Understanding good order and chaos

Understanding good order and chaos
The Role of Books, Libraries and Jesuits
Talks / Lecture

Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace (1793–1875), Voyage autour du monde par les mers de l’Inde et de Chine (Travel Around the World by the Seas of India and China)  between 1833 and 1839, Paris: Imprimerie Royale, nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn129019.
Recording date: 
12 May 2016

Matteo Ricci, the famous 16th century pioneer Jesuit missionary to China, noted that books enabled people to understand the events of yesteryear. Thus, the Jesuits founded libraries throughout the world in a desire to share knowledge across cultures. Dr Jeremy Clarke describes the role of such books and libraries, and discusses some of the treasures on display from the Library's collection.

Dr Clarke lived in Beijing and Shanghai for a year after finishing high school, as the inaugural recipient of the Australian Young Scholar in China scholarship. He completed an undergraduate degree in Chinese language at Macquarie University, later obtaining a PhD in Pacific and Asian history at the Australian National University. He has spent a number of years as an Assistant Professor in the history department of Boston College. 

In association with the Australian Centre on China in the World.


Transcript of understanding good order and chaos

Speakers: Nathan Woolley (N), Jeremy Clarke (J)

Location: National Library of Australia

Date: 28/04/16

N:        Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the National Library of Australia. My name is Nathan Woolley; I’m the curator of the exhibition, Celestial Empire: Life in China, 1644 to 1911. Meeting here at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I thank their elders past and present for caring for this land that we’re privileged to call home.

Tonight we continue with the series of lectures that the National Library of Australia is holding in cooperation with the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University. This is in fact the eighth lecture in the series, and looking around the room I can see that many people have come to many of these lectures so I thank you again for your attendance. I’d also like to suggest that ten lectures is almost enough for a university course, so those of you who have come to more than half, you’ll be asked to sit an examination at the end of the series and for your revision I’d like to point that all the lectures in this series are actually available online at the NLA’s website so you can revise for this examination at your leisure.

Now the Celestial Empire and its public of course have been the result of a collaboration of a great number of organisations. Of course first we have to thank the National Library of China for agreeing to lend us so many fantastic items which will remain here until May 22nd, so only three weeks left now. Our commercial partners who’ve been supporting this exhibition include Shell in Australia, the Seven Network, Wanda One, Optus Singtel, Huawei, Cathay Pacific and TFE Hotels. Our event partners include, of course, the ANU’s Centre on China in the World and Asia Society Australia. Our government partners are the federal government through the National Collecting Institutions Touring Outreach Program and the Australia China Council with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And we also of course are supported by the ACT Government through Visit Canberra. I’d also like to thank you again for supporting this series and supporting the exhibition.

Tonight we have Dr Jeremy Clarke who will speak to us about the Jesuits, in China and around the world, and their role in east west cultural exchange. Dr Clarke was in the 1980s one of the six inaugural recipients of the Australian Young Scholar in China scholarship, which allowed him to live in Beijing and Shanghai for a year after finishing high school. Later, he completed an undergraduate degree in Chinese language at Macquarie University then degrees in theology and missiology followed by a PhD in Pacific and Asian History at the Australian National University. And I might note that Jeremy was in fact finishing his PhD just as I was starting mine, and he was very much someone I looked up to at the time. More recently, he has spent a number of years as an assistant professor in the History Department of Boston College. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World at the ANU, and still also a research fellow in Asian Studies at Boston College. His research to date has focused on east west cultural exchange from the sixteenth century to the present and he has a particular interest in books, images and photographs.

Tonight Dr Clarke will speak to us on the role of Jesuits in this cross-cultural exchange of knowledge. He’ll be discussing the roles of books that the Jesuits wrote and the libraries that they founded around the world. Jeremy has very kindly agreed to answer questions that you might have about his presentation so I’d ask you to save those to the end but please join me in welcoming Dr Jeremy Clarke.


J:          Thank you very much, Nathan, and congratulations on a wonderful exhibition. It’s always humbling to be introduced but in this case it’s rather funny because Nathan’s a rather tall man and in fact I’ve spent most of my life looking up to him. But it’s great to actually be back here at Canberra where I did do my doctorate at the Australian National University, and so I would like to join with Nathan and acknowledge the traditional owners as well and particularly on a day in fact when Patrick Dodson was welcomed into the Senate. I’m also conscious that it’s important to recognise the traditional owners because today and tonight, and what this library does in some ways, and what the exhibition has done, is privilege books and words and written culture and so while I’m talking about that obviously that is not ... in no way is meant to downplay the fact that there are many ways of preserving, transmitting and saving culture. Today, however, we are talking about books.

As Nathan said part of my role, part of my work has looked at east west cultural exchange, the globalisation of knowledge from the sixteenth century to the present. During the course of my doctorate I really wanted to look at what was happening in China post 1975, but my doctoral supervisor, Dr Geremie Barmé—who was the founding Director of the Centre for China in the World—kept on pushing me back earlier and earlier and earlier so I’ve kind of got stuck in the early sixteenth century in some ways. So I do look forward to a time to dealing with the present but for the moment I’m actually dealing with books and objects, material objects and so therefore it seemed very fitting to be able to come along here to the National Library and talk about some of these wonderful things on display.

During the course of this lecture I’ll also be referring to a website I had the privilege to work on, and in fact produce all the content and mine another library for lots of books, and this website tells much of the story and much of the history that I’ll be reciting tonight. So I know many of you actually are fine scholars and have retentive minds and memories, so you won’t need to cheat for your exam that Nathan’s setting, you but if you do need in fact to go to the cliff notes for this period of history you can go to this website, Ricci.bc.edu, or Beyond Ricci—and I’ll talk about why I call it that—,and this website actually has a whole range of fantastic books which are quite rare and unique, some of which are also contained here at our wonderful National Library, and that’s a fitting point actually to congratulate also the Director-General of the National Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, to say it’s fantastic the way that A, the Library has such a wonderful collection but B, that they support exhibitions like this. So these books here I’ve sought to link the books that are in here ... for instance Confucius Sinarum is also in the book in the exhibition that Nathan has curated. So you can come back and look at this in your own time and it has many different sorts of sites to look at. During the course of my lecture tonight I will actually get back and refer to that at some stage. So I think I’ve killed enough time with that.

So books and the transmission of knowledge and the material objects that contain this knowledge as we all know are fascinating and wonderful and beautiful and rare and priceless and can be small and can be large and they’re contained in private libraries and public libraries and thinking about what was happening here that Nathan and the people at the Library here and at the Guotu in Beijing were doing I wanted to look at actually the role of books, the role of libraries particularly in the early modern world and then connecting with that Jesuit history. But before that, I thought well what do libraries do? And I had the privilege to be around a number of great libraries in recent years and I was in New Haven in Connecticut, the home of the Bulldogs, which is Yale University, and there they had the Stirling Memorial Library.

And the librarian was asked ... she was asked to actually talk about the role of libraries and she said look, it’s at the heart of the university, what they do there. Yale has 15 million volumes in its collection. She went on to say that teaching and research, of course they’ve changed and they have volumes which are digitised. The website I just showed you, Ricci.bc.edu, we deliberately digitise so that you can be in Canberra or Kashgar, in Stockholm or Shanghai and look at those works. But they actually say although teaching research has changed, their view is preservation, dissemination of knowledge is at the core. You’ve actually got to get the books there, of course, so in a rather poignant and funny way here in 1718 we can actually see through the cold winter of Connecticut this cart laden with books travelling to New Haven.

Moving forward a bit in history to Boston, Boston Athenaeum. There. It’s a private library; it’s a gorgeous building on the Freedom Trail, if you’ve been to Boston. It looks out over one of those cemeteries where Samuel Adams is buried, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, all this sort of stuff, and it has this wonderful reading room filled with fantastic books, one of which actually is a rare item, it’s actually—for those wordsmiths out there—it’s a rare instance of anthropodermic bibliopegy. Boston Athenaeum is found at 10 ½ Beacon Street, not 11 or 12, it’s 10 ½ Beacon Street. So quirky in some ways, but it does what the Yale Stirling Memorial Library and other libraries do, it seeks to preserve and augment its collections.

First library in Australia, the Mitchell Library, the State Library of New South Wales. Also here we can see, this is in the foyer of the Mitchell Library as you go in. It’s on the left-hand side, it’s near that wonderful map on the floor and this is what they say, as nowadays we use such prosaic language as ‘mission statement’, here they’re thankfully actually just articulating in a much more beautiful way what they think they’re doing with books. There is a mission statement for the Mitchell Library and they say that they’re out to strengthen the community by being the trusted provider of quality information, by providing equitable access, by collecting and preserving Australia’s heritage, promoting its own role as a cultural destination and they do things like have Bloom Day for instance, celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses and they also collaborate with other libraries around the place. So we can see that libraries hold this really privileged spot.

Some of you may have seen this stone before. Does anyone know where this is? Hand up if you actually know where this is. Right-oh. Homework as ... for those of you when you leave this building this evening you look on your left-hand side and at the end of a stone column holding up this room is a glass plate and under that glass plate is this stone. I think amazing and interesting because it brings us back to what I said at the beginning about non-literate cultures, but libraries are also about preserving things, more than just books or folios or maps, it’s also preserving memories, preserving stories, preserving the pursuit itself of knowledge. So we here in Canberra are connected with those people then—in 1973 they say men—but those who were peripatetically seeking conversation about knowledge. So the Greeks very kindly reminded us that here in Australia we too are connected with this grand pursuit at the National Library.

Well what is the National Library doing? It itself has a mission statement, and in 1960 the Library Act said that the National Library was to ensure the documentary resources of national significance relating to Australia and the Australian people as well as significant non-Australian library materials such as those shown in our exhibition here, Celestial Empire. They are collected, preserved and made accessible either through the Library or through other arrangements. It goes on to also say that the Library supports learning and creative and intellectual endeavour and contributes to the vitality of Australian culture and heritage.

Some of my students at Boston College took great pride in the fact that they never ever entered the library in the College. Some students think books are boring, dull and old. Our challenge, I suppose—as scholars, teachers, people who like reading—is actually to remind people that it’s more than that, what we’re doing is collecting, preserving, making accessible and disseminating the stuff that’s contained in the books or in the memory of the books or in the people who sit around the café and talk about these books. Why so? Well that’s what I really want to explore today in this lecture through the discussion of another time, not so far ago as the Greeks in Agora but nevertheless from our time, something like 400 years ago, more than 400 years ago.

Ricci wrote to a man called Cheng Dayue. Now Cheng Dayue here was a publisher in the late Ming. He and his brother were well known for publishing best sellers and one of the things they published was a thing called Chengshi moyuan which was the Ink Garden of Master Cheng. For Chinese scholars the ink garden, so-called because of the ink pad that they would often have fantastical trails on it or the ink of course was used to make representations, pictures etc, it was itself an object of great beauty. So Cheng Dayue and his brother thought it’d be wonderful to collect, to compile basically, not an early coffee book but really I suppose an early tea book if you like, but a compendium of wonderful illustrations. He asked this strange man from the west, this missionary who came from afar, if he had a collection of images or some images he could give. And Ricci said, yes I do, and so this Chinese-produced best seller from the early 1600s also contained four images that the Italian Jesuit missionary had brought with him to China. He said in the letter where he said yes, I’m happy to help you in this endeavour, Ricci pondered upon why being printed, being in print form, being in a world of books was important, and he said those who live 100 generations after us are not yet born and I cannot tell what sort of people they will be yet thanks to the existence of written culture even though living 10,000 generations hence will be able to enter into my mind as if we were contemporaries.

And here the quotation continues as it’s on the screen, as for those worthy figures who lived a hundred generations ago, although they too are gone, yet thanks to the books they left behind we who come after can hear their modes of discourse, observe their grand demeanour and understand both the good order and chaos of their times exactly as if we were living among them.

So libraries throughout time I would argue have been and are more than just books and bookshelves, they’re about the collection, preservation and dissemination of knowledge. They’re important means of sharing in the pursuit of wisdom which takes place as we’ve seen over time and across cultures and generations. They’re both bastions and also harbingers. They’re bastions of knowledge and harbingers of possible futures.

It’s important to study this period of history because sometimes when people study the early modern world and talk about dissemination of knowledge they actually forget that the dissemination of knowledge was occurring beyond just the confines of Europe, that it was actually taking place in amazing ways between China and Korea and Japan, between China and India, from India to Africa and the Middle East, Arabia and from there also into Europe. So I put this up because I really do like the website, it’s, I think, called Mapping the Republic of Letters. It’s a project which seems to have run out of funding as many libraries often struggle with ... seem to have run out of funding, but a few years ago some scholars at Stanford were working on this Republic of Letters. The ... you might not be able to read the print but they collated things like John Locke’s letters, Voltaire’s letters, Swift’s letters, letters they wrote, letters they received, places like Dublin or Oates, places like London and indeed Twickenham.

And they actually showed over this period from 1700 to 1750. I’ll just show you actually what they can do amazing visually so between 1700 and 1750 this amazing interconnectedness, the fantastic Republic of Letters that existed in Europe at the time, as I argue. There’s another website which you may wish to look at which digitises a lot of this and traces the connections, it’s a thing called the Electronic Enlightenment.

They forget I think, or underplay, the fact that there was much exchange happening between China and this period. I chose this page because you can see most of the people effectively working in the eighteenth century but they don’t mention a man called Antoine Gaubil. He lived in Beijing between 1722 and 1759. He was an official correspondent of the Academy of Science in Paris. He was writing about astronomy, he was writing about commerce, he was writing about Chinese customs, he was also an official correspondent of the Imperial Academy in St Petersburg and was communicating [with] them with ... about things like botany, Judaism in China, whole range of those eclectic items. And he was also a correspondent over that 37 year period with the Royal Academy of England.

So there can be I think at times a forgetting of the fact that China was very much connected with the world or let’s put it another way, the world wanted to be connected with China at this time and Nathan very succinctly summarises the way that that worked in the ... in his Celestial Empire exhibition when he says information about life under the Qing was transmitted abroad by various means. Korea and Japan were critically involved as I say, in part because they had a shared written language but there were official ambassadors, there were exchanges with Tokugawa Japan and there were also Europeans even though they had limited opportunity including a few Jesuits living in China who undertook the study of its language, history and culture. And these were then supplemented by foreign accounts from Guangzhou, Canton or by reports from those few embassies that made the journey to the capital.

Nathan has collected a range of materials and books and spread them throughout those rooms downstairs. I’m sure everyone’s seen the exhibition. If you haven’t I encourage you to do so. I’m talking now over the next course about the end room, the room on the right-hand side which talks about looking from afar. This exchange which predated the period that Stanford was looking at and continued on after was rich, vital and wonderful and here is some evidence of that, these material objects. Down below is the Du Halde Encyclopaedia, which was produced in France and became quickly translated by the famous printer Edward Cave in London. It was serialised and published and images were ripped off and images of ginseng and images of tea and images of the Great Wall and images of Chinese weddings and martial endeavours were all contained in the Duhald Encyclopaedia and it became the source of much knowledge in Europe and other places about China at this time.

The third book is Clavius, Christopher Clavius, a Jesuit polymath who taught in the Roman college. He was the mathematical teacher of Matteo Ricci. He here wrote a commentary on Euclid, so Euclidean geometry. That book was carried by the Jesuits in their saddlebags or indeed their ship trunks off to China and translated into Chinese. In the end of the sixteenth, early seventeenth century Guy Tachard who ended up ... he was one of the mathematicians of Louis XIV, went to China and he wrote his accounts about his journey and observations along the way. And then the uppermost book is another commentary on Aristotle which was in the College of Coimbra in Portugal which was the university where young Jesuits studied before they caught the ships from Lisbon down the Tagus, around Africa, past Goa and into Macau and then China. And they too sought to translate Aristotle into Chinese. So that Republic of Letters that we saw so beautifully illustrated, I think could be augmented all the more with some of these sort of works.

Here is one of the versions of the translation of Euclid, so Christopher Clavius in that whole early renaissance, the great humanism where they sort of sought to regain the knowledge that had been lost or supposably [supposedly] so in Europe at the time. Clavius wrote these commentaries on Euclid on the left, it was taken by the missionaries over to China and then the missionaries worked with their local friends and this is why it’s beyond Ricci. It’s not just the Jesuits, in fact it’s more than the Jesuits, it’s way more than them, it’s the people they worked with as is contained in this text. Here you can see that the great scholar from the west which is what it says there, Li Madou ... Matteo Ricci, he spoke about, he talked about, he taught on Euclid’s geometry and Xu Guangqi, his great Chinese friend who we’ll see in a minute, he actually then translated—in conversation with Ricci—Euclid into Chinese. They had to work out what’s a parallel line in Mandarin, what’s an angle of an incidence and an angle of reflection? They had to engage in this amazing conversation. For me that would be the chaos of the times but they actually brought much order and wisdom to that conversation. This publication occurred in the early 1600s.

It is important to note however, and I’ve said it but I’ll say it again, that it’s more than just the Europeans and in fact the Europeans were very much a small part of it as Nathan says in his text. It’s also all about how it was received, how the Chinese translated it, how they incorporated it or how they rejected it. This is the large map on display in the exhibition in the first room as you go in the first room kind of ... as you go in on the far wall. It’s a map of Beijing, comes from the Daoguang period, 1821 to 1850. It’s small on this screen because I'm ... it’s probably as big as the screen if not maybe a touch more. And really this is the shape of ... you can see imperial Beijing through its walls in some ways similarly today or through the ring roads and the metro system but ... so the shape is this.

What is important however is it also tells the tale of this east west exchange because near the third gate here, Xuanwumen, you can see a small building just in the corner and that small building which is incorporated in a map from the mid-19th century is of a tianzhu tang. This is the church built on the site of Ricci’s own church which he was constructing and living on that site in 1609 before he died in 1610. So it’s a two-way exchange. Stanford and these other works are fantastic and excellent and wonderful and I think what they’ve done is really remind us of the great exchange but we do need to bring in Asia into that exchange or if we like forcibly drag Europe to remember that Asia’s always been in that exchange.

Another ... just because it’s a great image ... another example of this is a Jesuit scientist, another one of the scientist, a man called Terrenz, who my students always used to love because he’s easy to remember, his other name was Shreck. So Shreck went off to Beijing and there Shreck is working on ... as a scientist and he actually dies ... he wasn’t there that long unfortunately, he would have produced a whole lot more but he took with him a whole range of books as well, books, diagrams, treatises and these two were then translated into Chinese. Here we have a selection of one, shows how to make a pulley in a well system and it’s on ... using all those cogs etc, you can see the limit of my science. But he ... and this is called ... from a book that was ended up translated as a book of wondrous things. So this exchange was amazing and worked in several ways.

I want to talk about now in the time remaining three major examples which are also either displayed in the exhibition downstairs but these books are all owned by the National Library of Australia so it is fulfilling its mandate from 1960 to talk about Australian and non-Australian things that somehow the National Library has a copy of this book, and that is its title on right, Concerning the Christian Expedition Etc. It was initially published in 1615, I’ll talk about that but we have here at the National Library a 1616 edition in book form. I’ll talk about this. I’ll also talk about Martino Martini’s Atlas, the new atlas of China which is ... there is a section on ... the book itself is on display downstairs in the exhibition and then I’ll finish up with talking about Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, Confucius, the Philosopher of China written by Couplet and others which itself is also in display in that final room, all of which are held by the National Library here in Canberra.

So Matteo Ricci’s Journal, this was a collection of the writings of Ricci which was ... it’s a Latin translation, some of his writings were in Portuguese, some were in Italian, a few things were in Chinese and a man called Nicolas Trigault, this Belgian of the same society sailed back to Europe and proceeded to translate on his long voyage and overland journey these works into a whole and this is what has come down to us. He was given that job by the Jesuits in Beijing, they wanted him to write about their work, to talk about what they were doing, not just to exchange and disseminate the knowledge but also for other purposes. They were conscious that a lot of the stuff that had been written about China prior was quite fanciful. A lot of the stuff that’s written about China today is quite fanciful but they wanted to actually write from their experience. Matteo Ricci entered China in 1583 and Trigault travelled off to Europe in, I think 1611, 1612.

So this is on the basis of over 20 years’ experience at having to learn a language, Ricci was involved in ... a house was invaded by some robbers, he terribly sprained his ankle, had a limp ever after, he was shipwrecked on one of the inland rivers, they had house fires, some of their workers were tortured and executed, he had the problems of actually learning the language in the first place and he was a long way from home. He had a lot of things he could talk about and reflect upon in his experience. He did make the comment, or Trigault made the comment in the introduction, that up to the present there are two kinds of authors who have written about China, those who have imagined much and those who have heard much and have published the same without due consideration. They didn’t want to be those sort of people. He described everything from the beverage called cha or tea: ‘This beverage is sipped rather than drunk and it is always taken hot. It is not unpleasant to the taste, being somewhat bitter, and it is usually considered to be wholesome even if taken frequently.’

He commented on gunpowder, they commented on rivers, they commented on a number of boats, they commented on how the houses were built and they also commented on the Christian expedition. So successful was this book that as I said it was published in 1615 then subsequently after it was translated very quickly, within 10 years, into French, Italian, Spanish and German. The 1616 edition that is held here at the National Library was published in Cologne. This image here was published in Augsburg in Germany and then a further four Latin editions were published and then selections from it were translated into English, some of which were incorporated in the famous Purchas, His Pilgrim. If you're into this period of early modern history you know there are forever Ricci anniversaries and celebrations so the most recent one was 2010 which was the 400th anniversary of his death, which then saw a whole round of new publications about Ricci in Chinese, in French, Italian and in English. And some of them also went beyond Ricci thankfully and talked about the Chinese involved. So this was a fantastic printing success, it was a collection of accounts as I said that were translated, compiled, collected, printed, disseminated and then preserved.

Tregot had a job when he went back and this is what I want to talk about the role of libraries. It’s all very well to have a book like this but where’s it fit in the grander scheme of things? That’s the what, the book but so what? Well Trigault had this task, he had to propagandise about the mission, he had to actually say look, we are doing our best. Japan at the time had a lot of Christians. We know that ‘cause they were all getting killed under the Tokugawa Shogunate, but the Jesuits were embarrassed, because in China there didn’t seem to be such a same rate of conversion and it puzzled them ever since. So he had to propagandise and say well look, this is why we’re doing what we’re doing. He had to seek money so that they could actually pay for what they were doing. They were always poor which is why Ricci made a lot of things like astrolabes, why they translated dictionaries, why they actually became tutors; they were poor. They also wanted to bring together books for a library in Beijing, so printing this book was a very deliberate ploy at trying to loosen up the coffers, the pockets, the wallets of rich Europeans to give them money and books they could take back to China. So libraries are also necessarily sadly engaged in the pursuit of benefactors, patrons and supporters and can’t survive otherwise. Ever was it thus then so too is it now.

Trigault was amazingly successful, perhaps because he picked his mark ... I’ll get back to that ... I’ll get to that, let’s go through this slide. What’s interested on this slide, of course, you’ll notice that on the right is Matteo Ricci dressed as a Chinese scholar so there’s the whole thing of imaging, look at us, we know what we’re talking about, we’re kind of as though we’re Chinese ourselves and here is Francis Xavier on the left who died on the coast of China, who wanted to get to China but could not. Famously he went around the Cape of Good Horn, went to Mozambique, went to Goa, worked in southern China, went through the Malacca Strait, worked through Malacca, those sort of places, ended up in Japan, from Japan came back, finally died on the coast of China. It’s tiring telling the story, imagine his life. He died in 1552, that was the birth year of Matteo Ricci, so here you have Ricci beckoning if you like or gesturing to Xavier, your great dream we have now fulfilled, we are in the process of fulfilling so there’s much theatre and theatrical stuff happening in that image. So too down below you’ll see the map and several things to note in this map ‘cause it becomes important later on, one is that the map is on its side whereas at the time the printers in Europe were printing with north as we would have it nowadays up the top, but for some reason— it may even be something as simple as fitting it in—but the globe is turned around. It does include murus contra tartaros, the wall against the Tartars, so there is an image of the Great Wall already in the 1615 representation.

So the map down below and then there’s also information about the printing and so here the printer has reminded us that his name, Christopher Mangium, he comes from Augsburg ... the Latin name, Augusta Vindelicorum, and the year, the Anno Christi, Year of Our Lord, and over on the side is the 1615. Cut off there is the name of the engraver who actually was a very famous engraver as well. So we see that everything was quite deliberate in the printing of this book so it’s one thing to collect the actual books to make into a library but there are real questions and interesting periods of study around how they got them. Libraries can’t exist without the actual books themselves. An interesting question we might have time to get into, how did the books become published? How did they actually end up where they are? Well Nicolas Trigault, as I said, was very importantly engaged in that task.

Once he got back to Europe he successfully got the book published, he had to deal with Jesuit superiors. They chose Augsburg for a number of almost happenstance reasons, rather than Rome, or rather than Antwerp, or rather than Paris, or rather than Lisbon. He then travelled all around Europe; he was recruiting, he was begging and he was also buying and seeking books. He became a bit of a celebrity, this is a painting by Rubens. This version actually is in the Met in New York, and there’s a line drawing elsewhere, but Trigault was quite a well-known figure at the time, going around seeking to build this library. One way they managed to do it was through their dedication. Some of these early books tell us as much about the networks and the Republic of Letters or those who were involved in the republic but not so seen because of who was actually being ... the book being given to. If you’re into type faces and you’re into sort of imagery and semiotics and things like that so the bit about China’s less important, Ricci’s kind of important but Paul V is as important as the Christian expedition here, you know, if you notice in terms of sizing. Now that’s also balance and it’s also keeping things in ... giving a perspective there on the frame but even so they’re saying to this pope, hey you, you, you’re the guy who can help us here, you can help us because we’re the ones working on the front line, taking the word of God around the place and we want you to help us and he did.

And ... because he could, A, as Mel Brooks said about the king, it’s good to be the king. Well if you’re a Borgia, it’s good to be the pope, and he was a pope for a long period of time, and he always had a lot of money, and he was connected with many people who did have money or connected themselves. And this is a portrait by Caravaggio. So we’ve had Rubens painting Trigault, we’ve had Caravaggio painting Paul V and Trigault’s doing whatever he can to get those books, which he did, and he managed to take back with him to Beijing. They were combined with the books that Ricci had, and sometimes Ricci got sent, and they then later on were combined with books brought back by Johann Adam Schall von Bell who was an astronomer, worked in Beijing in the 1660s. Schall brought another huge collection of books. Those three collections, the Ricci, Trigault and Schall collections became known as the Beitang, the North Church Collection, and then in the ‘50s they actually were ... ‘cause this is on podcast, it’ll be politic, they were collected, shall we say, they were gathered together, into what is now known as the National Library in Beijing. So the works that are on display here from the National Library are neighbours with some of those books that Trigault amassed when he went to Europe all those years before.

The Jesuits were very self-aware about what they were doing and this is a wonderful image of their sense of their interconnectedness. This is from Kircher in the middle of the seventeenth century where fancifully ... in the sense it’s a fancy, it’s fun ... this is actually a horoscope, a clock showing the Jesuit world and the various hours in the provinces around the world and the way that they’re all connected and up in the left-hand side you can see Asia incorporated as well. So moving along to the second image that I talked about, we have the New Atlas of China by Martino Martini and this is on display downstairs. What is interesting again in the frontispiece is what’s being said, who’s being referred to, who is the dedication to and also you can see I’ve highlighted the phrase coming out of the mouth of the person sitting on the ... it’s meant to be a pope actually I think with the tiara, but it actually says ... it’s a quotation from Isaiah, ‘go you swift messengers to nation tall and smooth’, so as in this is ordained, we’re meant to do this, we’re okay, we can go to China and by the way, Martini says, I’m bringing back the new atlas of China so he’s bringing back new knowledge. This is 1656.

Interestingly we see that the map is now turned around, of China. The Great Wall is still on display, and Martini is credited with really popularising this sort of image or sense of the Great Wall and thereby making it wrong for us because we know it’s the great walls of China, it’s not actually one great crenelated barrier, several walls, a whole range of different shapes but you can see here and the Prince of Belau, the Belau, famous Belau family is also ... if you like I think they’re having a bit of fun too, the cherubs are sort of reminding people of the mapmaking and globe-building craft. The Belaus in Amsterdam were given the task of printing this book and they were not only printers but they made globes. This terrestrial globe here showed bottom left was made at the end of the sixteenth century, early part of the seventeenth century, and it was taken by German missionaries to the US in the nineteenth century and is now in a library at St Louis University. You’ll notice that again there’s a map of China, so Belau’s sort of saying look at us, we make all these sort of things and if you do notice ... I thought I’d keep on moving on but ... the northwest cape of Australia is also featured in the globe—down below the ridge for those of you who [are further back]. And for that period it’s quite accurate.

Martini, like Trigault, was engaged in conversation, engaged in this whole series of engagement with people involved in the Republic of Letters and it wasn’t just in Latin, it was also in German and this is a famous series of letters in German and this ... these books we don’t have copies here unfortunately. We do have a print from this series in the National Library but not the whole books themselves. The print actually is of I think the Palau Islands but anyway this is actually one of the very early maps of California done by the nephew of Martini, a man called Eusebio Kino who became a missionary to the Americas rather than to China, just showing again the interconnectedness. Martini’s life journey, his journey to take back that knowledge which became printed in that book which we now have on display was a miracle you know it was an amazing feat. He had to go to Hangzhou then to the Philippines, he was arrested in Batavia, modern Jakarta, he was ... had to be ransomed out, he was then on a vessel which sailed all the way around Africa back up and into Bergen, the seaport in Norway which is where many of the Dutch East Indies ships landed before they actually then returned home and so was a very significant trading port. Then Hamburg then Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels and Rome. And this is actually again a contemporaneous painting.

I think it’s fascinating that we can glibly if you like ... or I’m being glib ... I’m not trying to be so but we’ve got these amazing books downstairs. Someone had to take the knowledge or the parchment or the paper or the maps and survive a journey like this in the seventeenth century, shipwreck, pirates, storms, scurvy, a ... luggage, a trunk falling over and hitting you in the head as happened to Phillipe Couplet who was the author of Confucius Sinarum Philosophus who died at sea so the fact we have these things is amazing, that these libraries actually exist and are able to preserve and disseminate the knowledge which makes it all the more important for us to actually seek to help them as well.

Conscious of time, moving right along and this is Athanasius Kircher in the 1660s. He also published a very important thing and now the Chinese have entered the story. Paul Xu on the right, he was the scholar who helped translate Euclid’s geometry. A point I'm going to make as I move towards conclusion is the fact that it’s okay to have the books but we got to know what we’re looking at, we actually have to know: are we reading the right thing? Was the person who transmitted the knowledge ... was the translator a traitor? …in the famous Italian saying. So we have the books but one has to actually know how to read them, we have to actually be able to read them critically to evaluate. And the clue here is that the printers in Europe ... you can see on the right-hand side, the upper right-hand side and on the left. Now this is Li Madou, character on the left and they’re actually written as though it’s by a beginning learner ... a beginner learning Chinese or someone who’s simply copying. Here we have the image of the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus. The Jesuit scholars spent really from the time of Ricci in the 1580s so it’s a good close to a hundred year project, generations of scholars worked on this project translating and they made the decision to put Kong Fuzi, the ... this man’s name, they transliterated it into Latin as Confucius, so our use of the word Confucius at Bookplate or in your book clubs or just in general conversation is homage to the work of these people over a hundred year period. And they published and dedicated it to Louis XIV, highlighting the role of the French in this exchange at this period of time.

What I want to finish on is to make the point that it’s amazing that we have an exhibition like Celestial Empire. It’s a great achievement for Dr Woolley, for the work of the Centre for China in the World, for the work of the National Library and the National Library of China. It’s fantastic because of those who’ve helped preserve, collect and now disseminate this information. A challenge for us all is to use these books and as Ricci said be conscious of the order and the chaos, listen to the demeanour because there are good questions we can ask. A question I’ll leave you with, if you’re Chinese readers, is you can see here from this image, you can see on the left-hand side and on the right-hand side are the collections of the Chinese classics, the major books that every scholar had to study, the book of you know the Spring and Autumn Annals, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the ... here is the Analects of Confucius which was bringing all these things in terms of interconnectedness which my favourite translation is the one by the great scholar, Pierre Ryckmans, Simon Leys, who translated it years ago who also taught at the ANU and I believe was the teacher of one of the professors down the back, Dr Rigby.

But the interesting thing about this image here, they have clearly transmitted the knowledge that the characters are read right to left, so when they write the name they are writing it in European form, a name in a Europeanised version, left to right. On all of these ... Chunqiu as an example. That character there is that word, chun. That .. autumn is qiu here so it’s if you like a chiasm or an X, there’s a transposition because of the way we read versus the way the Chinese is written. But, they got it wrong in this one, which is The Analects of Confucius, kind of like the book that most people know in terms of Confucian scholarship and so if you’re not looking you’ll miss the fact that there’s critical errors in the transmission of the knowledge that is now being disseminated. Libraries and those of us who read and interact with these material objects, be they digitise or otherwise, therefore have a great role in ongoing conversation, not just about the subject matter but about the context, about the patrons, about the funding and about all the things that make up a library and a community that gathers as we do on this night. Thank you so much.


[End of recording]

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