The Jesuit Reading of Confucius

The First Complete Translation of the Lunyu (1687) Published in the West


The very name of Confucius is a constant reminder that the “foremost sage” in China was first known in the West through Latin works. The most influential of these was the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (Confucius, the Philosopher of China), published in Paris in 1687. For more than two hundred years, Western intellectuals like Leibniz and Voltaire read and meditated on the sayings of Confucius from this Latin version.
Thierry Meynard examines the intellectual background of the Jesuits in China and their thought processes in coming to understand the Confucian tradition. He presents a trilingual edition of the Lunyu, including the Chinese text, the Latin translation of the Lunyu and its commentaries, and their rendition in modern English, with notes.
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Biographical Note

Thierry Meynard is a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Sun Yat-sen University and research director of the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies. He has previously authored The Religious Philosophy of Liang Shuming (2011), Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (2011), and co-authored Jesuit Chreia in Late Ming China (2014).

Review Quotes

“a highly useful contribution to the field of Sinology and the history of Christianity in China”.
Ronnie Po-chia Hsia, The Pennsylvania State University. In: Journal of Chinese Religions, Vol. 45, No. 1 (2017), pp. 104-105.

“This is a well-written work […] of great use to those scholars who have an interest in the work of Jesuit missionaries in China during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in Confucian classics, or, more generally, in translation or Chinese studies.”
Arianna Magnani, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 70, No. 2 (Summer 2017), pp. 769-770.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
I. The Genesis of the Sinarum Philosophus and its Prototypes
II. The Interweaving of Different Chinese Sources
III. Editorial Choices in Translating the Lunyu
IV. The Jesuit Reading of the Lunyu and the Image of Confucius
V. The Life of Confucius and his Portrait
VI. The Reception of the Lunyu through Two Derivative Works
Conclusion: Classics in the Global Age
Trilingual Edition of the Lunyu, with Notes
The Life of Confucius, Father of Chinese Philosophy
Appendix. Ming Edition of the Lunyu jizhu with References in the Sinarum


This work will be of interest to a range of readers: Sinologists, students of Chinese history, Confucian philosophy, comparative philosophy, European intellectual history, and the history of Christianity in China.

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