Sheng Ren 聖人 in the Figurists’ Reinterpretation of the Yijing
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AbstractChristian missions to China have sought to make their message more acceptable to their Chinese audience by expressing Christian terms and concepts in their translations of Christian texts in language borrowed from China’s indigenous Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist traditions. The Jesuits were especially renowned for their accommodation policy. Interestingly, when the Jesuit Figurists came to China in the early Qing dynasty, not only did they conduct exhaustive studies on the Chinese classics and identify Tian and Di with God or Deus in Latin, but their description of Jesus was decorated with “chinoiserie” through their association with the Yijing, and Chinese mystical legends. Bouvet also created more Chinese terms for Jesus. The Figurists decorated the image of Jesus with the ethical emotions and virtues of a sheng ren 聖人.
A sheng ren 聖人 (the sage) depicted by Confucius in his works has a special political and historical context. Confucius argued that a sheng ren 聖人 has wisdom and integrity as well as zhong (loyalty) and xiao (filial piety) to serve and assist the kings of states in chaotic times. However, the image of a sheng ren 聖人in Confucianism was transposed onto the image of Jesus in the Yi Yao易鑰 (The Yi as the Keys to Christianity), one of Bouvet’s manuscripts, to depict his filial piety and loyalty toward God. All of the virtues of a sage perceived in Confucianism were employed to describe the ultimate sage, Jesus, in such a way as to make him not so foreign to the Chinese readers, including the Chinese Emperor.
While sheng ren 聖人 (the sage) enjoys a supreme status due to his virtues and flawlessness described in Confucianism and Daoism, Prémare and Foucquet also applied this term to their description of Jesus in their Chinese writings and in their dissemination of the Dao back to Europe. While staying in the imperial court, Foucquet shouldered the same pressure from the Kangxi Emperor. He employed his expertise of astronomical knowledge and deciphered the images of hexagrams in the Yijing, to parallel the fall of Adam with Yi 頤Corners of the Mouth / Nourishment) and to redefine Jesus as a sheng ren.
On the other hand, Prémare lived in the coastal areas of China after being unfit in the imperial court. As one of the best missionaries who has a great command in Classical and vernacular Chinese, not only did he analyze the compositions of Chinese characters, but also he took advantages of two hexagrams, Tai 泰 (Peace) and Pi 否, to indicate the birth of a sage, Jesus Christ.
In this paper, the concept of sheng ren will be explored based on their Chinese, Latin and French manuscripts and a close comparison and examination will be made between their Chinese writings and their manuscripts in European languages, to distinguish each Figurist’s different approach and what they had in common, in identifying Jesus with sheng ren. In these rarely examined Chinese, Latin and French manuscripts, Jesus, as a sheng ren, has plural and dialogic identities, which not only mitigated the difference between Christianity and the Dao and reflected a new facet of sheng ren to the Chinese readers, but also helped communicate Dao to Europe.
Acceptance Date08/01/2019
All Author(s) ListSophie Ling-chia Wei
Name of ConferenceThe Third East Asian Translation Studies Conference
Start Date of Conference28/06/2019
End Date of Conference30/06/2019
Place of ConferenceCa' Foscari University of Venice
Country/Region of ConferenceItaly
LanguagesEnglish-United States
KeywordsSheng ren, Jesus, Adam, Jesuit Figurists, Christianity

Last updated on 2019-23-12 at 09:28