“Miseries, Tribulations, and Calamities”: António de Gouveia as an Eye-witness to the Seventeenth-century Eurasian Crisis

In: Ming Qing Yanjiu
Cristina Costa Gomes School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon Lisbon Portugal

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João Teles e Cunha School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon Lisbon Portugal

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The “General Crisis of the Seventeenth-Century” as a concept was first applied to Europe, where the Portuguese Restoration of 1640 was one of its most striking episodes, when a national dynasty dethroned a foreign one. Geoffrey Parker extended its use worldwide, having in mind similar events taking place all over the globe, namely in China, where dynastic transition took centre stage. Some parallels can be drawn between the two sides of Eurasia, though sometimes in opposite terms (e.g., while the Braganzas were Portuguese, the Qing were Manchu).

Among the coincidences occurring in both countries during dynastic changes, there is mention to omens and wondrous signs, interpreted as manifestations of something about to change, breaking away from the old established order which had lost some sort of divine assent. By using the writings of the Portuguese Jesuit António de Gouveia (1592/94–1677), namely his letters, some of which unpublished, we will seek to see how he interpreted these signs and dynastic change in China, while his own country (Portugal) was going through a similar process. We will make use of materials dating from 1636 to the 1650s, to see what kind of parallelisms Gouveia draws between the Chinese seventeenth-century crisis and the Portuguese case, and how he depicts and characterises the events occurring in China.

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