The Question of Hu

The Question of Hu

4.5 10
by Jonathan D. Spence
     
 

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This lively and elegant book by the acclaimed historian Jonathan D. Spence reconstructs an extraordinary episode in the early intercourse between Europe and China. It is the story of John Hu, a lowly but devout Chinese Catholic who in 1722 accompanied a Jesuit missionary on a journey to France -- a journey that ended with Hu's confinement in a lunatic asylum. At once

Overview

This lively and elegant book by the acclaimed historian Jonathan D. Spence reconstructs an extraordinary episode in the early intercourse between Europe and China. It is the story of John Hu, a lowly but devout Chinese Catholic who in 1722 accompanied a Jesuit missionary on a journey to France -- a journey that ended with Hu's confinement in a lunatic asylum. At once a triumph of historical detective work and a gripping narrative, The Question of Hu deftly probes the collision of two cultures, with their different definitions of faith, madness, and moral obligation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To French Jesuit Jean-Francois Foucquet, John Hua Chinese widower from Canton and a convert to Catholicismseemed like the perfect choice to serve as the missionary's translator and assistant. So Foucquet took Hu back to Paris with him in 1722, but Hu acted bizarrely on the overseas crossing and was confined for two years in the lunatic asylum of Charenton. In this slim travelogue, historian Spence ( The Gate of Heavenly Peace ) narrates their tragic tale in the form of an imaginary log, reconstructed from French, British and Vatican archives. Hu's behavior was clearly irrational: he wielded a knife, made strange proclamations, slept outdoors. But was he insane, and if so, did his journey to the West somehow trigger the reaction? Father Doucquet acted badly (he ditched Hu, who became an embarrassment to him), but to what extent was the Jesuit responsible for Hu's fate? The available evidence can't answer these questions, and we are left with a fragmentary puzzle. Reader's Subscription Book Club selection. (October)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679725800
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1989
Pages:
187
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.53(d)

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Question of Hu 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan D. Spence takes you on a voyage from the heart of 18th century China around the world to France, and ultimately Vatican Rome. One can get a true taste of cultural clash between Europeans and the Chinese with this book.
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