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The Story of a SteleChina's Nestorian Monument and Its Reception in the West, 1625-1916$
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Michael Keevak

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9789622098954

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789622098954.001.0001

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Eighteenth-Century Problems and Controversies

Eighteenth-Century Problems and Controversies

(p.60) (p.61) 3 Eighteenth-Century Problems and Controversies
The Story of a Stele

Michael Keevak

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter shows that interest in the monument continued to be largely coextensive with an interest in China as such, and conversely that surveys of the Chinese empire tended to include some sort of verdict about the alleged existence of Christianity there. It specifically explores Voltaire's comments. Voltaire's long and prolific career, in fact, is filled from beginning to end with allusions, references, and appeals to China, Chinese history, and Chinese moral philosophy. There is some irony in the fact that Voltaire accuses others of self-deception when his own fantasies have inspired such a long and confused presentation. The early nineteenth century saw an important new development in the European understanding of China, and one that brought with it a renewed flurry of interest in solving the “problem” of the Nestorian stone once and for all. In conclusion, it can be seen just how far eighteenth-century sinophilia had shifted in the other direction, as not only the Jesuits but even China itself had come to be seen as an inherently deceitful entity.

Keywords:   China, Chinese empire, Chinese history, moral philosophy, Voltaire, Christianity, sinophilia

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