In the Workshop of Equivalences:
Seventeenth-Century Globalism and the Comparative Pursuit[1]

Haun Saussy, Stanford University

When comparatists get together to talk about globalism, you can expect to hear about difference, relation, confluence, and hybridity. If they recognize the existence of a global modern culture, they are likely to want to accentuate the particular inflections taken on by that culture in its various local destinations, for without particularity, what is left to compare? But according to some observers, that discussion comes far too late, and the very fact that we can talk about difference and relation tells us so. Niklas Luhmann, for example, declared in 1982 his view that in modern times

society becomes a global system. For structural reasons there is no other choice. Under modern conditions. . . only one social system can exist. Its communicative network spreads over the globe. . . . It provides one world for one system; and it integrates all world horizons as horizons of one communicative system. The phenomenological and the structural meanings [of `horizon'] converge. A plurality of possible worlds has become impossible.[2]

What, if this is true, does comparison mean? What is the definition of communication? Is it still useful to search out test cases? What about initial conditions? The practical feasibility of interchange? The work of establishing a common basis? And then: how should we approach this global situation--joyfully, warily, with resignation? With Luhmann's horizon of horizons before us, I would like to bring you to consider seventeenth-century China's place in the history of global media.

Global communication suggests a condition, or at least the possibility, of constant interchange of artifacts and meanings among what used to be known as distinct cultures. But merely to mention the category of culture seems to beg the question of its continued existence or pertinence. Even if we fight shy of Luhmann's merciless reduction, we must admit that culture bears little weight when put next to the wide circulation patterns of capital and information that also go under the name of globalism.[3] And as for the prospect of a cosmopolitan patchwork, a reconciling pluralism, that is sometimes advanced as the form of a progressive global culture--not only does such cultural globalism look small next to its financial and cybernetic namesakes, it gives a misleading impression of the interests and dynamics involved.

In a minute I will begin to speak in a language I am more comfortable with, that of allegory and parable, but first let me describe the current concern about globalism--rather tritely, I'm sorry to say--in the dramatic terms of a struggle between two principles, ubiquity and jurisdiction. As the national economies of the world find themselves linked together to such an extent that none of them can control its own fate, and as information becomes both instantly and generally available, the familiar notion that territory is the mediating category whereby people and actions are made subject to law has been deprived of much of its force. Of course, that has been true for as long as there has been communication across borders, but perhaps the point has been hard to see for the last three hundred years of history, a history that people experienced and recounted to each other through the device of the state as protagonist. If we are looking, however, for evidence of the porosity of jurisdiction, then the efforts of a handful of Jesuit missionaries to win converts among the educated elite of seventeenth-century China furnish a wonderful and concentrated set of examples.[4] Here you have--in the prime vigour of the state-idea in its European form--an interaction between two vast and complex cultural ensembles, each built up over thousands of years, and communicating through the tiny pipeline of perhaps a dozen Italian and Portuguese priests and their Chinese interlocutors. The interaction forms, to my mind, a precious starting point for investigating the history and value of information networks. It gives us not only a suggestive model of the global interrelationship of cultures but also an alternative history to a certain triumphalism of information exchange that so often goes with the study of social interactions.

And finally, it is an episode in the history of print media which inverts some of the relations typically described in European accounts of the Gutenberg era.


The following is an explanation of the role of printing and the circulation of ideas in Western Europe circa 1620, as narrated by a Jesuit missionary to his friend, an inquisitive Chinese scholar.

[Missionary:] It is the custom of the Western countries to put an extremely high value on teaching through books, and for this reason, the state becomes the ears and eyes of the people.[5] Where the convictions [xin zhi] of the people are concerned, once a single falsehood has been given currency, nothing is free of falsehood. So our former sages took special pains to guard against error. Those who are in charge of doctrine must be the sages and worthies of the time, elevated far beyond the mass of people in intelligence, discrimination and learning. Whatever books are to be circulated must first undergo the examiners' personal inspection, and only when they are seen to be free of the slightest flaw are they given to the press. Printing [in the Western countries] is an art of the greatest refinement and extremely expensive; only those with great resources can command it. Commoners are not allowed to possess this power; far rather, each country punishes the crime of private publication with the heaviest pains, even that of death. For this reason there has never been such a thing as the printing of unauthorized books; the law does not permit it, and the people would not tolerate it.

Someone replied: I am amazed at what I hear, and can hardly believe it. In our country of China, there are many who chatter away in writing and spread it about through private printing, and the state is still unable to forbid the unlicensed publication of books, so that their number increases daily.[6]

My source is a book of questions and answers about Catholic doctrine composed by a layman convert named Yang Tingyun and issued with the title of Dai yi pian, "A Treatise for Removing Doubts." In this passage we find, along with a number of extraordinary inaccuracies, a delectable anticipation of many motifs of contemporary globalism, including the "yes, but" many of us feel about the Internet as a repository of knowledge. Allow me to explain some of its background, starting with technology.

As you surely know, printing is a Chinese invention. Movable type, the technical refinement on which basis printing in alphabetic languages became economically feasible, is also a Chinese invention, but one which for practical reasons remained dormant in China until the nineteenth century. From the eleventh century to the nineteenth, the dominant publishing technology was that of the incised board. Like many Chinese inventions, it combined simplicity with flexibility.[7] A fair copy of the text to be printed was pasted, legible side down, on a slab of hard wood, and the blank areas inside and between characters were carved away, leaving the text in relief. To print a copy of the page one had only to ink the block and press paper against it. Once the blocks had been carved, they could serve to print one copy or a thousand. The skills required for carving the blocks were quite rudimentary; even an illiterate could do the carving once the original had been pasted down. Chinese books were cheap and plentiful--indeed, from a Ming dynasty perspective, getting cheaper all the time, with surplus labor in outlying regions contributing low-cost product to the metropolitan markets. Matteo Ricci, the founder of the Jesuit mission in China, reported on "the multitude of books that are printed in this kingdom, everyone [publishing] in his own house"--an exaggeration to be sure, but accurate as to potential.[8] Since there was no need to hire and train specialist labor or to invest in complex machinery, and since there was no need to calculate press runs before distributing and reusing the type, publishing in early modern China could be a cottage-scale industry, decentralized and impossible to control except through penalties and confiscations of already published books. Comparatively speaking, then, there is a grain of truth in Yang Tingyun's statement that in Europe, "printing is an art of the greatest refinement and extremely expensive, and only those with great resources can command it." This is what the Chinese scholar of his dialogue has in mind when he says admiringly: "In our country of China, there are many who chatter away in writing and spread it about through private printing, and the state is still unable to forbid the unlicensed publication of books, so that their number increases daily."[9] The problem, as stated, is that the impossibility of controlling a low-cost form of publication leads to the multiplication of heterodox doctrines. The state has its own printing workshops, of course, and controls education through its monopoly on the rewards of education; but from the state's point of view official publications are too easily crowded out in an informational version of Gresham's Law. The missionary speaker responds to this sense of lost authority by constructing for his Chinese hearer a Western utopia in which the power of the press is restricted to those who possess governmental and moral authority, "the sages and worthies of the time, elevated far beyond the mass of people in intelligence, discrimination and learning." Anyone not so qualified who dares to issue books is put to death. As our two speakers, channeling through their dialogue a vast global exchange, represent their home economies of information distribution to each other, one has the disorienting sense of four centuries of history that might have been quite different. If this little dialogue had become the foundation of East-West cultural exchange, we might now be contrasting Chinese free enterprise and liberty of information with European despotism.[10] Maybe that ignores too many contributing factors. At the very least, we can recognize, mirror-fashion, in this forgotten dialogue the despotic model against which later political thinkers will build up their profile of Western freedom. But here despotism is held up as a Western ideal of centralization and efficiency in respect of which China falls lamentably short.

In this dream of centralized intellectual control, the university plays a prominent part. Church and state in this account are indistinguishable, and the justification as well as the means for state censorship are derived from the structure of the university as the institutional form of the hierarchy of sciences. The dialogue's Chinese speaker expresses astonishment at the bibliographic claims made for the libraries of Europe--namely that the religious theories expounded by the Jesuit missionaries can be backed up by more than ten thousand works of moral philosophy.[11] In response to his amazement, the European scholar explains:

Now the scholars of the Western countries consider that morals and principle are the food whereby the inmost nature [xing] is nourished and believe that exhaustive contemplation is the means of attaining Heaven--a saying honored by all in our home countries, without distinction of age, sex or rank. Therefore morals and principle daily expand their scope, and the teaching of books daily extends its reach. The greatest science of all is the Study of Heaven, called Theologia. This study is based on a book called the Summa. . . . All the doubts that obstruct the human mind, it collects, analyzes and decisively refutes. You can well imagine how many volumes are taken up by this science alone. Next comes the Study of Men, or Philosophia: the task of this science is the investigation of things and the examination of reasons, and the books devoted to it are almost as many as those of the Study of Heaven. Next come charters and laws; next calendars and computation; next medicine; next [?two characters missing]; of these several sciences, some are theoretical [shuo li], some historical [ji shi]. Whatever in them can benefit the lives of the people is applied to their daily needs. Poetry, rhapsodies, lyrics and essays are also gathered into books, but those in authority do not use these as a means of recruiting officials and scholars do not use them as a means of attaining renown.

Someone said: The crushing mass of publications today mostly consists of these very poems, rhapsodies, lyrics and essays. You tell me, however, that these productions are not recognized by the state; there must, then, not be much variety of literary composition in your countries. Or is it that unauthorized writings are allowed to multiply, and unlicensed editions are scattered among the rest?

And thereupon, as an answer, follows the elucidation of the advantages of expensive European publishing. Note the chain of ideas. From the question about the number of books, the speaker glides into the institutional position of books, writing and teaching. The thought of the institution is for our speaker inseparable from the hierarchy of sciences, recognizable as the model of the medieval university divided into a higher faculty of theology and the lower faculties of humanistic and practical learning. The identification of the superior faculty with the highest authority then leads immediately into the power to publish and condemn, the state becoming (through the faculty of theology) "the ears and eyes of the people." Nowhere is it suggested that the interests of church and state might diverge, or that the university, the inquisition and the political censors might derive their authority from different sources. Yang Tingyun's Western utopia treats all these as a single power. In its context of 1621, the nostalgia is many-layered and rich. I think we would be selling Yang Tingyun short if we attributed his inaccuracies to a lack of direct information; to see them as strategically calculated falsehoods planted by his missionary informants would be only slightly better. Rather we have here a coincidence of many desires and failures. Yang's account dreams of a Europe in which the Protestant Reformation, that series of shocks to the solidarity of university, church and state in which unlicensed publication played an obvious and central role, never occurred, and where the temporal powers wait upon the bidding of the spiritual authorities. By 1620, I doubt that even the most committed proponent of the Counter-Reformation could still expect to see a return to that idealized status quo ante, unless, of course, a miracle should make it possible in China.[12]

Or perhaps a miracle would not be necessary. For the flattering depiction of the European book trade and censoring agencies corresponds to an observed desire on the Chinese side, and amounts to proposing an alliance on the basis of common interests. The proliferation of unauthorized books and, through them, the influence of heterodox schools of thought was a particular vexation for certain intellectuals in late-Ming China. The Dai yi pian misses no opportunity to hit the "hot buttons" of this group's dissatisfaction. When the personages of Yang's dialogue chafe at "those who chatter away in writing and spread it about through private printing," the reader of 1621 would have known exactly whom they meant; and so too, with a little historical summary, may we.

First, a word about the institutional specifics of Chinese thought or philosophy. A thinker in traditional China was above all an expounder of texts--and the texts that most mattered to most people in that world were the Confucian classics, those works of history, ethics, ritual, statesmanship and natural philosophy originating between the fifth and second centuries BC. Both the moral legitimacy of the ruling dynasty and the cultural authority of the scholar-official class grew out of mastery of this canon: the analysis of set passages and the citing of precedents were the basic ingredients of the examination essays whereby one obtained office and also the yardstick by which one's performance in an official post would be judged. Of course, in any given period the classics, or classicism, would speak through a consensus of interpretation. Examinations elicited and guided that consensus. The manias and sympathies of examiners at the various levels would inevitably be remarked on and discussed, not to mention anticipated by candidates eager to succeed; so it can be said that the examination hall was traditional China's main arena for public debate on ideas and policy, however decorous and gradual the process might be.[13] An inspired thinker with a powerfully coherent vision of the message of the classics might alter the shared understanding, by training students who, after winning approval for a certain style of interpretation, would climb into the ranks of officialdom and pass judgment on their younger colleagues; but the system was clearly not designed for promoting innovation. Noticeable innovation was read as a failure of the system.

The hundred or so years preceding the publication of Yang Tingyun's "Treatise for Removing Doubts" had been a time of particular philosophical ferment, in the end overflowing the narrow bounds set to the aims of philosophizing by the examination system and the administrative career. Late-Ming thought is a landscape of local schools, many of them centered around a charismatic individual and directed not towards transmitting learning or the wisdom of experience but towards inducing a kind of enlightenment that would reveal the morality of the sages and the workings of the world. The historical starting point of this new orientation is usually said to be Wang Yangming's rejection, circa 1506, of the "knowledge of information" in favor of the innate "knowledge of the mind."[14] Wang's many and diverse followers are thus collectively known as "the school of the mind" or xinxue, as opposed to the officially endorsed "school of objective reason" or lixue. The mind, in Wang's view, was the source of knowledge, rather than a medium that passively awaited knowledge to come to it from outside. Under the heading of "knowledge" also went morality and its expression in action. This redefinition of the mind carries with it a revaluation of the reason for pursuing learning in books, even the Confucian classics. The Classics might instantiate the enlightenment attained by their authors, but the mere study of texts was not the truly philosophical activity. Wang's followers and imitators continued to cite and lecture on Confucian works, but they saw no obstacle to introducing concepts and criteria from Taoist and Buddhist sources; in fact this was for them a necessary enlargement of the Way.[15] Here, however, one runs into the problem of professional competencies, for the Buddhist and Daoist canons had never been part of the official reading-list. Moreover, the recognition of Buddhist or Daoist thought by the examining authorities would require a thorough revision of the values in the name of which the state ruled, and that was no trivial undertaking. So when some of Wang's radical disciples, for instance Wang Ji and Wang Gen, attracted to themselves the label of "mad Zen" (kuang chan) philosophers, the tone of the remark is partly dismissive, partly edgy. To get the sense of "Zen" right we have to imagine what the term would have implied for a member of the Confucian academy. "Zen" stands for some rather scandalous postulates: a rejection of book learning and indeed of any knowledge that could be put into words, a hierarchy of goods that puts enlightenment above study or practical benevolence, and the claim that every man, even in his most banal undertakings, could achieve sagehood. "Mad Zen" sentiments amount to a rejection of the whole meritocratic scaffolding of upper-class Ming social life--the examination system, the administration of justice in accordance with Confucian principles, the bonds of family and academic lineage.

The years around 1600 would have been the right time to opt out, for the meritocracy's ability to deliver rewards had begun to falter. The social history of the period shows the power of the traditional ruling class, the literate gentry, on the wane, as emperors abandoned their authority and governmental business was increasingly transacted by eunuchs and other palace retainers, in defiance of the long-standing distribution of powers.[16] The loss of opportunities left a great many intellectuals empty-handed and frustrated; those who stayed in office saw themselves as "righteous elements" duty-bound to resist all challenges to their collective position.[17] The righteous elements had a great deal to complain about, in particular the privileges accorded to palace favorites and the danger that irregular philosophical schools might aspire to the position of national orthodoxy, as reflected by the recognition awarded to syncretic views in the judging of examination essays--two causes of dissatisfaction which attracted systematic, coordinated protests. In 1599, to cite a famous incident, the Shenzong Emperor entrusted a major tax-gathering mission to a group of palace eunuchs "with great authority and the power to act absolutely, without answering to any of the mandarins of the government."[18] The eunuchs' rapacity, together with indignation at the emperor's disregard for the constitutional powers of the mandarinate, led to numerous written protests. One of the protesters was Yang Tingyun, subsequently the author of the "Treatise for Removing Doubts," but in 1599 Provincial Inspector of Jiangxi and energetically involved in a Buddhist lay movement for moral reform.

The political crisis of 1599 gave form to a sense of peril among traditional-minded officials. Many veterans of the 1599 campaign--Yang Tingyun again prominent among them--are found in the years 1608-1625 among the adherents of the Donglin Academy, a political and intellectual movement whose designated targets were the palace faction in government and the syncretic movements in philosophy.[19] It is also a crucial, though rarely noticed, episode in the history of Catholicism in China. The narration of that crisis in the Journals of Matteo Ricci, founder of the Jesuit mission, is strongly pitched in favor of the mandarin resistance and gives the first hint that Ricci is taking sides as a participant in local struggles, not just a visitor and theological showman. And as a consequence the meaning of Catholicism in China--its Chinese meaning--found itself redefined.

The early history of the Chinese mission is dominated, and understandably so, by the extraordinary cultural adaptability of Father Ricci, who adopted Chinese dress, manners and language, and went forth to try to win over the intellectual leadership of his day.[20] Ricci was indeed a remarkable man, whose flexibility has only recently received general approval--in his own day he was suspected by his fellow missionaries of compromising the essentials of the faith in order to gain converts more easily. But what did he represent to his Chinese acquaintances? How did he win the attention of someone like Yang Tingyun?

During the first years of Ricci's dialogue with Confucian texts and other scholars, if his doctrine had any place in Chinese society it would have been as a small syncretic academy--deemed harmless as long as it consisted of a few Padres dispensing lectures on the manner of pursuing virtue. As the Ming Dynastic History puts it, "Ricci's books were such as the Chinese had never encountered before, and so, for a time, those desirous of strange and new things [hao yi zhe] gave him their approval."[21] The trademark, as it were, of this strange and new thing was a little book Ricci had composed in 1595, called Jiaoyou lun or "On Friendship."[22] The book circulated widely, gaining Ricci a measure of fame and many curious visitors. Now in late-Ming China "friendship" had become something of a code word, as many of the levellers and ranters of xinxue claimed that the hierarchical relations of father and child, ruler and subject, elder and younger, husband and wife were corrupt and had to be replaced by friendship, a relation among equals entered into by personal choice.[23] To promote friendship was to look benevolently on a society without structure. Ricci's circle of visitors naturally included many philosophical independents, of whom two merit special mention in his journals:

At this time [early 1599] there lived in Nanking a zhuangyuan who. . . having lost his office, stayed at home in great comfort, venerated by all.[24] He was given to preaching [the syncretic doctrine of] the three sects of China, in which he was learned. He kept in his house one of the most famous men of our time in China, named Li Zhuowu [i.e. Li Zhi], who, having previously held high office in the government, and having served as governor of a region of many cities, abandoned his office and family and shaved his head, living as a Buddhist monk. And, because of his erudition. . . he had earned great fame and was followed by many disciples in a new sect of his own founding. . . . These two scholars welcomed Father Ricci. . . . [Li Zhi] received him with many other scholars of his sect and they debated the moral law, except that Li Zhi would not dispute with Ricci or contradict him, for he said that our law was true.[25]

It is a pleasant scene of harmonious multiculturality, and only possible under the condition of marginality shared by all the participants. Li Zhi could express approval of Ricci's doctrines because he, as a philosophical outsider, was not in the business of restricting the possession of doctrinal authority; nothing he advocated had to be denied to make room for Ricci. Ricci, in turn, was careful to restrict the discussion to ethics. A few years later, when Li Zhi reappears in the Journals it is with a different role to play.

But God with his divine Providence suddenly came to our aid, reproving his and our enemies. And the occasion was given by that mandarin who abandoned his office, shaved his head and became a monk, Li Zhi. Now that he was completely caught up and engulfed in his desire to leave a great name for himself and his doctrine, he went about acquiring disciples and writing many books, in which, to show his cleverness, he rebuked those ancient Chinese who were considered saints and exalted those who were considered evil.[26] For this reason, as Li was staying in a city near Peking with the intention of going to present himself at Court, where many desired his presence, one of the court advisors submitted a very strongly-worded memorial to the Emperor, asking that Li be flogged and his books burned.[27]

The Emperor ordered that Li be brought immediately to Peking and that the woodblocks of all his works be confiscated.

So this man came to Peking in great fear. And seeing himself in such dishonor despite his great age (for he was over seventy years old), while in the prison, and before receiving any punishment, he cut his throat with a knife and died, thus miserably escaping from the hands of his enemies.

On this occasion Feng [Qi], the Director of the Board of Rites,[28] submitted to the emperor a most strongly-worded memorial against those mandarins and scholars who, abandoning the doctrine of their master Confucius, followed the doctrine of the idols [i.e. Buddhism] and created a scandal in the court. . . .

On receiving [the Emperor's] favorable answer, the Director of the Board of Rites issued a proclamation to all the schools and tribunals that gave examination for academic degrees (of which he is the superintendent), in which he ordered that examination essays should make no mention of the [Buddhist] idols unless it be to refute them; no degree would be awarded to anyone who should do otherwise. And with this the Court seemed to have changed its face and to enter on a new age. . .[29]

Why should it matter to Matteo Ricci what the the syllabus for the Chinese civil-service exam looks like? Between 1599 and 1602 Ricci has clearly taken the Confucian conservatives' side in the Chinese political controversies--and it seems to me that from the Chinese point of view, as opposed to the Roman, that sort of partisanship mattered more than the compatibility or incompatibility of Catholic faith and Confucian morals. The test of Ricci's partisanship is his analysis of the political situation, in which he is clearly speaking as if he were one of those who stood to lose something by a broadening of the examination syllabus. He was not, of course; we need to see this as an imaginative self-projection. As a consequence of that investment, Ricci now describes grasping eunuchs and heterodox philosophers as "God's enemies, and ours." The force of that condemnation should not lead us to forget that it was only from the special Donglin perspective that those two groups were linked. Eunuch rule and "mad Zen" philosophizing were not the same thing at all, but from a traditionalist point of view they were twin effects of a single cause, namely the Confucian scholar-gentry's loss of dominance. Eunuch rule deprived them of the power to interpret the emperor's will; syncretic schools sidestepped their authority to interpret the words of the sages. Ricci now begins to present himself as having a remedy to these problems. For these eminently political reasons, then, his friendly coexistence with such free thinkers as Li Zhi is at an end. And Ricci's own aims change. Having removed any possible confusion, or so he may have thought, between his teaching and those of the late-Ming new religions, Ricci will go on to play for bigger game. He will not simply seek to have Christianity tolerated as a minority sect, but aspire to see it integrated with the most prestigious of majority doctrines.[30]

Yang Tingyun's conversion was itself a result of Ricci's choosing to make the (soon-to-be) Donglin cause his own. Now hear another interpretation of globalism by Yang Tingyun, letting it ring variously according to whether we take it as Catholic theology or as Confucian statecraft:

Everyone knows that in China are found the two heresies [yiduan] of Buddhism and Taoism, but not everyone is aware that the wide world contains a great many religions like these, with various names and doctrines. Some enjoy favor for a brief moment of time, others are honored in a limited space; some are attached to schools of thought, others derive from one man's private desires; and as a result, what one religion establishes as true another religion cannot accept; what this one proclaims that one cannot believe. No such teaching can be called a truly catholic faith [gong jiao, universal teaching]. There is only one Lord; just as the ten thousand different kingdoms all live under one heaven, so they should all worship one Lord. My bodily shape is that of a man; the ten thousand things are given me that I may care for my body; this body is also endowed with a spiritual nature [ling xing] that is the body's lord, and I seek moral philosophy so as to perfect my spirit. The ten thousand kingdoms are no different from this! Whatever has life, has it as a gift from the Lord, so each must be grateful and never tolerate the thought of rebelling.

The analogies of the passage are familiar from the Chinese discourse on monarchy--just as there is one sky over our heads, one sun in the sky, one head on the body, so the world should have one ruler, to wit, the emperor of China. Note also the logical link between the universal spread of a religion and the universal nature of its object of worship, each guaranteeing the other. Now for the contrary case, in the dialogue's section on the history of Buddhism:

The members of the Society of Jesus travel far and wide to spread their religion. Many of them have been to India and are familiar with the religion of the country and have studied its books. The moral reasoning of the Indian books is gross and superficial; the believers are low and common people; it is really rather a cult [si jiao] than a religion. None of the kingdoms around India honors the Buddhist religion, rather each has its own worship. There are exceeding many of these, and none of them match with the others. Who would have thought that on entering China this religion was honored by all? No one in its land of origin could have believed this.

Yang Tingyun continues his criticisms: Chinese Buddhism, for all its glorious reputation, is the result of unsupervised literary activity. When the Buddhist scriptures were first brought to China, around 300 AD,

no one was found who could understand them. The sutras were translated roughly, by guesswork, and there was no one to correct the drafts. . . Afterwards, as the paths [between India and China] became better known and the understanding of scholars improved, Buddhism adopted elements of the philosophies of Laozi and Liezi and the `Pure Conversations' [of early Taoism]. Continually under the threat of invasion by the five barbarian tribes, the emperors of the Six Dynasties ruled over a tiny parcel of territory. Lacking an enlightened sovereign or sagely lord, the scholars responsible for preserving the continuity of learning went into retirement or pursued futile discussions. Unhealthy doctrines began to proliferate. . . So the Buddhist doctrines contain wisdom and folly, the ideas of worthy men and those of good-for-nothings, all intermingled.[31]

The unhealthy textual corpus of Buddhism is explained by the lack of political order in the China that proved so hospitable to its half-understood message. With no enlightened prince, there are no zealous scholars and no consistent doctrine. That is to say, the most nearly universal jurisdiction produces the most nearly universal religion. And the porosity both political and intellectual of early China (as Yang depicts it) plainly refers by analogy to the crisis of the present, when the integrity of Confucian teaching is menaced even in the citadel of the exam system by an indiscriminate syncretism. For Yang, it is obvious that the gong jiao of Catholicism is of a different species altogether from the si jiao that a maverick like Li Zhi might concoct.

Yang's praise of costly European printing is thus no incidental remark: it connects directly with the unspoken core proposition of what the Jesuits can offer China, namely a rationale for unlimited jurisdiction over communications (including the examination system as a form of communication). That would assure the political supremacy of specialists in doctrine--scholars, priests, professors. Yang makes Catholicism the ideal image of Confucianism, inwardly solid and unlimited in authority. And it is surely relevant, too, that the ecclesiastical authorities in Yang's imagined Europe rule through the power of writing, teaching, the university, the faculty of theology. They directly possess the powers that the literate class of China exercise only by the special favor of the emperor. In institutional terms, the attitudes of the Donglin group were most frequently translated into action by the members of the censorial service, those reviewing officials whose task was to serve as the "ears and eyes" of the emperor. And in 1621, as the Donglin faction seemed to be climbing into the command posts of the administrative apparatus, once again men who had come into prominence through the censorate were taking the initiative.[32] At a moment of instability, indeed crisis, in the Chinese ordering of jurisdictions, Yang Tingyun proposes the model of jurisdiction that most radically answers the prayers of the Donglin community and of its activists, the officials of the Censorate. Monotheism and its realization on earth--namely the universal church--come to patch the tattered garments of late-Ming Confucian orthodoxy.

To summarize this lengthy labor of contextualization: Yang Tingyun's descriptions of European religious authority exemplify a media-centered globalism in several senses, some of which are bound to react in an unstable way with other senses. His description instantiates a form of global culture because, first and most obviously, it calls on information from widely separated areas of the world and links them in a comparison, drawing from various streams of human experience lessons about the historical process. It involves claims to global authority in a second sense, for the reason that it brings together the strategies of two groups, Catholic priests and Confucian statesmen, which see themselves as radiating outward from their capitals to reform the whole world. And finally, Yang's comparative enterprise has as its midpoint the phantasm of a ubiquitous and already global jurisdiction, a "regime of truth." It accomplishes the considerable feat of aligning the figures through which two cultures think about authority--the emperor, the sage, the church universal, the Inquisition, the examination system, the Confucian Classics, the Almighty.

To read it as a political treatise, Yang's dialogue amounts to an invitation to the Confucian hierarchy to reform itself on the model of Catholicism. Does its persuasiveness not rest, however, on an ambiguity? To offer the fable of Europe as a model or analogy for China was one thing. But if Yang's readers had understood him as proposing the extension of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope to the Chinese empire, then the possibilities of harnessing Donglin dissatisfaction would surely vanish: the interest of the Confucians did not lie in adding another, more remote, emperor to the imperial system they already had. Papal authority is good to think with, to dream on, even in some respects to imitate, but no more. (The same could be said, mutatis mutandis, about the European imaginings of the Chinese Emperor or Great Khan.) That is, the alien forms of authority are acceptable as figure, metaphor, model, analogy, or ideal, but once taken as a basis for practical action they lose their charm. A certain form of cultural globalism lives and dies between these two conditions.[33]

In the European context of 1620, too, Yang's account has a dream-like simplicity. After the Edict of Nantes (1598) and James I's adoption (1603) of the Act of Supremacy, the most vigorous defender of papal authority, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, had no higher claim to vindicate than the Vatican's right to exert indirect temporal power.[34] No European sovereign could aspire to the Chinese emperor's undivided spiritual and temporal competence. Hobbes did argue that "It is the Civill Soveraign, that is to appoint Judges, and Interpreters of the Canonicall Scriptures: for it is he that maketh them Laws. . . In summe, he hath the Supreme Power in all causes, as well Ecclestiasticall, as Civill,"[35] but he was trying to impose consistency on a fractured landscape of rights and allegiances (fractured even before the English Civil War). Yang's portrait of the European reign of virtue joins the theories of both Chinese and European polity at precisely those points where each fails to fulfill its role. (Representations of China will have a similar counterweighting function in seventeenth- and-eighteenth-century Europe.[36]) This multiple ambiguity around the notion of power--the discrepancy between theories of authority and its effective exercise, joined to the unresolved question of whether the instances of power described are to be seen as analogous or continuous--is the medium in which Yang's Confucian-Catholic hybrid lives. What do these extremely restricted conditions of viability have to tell us about global culture?

The early history of the China missions has recently been the subject of several books written with the aim of clarifying, through so salient an example, the history and possibilities of intercultural understanding--of a hybrid global culture, if you will.[37] Jacques Gernet's Chine et christianisme (China and the Christian Impact) offers the richest documentary backing of the set, with exquisitely-chosen excerpts from anti-Christian polemics and notations by puzzled bystanders. Gernet reaches a skeptical conclusion suited to the temper of our times. Ricci's enterprise was doomed, says Gernet, because the frames of moral and philosophical reference, the very ontologies proper to China and early modern Europe, were too far out of kilter. Describing the adoption of certain Christian practices by sympathetic eighteenth-century Chinese, Gernet observes that "thanks to purely formal modifications, certain transferences between old and new have taken place while leaving the traditional ways of thought intact. The missionaries may have believed that their converts had become Christians, but it is permissible to doubt the existence of the radical change of mind that a true conversion implies."[38] The language of appearance and reality shows me where Gernet stands. He conceives of the contact between the Catholic missionaries and their Chinese listeners in the very way that the Roman curia did--principally as a matter of translation, and of one-way translation at that.[39] "Genuine conversion" for Gernet involves accepting a set of beliefs; beliefs are grounded in words, and since translation results in ambiguities, the conversions operated through translations are not trustworthy. The implicit standard is that of equivalence between native and foreign semantics, an equivalence that any attentive semanticist can quickly dissolve. So we are left with a linguistic determinism aspiring to philosophical status, and that is ultimately what Gernet delivers, saying: "Our Reason is no more universal than is the grammar of our languages."[40] But the equivalence model seems to me a poor footing from which to begin to think about translation in cases like this, where even simple lexical equivalences have to be made, not discovered. Do not these conditions oblige us to think about "universality" in a different way, a way closer perhaps to Yang Tingyun's vision of religion as institution than to Gernet's disappointed ecumenicism? When, for example, Matteo Ricci translated "sanctus" by the term sheng, the habitual epithet for Confucius and other sages of antiquity and also a frequent qualifier for the emperor's majesty, he was surely not arguing that the two words meant the same thing, since they obviously don't, but rather aspiring to harness some of the energies of the Chinese term to the new situations in which he would henceforth use it. That is to say, the job of the translator is not reproductive, representing a pre-existing meaning in a new milieu, but rather expository and applicational--the task of making something mean something to somebody. Its political counterpart would be, not jurisdictions, but alliances. Now alliances do not have a good reputation in political theory, perhaps because it is in their nature to arise where jurisdictions come to an end. But for that very reason alliances deserve to be prominent among the models and metaphors of cultural contact, because it is through choosing sides that emissaries become participants in the civilization they have come to visit. There is an affinity between such participation and the notion that translations are acts, not discoveries. If translation is to be seen, not as a matter of finding equivalences between vocabularies but as one of making the meanings of one speech community mean something to another speech community, then we should give our first attention to the pragmatic intervenings and meddlings that prepare the way for exchanges of meanings--the workshop, in short, of equivalences. Global culture, if there is to be such a thing, will be interesting not primarily as a problem-free network of access to cultural goods but as a landscape of point-for-point ad hoc settlements.

So, for example, even the language of omnipotence has to be brokered with small specific interests. When we see Yang Tingyun doing that, we should put out of our minds the notion of an identity or compatibility between Confucianism and Catholicism, and think, instead, on the model of the pun--that instant of ambiguity whereby two meanings are suspended in a single signifier, and two speech communities can coincide in their language, although not in their frames of reference. A connected series of such puns is an allegory.41 What Yang Tingyun proposed to his readers, in the guise of universal jurisdiction, was an allegory connecting various points of the Chinese and European imaginations of power. Its viability could be sustained (and this is true of the literary allegories as well) only so long as its readers did not see themselves obliged to choose between its coincident meanings. The allegory is unstable, suspenseful, loosely related to facts, latently contradictory--and so, as I see it, furnishes a model for a global media culture that addresses everybody all the time but cannot wait to integrate all the responses.


The history of religions is, one could easily argue, the history of the media. The prohibition of idols; the periodic bouts of iconoclasm within Christianity; the mutual recognition of the three Peoples of the Book; the symbiosis of Protestantism and printing; radio, television, and other devices for "broadcasting" (a term inspired by the Parable of the Sower, which is also and originally a parable of the mediatic address): there is certainly enough in these ruptures, these shifts from one vehicle to another, to suggest a history, not of doctrines, but of the relations between doctrine and its material or technical substratum. A broader view of this issue would have to go beyond Europe and take in the role of books, images, of course printing, and now television in the expansion of other religious traditions, particularly East Asian Buddhism.

It might well be otherwise, but I suspect that the story of religion told through media would necessarily be haunted by the religious story-pattern of a repeated, ongoing dematerialization. For medias dematerialize: they uproot practices and practitioners from the immediacy of a place, an idol, of a sacred saying, of a relic, and put them on the path of replication and universalization, "unto the ends of the earth." The more sophisticated a medium is, the more effectively it transfers the important truths of the teaching (those that will come to be seen as the important truths) to the new vehicles, to the new converts; the religious tie is reformulated in just this way by each of its successive realizations. This chain of transferences not only echoes in form the logic of dematerialization common to many religions, it determines the role of the media as means whereby the teachings are spread. However great the role ascribed to the breakthroughs in media, however necessary and intimate the relation between teaching and means of teaching, the doctrine remains the pre-existing thing to which this or that arrangement of communicative technique happened. As if to perturb this order, the story of the Jesuits coming to grips with Chinese printing gives us an instance of an expanding religion encountering a technology that was too advanced for it. To exert the kind of control over media that they ascribed to the authorities of their half-imagined Europe, they would have had to possess the levers of the examination system, the imperial library, and the rewarding of degree holders--the outcomes of literacy rather than its supply network. Two powerful and tireless Manchu emperors--Kangxi and Qianlong--made as good a job of that assignment as could be made, and not even they could intercept all "unhealthy doctrines."[42]


[1] I thank Roland Greene, Hent de Vries and Sam Weber for giving me occasions to learn from audiences what to do with earlier versions of this essay.

[2] Niklas Luhmann, "World Society as a Social System," in Essays on Self-Reference (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), p. 178.

[3] For a compressed account, see Arjun Appadurai, "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy," Public Culture 2:2 (1990), pp. 1-24.

[4] On the relations between globalization, eschatology and missionary aims in the early modern period, see Djelal Kadir, Columbus and the Ends of the Earth: Europe's Prophetic Rhetoric as Conquering Ideology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992).

[5] On this expression, see below, p. 000. "Ears and eyes" is a long-consecrated expression for the investigating officials of the imperial Censorate: ermu guan, tianzi ermu. See Morohashi, Dai Kanwa jiten, 9:185. The tasks of the censorate (yushi tai, ducha yuan) were not primarily those we designate as "censorship," but rather the review, criticism and impeachment of office-holders. On the workings of this bureau, see Charles O. Hucker, The Censorial System of Ming China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966).

[6] Yang Tingyun, Dai yi pian (preface dated 1621), 2:20a-22b. In Wu Xiangxiang, ed., Tianzhujiao dongchuan wenxian (Zhongguo shixue congshu series, Taipei: Xuesheng shuju, 1952), pp. 541-546. Yang Tingyun (1557-1621) won the jinshi degree in 1592 and held a series of important governmental posts. He was baptized in 1611 with the name of Michael, thus his apologetic works are sometimes signed "Yang Mige zi". For a biography, see N. Standaert, Yang Tingyun, Confucian and Christian in Late Ming China: His Life and Thought (Leiden: Brill, 1988). For shorter notices, see Pasquale d'Elia, ed., Fonti Ricciane (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1942-49), vol. III, p. 13, and Arthur W. Hummel, ed., Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing office, 1943-44), vol. II, pp. 894-895; Yang Zhen'e, Yang Qiyuan xiansheng nianpu (Zhongguo gongjiao zhenli xuehui congshu series, Shanghai: Shangwu, 1946). Apart from his numerous works on Christianity, Yang compiled a set of treatises on the Yi jing (Wan Yi weiyan zhaichao, "A copybook for appreciating the subtle sayings of the Changes") cited in Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao (rep. Taipei: Shangwu, 1983), vol. I, p. 189.

[7] For details on printing techniques, see Denis Twitchett, Printing and Publishing in Medieval China (New York: Fredric Beil, 1983), pp. 68-86; on the economics of publishing, see Mark Elvin, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973), pp. 179-184. An authoritative general survey is Tsuen-hsuin Tsien, Paper and Printing, vol. 5, part 1 of Joseph Needham, ed., Science and Civilization in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). Printing costs were extraordinarily low in Ming times, especially in the southeast provinces: see Tsien, pp. 372-373.

[8] "E vi è nel loro modo una grande commodità, che è stare le tavole sempre intiere, e potersene stampare puoco a puoco quanto se ne vuole. . . Di qui viene la multitudine de' libri che in questo regno si stampa, ognuno in sua casa, per essere anco grandissimo il numero di quei che attendono a questa arte di intagliare. . . . come in nostra casa, di alcuni libri che habbiamo intagliati, i servitori di casa gli stampano quanti ne habbiamo bisogno." "The great convenience in their mode of printing is that the blocks remain in one piece, and that more copies can be printed from them as they are needed. . . This is the reason for the multitude of books printed in this kingdom, printed by each in his own house, the number of those who devote themselves to this art of block-carving being also very great. . . as in our house, we have the domestic servants print off as many copies as we need from the books we have had carved onto blocks." Fonti Ricciane, vol. I, p. 31; see also II, p. 314. Cf. the approximate translation in Louis Gallagher, S.J., tr., China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matteo Ricci, 1583-1610 (New York: Random House, 1953), pp. 20-21.

[9] Government monitoring of the content of books was introduced during the Song dynasty, fell into disuse during the Ming, and apart from episodic campaigns during the Qing revived only with the Republic (see Twitchett, pp. 60-64).

[10] For the classic expression of the theory of Chinese imperial despotism, see Montesquieu, De l'Esprit des Lois, VIII: 21. Montesquieu's main informant, the returned missionary Foucquet, is vividly depicted by the Président de Brosses (Lettres familières, cited in Etiemble, Les Jésuites en Chine [Paris: Julliard, 1966], pp. 179-189).

[11] The Chinese phrase is yi-li --"works treating of the rational organization (li) of morality ( yi)." A more precise translation occurs in Ricci's journals: "scientia morale" (Fonti Ricciane, I, 42). But the conception of a "moral science" belongs to Ricci's age, not ours. -For comparison's sake, the Buddhist Tripitaka contains approximately six thousand volumes.

[12] On these issues, see Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

[13] On scholarly culture in late traditional China, with special attention to the social dynamics of the examination system, see Benjamin Elman, From Philosophy to Philology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1984) and Classicism, Politics, and Kinship (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

[14] For a short biography of Wang, see Huang Tsung-hsi (Huang Zongxi, 1610-1695), The Records of Ming Scholars, ed. Julia Ching and Chao-ying Fang (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987), pp. 102-107.

[15] See Huang Zongxi's summary of the minor figures of the Taizhou school of xinxue, Records of Ming Scholars, pp. 165-172. For "enlarging the Way," an echo of Analects 15:29, see ibid., p. 107.

[16] On this period in general, see Ray Huang, 1587: A Year of No Significance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). For examples of specific conflicts between the palace faction and components of the bureaucracy, see Hucker, The Censorial System of Ming China, chapter five (pp. 152-234). Placement rates of late-Ming examination candidates may be found in Ping-ti Ho, The Ladder of Success in Imperial China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962), pp. 32-34, 107-111, and 184.

[17] Hucker's chapter cited above (note 16) concentrates on the battle between eunuchs and "righteous elements" in 1620-1627.

[18] Ricci's description: "grande autorità e potere di fare questo assolutamente, senza dipendere da nessuno de' mandarini del governo" (Fonti Ricciane, II, pp. 81-82). The tumult arose at the same time as Ricci's move from the out-of-the-way town of Shaozhou (near Canton) to the capital, Nanking. On Yang Tingyun's involvement, see Yang Zhen'e, Yang Qiyuan xiansheng nianpu, pp. 17-18.

[19] The "Donglin Party" began in 1604 as a regional academy, and quickly attracted to itself scholars who shared a desire for conservative political action. As its members won posts in the higher reaches of administration, the group was able to press for dismissal of high officials and replace them with its allies. In 1625-26, however, the notorious eunuch Wei Zhongxian was able to lead a purge of several hundred Donglin members, imprisoning or executing its leaders. On the Donglin movement and its adherents, see Chen Ding, Donglin liezhuan (1711; rpt, Beijing: Zhongguo shudian, 1991) and Heinrich Busch, "The Tung-lin Academy and its Political and Philosophical Significance," Monumenta Serica 14 (1955), pp. 1-163. Huang Zongxi's account (Records of Ming Scholars, pp. 223-253) bears the marks of a defensio pro domo: his father was a prominent Donglin figure. For further notes on Jesuit-Donglin links, see Jacques Gernet, Chine et christianisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1982; English translation, China and the Christian Impact, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 36-38, and also "Politique et religion lors des premiers contacts entre Chinois et missionnaires jésuites," L'Intelligence de la Chine (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), pp. 215-243. Yang Tingyun had ties to the Donglin academy (Busch, pp. 43, 156), as did many scholars friendly to the Jesuits; to claim, however, that the Donglin group was of Christian inspiration (as did Henri Bernard, following Daniel Bartoli: see the discussion in Busch, pp. 156-163) is certainly excessive. At most, it seems that Yang and other converts hoped to broker the sort of alliance that Bernard and Bartoli report as fact.

[20] On Ricci, see L. Carrington Goodrich and Chaoying Fang, eds., Dictionary of Ming Biography (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), vol. II, pp. 1137-1144, and Jonathan Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983). The Fathers' adoption of the dress and manners of the literatus (i.e., aspirant official) was preceded by a twelve-year interlude during which the foreign priests had taken the identity of Buddhist monks. On the Jesuits' "conversion to the order of the literati" and its many implications, see Lionel Jensen, Manufacturing `Confucianism' (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), chapter two.

[21] Ming shi, ch. 326 ("Wai guo zhuan: Yidaliya"), in Ershiwu shi (rpt., Shanghai: Guji, 1991), vol. 10, p. 929. The yi of hao yi zhe, meaning "different, strange," is also found in the compound yiduan, "heresy": see above, p. 000. By 1617 the Jesuit presence had begun to appear a threat to social order: in that year a memorial was submitted urging their expulsion, alleging, among other reasons, that "From Matteo Ricci's entrance into China, the number of Europeans here has not ceased to grow. A certain Wang Fengsu [Alfonso Vagnoni], living in Nanjing, did nothing but stir up the populace with the religion of the Lord of Heaven. From gentlemen and officials down to the common people of the lanes and alleys, many are attracted to follow him. . . Their religion is no different from the White Lotus and Non-Action sects." (Ibid., p. 930.) On the "Jesuit textual community" as a cult, see Jensen, Manufacturing `Confucianism,' chapter three.

[22] Fonti Ricciane, I, 368-369. For the text, see Li Zhizao, ed., Tianxue chuhan (1628, rpt. Taipei: Xuesheng, 1965), vol. I, pp. 299-320. Li Zhi liked Jiaoyou lun so much, he had his disciples make blocks and print a new edition (Fonti Ricciane, II, p. 68).

[23] Busch, "The Tung-lin Academy," p. 81. As Gernet observes, one obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity among the lettered classes was that it leveled social distinctions (Chine et christianisme, p. 160).

[24] This was Jiao Hong, on whom see Edward T. Ch'ien, "Chiao Hung and the Revolt Against Ch'eng-Chu Orthodoxy" in Wm. Theodore de Bary and the Conference on Seventeenth-Century Chinese Thought, eds., The Unfolding of Neo-Confucianism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), pp. 271-303.

[25] Fonti Ricciane, II, pp. 65-68. Zhuangyuan, "primus," is the title of the top-ranked examination candidate in a given year; the honor remained with one for life. On the syncretism of the "three sects" (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism) and its origins in the "left-wing" tradition issued from Wang Yangming, see Busch, "The Tung-lin Movement," pp. 83-84, and Fonti Ricciane, I, pp. 131-132, II, 187. For biographical sketches of other of Ricci's friends, see for example ibid., I, 371-372, II, 42-43, 46-47. On Li Zhi's life, see Goodrich and Fang, Dictionary of Ming Biography, vol. I, pp. 807-818; on his impressions of Ricci, see Li Zhi, Xu fen shu, ch. 1 (in: Fen shu, Xu fen shu, Beijing: Zhonghua shudian, 1975), p. 35 (translated by Gernet, Chine et christianisme, p. 29-30), and Fen shu, p. 247. On these encounters, see Otto Franke, "Li Tschi und Matteo Ricci," Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1938, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, no. 5. On Li Zhi's thought generally, see Jean-François Billeter, Li Zhi, philosophe maudit (Paris: Droz, 1979).

[26] Ricci here follows closely the phrasing of Zhang Wenda's memorial (on which see below). Zhang summarizes Li Zhi's career thus: "While in the strength of his youth, Li Zhi held official position, but in later years he shaved his head [and became a lay monk]. Recently he has printed A Book to be Concealed, A Book for Burning, Zhuowu's Book of Great Virtue, and othr such works which circulate throughout our empire. He perplexes and confuses the minds of the people by contending that Lü Buwei and Li Yuan were wise counselors, that Li Si was a genius, that Feng Dao was an unrecognized sage, that Zhuo Wenjun had the right way of selecting a mate, that Qin Shihuang was the greatest ruler of all time, and that Confucius had insufficient grounds for issuing praise and blame--all mad, flagitious, aberrant and wilful theses, that must be abolished." Cited by Gu Yanwu , "Li Zhi," Rizhi lu (Sibu beiyao edition, Shanghai: Shangwu, 1947), 18/28b.

[27] The memorial (dated April 14, 1602) was the work of Zhang Wenda, whose son later became a convert (Fonti Ricciane, II, 183; see also Busch, "The Tung-lin Academy," p. 89). For the text, see Gu Yanwu, "Li Zhi," Rizhi lu, 18/28b-29b. On the ties among Zhang Wenda, Feng Qi and the Donglin and Jesuit milieux, see Gernet, L'Intelligence de la Chine, pp. 236-237.

[28] Mentioned in the text of Ricci's funeral inscription, where discussions with Ricci are said to have inspired Feng's censure of heterodoxy (Fonti Ricciane, III, p. 11).

[29] Fonti Ricciane, II, pp. 182-186. A translation of Feng Qi's request and its imperial rescript appears on pp. 184-187. For the original texts, see Gu Yanwu, "Kechang jin yue", Rizhi lu, 18/21b-23a. Gu's comments on Feng's memorial pass on some examples of unorthodox (in some cases, simply incompetent) interpretations that had been condoned by official examiners in the years before 1603.

[30] In the end, the rebuilding of a Confucian orthodoxy by the Qing government after 1644 doomed Ricci's policy to failure by depriving it of a problem to which a Donglin-influenced Christianity could serve as a solution. The Qing put the examinations back on a lixue basis and discouraged the Jesuits from seeking converts among the people. A missionary contingent resided in the imperial palace, providing mathematical and scientific instruction.

[31] The language and arguments of Yang Tingyun's repudiation of Buddhism echo those attributed to Zhu Xi, the twelfth-century definer of Confucian orthodoxy, in the latter's Conversations on Various Topics. See Zhuzi yulei (Siku quanshu edition), 126/1a-8b, reprinted in Zhuzi zhuzi yulei (Shanghai: Guji chubanshe, 1992), pp. 539-542.

[32] The political leader of the Donglin group at this time was Yang Lian, the instigator of many reviews and impeachments from within the Censorate. See Hucker, The Ming Censorial System, pp. 63-64 on Yang and pp. 165-171 on the rise in Donglin power between 1620 and 1624.

[33] For example, the "sinophilie" described in Etiemble's massive work L'Europe chinoise (Paris: Gallimard, 1988-1989), or the satirical orientalism of Montesquieu's Lettres persanes.

[34] In De Potestate summi ponteficis, 1610. "Indirect power" means the right to excommunicate a disobedient ruler, whose subjects might then legitimately desert him. The Jesuits made things difficult for themselves by clinging to a strong version of the argument for papal authority in a country where the power to license all cults rested with the emperor (see Fonti Ricciane, I, p. 131). On the discovery of the conflict between the jurisdictional claims of the Emperor and the Pope, and the use made of this conflict by anti-missionary writers, see Gernet, Chine et christianisme, pp. 143-189.

[35] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan III: 42 (1651; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 428. Hobbes offers a philosophical grounding for the thirty-seventh of the Church of England's "Articles of Religion" (1562), while answering Bellarmine. See also Philippe de Mornay, The Mysterie of Iniquitie. . . Where is also defended the right of emperors, kings, and Christian princes against the assertions of the Cardinals Bellarmine and Baronius (London, 1612).

[36] See Etiemble, L'Europe chinoise; Virgile Pinot, La Chine et la formation de l'esprit philosophique en France (Paris: Geuthner, 1932); Robert Batchelor, "Enlightenment and the Imitation of China" (Ph.D dissertation, UCLA, 1996).

[37] See for example Etiemble, Les Jésuites en Chine and L'Europe chinoise; David Mungello, Leibniz and Neo-Confucianism: The Search for Accord (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977); Gernet, Chine et christianisme; Jonathan Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (New York: Knopf, 1984); Hans Küng and Julia Ching, Christianity and Chinese Religions (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Mungello: Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989); Daniel J. Cook and Henry Rosemont, Jr., eds. and trs., Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Writings on China (Chicago: Open Court, 1994); Lionel Jensen, Manufacturing `Confucianism.'

[38] Chine et christianisme, p. 127. See also ibid., pp. 31, 49, 68-70, 123, 124, 134, 333.

[39] The papal decree of 1704, condemning the Jesuits' accommodation of Christianity to Confucian practices, assumes just such a definition of translation.

[40] Chine et christianisme, p. 332. For a social interpretation of the reasons for claiming to find incommensurability between languages, discourses, or theories, see Mario Biagioli, Galileo, Courtier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 211-244. The equivalence theory of translation is theoretically aligned with the correspondence, or representational, theory of truth. It is odd that Gernet's predilection for relativist conclusions should be based on such criteria, unless it is the failure of those criteria to operate that triggers the relativism. For an argument which follows a similar path, see Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), esp. pp. 349-350. Rorty, however, embraces the conclusion Gernet implicitly rejects: where no representational equivalences are to be found, we might as well take practical consensus ("edifying") as our standard.

41 On pun as the nucleus of allegory, see Maureen Quilligan, The Language of Allegory: Defining the Genre (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979).

[42] On seventeenth- and eighteenth-century intellectual politics, see Elman, From Philosophy to Philology and Classicism and Kinship, as well as R. Kent Guy, The Emperor's Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Ch'ien-lung Era (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1987).