The Intercultural Weaving of Historical Texts

Chinese and European Stories about Emperor Ku and His Concubines


The European view on history was shaken to its foundations when missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries discovered that Chinese history was older than European and Biblical history. With an analysis of the Chinese, Manchu and European sources on ancient Chinese history, this essay proposes an early case of “intercultural historiography,” in which historical texts of different cultures are interwoven.
It focusses on the ways Chinese and European authors interpreted stories about marvellous births by the concubines of Emperor Ku. These stories have been the object of a wide variety of interpretations in Chinese texts, each of them representing a different historical genre. They are excellent case-studies to illustrate how the Chinese hermeneutic strategies shaped the diversity of interpretations given by Europeans.
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Biographical Note

Nicolas Standaert (Ph.D. Leiden University, 1984) is Professor of Sinology at the University of Leuven (Belgium). He has published widely on Sino-European cultural contacts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Review Quotes

"a sinological tour de force" (...) Standaert’s book on the intercultural “weaving of historical texts,” East–West, is an example of scholarship at its best. He has again offered a contribution to the fields of classical sinology and sino-missionary studies that shall remain a necessary voice in the scholarly discourse on how China and the West have encountered and changed oneanother in ways that have transformed the fabric of history."
Anthony E. Clark, Whitworth University, Spokane, WA, Journal of Jesuit Studies 4 (2017)

Table of contents

Acknowledgments vii
List of Tables and Figures viii

Introduction 1
Part 1: Between Chinese and European Sources: Europeans Writing
Chinese History in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

1 Comprehensive Histories in Late Ming and Early Qing and the Genealogy of the Gangjian 綱鑑 Texts 15
2 Jesuit Accounts of Chinese History and Chronology and Their Chinese Sources 94

Part 2: Between Text and Commentaries: Europeans Reading Chinese History in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

3 Chinese Interpretations of Marvellous Births 169
4 Jesuit Interpretations of Marvellous Births 226

Conclusion 303
Postface 315
Bibliography 322
Index 354


All interested in intercultural historiography, in cultural contacts between China and Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in the ways European thought was shaped by China.

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