Manufacturing Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilization

Overview

Could it be that the familiar and beloved figure of Confucius was invented by Jesuit priests? In Manufacturing Confucianism, Lionel M. Jensen reveals this very fact, demonstrating how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Western missionaries used translations of the ancient ru tradition to invent the presumably historical figure who has since been globally celebrated as philosopher, prophet, statesman, wise man, and saint.
Tracing the history of the Jesuits’ invention of Confucius...

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Manufacturing Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilization

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Overview

Could it be that the familiar and beloved figure of Confucius was invented by Jesuit priests? In Manufacturing Confucianism, Lionel M. Jensen reveals this very fact, demonstrating how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Western missionaries used translations of the ancient ru tradition to invent the presumably historical figure who has since been globally celebrated as philosopher, prophet, statesman, wise man, and saint.
Tracing the history of the Jesuits’ invention of Confucius and of themselves as native defenders of Confucius’s teaching, Jensen reconstructs the cultural consequences of the encounter between the West and China. For the West, a principal outcome of this encounter was the reconciliation of empirical investigation and theology on the eve of the scientific revolution. Jensen also explains how Chinese intellectuals in the early twentieth century fashioned a new cosmopolitan Chinese culture through reliance on the Jesuits’ Confucius and Confucianism. Challenging both previous scholarship and widespread belief, Jensen uses European letters and memoirs, Christian histories and catechisms written in Chinese, translations and commentaries on the Sishu, and a Latin summary of Chinese culture known as the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus to argue that the national self-consciousness of Europe and China was bred from a cultural ecumenism wherein both were equal contributors.

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Editorial Reviews

Lingua Franca
In Manufacturing Confucianism, Jensen argues that the Jesuits, looking for a way to penetrate the closed corridors of China's intellectual elite, discovered in Kongzi both a reassuringly familiar figure and an irresistible opportunity....Relations between China and the West have long been strained....If Lionel Jensen is right, cooperation between the hemispheres has an equally proud history; not all of it has been told.
Atlantic Monthly
If the New Confucians are wrong about Confucius-if, that is, he never was the humane sage and ethicist of popular imagination, and Confucianism as commonly perceived is largely a mythical concoction-their theories and platform would suddenly rest on a shakier base. That is precisely the premise of a new strain of Confucian scholarship that has stirred excitement and controversy. The scholarship takes on traditional understandings of Confucianism in two ways: by questioning its origins and by questioning its Chineseness....The second big issue-the Chineseness of Confucianism-is the focus of Lionel M. Jensen....Jensen contends that there was no such thing as Confucianism until Jesuit missionaries entered China in the late sixteenth century....[A]mong younger Chinese-born scholars who have no ideological stake in Confucianism as a counterweight to Maoism, efforts like those of Jensen...to place the reputed sage in the historical context of the culture that produced him come as a relief.
Rocky Mountain News
[I]t's of considerable importance to the modern world if the most recent rewriting owes as much to sixteenth-century Italian Catholicism as it does to Chinese imperial history. China and the West are closer than they have ever been, closer surely to each other than either culture is to its antecedents 400 years ago. When the Asian economies were flying high, one often-cited reason was 'Confucian values,' generally understood as a willingness to subordinate radical individualism to the good of society. Jensen's work opens the possibility that those values are more deeply shared than we have realized.
China Quarterly
[W]ritten with much humor, some irony, and, despite disclaimers, a little 'post-modern' irreverence...all the more interesting for readers interested in Confucianism as a catalyst for East-West cultural exchanges. This reviewer has no doubt that the argument of re-invention of culture is historically and universally accurate.
Religious Studies Review
Perhaps the most important work on Confucianism ever published in any language...[Jensen] demonstrates with acute precision how specific Western and Chinese interpretations shaped each other, from the normative claims of late-imperial Chinese intellectuals to the perspectives of leading Western scholars today. This fascinating, monumental study should be required reading for all who study Asia or who endeavor to understand other cultures.
Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
[A] salutary effect of Jensen's book might be that no serious scholar in Chinese studies will [again] use the term Confucian or Confucianism except in the most guarded circumstances.
From the Publisher
“A thesis that will scandalize cultural purists: the ‘Confucius’ we love, honor and emulate springs from the intercultural trafficking of seventeenth-century Jesuit missionaries. Jensen argues his case on many planes, with nuance and bedrock affection for both China and sinology.”—Haun Saussy, Stanford University, and author of The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic

“Jensen makes his case with a forceful combination of detailed sinological research and rigorous reasoning. It is certain to be a focus of discussion for many decades to come. Indeed, it will be a significant milestone in the field.”—Hoyt Cleveland Tillman, Arizona State University, and author of Confucian Discourse and Chu Hsi’s Ascendancy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822320340
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1997
  • Pages: 472
  • Lexile: 1760L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Lionel M. Jensen is Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Program in Chinese Studies at the University of Colorado at Denver.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Acknowledgments
Note
Chronology
Introduction: Confucius, Kongzi, and the Modern Imagination 1
Pt. 1 The Manufacture of Confucius and Confucianism
1 The Jesuits, Confucius, and the Chinese 31
2 There and Back Again: The Jesuits and Their Texts in China and Europe 77
Interlude: The Meaning and End of Confucianism - A Meditation on Conceptual Dependence 135
Pt. 2 Making Sense of Ru and Making Up Kongzi
3 Ancient Texts, Modern Narratives: Nationalism, Archaism, and the Reinvention of Ru 151
4 Particular Is Universal: Hu Shi, Ru, and the Chinese Transcendence of Nationalism 217
Epilogue: At Century's End - Ecumenical Nativism and the Economy of Delight 265
Glossary 287
Notes 305
Abbreviations 305
Bibliography 379
Index 421
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