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[Letters of Joachim Bouvet. mss. Jap-Sin IV, 5 E]
AuthorBouvet, Joachim 白晉, 1656-1730
Pub. Location---Publisher---
Date1718-1721Phys. Desc.pdf mass. [64 frames]
LocationARSI, and Digital ArchivesCall NumberBV3427.B3437
Letters of Joachim Bouvet. mss. Jap-Sin IV, 5 E
File name from ARSI page.
Some pdf frames represent two leaves of the originals.

Citation Source: Albert Chan, S.J., Chinese books and documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, pp.524-531.
Jap-Sin IV, 5 E

6. Letter of Joachim Bouvet to Father Jean-Joseph Guibert, Peking, 24 November 1721.
Written in French, Chinese ink on Chinese paper.
Two folios (incomplete). 24.4 x 17 cm.

Bouvet complains that his fellow Jesuits went against his writings without understanding what they are about. On folio 3 he writes:

Il est bien aise d’ecrire d’ici en Europe mes interpretations ne seront point reçuës ici de doctes Chinois. Mais ceux qui osent ecrire ces choses avant d’en avoir fait l’epreuve doivent ils en estre sur leur paroles. Et c’est parce que je ne pretens pas non plus estre cru sur la mienne que j’ay sollicité ici si long temps en vain la liberté necessaire de consulter les chinois de que j’insiste aujourdhui si fortement dans une lettre a n. R.P.Gnal pour obtenir cette liberté si necessaire pour faire connoistre la verité.

On dit que les Missionaires flamans, italiens, portugais, et françois ne sont tous tant qu’ils sont nullement pour ma doctrine, quoy que la plus part en jugent sur la traduction et non sur le chinois. A cela je responds qu’aucun d’eux n’a jamais pu jusqu’a ici ni du prononcer ma doctrine, dont il n’ont vu que quelques propositions preliminaires mais si infidelement traduites, que le P. Foucquet tres capable d’en juger les traita en les voyant de ce nom flagitiosae versions, ce qui m’enpescha de continuer de rien produire devant les juges si pleins d’iniquité en cette matiere.

Au ajoutte, que le P. de Premare qui auparavant estoit dans mes sentiments proteste qu’il s’estoit trompé et qu’il a changé. Mais ce n’est pas les Adversaires du P. de Premare qu’il en fut croire, et qui furent cause du changement, apparent qu’il fist paroistre pendant quelques mois apres s’estre laissé seduire; mais c’est le P. Premare lui mesme a qui l’on doit s’en rapporter, et, aux ecrits qu’il a envoyes depuis en Europe et dont il m’en addressé plusieurs.

. . . j’espère avec l’aide de N. Sgr que tout le fond de doctrine que j’ay envoyés jusqu’ici a Ve Rce auroit un jour toute approbation que je souhaite pourvu [folio 4] que Ve Rce veuille bien m’aider (comme je n’en puis douter) de tout son credit auprès de N.R.P.Gnal pour obtenir la permission et la liberté que je lui demande avec tant de justice.

7. Letter of Joachim Bouvet to the General of the Jesuit Order, Peking, 30 December 1718.
Chinese ink on Chinese paper. Three folios, written in Latin.

Bouvet tries to defend his writings pointing out that he has full support from both Foucquet and Gollet who consider his writings as the best shortcut for the conversion of the whole of China.

Speaking of the Ode Jiang yuan 姜嫄 in the Book of Songs (詩經), Bouvet writes: “Anni 1707 misi ad P. Placidum Hervieu . . . it ut P. Hervieu in provinciis, et ego Pekini, illud ut ait Auctor commentarii offenderemus incredulis, id est Patribus Lugdunensibus & ceteris, qui non possunt sibi persuadere ulla posse referiri vestigia sublimiorum mysteriorum in omnibus sinorum monumentis” (f. 2r). Bouvet then states that de Prémare agrees with his interpretation and quotes de Prémare’s comment written in French. He begs the General of the Jesuit Order to appoint men of learning to examine his writings (f. 3r). Once more he affirms his support from Foucquet and Gollet.

8. A letter of Joachim Bouvet to the General of the Jesuit Order, Peking, 25 November 1716.
Two folios written in Latin; Chinese ink on Chinese paper. 32.5 x 24.5 cm.

Folio 1r bears a Latin inscription (in European ink), which gives a summary of the whole letter:

Missio Sinensis ᅵ Pekini 25 Nov. 1716 ᅵ P. Joachimus Bouvet missus ᅵ ad reparandam [..]adem quam religioni ᅵ intulit publicatio ultimi Decreti pontifi ᅵ cii, multum confere potest executio ᅵ operis a se suscepti a multis annis pro ᅵ indaganda et elucidanda Doctrina in ᅵ Libris sinicis contenta hoc opus, ut ᅵ sperat, habebit apud Sinas vim ᅵ demonstrationis Evangelicae proprie dictae, ᅵ et plurimum valebit ad conversionem ᅵ totius imperii Sinensis. ᅵ Subjungit quandam operis idem ᅵ ait se magna cum claritate compense ᅵ antiquos Libros Sinarum esse libros in ᅵ quibus ante et post diluvium servabantur ᅵ sacrae et primitivae Legis traditiones, et ᅵ librorum illorum authorem fuisse ᅵ patriarcham Henoch, et post fuisse ab ᅵ aquis diluvii ereptos cura patriarchae ᅵ Noë et per Semum aut eius filios imperii Sinis fundatores fuisse ad Sinas translatos. Totam canonicorum librorum doctrinam revocat ad triplicem ᅵ mundi statum, mundi scilicet a Deo primum ᅵ creati deinde per [ptrem] corrupti ad demum ᅵ per deum incarnatum reparatio qui ᅵ triplex status demonstratur in traditionibus ᅵ sinicis, ut ipse putat. Caeterum illud ᅵ opus suscepit jussu Imperatoris, qui eius ᅵ ideam constanter approbavit, et de ᅵ conversione ope huius operis ᅵ obtinendo bene sperat. ᅵ Mittet anno proximo scriptum magis prolixum.

9. A letter of Joachim Bouvet to the General of the Jesuit Order.
Written in Latin, in Bouvet’s handwriting. Chinese ink on Chinese paper. Two folios. 32.5 x 24.5 cm.

There is no date given; since the letter is substantially the same as no. 8 (only the wording varies a little), someone added in European ink on top of folio 1: “25 Novemb, 1716.”

10. Joachim Bouvet’s letter to Jean-Joseph Guibert, Assistant of the French Province in Rome. Peking, 26 May 1719.
Written in French. Three and one-half folios; Chinese ink on Chinese paper. 33.4 x 24 cm.
Folio 3v bears the address as above.

This letter was addressed to Giovanni Laureati (利國安 ,若望, 1666–1727), then Visitor to the Chinese and Japanese missions. Bouvet made a second copy which he sent to Jean-Joseph Guibert. On the left top corner of folio 1 there is an inscription in French that reads: “(Au R. P. Jean Laureati ᅵ Visiteur) ᅵ avec un long cahier ᅵ d’extraits de lettres ᅵ du P. Premare, qui ᅵ font voir qu’il ne differe ᅵ en n’en d’essence et, de moy ᅵ sur toute la doctrine des ᅵ livres Chinois.” The letter points out that:

1. The quarrels between Portuguese and French Jesuits in China are not good for the Church or for the Jesuit Order.
2. The Kangxi emperor had taken interest in his (i.e., Bouvet’s) work and the General of the Jesuits also wished him success.
3. For many years he had been studying ancient Chinese writings in relation to Catholicism.
4. Some of the French Jesuits in China underestimated his writings by saying that they were all imaginative; as a result it might diminish the prestige of the French both in China and in Europe; furthermore the Portuguese Jesuits in China were afraid that if the French Jesuits in China succeeded in their publications they might lower the reputation of the Portuguese Jesuits in the missions.
5. He finally decided to give his writings, the work of twenty-five years, to his superiors for their consideration, hoping to obtain permission for publication.
6. Finally, Bouvet begs Laureati to petition the General to appoint three intelligent men who will be able to pronounce a fair judgment on his writings. These three men whom Bouvet had in mind, were Hervieu, Foucquet and de Prémare. According to him they were well versed in theology and had acquired profound knowledge in ancient Chinese studies.

The last folio of this document bears a short note:

Au tres R. Pere Assistant.
Mon Reverend Pere.
Cette lettre apres avoir esté luë par le R. Pere Laureati Visiteur de ces Missions, avec tous les extraits des lettres du P. De Premare que je lui presenta en mesme temps: Sa Rce, qui avant de venir ici avoit esté etrangement prevenu par le R. Pere Dentrecolles; a son arrivée a Pekin ayant esté comme obsedé par les PP. de Tartre [1669–1724], Parrenin [1665–1741], Régis [Jean-Baptiste Régis, 1663–1738], de Mailla [1669–1748], Jartoux [1669–1720], qui notoirement depuis une 12ne d’années se sont montrés si contraires a toutes mes etudes et ecritures S. Rc dis je a montré depuis en toute occasion tellement favoriser leur disposition qu’il me rendit ensuite froidement cette lettre avec tous ces extraits de lettres sans daigner y faire seulement un mot de reponse ni de vive voix ni par ecrit. Comme je l’en sollicite plusieurs fois.

11. A letter from Joachim Bouvet to the French Jesuits who resided in China.
Written in French, Chinese ink on Chinese paper.

Twenty-two pages plus two title pages with the address: “A mes RR. Peres Jesuites François missres ᅵ dans les diverses Provinces de la Chine.” 32.3 x 23.3 cm.
Bouvet was also against Dentrecolles, superior of the French Jesuits: “. . . de la manier du monde la plus injuste contre ce dessein et contre ma personne; et sur tout, ce que le R. P. Contancin (here a note is given on the margin: Sup.r de la maison de JJ.ss de Pekin) prévenu comme eux, et qui le ecoute de la mesme manière . . . .”

Bouvet tells that he entered the Society of Jesus with the intention of going to the Chinese mission, and had prepared himself with ancient languages in order to compare the histories of these countries with that of China and the ancient Chinese books. After fifteen years of assiduous studies of Chinese books he came to the conclusion that the contents of these books are also in the books of Moses and the Prophets and in the teaching of Holy Scriptures. He affirms that even Chinese scholars of high standing (e.g., Li Guangdi 李光地, 1642–1718) would agree with him in his interpretations (p. 2, last paragraph, and p. 3, top lines).
He laments that even his superior, Dentrecolles, did not understand him, instead of helping he wrote to the General to hinder his work (p. 4).
Bouvet suggests that censors of his writings should be men of learning; otherwise they would be of no help. His own choices are Gollet and de Prémare. He tells that the Kangxi emperor takes great interest in the Jesuits who are studying ancient Chinese writings. Formerly the emperor summoned J.-F. Foucquet to Peking precisely to help him (Bouvet) to do the research (p. 5).
Bouvet expresses the difficulties he had in mind. Because of the command of his superiors he felt embarrassed when several times the emperor asked to see his writings. He had to excuse himself by saying that he needed more time for research before he could start to write. It happened that one day he presented one of his short essays to the emperor and after having finished reading it the emperor sought the opinion of the Visitor, something that Bouvet never expected (pp. 6–11).

Nine of the Jesuits in Peking, headed by Kilian Stumpf (紀理安 ,雲風, 1655–1720), Visitor of the China and Japan Missions, signed a document, which they presented to the emperor in the absence of Bouvet. This occasion made the emperor suspicious that Bouvet was timorous. Eventually he lost interest in the work of Bouvet. An edict issued in April or May 1716 reads: “Bai Jin’s [Bouvet] work on the Yijing is not obligatory; he may do it or leave it. If he intends to do it let him do it by himself. There is no need to get help from anyone or to trouble his head about the subject. When his work is accomplished, let him give me notice.” Seemingly the emperor had followed the suggestion of the missioners who thought they might discourage Bouvet by cutting off help from outsiders (p. 12). All this time Bouvet insists on the study of the Yijing:

qui est un livre d’un assez petit volume, mais qui semble comprendre sous les nombres mysterieux et sous le style figuré de ses charactères hieroglyphiques (où tout paroit avoir quelque chose de devin) ce qu’il y a de plus sublime dans la sagesse et philosophie Theologique des anciens Patriarches, je veux dire dans cette science toute celeste, que Dieu selon l’anciennes traditions des Hebreux et des chinois mesme, enseigna par le ministère des Anges, a ceux qu’il destina des les premiers siècles du monde, pour estre les premiers maistres du genre humain; et qui selon l’idée qu’en donne le sage, et St. Augustin (de lib. arb. 2° cap. 11) a tres bien comprise, se trouva renfermée toute entiere sous ces deux termes, nombre & sagesse. (p. 14)
Despite the pressure Bouvet received from his superiors in the Chinese mission, which he considers an injustice, he has a clear conscience because in 1713 he had received a letter directly from the General of the Jesuit Order encouraging him to go ahead with his studies in the ancient Chinese writings.

12. A letter from Joachim Bouvet to Jean-Joseph Guibert, Peking, 1 November 1720.
Written in French; Chinese ink on Chinese paper.
Eight pages. 32.8 x 24.5 cm.

The first page (which bears no number) has an inscription that reads: “A mon Tres Reverend Pere ᅵ Le tres Reverend Pere Guibert de la ᅵ Compagnie de Jesus, Assistant de France ᅵ A Rome: 1ª via.” The last page (which bears no number) is a postscript. The main body of the letter consists of six pages in Bouvet’s handwriting.

On the first page, Bouvet mentions the four packages of his writings which he sent to Guibert to illustrate that Christian vestiges can be found in ancient Chinese writing. He was surprised at the sudden recall of J.F. Foucquet to Europe: that a sick and feeble man had to make such a rough long voyage. He also regretted that so little preparation was given to the transfer of the small library of Foucquet: “sa petite bibliotheque chinoise des livres choisis, qui est comme un veritable thresor, d’ou avec l’aide de n. Sr il tirera de puissans secours pour la salut de cette mission desolée et pour la conversion des chinois . . . .”

On the second page, Bouvet felt that it was a pity that Pierre V. Tartre was made superior of the French house in Peking. As a result, both his and Foucquet’s work was hindered.
On pages 3–6, Bouvet repeated the unfortunate incident of the nine Jesuits who denounced his writing before the emperor (cf. Jap-Sin IV, 5 E, no. 11, pp. 4–5). He was disappointed that even de Prémare who had helped him previously had now gone over to his accusers.
The Postscript is about the news of the recall of Foucquet back to Europe. The order came from Rome to the Visitor in Canton. Accordingly, the Jesuit superior in Peking sent a messenger (un valet nommé Augustine) to inform João Mourão ( 穆敬遠,若望,1681–1726) and Dominique Parrenin to obtain permission from the emperor to release Foucquet from his services at the court. Bouvet was bitter because he was not informed until after the affair was accomplished.

13. A letter from Joachim Bouvet to Julien-Placide Hervieu (赫蒼壁,子拱 1671–1746), Peking, 10 August, 1721.
Written in French; Chinese ink on Chinese paper.
Fourteen pages in Bouvet’s handwriting. 32.8 x 24.4 cm.

This letter begins with: “Mon Reverend Pere” (giving no name of the person addressed). However, on pages 9–11 Bouvet makes mention of his own writing, the Gujin jingtian jian 古今敬天鑑 (A study of the worship of Heaven [God] in ancient and modern times) and its Latin translation. Page eleven reads: “ . . . alors le P. Gerbillon a ma priere, engagea Ve Rce et les PP. De Premare et Mailla à faire un version latine de cette nouvelle piéce, vous laissant la liberté d’y changer et rentrancher a que vous jugeriez a propos, a quoy je consentis tres volontiers, a fin que rien ne vous fist de la peine dans ce travail.”

If we turn to Pfister (p. 438, n.8), we read: “De cultu celesti Sinarum veterum et modernorum, liber novus e Sinico idiomate in latinum versus a PP. Hervieu et de Prémare, S.J., auctore J. Bouvet, anno 1706, MS., à la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris. Le titre chinois est: 古今敬天鑑 Kou kin king T’ien kien.”

Furthermore, Pfister in the biography of P. Julien-Placide says: “Il [i.e., Hervieu] persévéra dans ces travaux pendant plusieurs années et cueillit des fruits abondants, jusqu’à ce qu’il fût choisi, en 1719, pour être le quatrième supérieur général de la Mission; il succédait au P. d’Entrecolles” (p. 581). Bouvet on page eleven of the present document states: “ . . . Ve Rce qui lui [i.e., Dentrecolles] a succede et a le mesme pouvoir en main.” Finally, Bouvet ends his letter with the phrase: “Votre tres humble et tres obeisant serviteur,” which implies the expression of a subject towards his superior.

With all this evidence we can quite safely conclude that this letter was addressed to Julien-Placide Hervieu. In this letter, Bouvet mentions that the Kangxi emperor greatly appreciates his assiduous studies of the ancient Chinese writings. At the three audiences given by the Kangxi emperor to the Papal Legate Maillard de Tournon, the emperor cited and praised Bouvet’s book, the Gujin jingtian jian, in the presence of the three Jesuit superiors of the three churches in Peking. Bouvet is convinced that the Rujiao 儒教 of the Chinese is closely related to Christianity. What they call Tian and Xam-ti [Shangdi 上帝] is in reality the true Creator of the universe. The teachings in the Jing 經 or Chinese Classics have the same source as the holy Scriptures.

He complained that many of his fellow Jesuits contradicted him on his interpretations, which he himself considered as important for the good of the missions and for the salvation of souls. He said he had shown the Gujin jingtian jian to de Tournon. Then he asked if the emperor would find some learned men to go through the text of this book and make suitable corrections. To this the emperor said that he would do it himself. Bouvet then states that since the Kangxi emperor had always been favorable to the missioners and their work, the missioners have an obligation to obey his orders. The fact that the emperor encouraged him (Bouvet) to study the ancient Chinese writings is a great help to missionary work and to the salvation of souls. Hence the order of Dentrecolles forbidding him to do his work was against the will of the emperor.

Bouvet goes on to state that his book, the Cou kim kien tien kim, for the past fifteen years had been approved by diverse superiors. In fact when J.-F. Gerbillon was superior of the French missioners he had given this book to Han Tan 韓菼 (1637–1704), President of the Hanlin Academy and a renowned scholar, who having read the book, wrote a preface in praise (cf. ECCP 1:275). Gerbillon then asked Bouvet to ask Hervieu, Prémare and de Mailla to make a Latin translation of it.

At the end (pp. 13–14) Bouvet gives a summary of a letter which P. Bertrand-Claude Tacherau de Linières S.J. (1658–1746, also Lignières or Linyères) wrote to him: Extrait d’une lettre du R.P. Delinyere, ecrite de Paris au P. Bouvet à Pekin, le 10 fevrier, 1720. It deals, among other items, with Bouvet’s studies of ancient Chinese writings and the views of French scholars about the subject.

Local access folder ARSI I-IV under Jap-Sin IV-5E.
Online on ARSI via Internet Archive.

Subject(s)Bouvet, Joachim 白晉, 1656-1730--Correspondence
Bouvet, Joachim 白晉, 1656-1730--Writings on Figurism
Figurism--China--Sources
Jesuits--China--Controversial literature--Early works to 1800
Chinese Rites controversy--Sources
Rec. TypeManuscript (pdf)LanguageLatin, Chinese, French
CollectionARSI, and Ricci Institute LibraryRec. #19645