dent, 1893), 6.
58. See Appleton, Cycle of Cathay, 53-64; Qian,
"Eighteenth Century (II)," 117-122; and Marshall, Great
Map, 53 and passim.
59. Goldsmith, Citizen of the World, xxvi.
60. Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 43.
61. See Qian, "Eighteenth Century (II)," 134-140,
and Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 41-46.
62. Qian, "Eighteenth Century (II)," 138.
63. Daniel Defoe, Romances and Narratives of
Daniel Defoe, ed. G. A. Aitken, vol. 3 (London: J.
M. Dent, 1895), 117, quoted in Qian, "Eighteenth Century
64. Joseph Spence, Anecdotes, Observations, and
Characters of Books and Men, ed. S. M. Singer, 2d. ed.
(London: John Russell Smith, 1858), 51-52, quoted in
Qian, "Eighteenth Century (I)," 17.
65. Gentlemans Magazine, 1766, 130-132, quoted
in Qian, "Eighteenth Century (I)", 45.
66. See Qian, "Eighteenth Century (I)," 44f.
67. An Irregular Dissertation, occasioned by
the Reading of Father Du Halde's Description of China
which may bead [sic] at any Time, except in the present
Year 1740 (London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1740), 3,
quoted in Qian, "Eightenth Century (II)", 148.
68. The Gentlemans Magazine, 1758, 58-60, quoted
in Qian, "Eighteenth Century (I) , 45.
69. See Qian, "Eighteenth Century (I)," 27-37.
70. John Francis Davis, Chinese Novels (London:
John Murray, 1822; reprint, New York: Scholars Facsimiles
and Reprints, 1976), 2. The title is Barrett's but
his uncredited source is Davis.
71. Davis, Chinese Novels, 5f. Emphasis in
72. cf. Robert Bickers, Ritual and Diplomacy:
The Macartney Mission to China 1792-1794 (London: The
British Association of Chinese Studies and Wellsweep
Press, 1993); James L. Hevia, Cherishing Men From Afar:
Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1995); Alain Peyrefitte,
The Immobile Empire (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992);
Earl H. Pritchard, The Crucial Years of Early Anglo-
Chinese Relations (New York: Octagon Books, 1970);
Reichwein, China and Europe.
73. Peyrefitte, Immobile Empire, xvii; see also
John Francis Davis, The Chinese: A General Description
of China and Its Inhabitants (London: Charles Knight
& Co., 1840), 31; and Pritchard, Crucial Years, 383.
74. For an anaylsis and critique of these various
narratives see James L. Hevia, "The Macartney Embassy
in the History of Sino-Western Relations," in Bickers,
Ritual and Diplomacy; and Hevia, Cherishing Men, 225-248.
75. Davis, The Chinese, 30.
76. Sue Zemka, "The Holy Books of Empire:
Translations of the British and Foreign Bible Society,"
in Macropolitics of Nineteenth Century Literature:
Nationalism, Exoticism and Imperialism, eds. Jonathan
Arac and Harriet Ritvo (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1991), 102-120.
77. Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 63.
78. For more on Morrison see Latourette, History
of Christian Missions, 209-227; see also Barrett,
Singular Listlessness, 62f.
79. T. W. M. Marshall, Christianity in China:
A Fragment (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans,
and Roberts, 1858), 74-78. Marshall, was unrelenting
in his attack on the Protestant missionaries inability
to gain converts.
80. See Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 64, and
Latourette, History of Christian Missions, 216.
81. See Marshall, Christianity in China, 74-78.
82. Barrett, Singular Listlessness, 65.
83. David Collie, trans., The Chinese Classical
Work Commonly Known as the Four Books (Malacca: Mission
Press, 1828; reprint, Gainsville FL: Scholars Facsimiles
and Reprints, 1970), i.
84. Thoreau and Emerson were apparently quite
taken with it. See William Bysshe Stein, introduction
to Collie, Four Books, vii-xvii.
85. See Davis, Chinese Novels, and John Francis
Davis, Poeseos Sinecae Commentarii: The Poetry of the
Chinese (London: n.p., 1870; reprint, New York: Paragon
Book Reprint Corp., 1969).
86. James Legge, 1846-1847 Diary, quoted in Lauren
F. Pfister, "Some New Dimensions in the Study of the
Work of James Legge (1815-1897): Part I," Sino Western
Cultural Relations Journal 12 (1990): 33.
87. See Lindsay Ride biographical introduction
to The Chinese Classics: with a Translation, Critical,
and Exegetical notes, Prolegomena, and Copius Indexes,
by James Legge (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press,
1960). See also Pfister, "New Dimensions, Part I,"
and "Some New Dimensions in the Study of the of the
Work of James Legge (1815-1897): Part II," Sino Western
Cultural Relations Journal 13 (1991): 33-48, and Barrett,
Singular Listlessness, 75f.
88. Legge, Analects, iii.
89. Ibid., 1.
90. Edinburgh Review, April 1869, 303.
91. Cf. Reviews in Nation, 15 September 1870,
170; and Nation, 1 March 1877, 135.
92. A. W. Loomis ed., Confucius and the Chinese
Classics: or Reading in Chinese Literature (San
Francisco: A. Roman and Company, 1867), viii.
93. Ibid., ix, emphasis mine.
TAXONOMY, HIERARCHY, AND THE
CANONICAL BOOKS OF THE EAST
In chapter two I attempted to trace a few of
the variant lines of force which exerted themselves
on the imaginative relationship between Britain and
China. I have briefly noted the equivalences, critiques,
recurrences, and appropriations that influenced the
critical confluence around the Sishu, and have given
hints at the effects of this on various translations
and redactions. As we have seen, origins are always
equivocal, bibliographer Qian Zhongshu was forced to
resort to a series of adjectival origins: "first
substantial reference . . . earliest detailed account
. . . earliest reference to China in English literature
proper."^ Further, the breakdown of traditional
narrative structures, the shift from "figural" to
"realistic" readingfrom theology to ethnography
encouraged a more critical interpretation of China,
wherein certain "facts" about it were established, e.g.,
its great antiquity, the historical existence of
"Confucius," and its potentially accessible ancient
theology. However, this genealogy I have constructed,
especially its lineage metaphor, while pointing to
disruptions and unions along the line, still assumes,
a priori, the inevitability of discovering these reified
"facts." That is, in genealogy these concepts exist
as archaeological artifacts, objects to be uncovered,
and confirmed. The Sishu itself, is continually viewed
as a thing merely to be translated and understood.
Recently, other hermeneutic shifts have rendered
this predetermined lineage problematic, if not untenable.
Current interpretations encourage us to look beyond
genealogy, and to see both text (the Sishu), and context
(China and Britain), not merely as objects to be rendered
inert by thorough translation, but rather as sets of
perpetually contested and reinterpreted narratives
transmitted through time. Though there is much to
recommend in these postmodern interpretations, they
are also fraught with difficulties. They require a
certain amount of theoretical underpinning, which
genealogy, because of its grounding in chronology, does
not. Nevertheless, taking the time to explore the basis
of contemporary critiques can reap rich rewards, it
enables us to site the translations of the Sishu within
their historical context, and to view them in relation
to taxonomical and hierarchical categories which emerged
during the ninteenth century.
In this chapter I will begin to probe deeper
into the imaginative congruences that went into
translating the Sishu, and explore the hierarchical
relationships which finally indexed it to the Sacred
Books of the East. In order to do this, I will need
to establish a theoretical framework. The argument
that genealogy presupposes the base reality of texts
and contexts should cause us to question how and when
these things came to be reified. Therefore, I first
want to explore the recent theoretical tool of
orientalist critique. The benefits of this are that
the critique of orientalism helps us to fathom many
of the interpretive shifts that occurred in sinology
during the nineteenth century; it allows us to explore
the European fashioning of taxonomies which subsequently
split into discrete hierarchies of, politics, history,
literature, and specifically religion. I will argue
that the nineteenth century study of "Confucianism,"
seen especially through the work of James Legge, situated
it within a religious hierarchy and placing it outside
of politics and history, and in relation to both
Christianity and other sacred traditions. Situating
it in this way enables me to examine the creative
dissonance which then arose between the mimetic return
to the Jesuit project and what may be read as the
orientalist maintenance of the canonical books of the
Working this way allows us to contemplate an
alternative to the teleology of lineage and descent,
and to pursue modes of inquiry that were intentionally
obscured or left unresolved by the genealogy of
translations. Neither is it without its problems.
It is not my purpose to offer any sustained critique
of contemporary orientalist theory or its proponents,
however, orientalism, I believe, ultimately defeats
itself by stabilizing an inherently unstable entity,
making Britain and its interpretation of sacred subjects
more coherent than it actually was. Further, by too
narrowly interpreting theses translations, the missionary
translator frequently becomes an unwitting actor in
a twentieth century drama. Like Lien Chi Altangi, he
becomes a rhetorical tool used to extrapolate the
orientalist project. These problems will become evident
through the course of this chapter and will open spaces
for the following one.
Sacred Subjects in the Nineteenth Century
The collection of information and knowledge about
the "east", has long been critically linked, and not
unjustifiably, with the desire to control and subdue
the "east". A point made explicit in Edward Said's
book Orientalism (1978). This work has come to be
regarded as a theoretical Pandora's Box, flooding the
historical world with questions and problems of agency,
dependency, hegemony, epistemology, ontology, dualism,
and definitions. Of course, Said was not the first
to articulate the notion of "orient as other," or to
point up the inventive nature of understanding "the
east." In the 1750s W. Whitehead wrote, that of all
the alleged Chinese things then available in England,
not one in a thousand has the least resemblance
to anything that China ever saw. . . . Our Chinese
ornaments are not only of20ur own manufacture,
but of our own invention.
Still, Said's work has become a fetish in the world
of Asian studies. Revered or reviled, Said asks us
to seriously consider statements such as Whitehead's
and realize the dual nature of the project of critically
reexamining the east. Further, he has provided us with
a vocabulary for examining the intricate relationships
between: east and west, colonizer and colonized, orient
and Occident, self and other. The orientalist critique
asks us to confront the epistemological construction
of the genealogy narrative and asks: who decides what
is authentic, what is sacred, what is original, which
texts are privileged, which are disregarded? In short,
who controls knowledge?
Said sees in the collection and definition of
eastern texts, and in the project of orientalism, an
assertion of western primacy and, thus, of power. He
Orientalism depends for its strategy on this
flexible positional superiority, which puts the
Westerner in a whole series of possible
relationships with the Orient without ever losing
the relative upper hand.
These series of relationships that necessitates this
positional superiority, developed congenerically along
with the breakdown in narrative and the epistemological
shift in the eighteenth century. This shift was outlined
by Foucault who reasoned that:
From the nineteenth century, History was to
deploy, in a temporal series, the analogies that
connect distinct organic structures to one
another. This same History will also,
progressively, impose its laws on the analysis
of production, the analysis of organically
structured beings, and lastly, on the analysis
of linguistic groups. History gives place to
analogical organic structures, just as Order
opened the way to successive identities and
In the language of Foucault this is the shift from the
taxonomy, or table, to the hierarchy. The flexible
positional superiority is therefore embedded in this
shift, which entails the desire to define a European
as well as a "unique"^ British identity. Consequently,
the genealogy of translation should be reread in this
The shift from Biblical genesis to sui generis
"nationalism" undeniably altered the studies of originary
material and the search for origins between the sixteenth
and the nineteenth centuries. We have seen the effusive
nature with which the CSP and its English cousin The
Morals of Confucius were met in the late seventeenth
and early eighteenth centuries. Through this lens,
China was hailed as a moral exemplar, and its government
the perfect form of enlightened despotism. The taxonomy
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries allowed
distinct cultures coterminous existence; signs were
"Christianly interpreted," as in Mendoza, and Chinese
antiquity was indexed to Biblical chronology, yet this
was done in a series of rough, sometimes even fantastic,
equivalences that remained basically nonthreatening.
The Morals of Confucius was clearly intended and accepted
as a guide for moral life alongside Christian teaching,
with no thought given to one necessarily supplanting
We have also seen how this view shifted, at least
in Britain, as the eighteenth century progressed, with
authors becoming critical of China at best, and
arrogantly intolerant at worst. I have pointed out
the dissonance of the "imagined geography" that began
to force a reassessment. Sacred eastern texts were
still indexed to Christian texts, but came to be placed
in specific hierarchial relations. This will become
more evident as we examine closely the works of James
Legge, but can already be seen in the radical reworking
of the Sishu by Loomis. The genealogy of translation
accepts this shift by explaining, that as contact
increased, and empirical data previously unavailable
came to light, the disparity between popular Chinoiserie
and the reality of the trade missions broadened. The
critique of orientalism, however, engenders additional
explanations; it was not that the natively acquired
information was necessarily more accurate, rather that
the interpretation of this information was molded by
a very different Europe, or more specifically, by a
part of that continent struggling to define itself as
a British nation and engaged in viewing itself as