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Lecture: Empire of Paper. Missionaries, Diplomats, and Early Sinologists as Social Carriers of Translingual Practices and Worldviews
July 2022 @ 18:00 - 22:00
Empire of Paper. Missionaries, Diplomats, and Early Sinologists as Social Carriers of Translingual Practices and Worldviews
Associate Professor of History, Boston University
July 07, 2022, 06:00 PM (GMT +2) in Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna
On Campus: VG 3.103 (University of Göttingen, Verfügungsgebäude, Platz der Göttinger 7, 37073 Göttingen)
On Zoom: For registration, please use this zoom link.
Dictionaries compiled in the last phase of the manuscript age (late 16th to early 19th century) acted as metaphorical soldiers of the “empire of paper” that European observers in China – predecessors of the modern China watchers – enlisted to crack the secrets of the Chinese language and to convert the Chinese to Christianity. Through them, information on China, its language, and culture circulated in Europe, and assisted the birth of academic sinology. Such texts also reflect the role of missionaries, diplomats, and sinologists as “social carriers” of a hybrid cultural worldview developed between Europe and China, and their translingual practices. The story of a vocabulary preserved at the Vatican Library, the object of this study, illuminates the past of the Catholic mission in imperial Beijing during the eighteenth century, and in particular the operations of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or de Propaganda Fide, the “ministry of missions” of the Holy See. It also shows how linguistic knowledge of Chinese was treasured and sought for by European diplomats, linguists, and missionaries alike, and how manuscript culture continued to have an important role in the cross-cultural circulation of knowledge about China well into the nineteenth century.