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China in European Encyclopaedias, 1700–1850

European Expansion and

Indigenous Response

Edited by
George Bryan Souza, University of Texas, San Antonio

Editorial Board
João Paulo Oliveira e Costa, CHAM, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Frank Dutra, University of California, Santa Barbara
Pedro Machado, Indiana University, Bloomington
Malyn Newitt, King’s College, London
Michael Pearson, University of New South Wales
Alexandra Pereira Pelucia, CHAM, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
José Damião Rodrigues, University of the Azores

China in European Encyclopaedias,

Georg Lehner

On the Cover: Louis Moréri, Le grand dictionnaire historique, vol. 4 (Paris 1759)
p. 337 (s. v. ‘Cycle chinois’). Austrian National Library, Vienna; shelfmark 214618-E.
Alt.4. Reproduced with permission of the Austrian National Library, Vienna.

The sexagesimal cycle of Chinese chronology attracted the attention of seventeenth-

century Jesuit missionaries. Philippe Couplet SJ published his Tabula chronologica
Monarchiae sinicae juxta cyclos annorum, ab anno ante Christum 2952 ad annum
post Christum 1683 (Paris 1686) including a table “Paradigma cycli sexaginta
annorum ex decem alphabeti litteris, & duodecim horarum numeris concinnatum”
(p. xiv). Illustrating the combination of the 10 heavenly stems and the 12 earthly
branches to form 60 unique combinations, this table was reproduced in Le Grand
Dictionnaire historique from the 1690s editions up to the last edition published
in 1759.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lehner, Georg.
China in European encyclopaedias, 1700-1850 / by Georg Lehner.
p. cm. — (European expansion and indigenous response, ISSN 1873-8974)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-20150-7 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. China—Civilization—
Historiography—Europe—History—18th century. 2. China—Civilization—
Historiography—Europe—History—19th century. 3. Historiography—Europe—
History—18th century. 4. Historiography—Europe—History—19th century.
5. Encyclopedias and dictionaries—History and criticism. I. Title. II. Title: China in
European encyclopedias, 1700–1850. III. Series.

DS734.7.L39 2011

ISSN 1873-8974
ISBN 978 90 04 20150 7

Copyright 2011 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Global Oriental, Hotei Publishing,
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Fees are subject to change.

Preface ................................................................................................. ix
Abbreviations ..................................................................................... xi
Introduction ........................................................................................ xiii

Chapter One Backgrounds of Knowledge .................................. 1

1.1 Analyzing European Discourse(s) on China .................. 1
1.2 Interactions between Europe and China ......................... 8
1.3 Ordering Knowledge on Non-European Regions .......... 15
1.4 Exploring the History of Encyclopaedias—Current
Trends .................................................................................... 32
1.5 Encyclopaedias in Cross-cultural Perspective ................. 39
1.6 European Encyclopaedias, 1700–1850 ............................. 50

Chapter Two Formations of Knowledge .................................... 67

2.1 Knowledge from China: Chinese Sources for
European Encyclopaedias ................................................... 67
2.2 European Sources on China .............................................. 73
2.3 Disseminating China: The Role of the European
Republic of Letters ............................................................... 96
2.4 On the Authors of Entries on ‘China’ ............................. 100

Chapter Three Canonizing China ................................................ 105

3.1 Describing China: Structures of Entries on ‘China’ ...... 105
3.2 Updating Information on China ....................................... 117
3.3 Visualizing China: Knowledge in Plates, Diagrams and
Tables ..................................................................................... 119
3.4 Explaining China: Comparisons with Europe and
Other Parts of the World ................................................... 125
3.5 Simplifying China: The Dissemination of Stereotypes ... 130

Chapter Four Geography .............................................................. 143

4.1 Defining China: What’s in a Name? ................................ 143
4.2 Extent, Boundaries and Political Geography .................. 148
4.3 Natural Resources ................................................................ 154
4.4 China’s Position in the World ........................................... 158
vi contents

Chapter Five Population and Society .......................................... 165

5.1 Origin of the Chinese .......................................................... 165
5.2 Chinese Society .................................................................... 174
5.3 Material Culture ................................................................... 185

Chapter Six Government, Politics and Economy ..................... 195

6.1 The Administration of China ............................................ 195
6.2 The Laws of China ............................................................... 209
6.3 The Armed Forces of the Qing Empire ........................... 212
6.4 Revenue and Money ............................................................ 214
6.5 Sino-Western Trade Relations ........................................... 217

Chapter Seven History ................................................................... 229

7.1 Classifying the Chinese Past .............................................. 229
7.2 Chinese Chronology as a Challenge to European
Scholarship ............................................................................ 236
7.3 Encyclopaedic Visions of the Chinese Past ..................... 239
7.4 Ever-changing Contemporaries of China:
Two Centuries of Latest Events ........................................ 245
7.5 Chinese Personal Names .................................................... 250
7.6 Historiography in China .................................................... 252
7.7 Assessing the History of China ......................................... 253

Chapter Eight Language and Literature ..................................... 259

8.1 Language and Writing ........................................................ 259
8.2 Chinese Literature ............................................................... 279

Chapter Nine Philosophy and Religion ...................................... 291

9.1 Chinese Philosophy ............................................................. 291
9.2 Popular Religion .................................................................. 295
9.3 Confucianism and the ‘Ancient Religion’ of the
Chinese .................................................................................. 301
9.4 Buddhism .............................................................................. 304
9.5 Daoism ................................................................................... 307
9.6 Christianity ........................................................................... 310
9.7 Muslims and Jews ................................................................ 317
contents vii

Chapter Ten Arts, Sciences, and Technologies ......................... 321

10.1 Natural Sciences: Astronomy and Mathematics .......... 321
10.2 Chinese Medicine .............................................................. 327
10.3 Architecture and Horticulture ......................................... 331
10.4 Painting and Sculpture ..................................................... 341
10.5 Music ................................................................................... 343
10.6 Agriculture .......................................................................... 346
10.7 Chinese Inventions ............................................................ 348

Conclusion .......................................................................................... 355

Bibliography ........................................................................................ 365

Encyclopaedias ............................................................................... 365
English ........................................................................................ 365
French ......................................................................................... 366
German ....................................................................................... 367
Other works cited .......................................................................... 368

Index .................................................................................................... 397


The present study is the result of a research project on the discursive

construction of China in European encyclopaedias carried out during
the years 2006–2008 at the Department of History at the University of
Vienna, Austria. The project received generous funding (project no.
P18669-G08) from the Austrian Science Fund (Vienna), including a
travel grant for research at the British Library (November 2007). Writ-
ing of the main parts of this book took place between September 2008
and July 2009.
Preliminary findings of the project have been presented at a sym-
posium on the history of Sino-Western Cultural relations at Zhejiang
University, Hangzhou (China) in October 2006 and at the 30th Ger-
man Oriental Congress held at Freiburg/Breisgau (Germany) in Sep-
tember 2007. Summaries of the main results of the project have been
presented at a symposium on the formation of China in the writings
of German and French nineteenth-century intellectuals (“Une Chine
partagée. Présence de la Chine dans les Lettres françaises et alleman-
des du début du XIXe siècle au début du XXe siècle”, 13–16 mai 2009)
organized by the Centre d’Études des Relations et Contacts Linguis-
tiques et Littéraires (Université de Picardie, Amiens) and held at the
Municipal Library (Bibliothèque Louis Aragon) at Amiens (France).
In June 2009 a lecture on the most important findings of the project
was given at the Department of History at the University of Vienna.
During the academic year 2009/2010 the project “Hidden Grammars
of Transculturality—Migrations of Encyclopaedic Knowledge and
Power” set up by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a
Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows” at Heidelberg
University, Germany, provided further opportunities to present and
discuss aspects of this book: parts of Chapter One on the occasion of
the workshop “Encyclopaedia at the Crossroads: Formation of a Genre
in East and West” (Heidelberg, 4 February 2010) and an overview on
the presentation of China in nineteenth century European encyclopae-
dias at the international conference “Between East and West: Tran-
scultural Flows of Encyclopedic Knowledge” (Heidelberg, 21–23 April
x preface

In sharing a common interest in the history of Sino-Western rela-

tions, my sister Monika read an earlier version of the whole book.
Her numerous suggestions not only influenced the overall structure
and organization of the text but also helped to improve a great variety
of details. However, responsibility for any errors and for remaining
inconsistencies is mine.

May 2010 Georg Lehner


Throughout this volume, abbreviations are rarely used. They mainly

relate to biographical information:

b. born
d. deceased
fl. floruit (i.e. flourished)
r. reigned

The following abbreviations refer to Roman Catholic religious orders:

MEP Missions Étrangères de Paris

OFM Ordo Fratrum Minorum (Franciscan order)
OP Ordo Praedicatorum (Dominican order)
OSA Ordo Sancti Augustini (Augustinian order)
SJ Societas Jesu (Society of Jesus, i.e. the Jesuit order)

The titles of encyclopaedias are given in the most widely used forms.
The bibliography provides full bibliographic details for each of these
For two German encyclopaedias, the Allgemeine Encyklopädie der
Wissenschaften und Künste (General Encyclopaedia of Arts and Sci-
ences; throughout this book referred to as Ersch/Gruber) and Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon, references include information on the respec-
tive section and volume. Roman numerals refer to the section, Arabic
numerals indicate the volume. To these data, the year of publication is
added. For example: Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) refers
to the second part of the seventh volume in the first section of this
Supplementary volumes of encyclopaedias have been referred to in
the form S1 (i.e. Supplement, vol. 1), S2 (i.e. Supplement, vol. 2), and
so forth.

For centuries, Europeans learned about China and the Chinese pri-
marily from printed books. Travelogues, missionary writings and col-
lections of letters, accounts of colonial enterprises in Southeast Asia,
diplomatic embassies to China, and scholarly contributions reflected
the intellectual interest of Europeans in things Chinese.1 From time
to time, these rather extensive publications were made the subject of
major syntheses to show the state of knowledge on China and the Chi-
nese. Mainly based on major syntheses, but also including other pub-
lications, European encyclopaedias presented condensed summaries
of European knowledge on China. These summaries, no matter how
extensive they may be, serve as an indicator for the state of European
perceptions of and knowledge on China.
This book will explore how English, French, and German encyclo-
paedias dealt with things Chinese, how European knowledge on China
evolved throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and
how it found its place in general encyclopaedias. For the first time,
extensive use of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English,
French, and German encyclopaedias is being made to analyze the for-
mation of European knowledge on China.
Encyclopaedias had two functions for the evolution of European
images of China. They multiplied and disseminated information con-
tained in early Western books on China, and they standardized note-
worthy information on China. These processes of dissemination and
standardization took place in ever-changing contexts in Europe and in
China. The necessity of ‘explaining’ China (often seen as the ‘other’) to
fellow Westerners has been (and still is) a major challenge for Euro-
pean observers. In historical and in contemporary perspective, the dif-
ficulty to give a concise description of China becomes obvious. This
may be due to the fact that most Westerners generally seemed to be
rather unprepared for the perception of the gigantic dimensions of the

Marcia Reed, Paola Demattè, “In Search of Perfect Clarity”, in: China on Paper.
European and Chinese Works from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century;
edited by Marcia Reed and Paola Demattè (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute,
2007), 1–7.
xiv introduction

predominant East Asian empire. Shifting images of China—as mir-

rored in encyclopaedias—show the persisting inability of Europeans
to cope with dimensions of territorial extent, number of inhabitants,
highly developed civilization, and vast literary tradition. This inabil-
ity of the observers is reflected in the emergence, evolution, and dis-
semination of stereotypes and prejudices concerning China and ‘the’
The formation of knowledge on non-European regions by Europe-
ans has been a trans-European process and is closely related to the
intellectual history of early modern Europe. Communication among
the learned prepared the ground for the perception of non-European
cultures. This perception took place in a multi-lingual environment.
Translations of early modern European reports on Asia in general
and on China in particular were printed at least in the then most
widely used European languages (Spanish, Italian, French and Ger-
man). The Historia de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres, del
Gran Reyno de la China (1585) written by Juan González de Mendoza
OSA (1545–1620) saw editions in seven different languages, Martino
Martini’s (1614–1661) De bello Tartarico, a first-hand account of the
fall of the Ming, was published in nine different languages (Latin, Ger-
man, English, Spanish, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish).
The Description . . . (1735) published by Jean Baptiste Du Halde (1674–
1743) saw editions in French, English, German and Russian.2
Apart from the accumulation of European knowledge on China,
encyclopaedias offer a wealth of information on practices within the
European ‘republic of letters’. Depending on their language skills,
English, French, and German editors of encyclopaedias could make
use of Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, English, Dutch,
and German works on China as well as of translations of these texts
available in several other European languages. A close examination of
fragments of discourse will help to show modes and extent of intra-
European flows of knowledge. The study of these flows as well as a
comparative analysis of entries on China in English, French and Ger-

Peter Burke, “Translating histories,” in Cultural Translation in Early Modern
Europe, ed. Peter Burke and R. Po-chia Hsia (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2007), 129 and 140. For the editions of works of González de Mendoza and Du
Halde see Henri Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica. Dictionnaire bibliographique des ouvra-
ges relatifs à l’Empire chinois, 5 vols. (Paris: Guilmoto, 1904–1922; reprint, Martino
Publishing: Mansfield Centre CT 1997), cols. 8–16 (González de Mendoza) and 45–52
(Du Halde).
introduction xv

man encyclopaedias examines “the links between various historically

constituted formations.”3
The processes resulting in the formation of general knowledge on
China reflect a broad variety of cultural transmissions. These cultural
transmissions took place not only in the transmission of information
(texts, artefacts, natural resources) between China and Europe but also
in the spread of China-related information in intra-European com-
munication and exchange.
The first part of this book places the efforts of compiling, arrang-
ing, and presenting knowledge on East Asia in general and China in
particular within the context of European discoveries, explorations,
descriptions, and perceptions of the wider world. Concerning China,
continuous processes of migrations of knowledge can be traced back
to the early sixteenth century.
To connect the formation of ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge on China
to the main directions in the evolution of early modern European
organization of knowledge, Chapter One (Backgrounds of Knowledge)
provides an overview on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century ways of
ordering and classifying information on non-European regions. Uni-
versal geographies (mostly called cosmographies by sixteenth-century
Europeans), historical and geographical dictionaries, and encyclopae-
dias were intended to provide ready reference. Against the background
of current trends in research on encyclopaedias the chapter presents the
most important stages in the history of European encyclopaedias from
the end of the seventeenth- to the middle of the nineteenth-century.
Chapter Two (Formations of Knowledge) focuses on the sources for
the presentation of information on China in eighteenth- and early
nineteenth-century European encyclopaedias and on persistence and
change in the use of these sources. These formations of knowledge on
China and the wide range of sources used by contributors to ency-
clopaedias will be presented in a comparative overview based on bib-
liographic references of selected encyclopaedias. The examination of
encyclopaedias will show how long certain sources were used and how
and when they were replaced (usually when they became outdated,
i.e. no longer regarded as reliable). Only a few books published in
late seventeenth/early eighteenth century Europe remained among the

Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire
croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity,” History and Theory 45, no. 1 (2006): 31.
xvi introduction

sources still used for information on China in mid-nineteenth century.

Bibliographic data given in China-related entries reveal the extent of
persistence and change in the use of sources. One of the most strik-
ing changes took place in the early nineteenth-century, when early
sinologists started to use Chinese texts (or at least publications based
on Chinese texts) as sources for articles they contributed to French,
German and English encyclopaedias. As a side effect, encyclopaedias
also contain much information on the early history of Chinese studies
in Europe.
As a result of these formations of knowledge Europeans generated
a rather flexible set of conceptions of China and the Chinese. Chapter
Three (Canonizing China) explores this set of conceptions and exam-
ines European strategies also employed by encyclopaedias in present-
ing knowledge on China. The structure of entries on ‘China’ closely
followed the design of entries on other geographical entities. Within
this structure the contributors aimed to place China within European
horizons of knowledge. It will be shown that this aim was achieved
mainly by means of transcultural comparisons. Although the ‘ency-
clopaedic’ use of visual representations of China was rather limited,
some of these images taken from published accounts were further
disseminated by works providing general knowledge. The necessity
of providing comprehensive but concise information on the country
and its people led to the creation and dissemination of stereotypes.
Together with a variety of other European discourses on China these
stereotypes were included in encyclopaedias’ presentations of China.
These presentations were disseminated throughout Europe by means
of adaptations and translations of general encyclopaedias.
Following the analysis of the evolution of European ways of generat-
ing and presenting knowledge on China, the second part of this book
focuses on encyclopaedias’ presentation of the main features of eigh-
teenth- and early nineteenth-century European knowledge on things
Chinese. Arranged according to the main subjects of information pre-
sented by encyclopaedias, this part shows how knowledge on certain
aspects of Chinese civilization was linked to strands of discourse pre-
vailing within the European ‘republic of letters’, among the educated,
and the general public. Information presented in encyclopaedias pro-
vides a wealth of material for an analysis of subject-oriented discourses
on China (geography, government, economics, language and litera-
ture, arts and sciences, religion and philosophy, history, etc.). The his-
torical development of European knowledge on China reflects general
introduction xvii

European discourses (civilised people vs. barbarians, enlightenment

vs. despotism, progress vs. stagnation, etc.) which indicate the vary-
ing expectations of Westerners when dealing with China at different
Chapter Four (Geography) introduces the European perception of
the geographical situation of the country. Remarks on the name(s)
of that distant land were a common feature of most of the opening
sections of entries on ‘China’ followed by information on natural
resources. Reflecting the growing interest of Europeans in the China
trade, encyclopaedias also contained remarks on the geostrategic posi-
tion of China.
Chapter Five (Population and Society) investigates encyclopaedias’
presentation of information on ‘the’ Chinese. Linked to the creation
and dissemination of stereotypes (discussed in Chapter Three) infor-
mation on ‘the’ Chinese included notes on their origin, on the number
of inhabitants, on the social stratification of society, on different ethnic
groups and on the role of women in society. In introducing customs
and manners, encyclopaedias referred to Chinese cuisine, Chinese
dress and on some of the entertainments of the Chinese.
Chapter Six (Government, Politics and Economy) deals with Euro-
pean perceptions of the administration of China. Closely linked to
general European discourse on China, information on this subject
oscillated between admiration for a well-governed society repeatedly
recommended as a model to European governments and contempt
for a corrupt and despotic regime. Apart from an overall assessment
of Chinese forms of government, encyclopaedias referred to details
concerning the imperial court and the central government agencies
as well as the provincial administration. Further information on the
political system of China referred to the laws and to the armed forces
of the empire.
Information on the history of China formed an integral part of
encyclopaedias’ entries on the country. Chapter Seven (History)
explores the ways how encyclopaedias dealt with the Chinese past. In
structuring this past, Europeans for a long time referred to the sub-
sequent dynasties of China. Encyclopaedias’ presentations of Chinese
chronology largely reflected the vain endeavours of late seventeenth-
and eighteenth-century European scholars to place Chinese antiquity
in the context of biblical chronology. Our analysis of the contents of
information on Chinese history focuses on the most prominent sub-
jects: the rise and fall of the dynasties, virtues and vices of the rulers of
xviii introduction

China and on remarks concerning the changing fate of eunuchs at the

imperial court. The chapter also examines the main trends in present-
ing (and updating) information on recent developments in China.
Chapter Eight (Language and Literature) explores eighteenth- and
early nineteenth-century European attitudes towards Chinese lan-
guage, writing, and literature as mirrored in works of general knowl-
edge. Shifting perceptions of these subjects were closely related to the
state of Chinese studies in Europe. Encyclopaedias reflect the gradually
changing focus of European interests in these subjects. Late seven-
teenth- and early eighteenth-century scholars engaged in vivid discus-
sions on the origin of language and writing. For some of them China
and the Chinese played an important role in this context.
Chapter Nine (Philosophy and Religion) investigates the ways infor-
mation on religious systems of the Chinese, on their philosophy and
ethics was presented in encyclopaedias. Following an overview of ency-
clopaedias’ general attitudes towards Chinese philosophy, the chapter
introduces European views of popular religion, Buddhism, Daoism
and Confucianism as mirrored by works of general reference. Consid-
ering the pivotal role of Roman Catholic missionaries for creating and
disseminating information on China, this chapter considers presenta-
tion and assessment of the rise and fall of Roman Catholic missions in
the context of the history of the Rites Controversy.
Chapter Ten presents the predominant Western conceptions of and
attitudes towards Chinese achievements in Arts and Sciences. Although
Europeans had been well aware of the very early Chinese inventions
of papermaking, printing, and gunpowder, they portrayed the state of
science in China in a very disparaging way. Europeans mostly were
denying the probability of transmissions of knowledge from Asia to
Europe prior to the Age of Discoveries and tended to describe Chi-
nese inventions as ‘incomplete’ and Chinese sciences as ‘inexistent’.
Despite referring to the writings of contemporary sinologists and often
complaining about the lack of information on things Chinese in gen-
eral, nineteenth-century encyclopaedias perpetuated these strands of
Dealing with the evolution of European general knowledge of China,
this study aims to show how, when, and which information on China
and the Chinese became part of universal and/or useful knowledge.
Despite of the ever-shifting focus of European perceptions of China
over the centuries, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century encyclo-
paedias already contained much of what still today influences Western
discourse on China.


1.1 Analyzing European Discourse(s) on China

This study focuses on discourses on China as represented in European

reference works in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Early
modern European discourses on China rarely have been ‘original’ but
repeatedly transmitted, transformed, and broken. Discourses emerg-
ing from these processes of transmission and transformation had been
fed by a variety of sources: by printed accounts of China given by
European travellers, traders, diplomats, and missionaries (and their
perception throughout Europe), by natural products as well as by arte-
facts.1 From the sixteenth century onwards, members of the European
aristocracy showed a strong interest in specimens of natural products
and artefacts of East Asian or—as they put it—‘Indian’ origin. These
non-textual representations of distant lands were eagerly collected
throughout Europe. In their cabinets of curiosities, European rulers
stored a wealth of information on the wider world.2
In approaching the supposed variety of discourses on China as rep-
resented in early modern European sources, this study will analyze the
origins of these discourses, their formation, replacement, and tempo-
rary renewal/renaissance as well as their persistence and change.
The analysis of the origin, formation (and diversification) of Euro-
pean discourses on China as mirrored in encyclopaedias will help us
to learn more about various modes of perceiving China in eighteenth-
and early nineteenth-century Europe: The general public based its
perception mainly on European accounts (travelogues, Jesuit publica-
tions, summaries of geographical knowledge). Due to lacking language

Thomas Pekar, Der Japan-Diskurs im westlichen Kulturkontext (1860–1920)
(Munich: iudicium, 2003), 48 presented these arguments concerning Western dis-
courses on Japan.
For a thorough analysis of the state of the field see the introductory remarks in
Dominik Collet, Die Welt in der Stube. Begegnungen mit Außereuropa in Kunstkam-
mern der Frühen Neuzeit, Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte
232 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007).
2 chapter one

proficiency, Chinese language materials were widely neglected until

the late eighteenth century. Only the accounts published by the Jesuits
relied on Chinese sources.
Encyclopaedic reference works are intended to be consulted, not
to be read. Looking up an encyclopaedic work is intended to meet an
immediate want for information. As important sources for the his-
torical evolution of discourses in general, encyclopaedias represent a
vast field of research for the historian.3 The value and significance of
this sort of reference works has been repeatedly stated in the field of
cultural studies.4
Regarding European encyclopaedias as well as European discourses
in general, it may be supposed that China is only one subject among
many. As a consequence, information on China is to be found not
only under the headword ‘China’ but also under a wealth of other
headwords. The analysis of encyclopaedias thus will provide a kind
of ‘meta-ordering’ of knowledge disposed in this kind of reference
Information on China as arranged in encyclopaedias will be put in
the context of its genesis and will be analyzed in the light of the discus-
sions led in the European ‘republic of letters’.
Considering the complexity and scope of eighteenth- and nineteenth-
century encyclopaedias and the amount of information on China given
by these reference works, an analysis of China-related information can
hardly be exhaustive. In studying and analyzing the representation of
China in European encyclopaedias, we concentrate on these parts of
China usually labelled as China Proper (in French la Chine proprement
dite, in German das eigentliche China).5 A thorough analysis of the
peripheral regions of the Chinese Empire that from time to time were

See Paul Michel, “Ordnungen des Wissens. Darbietungsweisen des Materials in
Enzyklopädien,” in Populäre Enzyklopädien. Von der Ordnung, Auswahl und Ver-
waltung des Wissens, ed. Ingrid Tomkowiak (Zurich: Chronos, 2002), 37 and Henri
Meschonnic, Des mots et des mondes. Dictionnaires, encyclopédies, grammaires,
nomenclatures (Paris: Hatier, 1991), 9: “On cherche des mots, on trouve le discours.
On cherche le discours, on trouve des mots.”
Ulrike Spree, Das Streben nach Wissen. Eine vergleichende Gattungsgeschichte der
populären Enzyklopädie in Deutschland und Großbritannien im 19. Jahrhundert, Com-
municatio. Studien zur Geschichte der europäischen Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte
24 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2000), 9; see also Daniel Rosenberg, “Introduction. Early
Modern Information Overload,” Journal of the History of Ideas 64, no. 1 (2003), 1–9.
Harry Harding, “The Concept of ‘Greater China’: Themes, Variations and Reser-
vations,” The China Quarterly, no. 136 (1993), 660–686.
backgrounds of knowledge 3

ruled directly or indirectly by the Emperors of China would require

skills for Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet and Korea. These skills we do
not possess.6 As far as the various forms of relations of the Chinese
court with these regions (cultural influences, military campaigns, com-
mercial relations) are represented in our corpus of sources (see below),
these bits of information will be included in our analysis.
In eighteenth-century Europe, scholars had a rather holistic approach
to things Chinese. They were reading, arranging and analyzing infor-
mation on China to develop their world-view.7 Then, European knowl-
edge on the wider world had not been bound to the borders of different
national cultures but had been developed in a trans-European intellec-
tual sphere.8 The analysis of European ways of perceiving, describing
and categorizing China as represented in encyclopaedias will help to
understand, how and when the various strands of European discourse
on China emerged, flourished, prevailed, and (apparently) perished.
Conditions and structures important for the shaping of European
discourses on China include their backgrounds (history, politics, econ-
omy and communication), origins and sources, institutions (courts,
governmental authorities, churches, academies, universities, East India
companies, etc.), dramatis personae (explorers, travellers, missionar-
ies, scholars (covering the wide range from early modern scholarship
to the beginnings of nineteenth-century sinology), writers, merchants,
etc.), and contexts (politics, economy, publishing, etc.).9
Encyclopaedias are—like other early modern European sources—
manifestations and results of a kind of shaping ‘China’. Acquiring
knowledge of other cultures resulted from a dense network of political,
economic, and religious/theological interests of Europeans in other

For a similar restriction see Isabelle Landry-Deron, La preuve par la Chine. La
“Description” de J.-B. Du Halde, jésuite, 1735, Civilisations et sociétés 110 (Paris: Edi-
tions de l’EHESS, 2002), 35.
Jürgen Osterhammel, Die Entzauberung Asiens. Europa und die asiatischen Reiche
im 18. Jahrhundert (Munich: Beck, 1998); Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, Sinologie und das
Interesse an China, Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur, Mainz/Abhandlungen
der Geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse 2007/4 (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2007).
Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, “Von der Faszination zur Wissenssystematisierung:
Die koloniale Welt im Diskurs der europäischen Aufklärung,” in Das Europa der
Aufklärung und die außereuropäische koloniale Welt, ed. Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, Das
achtzehnte Jahrhundert/Supplementa 11 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006), 12.
Pekar, Der Japan-Diskurs im westlichen Kulturkontext (1860–1920), 17.
4 chapter one

parts of the world.10 Therefore, much data on non-European regions

became available for the learned reader in early modern Europe: “In
Europe, Asia came together as a subject of knowledge under impe-
rial intelligence in capital cities that organized national interests in
Asia and centralized accumulation of knowledge in huge national
repositories.”11 These interests may be addressed as important agents
in the formation of European images and imaginations of China.
Acquisitions of knowledge and forms of its perception played a key
role in the history of the European advance into Asia. Entries in ency-
clopaedias reflect the polyvalence of early modern European writings
on Asia. Apart from the power of European imagination, these texts
can be seen as an attempt to understand reality by means available to
the respective contemporary observers.12
Apart from disadvantages like time lag and inertness caused by
the use of older and thus sometimes outdated works, the advantages
of encyclopaedias seem obvious. Following these considerations, in
this study we will pay particular attention to the evolution of Euro-
pean images of China (including the creation and dissemination of
specific stereotypes and prejudices) as mirrored in works of general
The analysis of China-related entries in encyclopaedias published in
eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe goes far beyond an
evaluation of quality and quantity of knowledge represented. Beyond
insights on geographical and institutional centres for this kind of pro-
duction of knowledge, it will be possible to trace preconditions and
circumstances of collecting and augmenting this information. The
replacement of Latin as the language of the learned and the increas-
ing use of a wide range of vernacular languages of Europe has also to
be kept in mind for an analysis of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-
century European general knowledge of China.
As most of the strands of European discourse on China had their
origins in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the ways of includ-
ing information on China in eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century

Peter Burke, A Social History of Knowledge (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000),
David Ludden, “Presidential Address: Maps in the Mind and in the Mobility of
Asia,” Journal of Asian Studies 62, no. 4 (2003), 1059.
Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 28.
backgrounds of knowledge 5

European encyclopaedias will be placed in the context of European

expansion since the late fifteenth century.
The following settings deserve special attention. All of them were
subject to considerable changes und fluctuations during the period
under consideration:

1. Ways of discovering, describing, and classifying the “other”: widen-

ing horizons in geography and in a variety of branches of knowl-
edge in early modern Europe. In their assessments of non-European
cultures and in their zeal of cross-cultural evaluation Europeans
remained self-centred and limited.13
2. Early modern European intellectual history from the Renaissance
to the nineteenth century and the history of general knowledge.
3. China as the distinct other: in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-
century Europe, China formed a kind of anti-Europe,14 which was
seen as a kind of ‘dreamland’ mainly used to escape European real-
ity. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) pointed this out in
times of political disorder and turmoil (as during the so-called Ger-
man Liberation Wars against Napoleon).15
4. The role of religion in early modern Europe and the significant
role of missionaries in the formation of European knowledge on
5. Economic and political interactions on a global scale: Spain’s colo-
nial empire in America and the establishment of Spanish colonial
administration in the Philippines, the Portuguese sea-borne empire
with one of its outposts in Macau, and the Russian expansion in

Jonathan Israel, “Admiration of China and Classical Chinese Thought in the
Radical Enlightenment (1685–1740),” Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies 4,1 (2007),
Schmidt-Glintzer, Sinologie und das Interesse an China, 38. See also Wolfgang
Bauer, “Die Bedeutung Ostasiens für Europa heute,“ in August Pfizmaier (1808–1887)
und seine Bedeutung für die Ostasienwissenschaften, ed. Otto Ladstätter and Sepp
Linhart (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1990),
11–22, and Eun-Jeung Lee, Anti-Europa. Die Geschichte der Rezeption des Kon-
fuzianismus und der konfuzianischen Gesellschaft seit der frühen Aufklärung. Eine
ideengeschichtliche Untersuchung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der deutschen
Entwicklung, Politica et Ars 6 (Münster: LIT, 2003).
Staats-Lexikon oder Encyklopädie der Staatswissenschaften, ed. Carl von Rotteck
and Carl Welcker, vol. 14 (1843) vol. 14 (1843) 520. On Goethe’s “orientalism” see
Said Abdel-Rahim, “Goethes Hinwendung zum Orient—eine innere Emigration,“
Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 132 (1982), 269–288.
6 chapter one

Siberia lead to worldwide economic interactions from early modern

times onwards.

Within these settings, the choice of the period for this study (1700–
1850) may be argued not only from developments in Sino-European
relations, but also from developments in the European ‘republic of
letters’ and by developments in China both political and intellectual:
At the end of the seventeenth century, the Qing had finally consoli-
dated their rule by the suppression of the “Three Feudatories” (sanfan
zhi luan 三藩之亂), by the occupation of Taiwan in the early 1680s,
and by the campaign against Galdan (1632/44–1697). After the consol-
idation of their rule over China, the Qing undertook efforts to regulate
foreign relations: In 1684, the Qing court reopened ports for foreign
trade. In an attempt to fix their common border, China and Russia
concluded the Treaty of Nerčinsk (1689). At the turn of the eighteenth
century, the Kangxi 康熙 Emperor (r. 1662–1722) commissioned huge
literary collections, including the Guwen yuanjian 古文淵鑑 (Pro-
found Mirror of Classical Prose, 1684/85), an anthology edited by the
scholar-official and bibliophile Xu Qianxue 徐乾學 (1631–1694), as
well as the encyclopaedia-like Yuanjian leihan 淵鑑類函 (Classical
Repository of Profound Appraisals, 1701/1710).
About the year 1700, the influence of Western missionaries at the
court of the Kangxi Emperor reached its height. High-ranking officials
of the Qing 清 dynasty as well as the emperor himself were inter-
ested mainly in scientific achievements demonstrated by the Jesuits. At
the same time, the position of the Jesuits within the frame of Roman
Catholic missions began to be challenged by the developments of the
Rites Controversy. Political and economic interests of the Europeans
in China became obvious at that time. In 1685, the French King Louis
XIV (r. 1643–1715) sent six Jesuits to China (‘les mathématiciens du
Roi’), mainly for the purpose of collecting data on the economic state
of China. In 1700, English ships reached the Zhoushan 舟山 Archi-
pelago for the first time.
In the early eighteenth century, the European ‘republic of letters’
witnessed the beginning shift from publishing in Latin to publishing
in various vernacular languages of Europe. This also became obvious
in the field of subject-oriented reference works.
Throughout the eighteenth-century, changes in European images of
China were not primarily caused by events and developments in Sino-
European relations but by controversial debates among European
backgrounds of knowledge 7

intellectuals.16 These images of China and a variety of stereotypes and

prejudices based upon them were coined during the first phase of Euro-
pean contacts with China, which took place in the early modern era.
In mid-nineteenth century—at the close of our period of
examination—, Europe and China both underwent dramatic changes.
In Europe, changes in the political systems (caused by the French Rev-
olution and the revolutionary movements of 1830 and 1848) as well as
the industrial revolution had reshaped the intellectual and economic
settings: The emergence of a middle-class in Central and Western
Europe17 created the need for reference works providing up-to-date
information and useful knowledge. Reorganisation and diversifica-
tion of scholarly disciplines had replaced the ‘republic of letters’. Such
was the background for the beginning formation of Chinese studies
as an academic discipline in early nineteenth-century Europe. Those
concerned with the study of China (mainly Chinese language and lit-
erature) joined the newly established Asiatic Societies at Paris (Société
Asiatique, 1822), London (Royal Asiatic Society, 1823), and Leipzig
(Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, 1845).18
Economic and political reasons led to an increased concern for the
Chinese empire in early nineteenth-century Europe, culminating in the
so-called “opening” (i.e. the nineteenth century Western invasion) of
China in the aftermath of the First Anglo-Chinese War (Opium War)
of 1839–1842. This challenge by the outside world coincided with a
decline of imperial power within the realm of the Qing Empire since
the 1790s. Natural disasters mainly caused by deforestation, a rapid
growth of population, as well as popular unrest and rebellion (e.g. the

On the various strands of discourse on China in early modern Europe see below
p. 23 f.
For early-nineteenth century definitions of ‘middle-class’ in English, French
and German reference works see Reinhart Koselleck, Ulrike Spree, and Willibald
Steinmetz, “Drei bürgerliche Welten? Zur vergleichenden Semantik der bürgerlichen
Gesellschaft in Deutschland, England und Frankreich,” in Bürger in der Gesellschaft der
Neuzeit. Wirtschaft—Politik—Kultur, ed. Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Bürgertum. Beiträge zur
europäischen Gesellschaftsgeschichte 1 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991),
22–35. Reprinted in: Reinhart Koselleck, Begriffsgeschichten. Studien zur Semantik der
politischen und sozialen Sprache. Mit zwei Beiträgen von Ulrike Spree und Willibald
Steinmetz sowie einem Nachwort zu Einleitungsfragmenten Reinhart Kosellecks von
Carsten Dutt (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2006).
Douglas T. McGetchin, “Wilting Florists. The Turbulent Early Decades of the
Société Asiatique, 1822–1860,” Journal of the History of Ideas 64, no. 4 (2003).
8 chapter one

activities of secret societies, a Muslim uprising in Xinjiang, and the

outbreak of the Taiping 太平 Rebellion in 1850) destabilized China.19
Presentation of information on China varied considerably not only
in its contents but also in its form. Not to mention the varying use of
lists, tables, and plates, the arrangement of subjects within the arti-
cles on “China” underwent frequent rearrangement (as will be shown
below, encyclopaedias followed no regular order even when listing the
provinces of China).
The wide range of sources compilers and editors of encyclopaedias
relied on will also be discussed in detail: Knowledge on China had
been disseminated not only by monographs and by (scholarly) jour-
nals but also very influentially by encyclopaedic dictionaries. Never-
theless, studies in the history of European images of and approaches to
China largely neglected the genre of encyclopaedias. Reference works,
travelogues, geographical gazetteers, works on universal history as well
as scholarly books and journals (including early review journals) were
used as sources for the entries in encyclopedias.

1.2 Interactions between Europe and China

European knowledge on parts of East Asia nowadays known as China

dates back to Graeco-Roman antiquity. The interactions leading to all
forms of this knowledge have been direct as well as indirect: The earli-
est indirect contacts took place in the context of commercial activities
of Greek merchants trading to the East. From antiquity onwards, these
contacts are reflected in preserved cultural artefacts and texts as well,
both telling us about the ever re-defined world-view of the different
centres of learning in the course of European history.20

Philip A. Kuhn, Origins of the Modern Chinese State (Stanford: Stanford Univer-
sity Press, 2002), 2–8.
Interactions between China and Europe have been subject to ample research.
The most useful presentations include: Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in
China, Vol. 1: Introductory Orientations (Cambridge: University Press, 1954), 150–
248 (“Conditions of Travel of Scientific Ideas and Techniques between China and
Europe”); on Needham’s conceptual approach to interactions between Europe and
China see Robert Finlay, “China, the West, and World History in Joseph Needham’s
Science and Civilisation in China,” Journal of World History 11, no. 2 (2000), 265–303.
For an introduction to the role of China in the transmission of knowledge between
East and West see Christoph Koerbs, “East and West: China in the Transmission of
Knowledge from East to West,” in Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology,
and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, ed. Helaine Selin (Dordrecht, Boston, London:
backgrounds of knowledge 9

The first and most influential ‘encyclopaedic’ work in the intellec-

tual history of medieval Europe, the Etymologiae written by Isidore of
Seville (560–636) summed up the knowledge on East Asia collected
in Greek and Roman antiquity.21 As Western and Central Europe did
not maintain any form of communication with East Asia, a traditional
and very limited body of knowledge had been perpetuated until the
end of the Middle Ages. Moreover, medieval Western Europe did not
learn about sporadic contacts existing between Byzantium and Eastern
Asia,22 about the mostly indirect relations maintained by Arab and

Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997), 261–266.—For contacts and interactions between

China and Europe see Wolfgang Franke, China und das Abendland (Göttingen: Van-
denhoeck und Ruprecht, 1962), René Étiemble, L’Europe chinoise vol. 1: De l’Empire
romain à Leibniz (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1988), René Étiemble, L’Europe chinoise
vol. 2: De la sinophilie à la sinophobie (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1989), Thomas H. C.
Lee, ed., China and Europe. Images and Influences in Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries,
Institute of Chinese Studies. The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Monograph Series
(Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1991), Xiaoxin Wu, ed., Encounters and
Dialogues. Changing Perspectives on Chinese-Western Exchanges from the Sixteenth
to Eighteenth Centuries, Monumenta Serica Monograph Series 51 (St. Augustin, Net-
tetal: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2005); David E. Mungello, The Great Encounter
of China and the West, 1500–1800 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2nd ed.,
2005).—For European sources on the encounters between Europe and Asia in early
modern times see the volumes of Asia in the Making of Europe by Donald F. Lach
(for the seventeenth century together with Edwin J. Van Kley). Exhibition catalogues
on early modern Sino-Western relations include Hartmut Walravens, China illustrata.
Das europäische Chinaverständnis im Spiegel des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts, Ausstel-
lungskataloge der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel 55 (Weinheim: VCH Acta
Humaniora, 1987), Anna Jackson and Amin Jaffer, Encounters. The Making of Asia
and Europe, 1500–1800 (London: V&A Publications, 2004).—For recently published
French-language exhibition catalogues see the notes in Jacques Marx, “De la Chine à
la chinoiserie. Échanges culturels entre la Chine, l’Europe et les Pays-Bas méridionaux
(XVIIe à XVIIIe siècle),” Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire 85, no. 3–4 (2007),
735–779. For a comparative view on the role of art as a means of power in eighteenth-
century China and Saxony see: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, ed., Goldener
Drache—Weißer Adler. Kunst im Dienste der Macht am Kaiserhof von China und am
sächsisch-polnischen Hof (1644–1795) (Munich: Hirmer, 2008).—For a recent bibliog-
raphy on early modern Western works on China see Björn Löwendahl, Sino-Western
relations, conceptions of China, cultural influences and the development of sinology
disclosed in western printed books 1477–1877. The catalogue of the Löwendahl—von
der Burg collection, 2 vols. (Hua Hin: The Elephant Press, 2008).
On the presentation of East Asia in Isidore’s work see Folker E. Reichert, Begeg-
nungen mit China. Die Entdeckung Ostasiens im Mittelalter, Beiträge zur Geschichte
und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters 15 (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1992), 65–67. On
ethnological information presented by Isidore see Margaret T. Hodgen, Early Anthro-
pology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Penn-
sylvania Press, 1964), 59–64.
For research on the contacts between Byzantium and China see the bibliographic
references in Michael Kordosis, “The Byzantine (Fu-lin) delegation of 643 in China.
10 chapter one

Jewish traders with Central Asia, or about ninth-century Arab travels

to China23—the latter were only ‘discovered’ as subject of research by
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French orientalists. Information
on these travels became included in eighteenth and nineteenth-cen-
tury works of general reference.
Europeans received first reports of Mongol conquests in Inner Asia
at the time of the Fifth Crusade (1217–1221). While the Arabs had
played a key role in the preservation of the scientific legacy of Euro-
pean antiquity, the contacts with the Islamic world did not lead to
an improvement of European knowledge on Inner Asia and China.24
About the year 1240, Central and Eastern Europe faced the height of
the Mongol expansion to the West.25 To seek contacts with the Mon-
gol rulers, the Papacy sent a mission (1245–1247) led by John of Plano
Carpini (Giovanni dal Piano del Carpini OFM; c. 1182–1252). King
Louis IX of France (r. 1225–1270) sent William of Rubruck OFM
(c. 1215–after 1257) on a mission to Inner Asia.26 Although Rubruck
never reached China, he presented the first European description
“of the Chinese script, the postal system, the Southern Song empire,
and the kingdom of Korea.“27 Observations made by these mis-
sions were not only perceived by contemporaries like Roger Bacon

The King Po-to-li,” in Hypermachos. Festschrift für Werner Seibt zum 65. Geburtstag,
ed. Christos Stavrakos, Alexandra-Kyriaki Wassiliou, and Mesrob K. Krikorian
(Vienna: Österreichisch-armenische Gesellschaft, 2008), 153–158, especially 153 n. 1
and 2 and 154 n. 4.
Encyclopaedia of Islam. New edition, vol. 9 (1997) 616–625 (s. v. ‘al-Ṣīn’), espe-
cially 617–22 (‘Geographical and historical information to the year ca. A.D. 1050’;
[M. Hartmann], C. E. Bosworth).
On the role of Islam in the transmission of knowledge between Europe and Asia
see Richard C. Taylor, “East and West: Islam in the Transmission of Knowledge from
East to West,” in Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in
Non-Western Cultures, ed. Helaine Selin (Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer Aca-
demic Publishers, 1997), 270–274.
On the European perception of the Mongols see David Morgan, The Mongols
(Cambridge, Mass, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 175–98, on the rumours from Inner Asia
that reached the crusaders in Damietta see ibid., 178. Felicitas Schmieder, Europa und
die Fremden. Die Mongolen im Urteil des Abendlandes vom 13. bis in das 15. Jahr-
hundert, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters 16 (Sigmaringen:
Thorbecke, 1994).
Nicolas Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume One: 635–
1800, Handbook of Oriental Studies, IV/15,1 (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 71–73 (Plano
Carpini) and 73–74 (Rubruck).
Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History. A Manual. Revised and Enlarged, Har-
vard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series 52 (Cambridge, MA, London: Harvard
University Press, 2000), 755.
backgrounds of knowledge 11

(c. 1214–c. 1292),28 they were also mentioned in thirteenth-century

encyclopaedic works like the Speculum historiale, the most widely dis-
seminated part of Vincent of Beauvais’ (before 1200–1264) Speculum
maius (i. e. ‘The Great Mirror’).29
Because of Pax Mongolica—Mongol rule over vast areas of Eurasia—
several Europeans set out for Inner Asia, some of them even reaching
China.30 The most famous of these travellers was Marco Polo (1254–
1324/25), who accompanied his father and his uncle on their way to
the East, where they remained for about two decades. In the latter half
of the thirteenth century, the Mongols had established their rule over
the northern parts of China and founded the Yuan 元 dynasty. The
last pretender of the Southern Song 宋 dynasty died in 1279.31 China’s
prosperous maritime trade to Southeast Asia, India, and Western Asia
continued to flourish under the Yuan.32

For this perception see Jarl Charpentier, “William of Rubruck and Roger
Bacon,” in Hyllningsskrift Tillägnad Sven Hedin, på hans 70-Årsdag (Stockholm: Gen-
eralstabens Litografiska Anstalt, 1935), 255–67, Hodgen, Early Anthropology, 103;
Michael Friedrich, “Chiffren oder Hieroglyphen? Die chinesische Schrift im Abend-
land,” in Hieroglyphen. Stationen einer anderen abendländischen Grammatologie, ed.
Aleida Assmann and Jan Assmann, Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation VIII
(Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2003), 91–95.
On this point see Hodgen, Early Anthropology, 103; Schmieder, Europa und die
Fremden. Die Mongolen im Urteil des Abendlandes vom 13. bis in das 15. Jahrhundert,
70 and ibid., 207. See also Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume
One: 635–1800, 46. For a review of twentieth century German research on medieval
European images of the Mongols see Thomas Ertl, “Der China-Spiegel. Gedanken
zu Chinas Funktionen in der deutschen Mittelalterforschung des 20. Jahrhunderts,”
Historische Zeitschrift 280, no. 2 (2005). 325–6 (including bibliographical notes). On
the representation of the marvels of the East in medieval encyclopaedias in general
see Marcello Ciccuto, “Le meraviglie d’oriente nelle enciclopedie illustrate del Medio-
evo,” in L’enciclopedismo medievale, ed. Michelangelo Picone (Ravenna: Longo, 1994),
79–116. On the significance of medieval encyclopaedias for the shaping of fifteenth-
century European knowledge on non-European regions see Michael Herkenhoff, Die
Darstellung außereuropäischer Welten in Drucken deutscher Offizinen des 15. Jahrhun-
derts (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1996), 27–38.
For the background of these missions see Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christian-
ity in China. Volume One: 635–1800, 71–76. For bibliographical details on medieval
European travellers to China see also Wilkinson, Chinese History, 755 f.
For an overview on research on Marco Polo see Igor de Rachewiltz, “Marco Polo
went to China,” Zentralasiatische Studien 27 (1997), 34–92 and Peter Jackson, “Marco
Polo and His ‘Travels’,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 61, no. 1
(1998), 82–101.
Apart from the comprehensive overview given by Angela Schottenhammer,
“The East Asian maritime world, c. 1400–1800. Its fabrics of power and dynamics of
exchanges—China and her neighbours,” in The East Asian Maritime World 1400–1800:
Its Fabrics of Power and Dynamics of Exchanges, ed. Angela Schottenhammer, East
Asian Economic and Socio-cultural Studies 4 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007), 1–86
12 chapter one

In this setting, European eyewitnesses were eager to explore hith-

erto unknown regions. In their reports on their experiences, they pre-
sented the wonders of the world (mirabilia mundi) on a new scale.
Not only Marco Polo’s Livre des merveilles, but also the itinerary of
Odorico da Pordenone OFM (d. 1331) and the fictitious Travels of
the supposed writer John Mandeville (supposedly fl. 1357) served this
purpose. Apart from satisfying the want for the curious, these authors
used the exotic as a testing ground, either to check their own patterns
of interpretation or for an experimental breaking of the strict rules
imposed on them.33
These accounts were crucial for the formation of European knowl-
edge on Asia. Despite the limited number of manuscript copies, these
reports had circulated quite widely and thus had helped to shape first
images on Central and East Asia for learned Europeans. Apart from first
remarks on Chinese writing (William of Rubruck), medieval travellers
informed about aspects of Chinese cuisine (preparation of snakes) or
about the custom of footbinding (both observations reported by Odo-
rico da Pordenone).34 These early descriptions of East Asia and China
prevailed at least until the end of the fifteenth century.35 The advent
and spread of printing made medieval texts more easily available. This

see also the following articles: Michael C. Brose, “Realism and Idealism in the Yuanshi
Chapters on Foreign Relations,” Asia Major, 3rd series, 19, no. 1–2 (2006), 327–47 (on
Yuan foreign relations and their representation in the Yuanshi 元史 (the “standard
history” of the Yuan, compiled under the Ming); Tansen Sen, “The Yuan Khanate
and India: Cross-Cultural Diplomacy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries,”
Asia Major, 3rd series, 19, no. 1–2 (2006), 299–326 (on Yuan relations with India);
Roderich Ptak and Ralph Kauz, “Hormuz in Yuan and Ming sources,” Bulletin de
l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient 88, no. 1 (2001), 27–75 (on Chinese contacts with
Hormuz). On long-term perspectives of cultural contacts in coastal areas see Hugh
Clark, “The Religious Culture of Southern Fujian, 750–1450: Preliminary Reflections
on Contacts across a Maritime Frontier,” Asia Major, 3rd series, 19, no. 1–2 (2006),
Michael Rothmann, “ex oculata fide et probatione cotidiana. Die Aktualisierung
und Regionalisierung natürlicher Zeichen und ihrer Ursachen im Liber de mirabi-
libus mundi des Gervasius von Tilbury,” in Kloster und Bildung im Mittelalter, ed.
Nathalie Kruppa and Jürgen Wilke, Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für
Geschichte 218 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 359–361.
Wilkinson, Chinese History, 755; Folker Reichert, “Odorico da Pordenone and
the European perception of Chinese beauty in the Middle Ages,” Journal of Medieval
History 25, no. 4 (1999), 339–355.
Reichert, Begegnungen mit China, 276–284 (on perceptions, misunderstandings
and the European knowledge of East Asia); Reinhold Jandesek, Das fremde China.
Berichte europäischer Reisender des späten Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit, Welt-
bild und Kulturbegegnung 3 (Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, 1992).
backgrounds of knowledge 13

can be seen from the dates of the first printed editions: the book of
Marco Polo (Nuremberg, 1477), the Travels of John Mandeville (1480),
and the itinerary of Odorico da Pordenone (Pesaro, 1513).36 As the
reading public rather soon became interested in travelogues and in all
kinds of exotic mirabilia mundi, the early sixteenth century saw the
formation of a “market for the marvelous”.37
The age of discoveries quickly provided further stimulus for this
“market”: Compilers, translators, and editors of reports showing
the widening horizons of European Renaissance had to take up the
challenge of integrating new discoveries into ancient and medieval
knowledge. Thus, the term ‘Renaissance’ may be used not only for the
renewal of the study of texts dating from classical antiquity but also for
the rediscovery of medieval travelogues on Central and Eastern Asia.
A broader availability of medieval texts on East Asia coincided with
Portuguese explorations in South and East Asia following the circum-
navigation of the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama (1468/69–1524) ‘discovered’ the sea-route
to India. Shortly thereafter, the Portuguese seized Goa and made it
their headquarters for further operations in Asia. After reaching
Malacca in 1511, the Portuguese soon set out for China. Jorge Álvarez
(fl. 1513–47) reached South China in 1513. In the following year, two
Italian merchants in Portuguese service, Giovanni di Empoli (1483–
1518) and Rafael Perestrello (fl. 1514–7) reached China. In August
1517, a first Portuguese squadron entered the Zhujiang 珠江 (Pearl
River) delta.38
From early modern times onwards, the European acquisition of
knowledge on China has been closely linked to predominant socio-
political and economic structures. For reasons of secrecy, information
on the Portuguese advance to East Asia was disseminated in the Euro-
pean public only after the publication of the first three parts of João de

For detailed information on the earliest printed versions of these works see
Herkenhoff, Die Darstellung außereuropäischer Welten in Drucken deutscher Offizinen
des 15. Jahrhunderts, 47–49 (Marco Polo), 59 (Mandeville), and 46 n. 106 (Odorico).
Christine R. Johnson, “Buying Stories: Ancient Tales, Renaissance Travelers, and
the Market for the Marvelous,” Journal of Early Modern History 11, no. 6 (2007),
On these early Sino-European contacts see John E. Wills, “Relations with mari-
time Europeans, 1514–1662,” in The Cambridge History of China. Volume 8: The Ming
Dynasty, 1368–1644, Part 2, ed. Denis Twitchett and Frederick W. Mote, 333–375
(Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
14 chapter one

Barros’ (1496–1570) Asia (these parts described Portuguese discoveries

in the East from 1412 to 1526 and were published from 1552 to 1563).
The spread of Jesuit missions to East Asia and the Spanish advance to
the Philippines further weakened the Portuguese monopoly of infor-
mation on these parts of the world.39
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to use the term ‘China’.
Beginning in mid-sixteenth century, this term found its way into
many other European languages. This new naming took place at a
time, when the term ‘India’ was still commonly used by Europeans
to describe the southern and eastern parts of Asia. In dealing with
those parts of East Asia, which quite soon were to become ‘China’,
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European scholars still tended
to use the terms ‘Cathay’ (Marco Polo’s name for the northern parts
of China) and ‘Mangi’ (for the southern parts of this vast empire).40
The final identification of the ‘Serica’ of European antiquity and the
‘Cathay’ of medieval sources with ‘China’ only took place in the early
seventeenth century after Bento de Góis SJ (1563–1607) had taken the
overland route from India to China.41
Early European knowledge on the geography of China had also
become available through maps. In 1584, Abraham Ortelius (1527–
1598) included a map of China in the revised edition of his Theatrum
Orbis Terrarum. This map, drawn by the Portuguese cartographer Luís
Jorge de Barbuda (fl. 1575–1599), was the first printed map of China
ever published in Europe.42 Maps depicting China also were included
in the atlases compiled by Gerard Mercator (1512–1594) und Jodocus
Hondius (1563–1612).

For the second edition (1628) of Barros’ Asia (originally published in 1552,
1553 and 1563) see Löwendahl, Sino-Western cultural relations, vol. 1, p. 42 (no. 75).
On Spanish aspirations in East Asia during the 1570s and early 1580s see John M.
Headley, “Spain’s Asian Presence, 1565–1590. Structures and Aspirations,” Hispanic
American Historical Review 75, no. 4 (1995), 623–646.
On the coining of the term ‘Cathay’ see Denis Sinor, “Western Information on
the Kitans and Some Related Questions,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 115,
no. 2 (1995), especially 263 f.
Peter H. Meurer, Fontes Cartographici Orteliani. Das ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’
von Abraham Ortelius und seine Kartenquellen (Weinheim: VCA Acta Humaniora,
1991), 111 f.
Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume One: 635–1800, 756.
backgrounds of knowledge 15

1.3 Ordering Knowledge on Non-European Regions

From the sixteenth century onwards, spatially arranged cosmographies

and universal geographies gave a presentation of European knowledge
on China and East Asia. These early modern universal geographies
represent forms of European hegemonial world order in the beginning
age of discoveries.
The German astronomer Peter Apian (1495–1552) had dismissed
the notion of ‘cosmography’ for works of universal geography. In his
Cosmographicus Liber (1524) he made a clear distinction between the
genres of cosmography (astronomy), geography (description of the
world), and topography or chorography (description of clearly defined
areas). Only in the early seventeenth century, the term ‘cosmography’
was replaced by ‘universal geography’.43 Margaret Hodgen referred to
these works as “Renaissance collections of manners and customs (pre-
served necessarily between the covers of a little book).”44
Sixteenth century ‘cosmographies’ relied on medieval sources for
their description of Central and East Asia. Among the popular medi-
eval reports which included information on these regions, the Travels
of the supposed writer Sir John Mandeville had been dismissed as
unreliable as early as in the Welt-Buch (i.e. ‘book of the world’, 1534)
by Sebastian Franck (c. 1500–1542/43).45
The gradual change of sources used for information on East Asia
becomes obvious from the editions of the Cosmographia. Originally
published in 1544 by Sebastian Münster (1488–1552), the work had
been revised and enlarged several times. Up to the year 1628, the Cos-
mographia had been translated into several European languages.46

Vogel, “Cosmography”, 470.
Hodgen, Early Anthropology, 131.
J. Löwenberg, “Das Weltbuch Sebastian Francks. Die erste allgemeine Geographie
in deutscher Sprache,” Sammlung gemeinverständlicher wissenschaftlicher Vorträge 177
(N. S. 8) (1893), 321. For the representation of Asia in Franck’s work see ibid., 336–
338; Gita Dharampal-Frick, Indien im Spiegel deutscher Quellen der Frühen Neuzeit
(1500–1750). Frühe Neuzeit 18 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1994), 32–48—Michel, “Ord-
nungen des Wissens. Darbietungsweisen des Materials in Enzyklopädien,” 60–62 dis-
cusses Mandeville as an example for the disposition of knowledge as a world map.
On Münster’s description of Asia see Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of
Europe. Volume II. A Century of Wonder. Book II: The Literary Arts (Chicago, London:
Chicago University Press, 1977), 339–341; Günther Wessel, Von einem, der daheim
blieb, die Welt zu entdecken. Die Cosmographia des Sebastian Münster oder Wie man
sich vor 500 Jahren die Welt vorstellte (Frankfurt a. M.: Campus, 2004), 213–219.—As
more than half of the whole work was formed by the description of Germany, Jean
16 chapter one

From mid-fifteenth to mid-sixteenth century, a considerable increase

of information on non-European regions had taken place. This may be
seen by a comparison of the Historia rerum ubique gestarum, written
by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405–64) during his pontificate (Pius II,
1458–1464), and printed in Venice in 1477 and Botero’s Delle relazi-
oni universale (first complete edition printed in Vicenza in 1595).
The description of the world provided by Piccolomini was based on
Ptolemy (c. AD 90–168), Strabo (64/63 BC–AD 20), Pliny (AD 23–79),
and Pomponius Mela (fl. AD 44). In describing South and East Asia,
he relied on Marco Polo and Odorico da Pordenone.
Throughout the sixteenth century, the genre of cosmography flour-
ished throughout Western and Southern Europe, to mention only the
works of Lorenzo Anania (c. 1545–1607/09) and Giovanni Botero
(1544–1617).47 Writing at the end of the sixteenth century and making
use of the reports written since the beginnings of the age of discovery,
Botero set a new standard concerning the field of universal geography
not only by a remarkable density of description of peoples through-
out the world but also by offering “systematic demographic, economic,
and political comparisons between China and Europe.”48
In England, the Cosmographie (1652) published by Peter Heylin
(1599–1662) became widely used.49 Examples for French efforts in this
field are the Histoire universelle du monde (1572) written by François
Belleforest (1530–1583) or the Cosmographie universelle by André

Bodin labelled it as a “germanographie”. See Marie Dominique Couzinet, “Fonction

de la géographie dans la connaissance historique: le modèle cosmographique de l’his-
toire universelle chez F. Bauduin et J. Bodin,” Corpus. Revue de philosophie, no. 28
(1995), 123 n. 26.—On the presentation of Asia in early modern German cosmogra-
phies see Peter Rögl, “Die Beschreibung Asiens in den deutschen Kosmographien von
1550–1650” (unpublished Working Paper, University of Vienna, 1967).
For Anania’s and Botero’s presentation of Asia see Lach, Asia in the Making of
Europe II/2, 229–232 (Anania); ibid., 235–249 (Botero). For orientalism in the writings
of Botero see Joan-Pau Rubiés, “Oriental Despotism and European Orientalism: Bot-
ero to Montesquieu,” Journal of Early Modern History 9, no. 1–2 (2005), 124–134.
Francisco Bethencourt, “European expansion and the new order of knowledge,”
in The Renaissance World, ed. John Jeffries Martin (London, New York: Routledge,
2007), 129–30. On Pope Pius’ II presentation of East Asia see also Reichert, Begeg-
nungen mit China, 261 f.
For a chronological list of English works on universal geography see the appen-
dix in O. F. G. Sitwell, Four Centuries of Special Geography. An annotated guide to
books that purport to describe all the countries in the world published in English before
1888, with a critical introduction (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press,
1993), on the various editions of Heylin’s Cosmographie see ibid., 301–305.
backgrounds of knowledge 17

Thevet (1516/17–1592) published in 1575.50 Thevet presented one of

the last summaries of European knowledge on China before Juan
González de Mendoza published his Historia de las cosas más notables,
ritos y costumbres de gran reyno de la China in 1585.51
Heavily relying on González de Mendoza and other accounts pub-
lished in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Europe, Pierre
d’Avity (1573–1635/40) included an extensive chapter on China in
his Les estats, empires, et principautez du monde (1613),52 which was
“a condensation of Mendoza”.53 In 1628, a Latin translation of this
work under the title Archontologia cosmica was published in Frank-
furt/Main; a second edition, published in 1649, was furnished with
magnificent copperplates.54
According to Jean Céard, cosmographies represent only one kind of
encyclopaedic writing in Renaissance Europe. They also include collec-
tions of travelogues (the best known collections were the Delle naviga-
tioni et viaggi edited by Giovanni Battista Ramusio (c. 1485–1557), the
Principal navigations, voyages, traffiques and discoveries of the English
nation (1598) edited by Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552–1616), and the Rela-
tions de divers voyages curieux (1696) edited by Melchisédec Thévenot
(c. 1620–1692)),55 collections of language specimens (e. g. the Traicté
des chiffres (1586) by Blaise de Vigenère (1523–1596) or the Thrésor
de l’histoire des langues de cest univers compiled by Claude Duret
(c. 1570–1611)) as well as compendia on zoography and agriculture.56
In their aim to give comprehensive information on all parts of the
world, universal geographies may be regarded as one of the predecessors

For the representation of Asia and China in these works see Lach, Asia in the
Making of Europe, II/2, 304 (on Thevet), ibid., 305 f. (on Belleforest).
For the various editions of Mendoza’s ‘bestseller’ see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica,
cols. 8–16.
Pierre d’Avity, Les estats, empires, et principautez du monde, représentez par la
description du pays, moeurs des habitans, richesses des provinces, les forces, le gouver-
nement, la religion, et les princes, qui ont gouverné chacun estat. [. . .] (Paris: Olivier de
Varennes, 1613). On China see ibid., 849–889.
Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe, III/4, 1571.
For these and other editions of d’Avity see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, cols. 23
and 3255–3258.
Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 1, p. 8 f. (no. 10) lists the China-related
contents of Ramusio; for the Thévenot collection see ibid., 109–112 (no. 217). For
Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 1939 f.
Jean Céard, “Encyclopédie et encyclopédisme à la Rénaissance,” in L’encyclopé-
disme. Actes du Colloque de Caen 12–16 janvier 1987, ed. Annie Becq (Paris: Klinck-
sieck, 1991), 66.
18 chapter one

of encyclopaedias. They offered a systematic arrangement of both geo-

graphical and historical knowledge on the wider world. These descrip-
tions of the world met the want for a quick access to information on
non-European regions freely used in inner-European discourses since
the late Renaissance. Although the term of ‘cosmography’ had been
abandoned in favour of ‘universal geography’, the German renderings
‘Weltbeschreibung’ (description of the world) or ‘Erdbeschreibung’
(description of the earth) remained in use in titles of works on uni-
versal geography until the eighteenth century.57 A general description
of East Asia also had been included in works of universal history.58 The
idea that such works provide access to information on China, is sup-
ported by the alphabetically arranged index to the Modern Part of the
English Universal History (1736–1766).59
The crisis of European consciousness—as Paul Hazard labelled
European intellectual developments in the late seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries—coincided with increasing endeavours of Euro-
pean scholars to analyze the wealth of information on non-European
regions which had reached Europe since the beginnings of European
overseas expansion.60
In discussing the processes of European descriptions of China we
have to bear in mind that both regions were rather heterogeneous in
early modern times. The disparities became manifest in religion, lan-
guages, and ethnic diversity.
In Europe, the age of discovery coincided with the age of the Wars
of Religion. Views on the outside world were influenced by religious
concepts and the influence of religion on society. Roman Catholic,
Protestant, and Russian orthodox missionaries all contributed to the

See e. g. Christoph Benjamin Häckhel, Allgemeine und Neueste Welt-Beschreibung,
aus Herrn Johann Caspar Funckens seel. weiland Mathes. P. P. Ulm. hinterlassenen
MSC. vollends ergänzt, 2 ed. (Ulm: Daniel Bartholomäus, 1753).
On representations of Japan in early modern European universal histories see
Harald Kleinschmidt, “Japan im Welt- und Geschichtsbild der Europäer. Bemerkun-
gen zu europäischen Weltgeschichtsdarstellungen vornehmlich des 16. bis 18. Jahr-
hunderts,” Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung 3 (1980), 132–208.
On the English Universal History see Tamara Griggs, “Universal History from
Counter-Reformation to Enlightenment,” Modern Intellectual History 4, no. 2 (2007),
228–237. Examples for China-related references to the Universal History may be found
in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., 3 (1778) 1907 and ibid., 1920 (s. v. ‘China’),
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 653 (s. v. ‘China’).
Paul Hazard, La crise de la conscience européenne (1680–1715) (Paris: Boivin &
Cie, 1935).
backgrounds of knowledge 19

shaping of European images of China (and of Chinese religions) dur-

ing the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. In China,
there existed three major teachings (san jiao 三教). These teachings
nowadays commonly are addressed as ‘religions’ or ‘religious systems’
by non-Chinese observers. Early modern European authors labelled all
three systems—Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism—‘sects’.61
At least during the eighteenth century, the various vernacular lan-
guages of Europe began to replace Latin as the language of scholarly
communication. For European perceptions of China the geographical
shift of centres for generating and accumulating knowledge meant a
shift in the languages used for the presentation of materials on China.
Throughout the sixteenth century, European information on China
mostly had been collected in Portugal and Spain. Due to the impor-
tance of Roman Catholic missionaries for transmitting information
from China to Europe, the importance of seventeenth-century Rome
as a centre for collecting and (partly) disseminating knowledge on
China became obvious. Shortly after the French court took a vivid
interest in the China mission, Paris became the undisputed European
center for European studies on China. Concerning information on
contemporary developments in China, the leading position only began
to challenged after the suppression of the Jesuit order. In pursuing
economic interests in East Asia, the British provided ample informa-
tion on the actual state of China.
In their writings on China, European missionaries very soon noted
different modes of written and oral language: in communication with
different administrative levels they had to use guanhua (the official
language, later commonly called Mandarin by foreigners), in deal-
ing with the classical texts of China they had to read wenyan (Liter-
ary Chinese) and in preaching the gospel they had to have command
of the vernacular language (i.e. one of the various dialects spoken
in different parts of the empire). Moreover, with the establishment
of the Qing dynasty, Europeans became aware of the various ethnic
groups of China.62 The importance of the peoples of Inner Asia for

On the equation of the term ‘sect’ with the term ‘jiao’ 教 and on the origins of
this equation see T. H. Barrett, “Chinese Religion in English Guise. The History of an
Illusion,” Modern Asian Studies 39, no. 3 (2005), especially 511–13.
For recent research on this subject see Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu, and
Donald S. Sutton, Empire at the Margins. Culture, Ethnicity and Frontier in Early
Modern China (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2006).
20 chapter one

the maintenance of Manchu rule in a considerably enlarged Chinese

Empire also was referred to by European observers.
Among the new perspectives Europe gained at the beginning of
the age of discovery there were ‘three new kinds of outside’: classical
antiquity, new continents overseas, and a limitless universe.63
New perspectives on the three outsides (classical antiquity, new
continents; a limitless universe) mostly were described with traditional
means that already had been in use in antiquity and in medieval times.
Our analysis will show which of the most prominent stylistic devices
available for this purpose were used to portray China and the Chinese
in European works of general knowledge. The most common strategies
used by Europeans since the Later Middle Ages for describing alterities
included comparisons, superlatives, parallels and exotic vocabulary.64
European knowledge on China was the product of a series of trans-
missions and transformations. These transmissions and transforma-
tions were the result of intellectual, economical, political, and cultural
interests—both on institutional and individual levels.
The contents of travelogues and of writings published by the phi-
losophes repeatedly have been subject to detailed studies. In recent
years, efforts have been made to analyze the cross-cultural transmis-
sions and transformations of knowledge.65 An in-depth analysis of
European encyclopaedias will contribute to a deeper understanding
of both individual and institutional levels engaged in the processes of
cultural transmissions and transmissions of knowledge.
All transmissions can be reduced to the following elements: CON-
TEXT (why), CONTENT (what), RECEIVER (to whom), MEDIUM
(how). These four elements as well as their definition closely follow the
model described by Richard Scholar:
According to Scholar, CONTEXT is defined “in terms of the ques-
tion or needs to which the act of transmission responds or the purpose

Erik Ringmar, The Mechanics of Modernity in Europe and East Asia. The Institu-
tional Origins of Social Change and Stagnation, Routledge Explorations in Economic
History 29 (London, New York: Routledge, 2005), 32–38 and ibid., 172.
Michèle Guéret-Laferté, Sur les routes de l’empire mongol. Ordre et rhéthorique
des relations de voyage aux XIIIe et XIVe siècles (Paris: Champion, 1994), 225–255 (“La
rhétorique de l’alterité”) is following François Hartog, Le miroir d’Hérodote. Essai sur
la représentation de l’autre (Paris: Gallimard 1980).
For a recent overview of these efforts see the bibliography in Ashley E. Millar,
“The Jesuits as Knowledge Brokers Between Europe and China (1582–1773): Shaping
European Views of the Middle Kingdom.” (London: London School of Economics,
Working Papers No. 105/07, 2007).
backgrounds of knowledge 21

it serves.”66 In the representation of China in European encyclopaedias

CONTEXT refers to the trans-European task of ordering and classify-
ing the world from Renaissance to post-enlightenment days including
‘discovery’ and description of the world, economic and political inter-
ests and a broad variety of aspects meeting the intellectual needs of an
ever growing group of educated people.
CONTENT refers to practices, methods and theories of scholarly
disciplines or of a body of knowledge. Before modern scholarly disci-
plines (among them the discipline of sinology) evolved, knowledge on
China was configured, transmitted, and transformed within the struc-
tures of early modern European scholarship. From the second half of
the seventeenth century onwards, scholarly journals played a key role
in these processes of configuration, transmission, and transformation.67
The importance of early modern scholarly journals for these processes
also becomes evident in the light of European encyclopaedias.
MEDIUM: the media involved in cultural transmission comprise
the following groups: a) vehicles: words, images and objects (as arte-
facts, commodities, etc.); b) entities: manuscripts and printed material,
cabinets and collections (including early modern cabinets of curiosi-
ties (Kunstkammern, Wunderkammern) as well as museums in a more
‘modern’ sense founded in late eighteenth-century). To this may be
added c) “codes that govern their meaning as (different) traditions,
languages, and genres” and “institutions that govern their use and
diffusion”. To the institutions mentioned by Scholar (universities,
academies, courts, printing, and book-trade) there can be added trade
companies (like the East India companies) and religious groups and
institutions as well.
RECEIVER: Scholar prefers this term instead of ‘reader’, ‘audience’,
or ‘user’. The perception of contexts, contents, and media has always
been either intended/implied or actual. Scholarly publications of early

Richard Scholar, “Introduction,” in Transmitting Knowledge. Words, Images and
Instruments in Early Modern Europe, ed. Sachiko Kusukawa (Oxford: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 2006), 6.
In a project on late seventeenth- and early-eighteenth century European dis-
course on China (China im Diskurs (1665–1726)) funded by the German Thyssen
Stiftung (2005–2007), Li Wenchao collected and evaluated texts dealing with China
that had been published in European academic journals in the years from 1665 to
1726. The publication of a two-volume monograph has been announced for 2010. See
index.html (2 April 2010).
22 chapter one

modern Europe are likely to show the extent to which contexts and
contents have been perceived and in which way media have been
used.68 The evolution of European knowledge on China forms part of
the cultural and intellectual history of European expansion. This his-
tory contains elements of discovery, exploration and conquest.69
The ‘three types of discovery’ proposed by Michael Giesecke in his
study on the discovery of America as represented in early modern
European media70 may also be adapted for the analysis of knowledge
on China as presented in European encyclopaedias:
Discovery I: Perception and description of new worlds with special
programs: description of new discoveries in using well-known and
widespread concepts.
Discovery II: alternative models for describing the self and the
other and substitution of established paradigms: after facts had been
established (for instance the identity of Cathay with (northern) China
proved by the travels of Bento de Góis SJ (1563–1607) at the begin-
ning of the seventeenth century) ‘Cathay’ had an afterlife as a kind of
dreamland of European intellectual circles.
Discovery III: reflexive systematization of bodies of knowledge
established in the processes of ‘Discovery I’ and ‘Discovery II’: collect-
ing, ordering, and analyzing of information on China may be seen as
a prerequisite for the inclusion of information on China in European
general dictionaries of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
European perspectives on newly discovered continents soon found
their way into printed books: Between 1480 and 1609, France saw
the publication of 180 titles on Asia and of 120 works on universal
geography.71 Some of the titles on Asia and most of the cosmogra-
phies contained information on China.72 Up to 1570, this informa-

Scholar, “Introduction,” 1 and 4–6.
Urs Bitterli, Die Entdeckung Amerikas. Von Kolumbus bis Alexander von Hum-
boldt, 3rd ed. (Munich: Beck, 1992), 11–24.
Michael Giesecke, Von den Mythen der Buchkultur zu den Visionen der Informa-
tionsgesellschaft. Trendforschungen zur kulturellen Medienökologie, suhrkamp taschen-
buch wissenschaft 1543 (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 2002), 109–114.
Louis Dermigny, La Chine et l’Occident. Le Commerce à Canton au XVIIIe siècle
(1719–1833), 3 vols. (Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N, 1964), vol. 1, p. 16. See also André Stegmann,
“L’Extrême-Orient dans la littérature française (1480–1650),” Cahiers de l’Association
internationale des études françaises 27 (1975), 41–63, Jean Delumeau, La Peur en Occi-
dent (XIVe–XVIIIe siècles) (Paris: Fayard, 1978), 262.
On China in French cosmographies of the sixteenth century see Geoffroy
Atkinson, Les nouveaux horizons de la renaissance française (Paris: Libraire E. Droz,
1935), 56 and 177 f. as well as Stegmann, “L’Extrême-Orient”, 51–53.
backgrounds of knowledge 23

tion mainly was derived from travelogues of the Middle Ages. The
influence of these travelogues on the images of China in early modern
Europe has been stated repeatedly. Historical research in the evolu-
tion of European images on Asia in general has increased over the
last decades. This increase led to a more careful analysis of shifting
European images of China. Recently, the assumption that a sudden
shift has taken place at the end of the eighteenth century has been
labelled as too superficial and has been replaced by the analysis of
late eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century processes leading to the
exclusion of non-European civilizations.73
Our analysis of European views on China as presented in European
encyclopaedias starts from the following strands of discourse common
throughout early modern Europe:74 ethnography/ethnology, religion/
theology, China and the Meaning of history, trade, economy and tech-
nology as well as politics and international law.
Ethnography/ethnology: For a long time customs and manners as
well as the material culture of non-European civilizations have been
used to construct ‘differences’. Discourses on race presumed a priori
existing (pre-cultural) differences like climate, physiology, etc. In this
context, early modern European writers placed China within tradi-
tional concepts that had prevailed thoughout ancient and medieval
Europe. As a consequence of their attitude towards Enlightenment,
eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century writers mainly contributed
to the spread of pre-racist discourses on non-European civilizations.
Religious systems of the ‘other’ were labelled as pagan or idolat-
ric. As Günther Lottes has pointed out, “the Chinese ‘weapon’ which
the freethinkers of the early Enlightenment used so effectively in their
criticism of religion had been forged by the Church itself ”.75
Discourses on the meaning of history reached a new level in the
days of European enlightenment. Scholarly discourse as well as gen-
eral knowledge thus became strongly influenced by models of evolu-
tion which were used to define the ‘other’ (e. g. childhood, ‘primitive’

Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 380.
Jürgen Osterhammel, “Kulturelle Grenzen in der Expansion Europas, ” Saeculum
46 (1995), 101–138.
Günther Lottes, “China in European Political Thought, 1750–1850,” in China
and Europe. Images and Influences in Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Thomas
H. C. Lee, Institute of Chinese Studies. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Mono-
graph Series 12 (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1991), 67, on
“China and the European Discourse on Religion” see ibid., 66–71.
24 chapter one

culture, etc.). In the Age of Reason, “the history of Europe became

the natural history of the world while the histories of the great ori-
ental civilizations, particularly that of China, were classified as deca-
dent histories leading nowhere.”76 In this context eighteenth- and early
nineteenth-century European scholars compared China to the civiliza-
tions of ancient Europe and the ancient Near East. The study of China
therefore tended to resemble the studies of European antiquity (Alter-
tumswissenschaft). This became evident as early as in late seventeenth-
century European discourses on origin (origo) and antiquity (vetustas)
of Chinese culture.
As early as at the beginning of the sixteenth century, non-European
regions began to evolve as important markets for Europe. From the
very beginning of early modern contacts, China was viewed by Euro-
peans as an extremely abundant country providing goods of luxury
that could not be procured from elsewhere (porcelain, tea and silk
of the highest quality). In his The Nature and Causes of the Wealth
of Nations, Adam Smith admitted that China was one of the most
fertile countries in the world, but the poverty of the lower classes “sug-
gested to him that China was the classical case of a stationary economy
where the price of the lack of economic growth is paid by the laboring
Politics and international law: the restrictive policy of the Chinese
authorities against foreign presence in China restricted European
access to the country for a long time. Up to 1842, only foreign traders
in Guangzhou 廣州 and members of European legations to the court
of Beijing 北京 had the opportunity to interact with Chinese authori-
ties. While eighteenth-century English discourse on China seems to
have been “neither impressed nor disturbed by the lessons which the
Chinese political system taught or appeared to teach”,78 China served
as a frame of reference in debates on political modernization in con-
tinental Europe. For this purpose, China was portrayed as an ideal

Ibid., 83.
Ibid., 85.—See Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth
of Nations ([1776] Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam
Smith. Vol. 2a; Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1981) Book I, Chapter 8: “Of the Wages
of Labour”. For an electronic edition see The Online Library of Liberty. A project of
Liberty Fund, Inc. http://oll.libertyfund.org/ (2 May 2010).
Lottes, “China in European Political Thought”, 71.
backgrounds of knowledge 25

These strands of discourse had their counterpart in Chinese atti-

tudes towards foreigners. Chinese representations of non-Chinese
people played a key role for the formation of European views of South-
east Asian, North East Asian and Inner Asian people, as the Jesuit
missionaries relied on the respective portions of the general gazetteers
of the Chinese empire.
Gudula Linck79 mentions seven strands of discourse concerning
Chinese views of foreigners:
Myth: The Shanhaijing 山海經 (Classic of mountains and seas),
“the most famous Chinese compilation describing fantastic places and
strange beings”,80 presented many mythical elements. An increase of
geographical knowledge as well as the extension of the limits of Chi-
nese civilization offered new insights. While the Hou Hanshu 後漢書
(History of the Later Han) used the denomination Woguo 倭國 (lit.
‘land of dwarfs’) for Japan, the Xin Tangshu 新唐書 (New History of
the Tang) refers to Japan as Ribenguo 日本國 (lit. ‘land of the rising
sun’) in adopting the Japanese term. As Linck points out, the notion of
yanggui 洋鬼 (lit. ‘foreign devils’) used for Westerners in late imperial
China still reflected and perpetuated the imagination of demons living
on the periphery of the Sinosphere.
Politics: perceptions of the foreign were closely linked to the role of
China in an international context and to the general state of foreign
relations. Linck discusses not only the southward expansion of Han 漢
and early Tang 唐 China, but also the beginning of territorial losses in
late Tang China, which was followed by the establishment of the (for-
eign) Liao 遼 and Jin 金 dynasties. Contrary to the Liao and the Jin,
the Mongols (thirteenth century) and the Manchu (seventeenth cen-
tury) conquered the whole empire. While Japanese ‘pirates’ had been
seen as a major threat to the coastal areas in the Lower Changjiang
長江 region (sixteenth century), the Chinese barely recognized the
arrival of the Europeans (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries).
Ethnography and geography: Chinese works on foreign countries
included not only information on customs and manners, but also
(and mostly) data on the most important products of these countries,

Gudula Linck, “ ‘Die Menschen in den Vier Himmelsrichtungen’. Chinesische
Fremdbilder,” in Das andere China. Festschrift für Wolfgang Bauer zum 65. Geburt-
stag, ed. Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, Wolfenbütteler Forschungen 62 (Wiesbaden: Har-
rassowitz, 1995), 257–289, on the seven strands of discourse see ibid., 260–281.
Cohen, Introduction to Research in Chinese Source Materials, 556.
26 chapter one

especially in works dealing with Southeast Asia. For this strand of dis-
course Linck refers to works dealing with foreign countries, which were
written between Song and late Ming times: for example Zhou Qufei’s
周去非 Lingwai daida 嶺外代答 (Answers on Questions Concerning
the Regions beyond the Passes, 1178), Zhao Rugua’s 趙汝适 Zhufan zhi
諸蕃志 (Description of Foreign Countries, before 1225), Ma Huan’s
馬歡 Yingya shenglan 瀛涯勝覽 (Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores,
1433), Fei Xin’s 費信 Xingcha shenglan 星槎勝覽 (Overall Survey of
the Star Raft, 1436), or Zhang Xie’s 張燮 Dong Xiyang kao 東西洋考
(On the Eastern and Western Countries, 1618).81
Arrogance of the civilised: Rhetorics of reports on foreign countries
often linked the ‘civilizing missions’ of the Chinese in the peripheral
regions of the empire to the role of the cultural heroes of China’s
mythical times for the emergence of Chinese civilization. Linck points
out that Taiwan can be regarded as exemplary for this strand of dis-
Morality: Closely linked to the political discourse on foreigners, the
Chinese tended to stress the superiority of their cultural achievements.
The self had been considered superior to the other. People regarded
as ‘barbarians’ by the Chinese should come to China to get used to
Chinese culture (laihua 來華). While Linck mainly focuses on sources
of pre-Christian times, this strand of discourse also was quite common
in late imperial times, when the concept of huairou yuanren 懷柔遠人
(commonly but misleadingly translated as ‘tender cherishing of men
from afar’) still had been perpetuated.
Romantics and exoticism: Linck points out that this strand of dis-
course mainly can be found in Daoist writings. As early as in Zhuangzi
莊子 (4th century BC), there are mentioned the ‘better barbarians’ or
as a kind of noble savages. Throughout history, exotic goods and for-
eign influences reached the courts of China.
Understanding the ‘other’: According to Linck, discourses of
acknowledging the ‘otherness’ of the foreign occurred as early as in
Zhuangzi and in Liezi 列子. To a certain extent, this mutual under-
standing also may be found in late nineteenth-century Chinese percep-
tions of Europe, when Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 (1837–1909) advocated
the strengthening of Chinese values while adopting Western technol-

For bibliographical information on these works and short remarks on their sig-
nificance see Wilkinson, Chinese History, 746 f.
backgrounds of knowledge 27

ogy in using the slogan Zhongxue wei ti, xixue wei yong 中學為體西學
為用 (Chinese learning for fundamental principles, Western learning
for practical application).

In his manual on Chinese history, Endymion Wilkinson mentions

“exaggerated and misleading statistics in modern statements about the
Chinese past against which the student should be on guard.”82 This
advice is also helpful in dealing with the representation of China in
early modern European works in general and in European encyclo-
paedic reference works in particular. A wide range of exaggerated and
misleading data relating to the scope and extent of things Chinese can
be found in European reports on China since the beginning of regular
contacts in the early sixteenth century.
Since early modern times, Europeans regarded China as a giant,
mentioning territorial extent of the empire, abundance of natural
products, and luxury goods (silk, porcelain, tea), number and size of
cities, number and density of population, Chinese writing (number
of characters), communication networks (canals as systems for trans-
port and irrigation, postal system, etc.), a few, but gigantic monuments
(apart from the Chinese wall mainly bridges and pagodas as well as the
huge size of Chinese bells).83
As Europeans saw China as a kind of distant giant, news from this
‘curious land’ made it necessary to develop intellectual strategies for a
‘reduction’ of this giant. The ‘hard facts’ (like extent, population, etc.)
soon proved to be irrefutable. As a consequence, efforts to ‘reduce’
China to a comprehensible size mainly concentrated on aspects of
society and culture.
To denote a region culturally different from Europe, classical antiq-
uity used the term ‘Asia’. The expansion of the Arabs in the seventh
and eighth centuries AD and particularly in the age of the Crusades
paved the way that the Orient “took on new meaning as the alien cul-
tural realm” against which Europe defined itself.84

Ibid., 227.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’ (paragraph on ‘Buildings and Furniture of
the Chinese’) stated that the Chinese “are fond of every thing that is gigantic”.
Martin W. Lewis and Kären E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents. A Critique of Meta-
geography (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1997), 53.
28 chapter one

Quite soon, the Orient became synonymous with Islam.85 As Euro-

pean interests moved more and more eastward, India and China were
included into this concept. This move also becomes obvious in the
light of entries on the ‘Orient’ in general dictionaries and encyclopae-
dias.86 In their aim to present reliable information on Asian civiliza-
tions, encyclopaedias repeatedly had to restructure the area usually
known as ‘the Orient’ in Western academic discourse.87 In The Victo-
rian Translation of China, Norman Girardot proposed to consider not
only European attitudes towards the various civilizations of Asia, i.e.
various kinds of “disciplinary Orientalism” (Semitic studies, the study
of Islam, indology and sinology)88 but also the specific preconditions
in different European countries engaged in the study of these civiliza-
tions. This approach would help to distinguish the different kinds of
Orientalism “from the unfortunate monolithic implications of Said’s
original formulations.”89
At a time when alphabetic order was about to prevail as the leading
principle for the arrangement of reference works, the French scholar
Barthélemy d’Herbelot (1625–1695) compiled the Bibliothèque Orien-
tale. This alphabetically arranged work, was posthumously published in
1697 by the oriental scholar Antoine Galland (1646–1715).90 Informa-
tion on China contained in this edition only reflected the mentioning

On images of Islam in (late) medieval Europe see Almut Höfert, Den Feind
beschreiben. ‘Türkengefahr’ und europäisches Wissen über das Osmanische Reich
1450–1600, Campus Historische Studien 35 (Frankfurt, New York: Campus, 2003),
For a rather tentative and very limited examination of respective entries see
Andrea Polaschegg, Der andere Orientalismus. Regeln deutsch-morgenländischer
Imagination im 19. Jahrhundert, Quellen und Forschungen zur Literatur- und Kul-
turgeschichte 35 (269) (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005), 64–69 and ibid.,
Edward W. Said, Orientalism. Western Conceptions of the Orient (London, New
York: Penguin, [1978], reprinted with a new afterword, 1995). For a concise over-
view on research in Orientalism(s) see Polaschegg, Der andere Orientalismus. Regeln
deutsch-morgenländischer Imagination im 19. Jahrhundert, 10–27.
Norman Girardot, The Victorian Translation of China. James Legge’s Oriental
Pilgrimage (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of Califormia Press, 2002), 561
n. 6.—For earlier approaches on Orientalism in Chinese studies see the discussion in
Hans Hägerdal, “The Orientalism Debate and the Chinese Wall. An Essay on Said and
Sinology,” Itinerario 21, no. 3 (1997), 19–40.
Girardot, The Victorian Translation of China, 561 n. 6.
On the Bibliothèque Orientale see Henry Laurens, Aux sources de l’orientalisme.
La Bibliothèque Orientale de Barthélemi D’Herbelot, Publications du Département
d’Islamologie de l’Université de Sorbonne (Paris IV), no. VI (Paris: Maisonneuve,
1978), Nicholas Dew, “The Order of Oriental Knowledge. The Making of d’Herbelot’s
backgrounds of knowledge 29

of this country in Arabic-Islamic sources (works on universal history

and universal geography). The treatment of the whole variety of infor-
mation contained in these works inspired contemporary scholars to
label the Bibliothèque Orientale as ‘Moréri Oriental’ (and thus refer-
ring to the successful historial dictionary published by Louis Moréri).
The exclusive use of oriental terms as lemmas shows the reluctance to
classify the material according to ‘Western’ categories.91
Throughout Europe, the Bibliothèque Orientale remained one of the
most important reference works on Arabic-Islamic civilization up to
the early nineteenth century. This may not only be seen from its use
by leading eighteenth-century European scholars, but also from the
fact that it was the only reference (for many entries e. g. in Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon) dealing with the history of the Mongol empire.92
The impact of this work on the ‘republic of letters’ is shown by the fact,
that Pierre Bayle had mentioned it in the preface of the first edition
of his Dictionnaire historique. Moreover, a comparison of the editions
of Moréri’s Grand dictionnaire historique preceding and following
the publication of the Bibliothèque Orientale illustrates the immedi-
ate influence on this work on general and encyclopaedic reference
The supplement to the Bibliothèque Orientale, published in the
1770s in the Netherlands, contained several treatises on China. These
treatises represent the complete published works of Claude Visdelou
SJ (1656–1737). In the early eighteenth century, Visdelou directly
referred to the original edition of the Bibliothèque Orientale.94
The far-reaching impact of the Bibliothèque Orientale on scholarly
circles of Europe is illustrated by the fact that in 1817 Jean-Pierre Abel
Rémusat argued in favour of a similar project concerning information

Bibliothèque Orientale,” in Debating World Literature, ed. Christopher Prendergast,

233–252 (London: Verso, 2004).
Dew, “The Order of Oriental Knowledge”: for “Moréri Oriental” see ibid., 249
n. 49, for the exclusive use of oriental terms ibid., 250. See also Laurens, Aux sources
de l’orientalisme. La Bibliothèque Orientale de Barthélemi D’Herbelot, 80 (information
on East Asia taken from Islamic sources).
See e. g. ‘Genghiskan’ [i.e. Genghis Khan, r. 1206–1227] (Zedler 10 (1735) col.
869) and ‘Octai-Chan’ [i.e. Ögödei, r. 1229–1241] (ibid., 25 (1740) col. 400 f.).
Jean Gaulmier, “A la découverte du Proche-Orient. Barthélemy d’Herbelot et
sa Bibliothèque Orientale,” Bulletin de la Faculté des Lettres de Strasbourg 48, no. 1
(1969), 4 and ibid., n. 8.
Laurens, Aux sources de l’orientalisme. La Bibliothèque Orientale de Barthélemi
D’Herbelot, 80.
30 chapter one

on China. The Chinese materials available at Paris should form the

core for the preparation of a kind of ‘China Herbelot’—a work on
China exclusively based on sources in Chinese.95
In 1822, the French orientalist and diplomat Jean Baptiste Louis
Jacques Rousseau (1760–1831) published a prospectus for an Ency-
clopédie Orientale. This prospectus contained a sample of extracted
articles of the planned work, which, due to the death of Rousseau, was
never published. Like Herbelot, Rousseau planned to focus on an ‘Ori-
ent’ comprising Arabic, Ottoman and Persian sources. Nevertheless,
an entry on ‘Sifan’ (Xifan 西番, i.e. ‘Barbarians in the West of China’;
a denomination for people living in the Kukunor region and adjacent
areas) was presented among the extracts chosen for the prospectus.96
In 1773, Pope Clement XIV (r. 1769–1774) suppressed the Society
of Jesus. With their Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les arts,
les mœurs, les usages &c. des Chinois (published from 1776 onwards),
the Jesuits for a last time provided a wealth of information on China.97
Some of the contributions published in the Mémoires directly referred
to the anti-Jesuit accusations published by Corneille de Pauw (1739–
1799).98 Like the encyclopaedias themselves, the copious index to the

Jean Pierre Abel Rémusat, “Réflexions sur la redaction du Catalogue des livres
chinois de la Bibliothèque du Roi, avec des notices sur quelquesuns des principaux
articles de ce Catalogue, et des remarques critiques sur celui qui a été composé par
Fourmont, en 1742,” Annales encyclopédiques 1817/Tome VI (1817), 47.—The Annales
encyclopédiques continued the Magasin encyclopédique published from 1791 to 1816
under the direction of Aubin-Louis Millin (1759–1818). On the treatment of Oriental
subjects in the Magasin see Pascale Rabault, “Réseaux internationaux de l’orientalisme
naissant. Le Magasin encyclopédique comme relais du savoir sur l’Orient,” in Aubin-
Louis Millin et l’Allemagne. Le Magasin encyclopédique—Les lettres à Karl August Böt-
tiger, ed. Geneviève Espagne and Bénédicte Savoy, Europaea memoria. Studien und
Texte zur Geschichte der europäischen Ideen. Reihe I: Studien, 41 (Hildesheim: Olms,
2005), 161–189.
J. B. L. J. R. *** [Rousseau], Encyclopédie orientale, ou dictionnaire universel, his-
torique, mythologique, geographique et littéraire des divers peuples et pays, tant anciens
que modernes, de l’Asie et de l’Afrique [. . .] (Paris: Treuttel et Wurtz, 1822), for “Sifan”
see ibid., 32 f.
For a list of the contents of the sixteen volumes (published from 1776 to 1814)
see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, cols. 54–56. For a last summary of eighteenth-century
Jesuit knowledge on China, Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 470 n. 22 refers to Jean Bap-
tiste Gabriel Alexandre Grosier, Description générale de la Chine, ou tableau de l’état
actuel de cet empire [. . .] (Paris: Moutard, 1785).
Corneille de Pauw, Recherches philosophiques sur les Egyptiens et les Chinois,
2 vols. (Berlin: Decker, 1773). On the nature of de Pauw’s work see Löwendahl, Sino-
Western relations, vol. 1, p. 257 (no. 575): “Pauw’s vicious attacks on everything Chi-
nese in the present work were devoured and enjoyed by both lay and learned.”
backgrounds of knowledge 31

Mémoires may serve as a kind of guide or inventory to European

knowledge of China. Similar to the index in Du Halde’s Description of
1735, the Mémoires provided a quasi-encyclopaedic vision of China.99
The nineteenth century saw the publication of alphabetically
arranged reference works on East Asia. While the first edition of
Edward Balfour’s (1813–1889) Cyclopaedia of India and Eastern
Asia (1857) contained no entry on ‘China’, the second (1871) and
third editions (1885) of the work provided extensive information on
China.100 In the Netherlands, a similar need to present information on
the Dutch colonial dominion in Southeast Asia led to the publication
of the Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch-Indië, which saw two editions
(1895–1905 and 1917–1939 respectively).101 In 1878, Herbert A. Giles
(1845–1935) published A Glossary of Reference, on Subjects Connected
with the Far East.102 With Things Chinese, James Dyer Ball (1845–1919)
compiled a kind of alphabetically arranged handbook on China, that
saw five editions in the years from 1892 to 1925.103 In 1917, Samuel
Couling (1859–1922) published his Encyclopaedia Sinica.104 The end of
Western influence in China did not mark the end of this kind of West-
ern reference works exclusively dealing with that country. In the late
1960s/early 1970s, Wolfgang Franke (1912–2007) directed the publi-
cation of a German-language handbook on China (China-Handbuch,
1974).105 Plans for a revised edition of this reference work led to the
publication of Das große China-Lexikon (2003), an updated English
edition of the latter was published in 2008.106

Landry-Deron, La preuve par la Chine, 44.
Edward Balfour, The Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia;
Commercial, Industrial and Scientific; Products of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal
Kingdoms, Useful Arts and Manufactures, 3rd ed., 4 vols. (London: Bernard Quaritch,
1885). vol. 1, pp. 683–696.
Pieter A. van der Lith, A. J. Spaan, eds., Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch-Indië,
4 vols. (The Hague, Leiden: Brill, Nijhoff, 1896–1905).
Herbert A. Giles, A Glossary of Reference, on subjects connected with the Far East
(Hongkong, Shanghai: Lane, Crawford & Co, 1878).
James Dyer Ball, Things Chinese. Being notes on various subjects connected with
China (London: Sampson Low, 1892).
Samuel Couling, Encyclopaedia Sinica (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1917). For
contemporary views on this publication see the reviews in Bulletin de l’École Française
de l’Extrême-Orient 17 (1917), 16–19 (Noël Peri) and American Anthropologist, N. S.
21 (Jan.–Mar. 1919), 89 (B[erthold] L[aufer]).
Wolfgang Franke, ed., China-Handbuch (Düsseldorf: Bertelsmann Universitäts-
verlag, 1974).
Brunhild Staiger, Stefan Friedrich, and Hans-Wilm Schütte, eds., Das große
China-Lexikon. Geschichte—Geographie—Gesellschaft—Politik—Wirtschaft—Bildung—
32 chapter one

The beginnings of the second opening of China in the late 1970s led
to an increased interest in things Chinese. This demand for informa-
tion was met by the publication of several ‘encyclopaedic’ reference
works107 and companions to contemporary China.108 The structure of
entries in these works was obviously influenced by the structures laid
out in general reference works. Although Asia was subject of these
reference works, their structure followed the well-established model
of European reference works.
Entries in these area-related encyclopaedias as well as in general
encyclopaedias also reflect the development of Asian studies in Europe
and of the interest European scholars took in Asia. Emerging from the
larger context of oriental studies, the study of China became an aca-
demic discipline in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.109

1.4 Exploring the History of Encyclopaedias—Current Trends

Apart from the aforementioned developments, the period covered by

the present study may be argued also by the impact of Enlightenment
ideas on encyclopaedic reference works. Trends in that genre that
emerged in the Age of Reason had been continuously developed and
transformed in the Age of Revolution.110

Wissenschaft – Kultur (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2003); Daniel

Leese, ed., Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Handbook of Oriental Studies IV, 20 (Leiden:
Brill, 2008).
Fredric M. Kaplan, Julian M. Sobin, and Stephen Andors, eds., Encyclopedia
of China Today (New York, London: Eurasia Press – Macmillan, 1979), Brian Hook,
ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1982). For a short assessment of these two works see Bohdan S. Wynar, ed., ARBA
Guide to Subject Encyclopedias and Dictionaries (Littleton, Col.: Libraries Unlimited.,
1986), 32 f. (no. 80, on Hook (Heather Cameron)), 34 (no. 84; on Kaplan/Sobin/
Andors (John W. Eichenseher)).
Graham Hutchings, Modern China. A Companion to a Modern Power (London:
Penguin, 2001).
Knud Lundbaek, “The Establishment of European Sinology, 1801–1815,” in Cul-
tural Encounters: China, Japan and the West. Essays Commemorating 25 Years of East
Asian Studies at the University of Aarhus, ed. Soren Clausen, Roy Starrs, and Anne
Wedell-Wedellsborg (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1995), 15–54. On the coin-
ing of the term “sinology” which took place about the year 1810 see Georg Lehner,
“Sinologie—Notizen zur Geschichte der Fachbezeichnung,” Bochumer Jahrbuch zur
Ostasienforschung 27 (2003), 189–197.
Daniel R. Headrick, When Information Came of Age. Technologies of Knowledge
in the Age of Reason and Revolution, 1700–1850 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000).
backgrounds of knowledge 33

In recent years, the history of encyclopaedic reference works, the

evolution of general knowledge as well as the history of knowledge in
general have been seen as very promising fields of research.111 The state
of the field has been discussed in several review articles.112
The spread of the World Wide Web and the development of digi-
tal libraries113 encouraged research in traditional forms of classifying
knowledge. Being confronted with today’s “information overload”,
investigations into the history of the various ways of ordering knowl-
edge are supposed to draw comparisons, parallels, and conclusions on
how earlier generations dealt with similar phenomena. These compari-
sons are extended to cross-cultural aspects as well as to the evolution
of encyclopaedic reference works in the course of history.114
Main trends of research in the history of encyclopaedias comprise
a number of fields:115

• Evolution of encyclopaedias and the genre as a part of intellectual

history: different ways of ordering knowledge in different times: on
the one hand the evolution of the presentation of knowledge in ref-
erence works is studied in the light of philosophical concepts from
the Middle Ages to the early modern period,116 on the other hand,

Pamela H. Smith and Benjamin Schmidt, eds., Making knowledge in early mod-
ern Europe. Practices, objects and texts, 1400–1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2007).
For German research on encyclopaedias see Rex Clark, “A Million Pages and
Counting—Recent German Encyclopaedia Research,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 34,
no. 3 (2001), 461–465.—Other articles discussing the state of the emerging research on
the history of knowledge include Peter Burke, “A Social History of Knowledge Revis-
ited,” Modern Intellectual History 4, no. 3 (2007), 521–535; Steffen Siegel, “Medien des
Wissens in der Frühen Neuzeit,” Frühneuzeit-Info 16, no. 1–2 (2005), 87–97; Marian
Füssel, “Auf dem Weg zur Wissensgesellschaft,” Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung
34, no. 2 (2007), 273–289.
Robert Alan Hatch, “Clio Electric. Primary Texts and Digital Research in Pre-
1750 History of Science,” Isis 98, no. 1 (2007), 150–161; Gudrun Gersmann, “Nicht
nur Wikipedia. Historische Enzyklopädien und Nachschlagewerke online,” Geschichte
in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 57, no. 10 (2006), 602–604.
For a recent overview on the history of encyclopaedias see Richard Yeo, “Lost
Encyclopedias. Before and After the Enlightenment,” Book History 10 (2007), 47–68.
For the various fields of research in encyclopaedic works see the introduction
in Peter Binkley, ed., Pre-Modern Encyclopaedic Texts. Proceedings of the Second
COMERS Congress. Groningen 1–4 July 1996, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 79
(Leiden, New York, Köln 1997: Brill, 1997), XVI–XVII.
Theo Stammen and Wolfgang E. J. Weber, eds., Wissenssicherung, Wissensord-
nung und Wissensverarbeitung. Das europäische Modell der Enzyklopädie, Colloquia
Augustana 18 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2004); Franz M. Eybl et al., eds., Enzyklopädien
34 chapter one

encyclopaedias are dealt with as examples for the history of lexi-

cography (topically versus alphabetically arranged encyclopaedias,
macro- and micro-structures of encyclopaedias, specific word-fami-
lies dealt with in encyclopaedias etc.).117
• Encyclopaedic dictionaries and the history of the book: Starting
with Robert Darnton’s The Business of Enlightenment, the history
of advertising, printing, and distributing encyclopaedic dictionaries
has attracted the interest of a growing number of scholars.118
• Encyclopaedias in the context of classifying the world in the eigh-
teenth and nineteenth centuries: Endeavours of ordering knowledge
were not only mirrored in encyclopaedic reference works, but played
a pivotal role in the emergence of modern scientific disciplines. Sys-
tems comprising all branches of knowledge also had been developed
by scholars and librarians in both East and West to provide biblio-
graphical classifications. Since the 1990s, scholars in China examine
the interdependencies between the history of bibliographic classifi-
cations and intellectual history.119 In early modern Europe, encyclo-
paedias also served as a kind of guide to ideal or virtual universal
libraries. A close relationship exists between the representation of
knowledge and the disposition of knowledge in encyclopaedias.
Bibliographical classifications as represented in European encyclo-

der Frühen Neuzeit. Beiträge zu ihrer Erforschung (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1995), Ulrich
Johannes Schneider, ed., Seine Welt wissen. Enzyklopädien in der Frühen Neuzeit
(Darmstadt: Primus, 2006); Binkley, ed., Pre-Modern Encyclopaedic Texts, Christel
Meier, ed., Die Enzyklopädie im Wandel vom Hochmittelalter bis zur Frühen Neuzeit.
Akten des Kolloquiums des Projekts D im Sonderforschungsbereich 231 (29.11.–1. 12.
1996), Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften 78 (Munich: Fink, 2002); Ingrid Tomkowiak,
ed., Populäre Enzyklopädien. Von der Auswahl, Ordnung und Verwaltung des Wissens
(Zurich: Chronos, 2002); Madeleine Herren, Paul Michel and Martin Rüesch, eds.,
Allgemeinwissen und Gesellschaft. Akten des internationalen Kongresses über Wissens-
transfer und enzyklopädische Ordnungssysteme, vom 18.–21. September 2003 in Pran-
gins (Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2007).
Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, Topica universalis. Eine Modellgeschichte huma-
nistischer und barocker Wissenschaft, Paradeigmata 1 (Hamburg: Meiner, 1983),
Béatrice Didier, Alphabet et raison. Le paradoxe des dictionnaires au XVIIIe siècle
(Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996), Monika Braß, “Ordnungsstrukturen
in englischen Enzyklopädien des 18. Jahrhunderts,” Bibliothek und Wissenschaft 35
(2002), 31–105.
Robert Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment. A Publishing History of the
Encyclopédie 1775–1800 (Cambridge, Mass, London: The Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 1979).
For a discussion of recent Chinese scholarship on this subject see Martina Siebert,
Pulu 譜錄 “Abhandlungen und Auflistungen” zu materieller Kultur und Naturkunde im
traditionellen China, opera sinologica 17 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006), 28–88.
backgrounds of knowledge 35

paedias from the Renaissance to the early nineteenth century have

been examined in detail by the Italian librarian Alfredo Serrai.120 The
disposition of geographical knowledge in European encyclopaedias
repeatedly has attracted the attention of scholars.121
• The social role of encyclopaedias and their development in differ-
ent political systems and religious groups: the whole range of works
designed for the dissemination of knowledge shows that purposes
and functions (cultural and political uses) of these works through-
out the cultures “are more diverse than a narrow view based on
modern encyclopaedias would encompass.”122
• Encyclopaedias as cross-cultural phenomenon: different ways of
ordering knowledge in different cultures offer new insights into the
motivation behind undertaking encyclopaedia-like compilations and
the role of these compilations in different cultures.123

Apart from ever-predominant studies on the Encyclopédie edited by

d’Alembert and Diderot,124 research in the history of other encyclo-
paedic dictionaries has increased considerably during the last two

Alfredo Serrai, Storia della bibliografia I: Bibliografia e Cabbala. Le enciclope-
die rinascimentali (I). A cura di Maria Cocchetti, Il bibliotecario 4,1 (Rome: Bulzoni,
1988), 135–420; Alfredo Serrai, Storia della bibliografia II. Le enciclopedie rinascimen-
tali (II). Bibliografi universali. A cura di Maria Cochetti, Il bibliotecario 4,2 (Rome:
Bulzoni, 1991); Alfredo Serrai, Storia della bibliografia VIII: Sistemi e Tassonomie.
A cura di Marco Menato, Il bibliotecario 4,8 (Rome: Bulzoni, 1997), 281–678; for a
late-eighteenth century German example see Katharina Middell, Die Bertuchs müssen
doch in dieser Welt überall Glück haben. Der Verleger Friedrich Justin Bertuch und sein
Landes-Industrie-Comptoir (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2002), 199–201.
Johannes Dörflinger, Die Geographie in der “Encyclopédie”, Österreichische
Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte,
vol. 304/1; = Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Geschichte der Naturwissen-
schaften und Medizin, vol. 17 (Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 1976),
Charles W. J. Withers, “Encyclopaedism, Modernism and the Classification of Geo-
graphical Knowledge,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers N. S, 21
(1996), 275–96.
Binkley, ed., Pre-Modern Encyclopaedic Texts, xvi.
Roland Schaer, ed., Tous les savoirs du monde. Encyclopédies et bibliothèques, de
Sumer au XXIe siècle (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996). See also below
“Encyclopaedias in cross-cultural perspective.”
For further information on the Encyclopédie (and especially on the ARTFL
Encyclopédie Project) see http://encyclopedie.uchicago.edu/ (6 May 2010).—On the
ARTFL project (Project for American and French Research on the Treasury of the
French Language), a cooperative enterprise of the Centre Nationale de la Recherche
Scientifique and the University of Chicago see http://humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/
ARTFL/ (6 May 2009).
36 chapter one

Until now, efforts for a comparative analysis of subjects presented

in English, French, and German encyclopaedic works are scarce. In
theory, the importance of encyclopaedias for the intellectual history
of early modern Europe has been repeatedly stated. They help to learn
more about the zeitgeist of different ages.125 Despite these perspectives,
only a few scholars engaged in the comparative analysis of specific
subjects presented in English, French and German encyclopaedias.126
The significance of encyclopaedias and ‘encyclopaedic’ descriptions
of other parts of the world has been recently observed in the context
of ‘knowledge on non-European regions’.127 The ways in which China-
related information was presented in European encyclopaedias have
not been subject to in-depth research until now.
The variety of languages and the broad range of academic disci-
plines involved in this field of study led to a fragmentation of research
on encyclopaedias. Scholarly reference works dealing with the notion

Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Was ist und was will die Geistesgeschichte? Über Theorie
und Praxis der Zeitgeistforschung (Göttingen, Berlin, Frankfurt a. M.: Musterschmidt,
1959), Rolf Reichardt, “Einleitung,” in Handbuch politisch-sozialer Grundbegriffe in
Frankreich 1680–1820. Heft 1/2, ed. Rolf Reichardt and Eberhard Schmitt (Munich:
Oldenbourg, 1985).
Examples for a comparative analysis are: Barbara Suchy, Lexikographie und Juden
im 18. Jahrhundert. Die Darstellung von Juden und Judentum in den englischen, fran-
zösischen und deutschen Lexika und Enzyklopädien im Zeitalter der Aufklärung, Neue
Wirtschaftsgeschichte 14 (Cologne: Böhlau, 1979); Ulrike Spree, “Die Rückbesinnung
auf die mittelalterliche Stadt. Die Bedeutung der Stadt als Mittel der Identitätsfind-
ung ‘mittlerer Schichten’ in der deutschen, britischen und französischen Lexikogra-
phie des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts,” in Bürgerschaft. Rezeption und Innovation der
Begrifflichkeit vom Hohen Mittelalter bis ins 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Reinhart Koselleck
and Klaus Schreiner, Sprache und Geschichte 22 (Stuttgart: 1994), Spree, Das Stre-
ben nach Wissen. Martin Gierl, “Compilation and the Production of Knowledge in
the Early German Enlightenment,” in Wissenschaft als kulturelle Praxis, 1750–1900,
ed. Hans-Erich Bödeker, Peter Hanns Reill, and Jürgen Schlumbohm. Veröffentlic-
hungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte 154 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1999), 89–99, Karsten Behrndt, Die Nationskonzeptionen in deutschen und
britischen Enzyklopädien und Lexika im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, Europäische Hoch-
schulschriften 3: Geschichte und ihre Hilfswissenschaften, vol. 956 (Frankfurt am
Main: Lang, 2003); Ute Fendler and Barbara Greilich, “Afrika in deutschen und fran-
zösischen Enzyklopädien des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Das Europa der Aufklärung und
die außereuropäische Welt, ed. Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert/
Supplementa 11, 113–37 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006); Debora Gerstenberger, Iberien
im Spiegel frühneuzeitlicher enzyklopädischer Lexika Europas, Beiträge zur Sozial- und
Wirtschaftsgeschichte 110 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden, 2007).
Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, “Wissen und außereuropäische Erfahrung im 18.
Jahrhundert,” in Macht des Wissens. Die Entstehung der modernen Wissensgesellschaft,
ed. Richard van Dülmen and Sina Rauschenbach (Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau,
2004), 635–641.
backgrounds of knowledge 37

of ‘encyclopaedia’ reflect this fragmentation. Reference works in the

fields of ancient, medieval, and modern history provide (more or less
detailed) overviews on the historical evolution of reference works.128
With few exceptions, reference works in other scholarly disciplines
deal with the notion of ‘encyclopaedia’ within the limits of the respec-
tive disciplines, mostly after giving introductory remarks on the evo-
lution of general encyclopaedias.129 Encyclopaedic reference works
dealing with individual regions of the world contain information on
encyclopaedic traditions in the respective areas.130
While historians of European intellectual history have been well
aware of the different perceptions of China, scholars in the field of
Chinese studies so far had no interest in the formation of European
general knowledge concerning their field of study. Even entries on
‘China’ in individual encyclopaedias have not been subject to thor-
ough research. An attempt to prepare a bibliography of all sources
used for China-related entries in the Universal-Lexicon initiated by
Zedler does not include a list of the entries examined.131 Two articles
dealt with the representation of topics like medicine and anthropol-
ogy in eighteenth-century encyclopaedias.132 In his Bibliotheca Sinica,

Ancient history: Der Neue Pauly. Enzyklopädie der Antike. Rezeptions- und Wis-
senschaftsgeschichte, vol. 13 (1999) col. 965–975—Medieval history: Lexikon des Mit-
telalters, vol. 3 (1986) col. 2031–2039 (s. v. ‘Enzyklopädie, Enzyklopädik’).—Modern
history: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit, edited by Friedrich Jaeger, vol. 3 (2006), 344–356
(Martin Gierl, ‘Enzyklopädie’).
Theology: ‘Enzyklopädie, theologische.’ In: Gerhard Krause, Gerhard Müller,
eds., Theologische Realenzyklopädie, vol. 9 (Berlin/New York 1982), 716–742 (Gert
Hummel).—Art history: Dictionary of Art, vol. 10 (1996), 200–203 (‘Encyclopaedia,
manuscript’, Elizabeth Sears), ibid., 203–214 (‘Encyclopaedias and dictionaries of art’,
Alex Ross), on the period 1700–1850 see ibid., 205–209.
On Arabic ‘encyclopaedias’ see Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed, vol. 6 (Leiden:
Brill 1991), 903–907 (Charles Pellat). On Persian ‘encyclopaedias’ see ibid., 907–910
(Ž. Vesel) and ‘Encyclopaedias, Persian’. In: Ehsan Yarshater (Hg.), Encyclopae-
dia Iranica, vol. 8 (Cosa Mesa, Cal.: Mazda Publishers, 1998) 435–439 (Živa Vesel,
Hūšang Aʿlam).
Zhengxiang Gu, “Zum China-Bild des Zedlerschen Lexikons. Bibliographie der
in seinen China-Artikeln besprochenen oder als Quellen genannten Werke,” in In
dem milden und glücklichen Schwaben und in der Neuen Welt. Beiträge zur Goethezeit.
Festschrift für Hartmut Fröschle, ed. Reinhard Breymayer, Suevica. Beiträge zur schwä-
bischen Literatur- und Geistesgeschichte 9 (2001/02) (Stuttgart: Hans-Dieter Heinz,
2004), 477–506. For example, apart from bibliographic references given in the article
“Moxa (Chineser)” (Zedler 21 (1739) cols. 2013–2015) some of the titles mentioned
in the article on Chinese philosophy (ibid., 37 (1743) cols. 1625–1644 (s. v. ‘Sinesische
Philosophie’)) seem to have been missed by Gu in his study.
Silvia Eichhorn-Jung, “Anthropologie et religion chinoises dans les encyclo-
pédies françaises du XVIIIe siècle,” in Les lumières européennes dans leurs relations
38 chapter one

Henri Cordier (1849–1925) had pointed out the importance of general

encyclopaedias as sources for the history of European perceptions of
China.133 So far, research on European perceptions and conceptions on
China (for example images of China, development of Chinese studies,
and Sino-Western relations in general) did not make extensive use of
China-related information contained in European encyclopaedias.
Only a few works refer to single entries on China in general refer-
ence works. As early as at the beginning of the nineteenth-century,
Joseph Hager (1757–1819) referred to entries on ‘Seres’ and ‘Serica’ in
some eighteenth-century reference works. He quoted from the Ency-
clopédie, the Encyclopédie Méthodique and from the geographical dic-
tionary of Antoine Augustin Bruzen de la Martinière (1683–1746).134
Louis Dermigny occasionally referred to entries in eighteenth-century
commercial dictionaries (including the section Commerce of the Ency-
clopédie méthodique).135 Scholars in the field of Sino-Western cultural
relations mostly used encyclopaedias to add biographical information
and not to show the state and growth of knowledge on topics under
discussion. Recently published monographs dealing with the European
reception of Confucianism occasionally quoted from encyclopaedias,
but neglected articles on ‘Confucius’.136 In his ample study of early
modern European perceptions of China, René Etiemble mentioned
the ‘pouvait connaître de la Chine’ (i.e. what could be known about
China) of those circles not belonging to the French philosophes. In this
context, he merely referred to the thirty-volume Histoire moderne by
François Marie de Marsy (1714–1763) and Adrien Richer (1720–1798)
without referring to any encyclopaedic dictionary.137

avec les autres grandes cultures et religions, ed. Florence Lotterie and Darrin Mac-
Mahon, Études internationales sur le dix-huitième siècle 5 (Paris: Champion, 2002),
Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica. col. 108–110.
Joseph Hager, Panthéon chinois, ou parallele entre le culte religieux des Grecs et
celui des Chinois; avec des nouvelles preuves que la Chine a été connue des Grecs, et que
les Sérès des auteurs classiques ont été des Chinois (Paris: Didot, 1806), 2, 65 and 66.
Dermigny, La Chine et l’Occident.
Werner Lühmann, Konfuzius. Aufgeklärter Philosoph oder reaktionärer Morala-
postel? Der Bruch in der Konfuzius-Rezeption der deutschen Philosophie des ausgehen-
den 18. und beginnenden 19. Jahrhunderts, Lun Wen. Studien zur Geistesgeschichte
und Literatur in China 2 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2003) only refers to biographical
data. Lee, Anti-Europa, 55 only mentions an entry on Chinese philosophy.
Étiemble, L’Europe chinoise, vol. 2, p. 248.—François Marie de Marsy, Adrien
Richer, Histoire moderne des Chinois, des Japonois, des Indiens, des Persans, des Turcs,
backgrounds of knowledge 39

While European encyclopaedias’ entries on China have been widely

neglected up to now, Western encyclopaedias’ entries on Japan have
been considered for anthologies of European texts on Japan.138

1.5 Encyclopaedias in Cross-cultural Perspective

Renaissance scholars coined the term ‘encyclopaedia’. The earliest evi-

dence for this term is found in scholarly correspondence of fifteenth-
century Italy.139 The term ‘enkyklios paideia’ of classical antiquity thus
got a new meaning. In print, the term first appeared in an edition of
the works of the Roman orator Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (c. 35–100
AD). Its adaptation in the vernacular languages of Europe took place
in the 1530s, when Thomas Elyot (c. 1490–1546) and François Rabe-
lais (c. 1494–1553) used it first in English (1531) and French (1532)
respectively. The earliest use of the term in a German-language text
seems to have taken place as late as in 1706.140
The use of the term ‘encyclopaedia’ in titles of books of general
reference had been successfully established by the German human-
ist Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588–1638) with his Encyclopaedia sep-
tem tomis distincta (1630). Alsted included not only the artes liberales
and philosophy in a narrow sense, but also ‘all what can be taught’.141

des Russiens pour servir de suite à l’ Histoire ancienne de M. Rollin, 30 vols. (Paris:
Saillant & Nyon, 1755–1778).
Peter Kapitza, ed., Japan in Europa. Texte und Bilddokumente der europäischen
Japankenntnis von Marco Polo bis Wilhelm von Humboldt, 2 vols. (Munich: iudicium,
In correcting Jürgen Henningsen, “ ‘Enzyklopädie’. Zur Sprach- und Bedeu-
tungsgeschichte eines philosophischen Begriffs,” Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte 10
(1966) and to get precise information on the earliest use of the term, Robert L. Fowler,
“Encyclopaedias: Definitions and Theoretical Problems,” in Pre-modern encyclopaedic
texts: proceedings of the second COMERS Congress, Groningen, 1–4 July 1996, ed. Peter
Binkley, Brill’s studies in intellectual history 79 (Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1997),
28 proposes thorough research in this kind of sources.
For detailed references see the respective entries in J. A. Simpson, E. S. C.
Weiner, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary vol. 5, p. 219 (“encyclopaedia”); Paul Imbs
(dir.), Trésor de la Langue Française. Dictionnaire de la langue du XIXe et du XXe
siècle (1789–1960), vol. 7 (Paris: Éditions du CNRS 1979), 1056 f. (“Encyclopédie”);
Deutsches Fremdwörterbuch, 2nd completely revised ed., vol. 5 (Berlin/New York: de
Gruyter 2004), 168–172 (s. v. “Enzyklopädie”).
On Alsted see Howard Hotson, Johann Heinrich Alsted 1588–1638. Between
Renaissance, Reformation and Universal Reform (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000).
On his Encyclopaedia see Schmidt-Biggemann, Topica universalis and Frank Pohle,
40 chapter one

Pedagogical aspects formed the focus in the work of Alsted’s most able
disciple Jan Amos Comenius (1592–1670). Seen from the number of
editions of his Orbis sensualium pictus (first published in 1653; 244 dif-
ferent editions in a variety of European languages up to 1965), Come-
nius may be labelled the most influential lexicographer in European
history. Until now, research on the history of European lexicography
has widely neglected the significance of the Orbis sensualium pictus.
Comenius thought it more important to impart basic knowledge than
to classify the scholarly disciplines or to prepare vast compilations
of knowledge.142 Referring to the cognitive metaphor of knowledge/
education as a building, Comenius represented the various phases of
education by carefully chosen terms for the titles of his didactic works:
From the vestibule (vestibulum, Vorhalle) the student passes the gate
(janua, i.e. textbooks on the native tongue) and thus enters the hall
( palatium) of grammar-school. Thereafter, he may proceed to the
store-house (thesaurus) of the sciences.143
The desire and need to order knowledge not only can be traced
back to European antiquity, but also can be found in non-Western
civilizations. In dealing with such works Westerners eagerly placed
them in an ‘encyclopaedic’ context.144 Not only the East Asian tradi-

“Universalwissenschaft,” in Erkenntnis—Erfindung—Konstruktion. Studien zur Bild-

geschichte von Naturwissenschaften und Technik vom 16. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert, ed.
Hans Holländer (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2000), 86–89; Haß-Zumkehr, Deutsche Wörter-
bücher. Brennpunkt von Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte, 301.
Pohle, “Universalwissenschaft,” 90.
On Comenius’ use of metaphors in book titles see Alexandra Guski, Metaphern
der Pädagogik. Metaphorische Konzepte von Schule, schulischem Lernen und Lehren in
pädagogischen Texten von Comenius bis zur Gegenwart, Explorationen. Studien zur
Erziehungswissenschaft 53 (Bern, Berlin: Lang, 2007). On Comenius as lexicographer
see Haß-Zumkehr, Deutsche Wörterbücher. Brennpunkt von Sprach- und Kulturge-
schichte, 303 and 305–308. On Alsted and Comenius and on their influence on Leibniz
see Konrad Moll, “Der Enzyklopädiegedanke bei Comenius und Alsted, seine Über-
nahme und Umgestaltung bei Leibniz—neue Perspektiven der Leibnizforschung,”
studia leibnitiana 34, no. 1 (2002), 1–19.
Recently, the project “Hidden Grammars of Transculturality—Migrations of
Encyclopaedic Knowledge and Power” (Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in
a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows”, Heidelberg University,
Germany); focused on “analyzing encyclopaedia as global source material”; see http://
as well as http://www.asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de/en/research/d-historicities-heritage/
d11.html (accessed 6 May 2010). Regarding the history of European encyclopaedias
this project continues work originally begun at Zurich University, Switzerland (2002–
2006; see http://www.enzyklopaedie.ch (accessed 6 May 2010).
backgrounds of knowledge 41

tions of ‘encyclopaedic’ compilations have attracted scholarly inter-

est. In recent years, the respective achievements of medieval Hebrew
and Islamic scholars were discussed in the context of cross-cultural
aspects of compilations of knowledge145 and presented in edited vol-
umes dealing with the development of traditional Hebrew and Islamic
The need for ordering knowledge and for arranging it in a suit-
able manner has been a transcultural phenomenon. Thomas H. C. Lee
mentioned these endeavours in connection with Chinese ‘encyclopae-
dias’ from the Song dynasty:
Even before the time when the idea of ‘encyclopedia’ was first conceived
in the West, the desire to find the unity of knowledge was already there.
The accumulated weight of cultural legacy, history, and natural philoso-
phy dictates that the people seeking to bring them together should find
a satisfactory way to systematize their presentation. Such a need to orga-
nize available knowledge led to the creation of principles to help com-
prehend myriad things in a systematic and unified manner.147
Before the term ‘encyclopaedia’ emerged in early modern Europe,
there existed a host of metaphors for the compilation and represen-
tation of knowledge.148 Book titles of compilations also used notions

Mauro Zonta, “Syriac, Hebrew and Latin Encyclopaedias in the 13th Century:
A Comparative Approach to ‘Medieval Philosophies’,” in Was ist Philosophie im Mit-
telalter? Akten des X. Internationalen Kongresses für mittelalterliche Philosophie der
Société Internationale pour l’Étude de la Philosophie Médiévale 25. bis 30. August 1997
in Erfurt, ed. Jan A. Aertsen and Andreas Speer, Miscellanea Medievalia. Veröffentli-
chungen des Thomas-Instituts der Universität zu Köln 26 (Berlin/New York: de Gruy-
ter, 1998), 922–928.
For a useful overview on Jewish encyclopaedias see Encyclopaedia Judaica,
2nd ed., ed. Fred Skolnik, Michael Berenbaum (Detroit/New York: Macmillan, 2007),
vol. 6, pp. 399–402 (s. v. ‘Encyclopedias’, Theodore Wiener). On Arabic ‘encyclopae-
dias’ see Syrinx van Hees, Enzyklopädie als Spiegel des Weltbildes. Qazwinis Wunder
der Schöpfung. Eine Naturkunde des 13. Jahrhunderts, Diskurse der Arabistik 4 (Wies-
baden: Harrassowitz, 2002). Gerhard Endress, ed., Organizing knowledge. Encyclopae-
dic activities in the pre-eighteenth century Islamic world, Islamic philosophy, theology
and science 61 (Leiden: Brill, 2006).
Thomas H. C. Lee, “History, Erudition, and Good Government: Cheng Ch’iao
and Encyclopedic Historical Thinking,” in The New and the Multiple. Sung Senses of the
Past, ed. Thomas H. C. Lee (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2004), 165.
See Pohle, “Universalwissenschaft,” 91 (on the ocean metaphor used by Francis
Bacon) and Paul Michel, “Ordnungen des Wissens. Darbietungsweisen des Materi-
als in Enzyklopädien,” in Populäre Enzyklopädien. Von der Auswahl, Ordnung und
Vermittlung des Wissens, ed. Ingrid Tomkowiak (Zürich: Chronos, 2002), 38.—On
42 chapter one

referring to the spatial aspect of information storage.149 In the preface

to Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon, this practice was clearly dismissed as
such terms would represent an unsystematic approach to the various
branches of knowledge.150
Since the early modern era, Europeans relied on a wealth of meta-
phors in titles of reference works:151

a) terms representing spatial aspects of (information) storage or ways

to represent information:152 arsenal (armamentarium), storehouse
( promptuarium, Vorratskammer), library (bibliotheca, bibliothèque),153
censer (acerra, Rauchfaß), treasury (thesaurus, Schatzkammer)
b) terms representing vision and visualism: mirror or looking-glass
(speculum, miroir, Spiegel)
c) terms representing nature (or organic structures derived from
nature): tree (as in arbor scientiarum), garden, source/fountain, ocean
d) terms representing linear development or arrangement: path or
way, chain (catena), thread,154 net

metaphors in the field of history see Alexander Demandt, Metaphern für Geschichte.
Sprachbilder und Gleichnisse im historisch-politischen Denken (Munich: Beck 1978).
For book titles of early modern compilations see Wolfgang Brückner, “Historien
und Historie. Erzählliteratur des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts als Forschungsaufgabe,” in
Volkserzählung und Reformation. Ein Handbuch zur Tradierung und Funktion von
Erzählstoffen und Erzählliteratur im Protestantismus, ed. Wolfgang Brückner (Berlin:
Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1974), 83.
Zedler 1 (1732 [1731]), ‘Vorrede’, 1 f.
This enumeration is rather tentative—a thorough investigation of the subject
would go far beyond the scope of this study.
On the metaphor of education/knowledge as a building see Guski, Metaphern
der Pädagogik, 155–162.
On the use of ‘bibliothèque’ in titles of reference works see Elisabeth Arend,
“Bibliothèque”—geistiger Raum eines Jahrhunderts. Hundert Jahre französischer
Literaturgeschichte im Spiegel gleichnamiger Bibliographien, Zeitschriften und Antholo-
gien (1685–1785), Abhandlungen zur Sprache und Literatur 6 (Bonn: Romanistischer
Verlag, 1987), 83–89 (on Herbelot, Bibliothèque orientale, ibid., 86 f.).
The original meaning of the Chinese term jing 經 (classical text) was the warp
on the loom. Of books “it meant those that have high and permanent authority”
(Wilkinson, Chinese History, 476). Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 1364 f. mentions
the original meaning of jing in quoting Prémare’s notes on the Yijing 易經 (Classic
of Changes).—The German term ‘Leitfaden’ (i.e. guide, handbook) also refers to the
‘thread’ metaphor.
backgrounds of knowledge 43

e) terms representing medial aspects of information display: theatre

(theatrum, Schauplatz),155 map of the world (mappa mundi, mappe-
monde, Weltkarte)156

Some of these metaphors have been used for book titles of reference
works and handbooks not only in Europe, but also in the Near East
and in East Asia.
In Europe and in East Asia as well, scholars used metaphors like
‘mirror’ and ‘reflection’ quite often.157 In medieval Europe, these terms
were used to provide a representation and a reduced form of the whole
world as well.158 In Europe, the mirror should represent the ‘divine
unity of truth’. In China, the ‘mirror’ should represent the ‘way to
good government’159—for example the Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑 (Com-
prehensive Mirror for Aid in Government, 1084) by Sima Guang 司馬光

On ‘theatre’ as a metaphorical model see Helmar Schramm, “Theatralität.”
In: Ästhetische Grundbegriffe. Historisches Wörterbuch; ed. Karlheinz Barck et al.,
vol. 6 (Stuttgart, Weimar: J. B. Metzler 2005), 48–73, especially 50–56.—On the meta-
phorical use of the term ‘theatre’ in book-titles see Steffen Siegel, “Bildnisordnungen.
Visuelle Pragmatik in Paul Frehers Gelehrtenlexikon ‘Theatrum virorum eruditione
clarorum’ (Nürnberg 1688),” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 90, no. 1 (2008), 81 f. and
82 n. 5. The metaphorical use of the term “theatre” recently also has been exam-
ined at the symposium “Ordnung und Repräsentation von Wissen—Dimensionen
der Theatrum-Metapher in der Frühen Neuzeit” held at the University of Augsburg
(March 2007).—On theatres and encyclopaedias as forms of early modern European
‘circles of learning’ see William N. West, Theatres and Encyclopedias in Early Modern
Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); cf. ibid., 1: “Each made a
claim, at least initially, to represent the manifold of the world in literally or metaphori-
cally circular form [. . .].”
On the metaphorical use of ‘map’ in early modern Europe see Matthew H.
Edney, “Reconsidering Enlightenment Geography and Map Making: Reconnaissance,
Mapping, Archive,” in Geography and Enlightenment, ed. David N. Livingstone and
Charles W. J. Withers (Chicago, London: Chicago University Press, 1999), 186.
For a thorough presentation of the concepts related to the terms reflection, mir-
ror, and image see Hans Heinz Holz and Thomas Metscher, “Widerspiegelung/Spiegel/
Abbild,” in Ästhetische Grundbegriffe. Historisches Wörterbuch. Vol. 6, ed. Karlheinz
Barck (Stuttgart, Weimar: Metzler, 2005), 617–669. In China, mirrors were in use
since the Zhou dynasty and soon became a symbol for the search for immortality.
Herbert Grabes, Speculum, Mirror und Looking-Glass. Kontinuität und Origina-
lität der Spiegelmetapher in den Buchtiteln des Mittelalters und der englischen Literatur
des 13. bis 17. Jahrhunderts, Buchreihe der Anglia. Zeitschrift für englische Philologie,
vol. 16 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1973), 42 f.; Fowler, “Encyclopaedias: Definitions and
Theoretical Problems”, 23.
Carol Gluck, “The Fine Folly of the Encyclopedists,” Biblion. The Bulletin of the
New York Public Library 3, no. 1 (1994), 14.
44 chapter one

(1019–1086)160 in analogy to the ‘mirrors for the princes’ of the medi-

eval Arabs161 and early modern Europe. In his catalogue of the Chinese
books of the Royal library at Paris, Étienne Fourmont (1683–1745)
rendered the title of the Zizhi tongjian as ‘speculum’.162 In the Science
and Civilisation in China series, Joseph Needham rendered the titles of
some Chinese encyclopaedias (leishu 類書) as ‘speculum’ (mirror), ‘flo-
rilegium’, and ‘summa’.163 An example for the Chinese practice to use
the ‘mirror’ metaphor in book titles is the Mingxin baojian 明心寳鑑
(Precious Mirror for Illuminating the Mind) written by Fan Liben
范立本 (fl. sixteenth century)—the first Chinese work ever translated
into a European language (by Juan Cobo OP (1546–1592/93); Span-
ish translation in 1592).164 Among the Chinese-influenced civilizations
of East Asia the metaphor of mirror for book titles had been quite
common.165 Chinese examples for this practice include Siyuan yujian
四元玉鑑 (Precious Mirror of the Four Unknowns, 1303) by Zhu Shijie
朱世傑 (fl. thirteenth century), one of the most important Chinese
writings on algebra, as well as Xingshui jinjian 行水金鑑 (Golden Mir-

Xiao-bin Ji, “Mirror for Government: Ssu-ma Kuang’s Thought on Politics and
Government in Tzu-chih t’ung-chien,” in The New and the Multiple. Sung Senses of the
Past, ed. Thomas H. C. Lee (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2004), 1–31.
G. J. van Gelder, “Mirror for princes or vizor for viziers: the twelfth-century
popular encyclopaedia Mufīd al-‘ulūm and its relationship with the anonymous Per-
sian Bah̟r al-fawā’id,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 64, no. 3
(2001), 313–338.
Étienne Fourmont, Linguae Sinarum Mandarinicae Hieroglyphicae Grammatica
Duplex, Latinè, & cum Characteribus Sinensium. Item Sinicorum Regiae Bibliothecae
Librorum Catalogus [. . .] (Paris: Guerin, 1742), 386 (no. LIX).
See the chapter “Lexicographic and Encyclopaedic Texts” in Joseph Needham
and Gwei-djen Lu, Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 6: Biology and Biological
Technology. Part 1: Botany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 182–220.
On the perception of this work in Europe see Hing-ho Chan, “Le Mingxin bao-
jian (Miroir précieux pour éclairer l’esprit), premier livre chinois traduit dans une lan-
gue occidentale (le castellan),” in D’un orient à l’autre. Actes des troisièmes journées de
l’Orient, Bordeaux, 2–4 octobre 2002, ed. Jean-Louis Bacqué-Grammont, Angel Pino,
and Samaha Khoury, Cahiers de la Société Asiatique, Nouvelle Série IV (Paris, Lou-
vain: Éditions Peeters, 2005), 101–108; Martin Gimm, Hans Conon von der Gabelentz
und die Übersetzung des chinesischen Romans Jin Ping Mei, Sinologica Coloniensia 24
(Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2005), 140–142.
Examples may include the thirteenth-century chronicle Azuma kagami 吾妻鏡
(“Mirror of the Eastern Lands”; see J. B. Harley and David Woodward, eds., The His-
tory of Cartography. Volume Two. Book Two: Cartography in the Traditional East and
Southeast Asian Societies (Chicago, London: Chicago University Press, 1994), 395) as
well as three famous historical works, covering the period from 660 BC to 1338 AD,
and commonly known as San kagami 三鏡 (E. Papinot, Historical and Geographi-
cal Dictionary of Japan, Ninth Printing (Rutland VT, Tokyo: Tuttle, 1972; reprint,
1986), 540).
backgrounds of knowledge 45

ror of the Flowing Waters, 1725), a work on water conservancy written

by Fu Zehong 傅澤洪 (fl. 1721–1725). In late imperial China, Manchu
rulers adopted the metaphoric use of “mirror” in book titles like the
grammar Qingwen jian 清文鑑 (A Mirror of the Manchu language, in
Manchu Han-i araha nonggime toktobuha Manju gisun-i buleku bithe,
completed in the early eighteenth-century). Nineteenth-century ency-
clopaedias also referred to this practice.166
In China and in Muslim culture the metaphoric use of ‘ocean’ or
‘sea’ in book titles usually referred to dictionaries and encyclopae-
dias. Examples include the Yuhai 玉海 (Sea of Jade) written by the
scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223–1296) at the end of the Song 宋
dynasty as well as character dictionaries—more recent examples for
this practice are the Cihai 辭海 (Sea of Words, first ed. 1915) and the
Zhonghua zihai 中華字海 (Sea of Chinese characters, 1994), the latter
containing about 85,000 head characters.167 In Arabic, qāmūs usually
denotes a dictionary. This term appeared at least at the time of the
Prophet, meaning ‘the bottom, the very deepest part of the sea’. Arab
geographers borrowed the Greek term Ωκεανος to denote ‘the mass of
water surrounding the earth’. In a metaphorical sense, it came in use
with the great dictionary of al-Fīrūzābādī (d. 1414).168 In Europe, the
metaphorical use of ‘ocean’ for human knowledge dates back at least
to Francis Bacon (1561–1626). In his Instauratio magna (1620) Bacon
postulated that “the human spirit must be prepared for a voyage into
the open sea”.169

See Ersch/Gruber II 29 (1852) 151 n. 51 (s. v. ‘Junnan‘ [Yunnan]).—On Han-i
araha nonggime toktobuha Manju gisun-i buleku bithe see Gimm, Gabelentz, 101
n. 247.
For another example for the use of ‘sea, ocean’ in the history of Chinese lexi-
cography see Françoise Bottéro, Sémantisme et classification dans l’écriture chinoise.
Les systèmes de classement des caractères par clés du Shuowen jiezi au Kangxi zidian,
Mémoires des Hautes Études Chinois 27 (Paris: Collège de France, Institut des Hautes
Études Chinoises, 1996), 151.
On the etymology of qāmūs see Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., vol. IV (Leiden
1978), 524 f. (J. A. Haywood). On Arabic lexicography see also John A. Haywood,
Arabic Lexicography. Its history, and its general place in the history of lexicography
(Leiden: Brill, 1960). On cross-cultural comparisons with Chinese lexicography see
ibid., 5–7. On the importance of Indo-Iranian influences on Arab learning in the
context of lexicography see the remarks in Stefan Wild, Das Kitāb al-ʿAin und die
arabische Lexikographie (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965), 3–5.
Klaus A. Vogel, “Cosmography,” in The Cambridge History of Science, ed. Katha-
rine Park and Lorraine Daston (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press,
2006), 495 f.; Pohle, “Universalwissenschaft,” 91 f.
46 chapter one

From time to time, scholars pleaded for a more careful use of the
term ‘encyclopaedia’ for works that were produced in classical antiq-
uity, in medieval Europe, in the Arab world, and in traditional East
Asia. As Kaderas has pointed out for China, the term ‘encyclopaedia’
has been used very uncritically to denote a great variety of works of
different cultures, different genres and different ages.170
Not only the representation of China in European encyclopaedias,
but also the history of European knowledge on encyclopaedic works
compiled in China has been neglected so far. A look into the (early)
history of European research on Chinese leishu will show which Chi-
nese ‘encyclopaedias’ were known in the period under consideration
and which works were labelled as ‘encyclopaedias’.
Traditional Chinese bibliographies used the term leishu (‘classified
books’) from the Song dynasty (AD 960–1279) onwards. It has been
applied to works intended as digests for the emperor or to manuals
intended for the use of officials or for the use of candidates for civil
examinations. The topical arrangement of materials is commonly seen
as a general feature of leishu.171
In the early fifteenth century, the Yongle 永樂 Emperor (r. 1403–
1424) commissioned the largest encyclopaedic enterprise ever: The
Yongle dadian 永樂大典 (Great literary repository of the Yongle
reign), consisting of 22877 juan 卷 (chapters)—plus 60 juan preface
and index—was completed in 1408. Due to its enormous size, this
work was never printed.172 The most extensive printed leishu was com-
piled during the eighteenth century: the Qinding gujin tushu jicheng

Christoph Kaderas, Die Leishu der imperialen Bibliothek des Kaisers Qianlong,
Asien- und Afrika-Studien der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 4 (Wiesbaden: Har-
rassowitz, 1998), 9. For a critical assessment of Kaderas’ study see the review in the
Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000), 141–143 (Martin Kern).—On
encyclopaedias in China see also Florence Bretelle-Establet and Karine Chemla, eds.,
Qu’était-ce qu’écrire une encyclopédie en Chine ? / What did it mean to write an ency-
clopedia in China? Extrême Orient, Extrême Occident, special issue (Paris: Presses
Universitaires de Vincennes, 2007).
For a bibliographic overview of Chinese ‘encyclopaedias’ see Ssu-yü Teng and
Knight Biggerstaff, An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Chinese Reference Works,
3rd ed., Harvard-Yenching Institute Studies 2 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1971), 83–128.
For a concise history of the Yongle dadian see Wilkinson, Chinese History, 604 f.
Eighteen studies on the Yongle dadian published in twentieth-century China have
been republished several years ago: Zhang Sheng 張昇, ed., Yongle dadian yanjiu
ziliao jikan 永樂大典研究資料輯刊 [A collection of research material concerning the
Yongle dadian] (Beijing: Beijing tushuguan chubanshe, 2005).
backgrounds of knowledge 47

欽定古今圖書集成 (Imperially commissioned synthesis of books and

illustrations past and present), which comprised nearly 10,000 juan,
was printed in the years 1726–1728.173 According to Jean-Pierre Diény,
the publication of leishu came to an end during the Jiaqing 嘉慶 era
With adaptations, the genre of leishu also found its way to the other
regions of the Sinosphere. In 1712, a Japanese version of the Sancai
tuhui 三才圖會 (Assembled pictures of the three realms, i.e. heaven,
earth and man) had been published at Ōsaka. The Ming scholar Wang
Qi 王圻 ( c. 1565–1614) had compiled this richly illustrated leishu in
the early seventeenth century. The Japanese version, Wakan sansai zue,
edited in 1712 by the Ōsaka-born physician Terajima Ryōan (fl. 1712)
may be seen in the context of efforts by Japanese scholars to adopt
Chinese learning. On the model of the so-called ‘household encyclo-
paedias’ (riyong leishu 日用類書) that flourished in Ming China, Japan
saw many editions of the Setsuyō shū (comprehensive collections for
daily use or popular encyclopaedias).175 These works were “summa-
rizing practical information for townsfolk and others not primarily
concerned with mastering the Confucian heritage.”176
Cultural transmissions in this field were not restricted to East Asia.
As a result of Dutch presence in Dejima and with the advent of Dutch
studies (rangaku) in Japan, European dictionaries began to be perceived

Wilkinson, Chinese History, 605–607 provides an overview on the 32 sections
of the work. For twentieth-century research on the Gujin tushu jicheng see Chan
Hui-yuan [Zhan Huiyuan] 詹惠媛, “ ‘Gujin tushu jicheng’ yanjiu huigu”《古今圖書
集成》研究回顧 1911–2006” (An Overview of Research on Ku Chin Tu Shu Chi
Cheng (1911–2006). Hanxue yanjiu tongxun 漢學研究通訊 27, no. 3 (2008), 16–29.
For research on the section of canonical and other literature (jingji 經籍) of the Gujin
tushu jicheng see a series of articles in Zhongguo wenzhe yanjiu tongxun 中國文哲研
究通訊 (Newsletter of the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia
Sinica), vol. 16, no. 4 (issue no. 64; Dec. 2006).
J[ean]-P[ierre] Diény, “Des encyclopédies aux concordances,” Cahiers de Lin-
guistique d’Orientalisme et de Slavistique, no. 10 (janvier 1978), 65.
For an overview on the history of Japanese lexicography see Bruno Lewin,
“Japanische Lexikographie”, in: Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissen-
schaft (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science) vol. 5, part 3 (Berlin,
New York: de Gruyter, 1991), 2617–2623, especially 2619. On setsuyō shū see Donald
Shively, “Popular Culture,” in: The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. 4: Early Modern
Japan, ed. John Whitney Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 721
and Gluck, “The Fine Folly of the Encyclopedists”, 19 and 22–25.
Wilkinson, Chinese History, 602, see also ibid., 608 and Y. W. Ma, “t’ung-su lei-
shu” [通俗類書], in: The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, ed. by
William H. Nienhauser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 841 f.
48 chapter one

by Japanese scholars. In 1781, Isaac Titsingh (c. 1745–1812) arrived at

Japan with the 1778 edition of Noël Chomel’s (c. 1632–1712) Diction-
naire oeconomique (first edition published in 1709).177
In China, the emergence of encyclopaedias inspired by Western mod-
els (referred to as baike quanshu 百科全書) only took place in the final
decades of the nineteenth century. While Japan had imported this genre
from Europe, China adapted the Japanese model.178 The largest work
of this type is the Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書.179
The equation of leishu and encyclopaedia very quickly became quite
common in the works of early European sinologists:180 As early as in
1774, Joseph de Guignes (1721–1800) compared the Wanxing tongpu
萬姓通譜 (Collected Genealogies of Manifold People), compiled during
the Ming dynasty by Ling Dizhi 凌迪知, to the Dictionnaire historique
of Louis Moréri.181 In his Dictionary of the Chinese language, Robert
Morrison (1782–1834) pointed out that European sinologists had
adopted the term ‘encyclopaedia’ for works like Sancai tuhui and Yuan-
jian leihan.182 In 1837, Karl Friedrich Neumann (1793–1870) equated
the Sancai tuhui to the Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon, then newly
released by Brockhaus.183 As mentioned above, scholars only recently
have called into question the equation of leishu and ‘encyclopaedia’.184

Jacques Proust, “Sur la route des encyclopédies: Paris, Yverdon, Leeuwar-
den, Edo (1751–1781),” in L’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon et sa résonnance européenne.
Contexts—contenus—continuités, ed. Jean-Daniel Candaux, et al., Travaux sur la
Suisse des Lumières 7 (Geneva: Slatkine, 2005), 443–468.
During the last years, research on “modern” Chinese encyclopaedias has
increased. For a list of nineteenth and early twentieth century East Asian encyclo-
paedias see http://www.asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de/en/research/d-historicities-
heritage/d5/bibliographic-descriptions/encyclopaedia-china-japan.html (6 May 2010).
The Zhongguo da baike quanshu was published from 1980 to 1993 in 73 volumes
(plus one index volume). See Wilkinson, Chinese History, 259.
For late-eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European definitions of Chi-
nese encyclopaedias see below (p. 289 f.).
Joseph de Guignes, “Idée de la Littérature chinoise en général, et particuliè-
rement des historiens et de l’étude de l’histoire à la Chine,” Histoire de l’Academie
Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, avec les Mémoires de Littérature tirés des Regis-
tres de cette Academie / Mémoires de Littérature 36 (1774), 190–238, quote in ibid.,
235. On the Wanxing tongpu see Kaderas, Leishu, 187–191.
Robert Morrison, A Dictionary of the Chinese Language, Part III: English and
Chinese (London/Macao: East India Company 1822), 140 (s. v. ‘Encyclopedia’).
Carl Friedrich Neumann, review of Verzeichniß der chinesischen und japani-
schen Münzen [. . .], by Stephan Endlicher, Jahrbücher der Literatur 79 (1837), 242.
Apart from Kaderas, Leishu, 276 (who proposes the rendering ‘handbook’
(‘Handbuch’) instead of ‘encyclopaedia’), see also Johannes L. Kurz, Das Kompilations-
projekt Song Taizongs (reg. 976–997), Schweizer Asiatische Studien/Monographien,
backgrounds of knowledge 49

At a very early stage of Chinese studies in Europe, it became com-

mon to use the term ‘encyclopaedia’ not only for the group of leishu,
but for all kinds of huge and/or systematic compilations.185 The term
‘encyclopaedia’ has also been applied to circumscribe the contents of
dynastic or standard histories (zhengshi 正史), general gazetteers of the
empire (yitong zhi 一統志), works on natural history (bencao 本草),
and by far most frequently to characterize the group of handbooks on
administration (zhengshu 政書). One of these zhengshu, the Wenxian
tongkao 文獻通考 (General history of institutions and critical exami-
nation of documents and studies), compiled by Ma Duanlin 馬端臨
(c. 1254–c. 1323) in 1317, became the most “prominent” and most
widely used zhengshu in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe.186
This may be seen from the works of Claude Visdelou SJ, from the
Histoire des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols, et des autres Tartares occiden-
taux by Joseph de Guignes, and from the works of Jean-Pierre-Abel
Rémusat (1788–1832), who is usually called the founder of (French)
sinology.187 In 1867, Alexander Wylie (1815–1887) discussed the Wen-
xian tongkao according to its place in traditional Chinese bibliographies

vol. 45 (Bern: Lang, 2003), 20–28. Alvin P. Cohen, Introduction to Research in Chinese
Source Materials (New Haven: Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, 2000), 337
(III.E) refers to leishu as “classified digest.”
See e. g. the treatment of Chinese ‘encyclopaedias’ in Agricole Joseph François
Fortia d’Urban, Nouveau sistème bibliographique, mis en usage pour la connaissance
des enciclopédies [sic], en quelque langue qu’elles soient écrites (Paris: Treuttel et Wurtz,
1821), 278–303.
[Heinrich Julius] Klaproth, “Notice de l’Encyclopédie littéraire de Ma touan lin,
intitulée Wen hian thoung k’hao,” Journal Asiatique 2nd series, vol. 10 (1832), 3–38
and ibid., 97–137 and [Johann Heinrich] Plath, “Die 4 grossen chinesischen Ency-
clopädien der k. Staatsbibliothek,” Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-philologischen
und historischen Classe der k. b. Akademie der Wissenschaften 1871, part 1 (1871)
published overviews concerning the contents of the work. Plath announced to deal
also with Yuanjian leihan, Sancai tuhui and Yuhai, but only this article dealing exclu-
sively with a copy of Wenxian tongkao held in the Bavarian State library seems to
have been published.
Joseph de Guignes, Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols, et des
autres Tartares Occidentaux [. . .] 4 vols. Paris: Desaint and Saillant, 1756–1758. For
the table of contents of all four-volumes see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 2767 f.—
For Visdelou’s use of Wenxian tongkao in his Histoire de la Grande Tartarie (History
of Great Tartary), published in the supplement of Herbelot’s Bibliothèque Orientale
see Louis Pfister, Notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les jésuites de l’ancienne
mission de la Chine, 1552–1773. Variétés Sinologiques, no. 59–60. 2 vols. (Chang-hai:
Imprimerie de la Mission Catholique, 1932–1934), 454. For Rémusat’s description of
Ma Duanlin’s work see the entry he wrote for the Biographie Universelle 27 (1820),
461–464 (s. v. ‘Ma-touan-lin’).
50 chapter one

among the “Treatises on the Constitution” (zhengshu).188 The impor-

tance of zhengshu for sinological research caused by their ‘encyclopae-
dic’ scope had been pointed out by twentieth-century scholars: Étienne
Balazs (1905–1963) and Wolfgang Bauer (1930–1997) referred to these
handbooks on administration as ‘encyclopaedias’.189
Western scholars also put the late Ming compendium Tiangong
kaiwu 天工開物 (The exploitation of the works of nature) compiled by
Song Yingxing 宋應星 (1587–1666?) in the context of Chinese ‘ency-
clopaedias’ referring to Song as ‘Diderot of China’190—rather a com-
parison of the importance of their works than of their personalities.
Chinese works labelled as ‘encyclopaedias’ by Westerners also may
be seen in the context of the history of collectanea in cross-cultural
perspective. Scholars in Byzantium usually labeled “a collection of indi-
vidual books and excerpts” as ‘encyclopaedic’.191 In this tradition may
be placed the Patrologia cursus completus (the writings of the Church
Fathers), edited by Jacques-Paul Migne (1800–1875) in nineteenth-
century France. The Science and Civilisation in China series referred
to the Daozang 道藏 (‘Treasury of Dao’), the Daoist Canon, as ‘Taoist

1.6 European Encyclopaedias, 1700–1850

An overall history of European encyclopaedias as well as of their per-

ception at the time of their publication still remains to be written.193

Alexander Wylie, Notes on Chinese Literature. With introductory remarks on the
progressive advancement of the art; and a list of translations from the Chinese into various
European languages (Shanghae: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1867), 55 f.
Étienne Balazs, “L’histoire comme guide de la pratique bureaucratique (les
monographies, les encyclopédies, les recueils de statuts),” in Historians of China and
Japan, ed. William Gerald Beasley and E. Pulleyblank (London: Oxford University
Press, 1961), 78–94. Wolfgang Bauer, “The Encyclopaedia in China,” Cahiers d’histoire
mondiale 9, no. 3 (1966), 682 (referring to the Wenxian tongkao).—A recent study
links the zhengshu of traditional China to the adab al-kātib of Arab tradition. See
Bruna Soravia, “Les manuels à l’usage des fonctionnaires de l’administration (adab
al-kātib) dans l’islam classique,” Arabica 52, no. 3 (2005), 417–36.
Joseph Needham, Christian Daniels, and Nicholas K. Menzies, Science and Civili-
sation in China. Volume 6: Biology and Biological Technology. Part 3: Agro-Industries
and Forestry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 7.
Fowler, “Encyclopaedias: Definitions and Theoretical Problems,” 11 f.
See e. g. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 5: Chemistry
and Chemical Technology. Part 7: Military Technology. The Gunpowder Epic (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 111.
On eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century ways of ordering knowledge see
the useful overview in Headrick, When Information Came of Age, 142–180 (‘Storing
backgrounds of knowledge 51

Besides archival records, a variety of published sources can serve this

purpose: bibliographic descriptions of encyclopaedias, review articles
on encyclopaedias, encyclopaedias’ entries on dictionaries and ency-
clopaedias, as well as paratexts (prefaces and lists of subscribers).
Since the eighteenth century, encyclopaedic works have been listed
repeatedly in ample bibliographies. In his Handbuch für Bücherfreunde
published in the late 1780s and early 1790s, the writer and bibliogra-
pher Heinrich Wilhelm Lawätz (1748–1825) provided a list of encyclo-
paedic works from across Europe.194 At about the same time, Christian
Heinrich Schmid (1746–1800), professor of eloquence and poetics at
the University of Gießen, compiled a list of 220 German-language
encyclopaedias and general dictionaries on arts and sciences published
since the beginning of the eighteenth century.195 In his Répertoire
Bibliographique Universel (1812), the French bibliographer Étienne-
Gabriel Peignot (1767–1849) presented an annotated list of French,
English and German encyclopaedias as well as very critical remarks on
sixteenth- and seventeenth century Latin encyclopaedic works.196 In
1821, the French antiquary and patron of letters Agricole Joseph
François Fortia d’Urban (1756–1843) published his Nouveau sistème
bibliographique, intending to improve the knowledge on encyclopae-
dias in various languages including encyclopaedias in the classical lan-
guages Greek and Latin, French, German, and English encyclopaedias,
Italian encyclopaedias as well as Arab, Egyptian, Chinese, and Japanese
encyclopaedias.197 In the same year, Friedrich Adolf Ebert (1791–1834)
published an annotated list of encyclopaedias in Allgemeines bibliog-
raphisches Lexikon (A General Bibliographical Dictionary).198 In 1857,
the Nouveau Manuel de Bibliographie, published by the librarians
Ferdinand Denis (1798–1890), Pierre Pinçon (1802–1873), and Louis

Heinrich Wilhelm Lawätz, Handbuch für Bücherfreunde und Bibliothekare,
4 vols. (Halle: Gebauer, 1788–1792). Vol. I,2 (1788), 365–376 (encyclopaedic instruc-
tions for learning) and ibid., 377–386 (general scholarly dictionaries).
Christian Heinrich Schmid, “Verzeichniß der in deutscher Sprache verfaßten
Real-Wörterbücher über Wissenschaften und Künste,” Journal von und für Deutschland
8 (1791), 1049–1061.
Gabriel Peignot, Répertoire bibliographique universel, contenant la Notice raison-
née des Bibliographies specials publiées jusqu’à ce jour, et d’un grand nombre d’autres
ouvrages de bibliographie, relatives à l’histoire littéraire, et à toutes les parties de la
bibliologie (Paris: Renouard, 1812), 275–286.
Fortia d’Urban, Nouveau sistème bibliographique.
Friedrich Adolf Ebert, Allgemeines bibliographisches Lexikon, vol. 1: A–L (Leipzig:
Brockhaus 1821), col. 521–526. For an English adaptation see: A General Bibliographi-
cal Dictionary, from the German of Frederic Adolphus Ebert [. . .] 4 vols. (Oxford: At
the University Press, 1837), vol. 1, pp. 501–504.
52 chapter one

Georges Alfred de Martonne (1820–1896), contained 189 bibliographic

entries under the headword ‘Encyclopédie’. According to a note at the
end of the entry, the (first half of the) nineteenth century had seen the
publication of so many encyclopaedias, that only the most important
ones could have been listed.199 Other important nineteenth-century
bibliographies listing encyclopaedias included Manuel du libraire et de
l’amateur des livres (first published by Jacques Charles Brunet (1780–
1867) in 1810 (and in several revised and enlarged editions) or Trésor
des livres rares by Johann Georg Theodor Graesse (1814–1885).200 Far
more concentrated and complete bibliographic descriptions of Euro-
pean encyclopaedias have been published in 1875 in the general cata-
logue of the Leipzig publisher F.A. Brockhaus.201 Later on, the number
of bibliographies of general encyclopaedias and works on subject lexi-
cography increased considerably.202

Nouveau Manuel de Bibliographie Universelle (Paris: Libraire Encyclopédique de
Roret 1857) 223–237 (s. v. ‘Encyclopédie’), ibid, 223: “Le nombre des ouvrages ency-
clopédiques est si considerable, surtout celui des ouvrages du XIXe siècle, que nous
avons dû ne mentionner que les plus importants, et ceux qui presentment l’ensemble
des sciences sous un nouvel aspect [. . .].”
Jean George Théodore Graesse, Trésor des livres rares et précieux ou nouveau
dictionnaire bibliographique, 7 vols. (Dresde: Kuntze, 1858–1867), see ibid., vol. 2
(1861), 258 (“Conversationslexikon”) and 473–477 (see also ibid. under the names of
various editors and publishers as well); Jacques Charles Brunet, Manuel du libraire et
de l’amateur des livres (Paris: Didot, 5th ed. 1860–1865).
F. A. Brockhaus. Vollständiges Verzeichniss der von der Firma F. A. Brockhaus
in Leipzig seit ihrer Gründung durch Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus im Jahre 1805 bis zu
dessen hundertjährigem Geburtstage im Jahre 1872 verlegten Werke. In chronologis-
cher Folge mit biographischen und literarhistorischen Notizen; ed. Heinrich Brockhaus
(Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1872–1875), I–LXXII (Zur Geschichte und Bibliographie der
encyklopädischen Literatur, insbesondere des Conversations-Lexikon [sic]).
Bibliographic reference works on encyclopaedias published since the 1950s
include Gert A. Zischka, Index Lexicorum. Bibliographie der lexikalischen Nach-
schlagewerke (Vienna: Hollinek, 1959). 1–16, Robert L. Collison, Encyclopaedias. Their
history throughout the ages. A bibliographical guide with extensive historical notes to
the general encyclopaedias issued throughout the world from 350 BC to the present
day (New York: 1964), Giorgio Tonelli, A short title list of subject dictionaries of the
sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as aids to the history of ideas, The War-
burg Institute; Surveys 4 (London: The Warburg Institute, 1971). An extended edition,
revised and annotated by Eugenio Canone and Margherita Palumbo, was published
in 2006 (including information on electronic editions), Helga Reinhart, “Bibliogra-
phie der Lexika, Wörterbücher und Nachschlagewerke,” in Geschichtliche Grund-
begriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, vol. 1,
ed. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta,
1972), 930–948; Werner Lenz, Kleine Geschichte großer Lexika, originally 1972 ed.
(Gütersloh: Bertelsmann/Lexikothek Verlag, 1980); Suchy, Lexikographie und Juden,
287–306; Werner Hupka, Wort und Bild. Die Illustrationen in Wörterbüchern und
Enzyklopädien, Lexicographica: Series major 22 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1989), 294–310;
backgrounds of knowledge 53

In their entries on ‘encyclopaedias’ or ‘dictionaries’, encyclopaedias

themselves offer a wealth of information on the history of their pred-
ecessors in the genre. A thorough examination of these entries will go
far beyond the scope of the present study. In his prospectus written for
the Encyclopédie progressive the French politician and writer François
Guizot (1787–1874) dealt extensively with other early-nineteenth cen-
tury European encyclopaedias.203
Closely related to bibliographic descriptions of encyclopaedias and
intended to serve as an aid for future users of works of general knowl-
edge are review articles that commented on newly published encyclo-
paedic works. The function and value of such reviews for historical
research in encyclopaedias comprises three aspects: (a) an overview
of the state of the field, including remarks on the transnational dis-
semination of encyclopaedic models and concepts, (b) glimpses into
the history and periodization of the genre, and (c) an assessment of
the encyclopaedia(s) under review by their contemporaries imme-
diately (or soon) after its/their publication. Notable review articles
include a German overview on encyclopaedic works of the early 1830s
(1834)204 and a survey on newly issued or planned French encyclopae-
dias (1836) written by the journalist Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac
(1806–1880).205 In England, the Quarterly Review contained at least

Eybl et al., eds., Enzyklopädien der Frühen Neuzeit. Beiträge zu ihrer Erforschung, 308–
317; Hugo Wetscherek and Martin Peche, eds., Bibliotheca Lexicorum. Kommentiertes
Verzeichnis der Sammlung Otmar Seemann. Eine Bibliographie der enzyklopädischen
Literatur von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der
im deutschen Sprachraum ab dem Jahr 1500 gedruckten Werke. Nach einem von Otmar
Seemann erstellten Gesamtverzeichnis und mit einer mehr als 3000 Titel umfassenden
Bibliographie zur Geschichte der Lexikonistik, Katalog Antiquariat Inlibris 9 (Vienna:
Inlibris, 2001). For a bibliography of eighteenth-century English general reference
works see R. C. Alston, A Bibliography of the English Language From the Invention of
Printing to the Year 1800. A Corrected Reprint of Volumes I–X. Reproduced from the
Author’s Annotated Copy with Corrections and Additions to 1973. Including Cumula-
tive Indices (Ilkley: Janus Press, 1974), III, 123–134.
François Guizot, Encyclopédie Progressive, ou collection de traités sur l’histoire,
l’état actuel et les progress des connaissances humaines, avec un manuel encyclopédique,
ou dictionnaire abrégé des sciences et des arts [. . .] (Paris: Bureau de l’Encyclopédie
Progressive, 1826).
“Uebersicht der seit 1830 erschienenen encyclopädischen und literarhistorischen
Werke”, Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, no. 1 (January 1834), col. 1–8 and ibid., no. 2
(January 1834), col. 9–16.
A. Granier de Cassagnac, “Les nouvelles encyclopédies,” Revue de Paris, Édition
augmentée des principaux articles de la Revue des deux Mondes, vol. 5 (May 1836),
54 chapter one

two substantial review articles dealing with the history of encyclopae-

dias. On the occasion of the completion of the seventh edition of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica, it presented details in the publishing history
of all seven editions (1842).206 In 1863, Thomas Watts (1811–1869), at
that time Assistant Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum
Library, provided a thorough survey on the history of alphabetically
arranged encyclopaedias primarily intended to be a review of the Eng-
lish Cyclopaedia.207
At the turn to the eighteenth century, the number of publications
in the vernacular languages of Europe began to increase considerably.
In the course of the Age of Enlightenment Latin as the lingua franca
of the European ‘republic of letters’ gradually was replaced by the vari-
ous languages of Europe. The formation of the encyclopaedic genre
also reflects the process of abandoning Latin in favour of the living
In publishing a historical dictionary in French (Le grand diction-
(n)aire historique), the priest Louis Moréri (1643–1680) initiated a
new phase in the history of European subject lexicography. Between
1674 and 1759, this dictionary saw about twenty editions which were
printed in France and the Netherlands.
‘Moréri’ had served as a model for similar enterprises in English,
German and Dutch. While the English translations and adaptations
had been prepared by Jeremy Collier (1650–1726), both the Neth-
erlands and the German-speaking countries saw concurrent adapta-
tions. Johann Franz Buddeus (1667–1729), professor of theology in
Leipzig, published an Allgemeines Historisches Lexicon (1709), which
went through various editions both at Leipzig (1722 and 1730–40)
and—under the direction of Jakob Christoph Iselin (1681–1737) and
his publisher Brandmüller—at Basle (1726, 1729, 1742–44 and 1747).
In the Netherlands, the Algemeen Historisch Woordenboek edited by
Abraham Georg Luïscius (fl. 1724–1737) soon was followed by the
Groot allgemeen historisch [. . .] Woordenboek (1725–1733) directed
by Daniel Franz van Hoogstraten.208 These adaptations in English,

“Art. II.—The Encyclopaedia Britannica [. . .] Seventh Edition [. . .],” London
Quarterly Review (American edition), vol. 70 (June 1842), 25–40.
Thomas Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” Quarterly Review, vol. 113 (1863),
Arianne Baggerman, “Het boek dat andere boeken overbodig zou maken. De
mislukte lancering van een achttiende-eeuwse Nederlandse encyclopedie,” Jaarboek
backgrounds of knowledge 55

German, and Dutch were followed by a Spanish translation published

at Paris in 1753.
All these adaptations not only made use of Moréri, but also of Pierre
Bayle’s (1647–1706) Dictionaire Historique (1697). Bayle originally
intended to publish addenda and corrigenda to Moréri. His exten-
sive notes mainly dealing with philosophical matters provoked schol-
arly discussions throughout the eighteenth century. In 1734, Thomas
Birch (1705–1766), later Secretary of the Royal Society, started with
the publication of an English version of Bayle’s dictionary. From 1741
to 1744, Johann Christoph Gottsched (1700–1766) published a richly
annotated German translation.209
At the beginning of the eighteenth-century, the editions of Moréri
consisted of four volumes bound in two. In the further course of the
century encyclopaedic dictionaries on a much more extensive scale
should be planned and published. Vincenzo Coronelli OFM (1650–
1718), cosmographer of the Republic of Venice, prepared materials for
a Biblioteca Universale to consist of 45 folio volumes but only the first
seven volumes were published:
It forms a monument to his memory on the shelves of great libraries,
not unlike the broken shaft of a column that is now so common in the
In the Age of Enlightenment, some major innovations took place in
the genre of encyclopaedic reference works. The order represented in
encyclopaedias was no longer an absolute one. Encyclopaedias gradu-
ally became a tool for the popularization of knowledge. In the course of
differentiation there emerged reference works dealing with specialized

voor nederlandse boekgeschiedenis 6 (1999), 137–155; on the works edited by Luïscius

and Hoogstraten see ibid., 139 f.
On English adaptations see Isabel Rivers, “Biographical Dictionaries and their
Uses from Bayle to Chalmers,” in Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth Century
England. New Essays, ed. Isabel Rivers (New York: continuum, 2003), 149–160 (“The
folio biographical dictionaries on the Baylean model”); on the German adaptation
see Marie-Hélène Quéval, “Johann Christoph Gottsched und Pierre Bayle—ein phi-
losophischer Dialog. Gottscheds Anmerkungen zu Pierre Bayles Historisch-critischem
Wörterbuch,” in Diskurse der Aufklärung. Luise Adelgunde Victorie und Johann
Christoph Gottsched., ed. Gabriele Ball, Helga Brandes, and Katherine Goodman,
Wolfenbütteler Forschungen 112 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006).
Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 369.
56 chapter one

subjects.211 Two outstanding works for the field of economy212 were

Noël Chomel’s Dictionnaire oeconomique (1709) and Jacques Savary
des Bru(s)lons’ (1657–1716) Dictionnaire universel du commerce
The emergence of special reference works of that kind and the pub-
lication of subject-oriented handbooks changed the function of general
encyclopaedias. Encyclopaedias no longer were addressed to scholars,
but to the educated (‘gens du monde’ in French, ‘gebildete Stände’ in
In 1721, Johann Theodor Jablonski (1654–1731), the permanent
secretary to the Prussian Academy of Sciences, published the Allge-
meines Lexicon der Wissenschaften und Künste (General Dictionary
of Arts and Sciences). Jablonski excluded entries on geography and
history.215 In the early 1730s, the Leipzig publisher Johann Heinrich
Zedler (1706–1751) launched what should become the largest com-
pleted German-language encyclopaedia of the eighteenth century: the
Grosses Universal-Lexicon der Wissenschaften und Künste. Although
the publication of this work was opposed by concurrent booksellers
in Saxony and had to deal with serious financial troubles, the editors
of the work succeeded at last. Mainly due to the efforts of Johann
Peter Ludewig (1668–1743), chancellor of the University of Halle, Paul

Ulrike Haß-Zumkehr, Deutsche Wörterbücher. Brennpunkt von Sprach- und
Kulturgeschichte (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2001), 311 f.
On the beginnings of this genre see Jean-Claude Perrot, “Le premier diction-
naire d’économie en langue française,” Revue de synthèse 101 (1980), 63–76; still useful
as bibliographic reference guide to the genre: Magdalene Humpert, Bibliographie der
Kameralwissenschaften, Kölner Bibliographische Arbeiten 1 (Köln: Kurt Schroeder,
1935–1937), 382-90 (no. 4715–4782); for an overview of developments in this genre
Jean-Claude Perrot, “Les dictionnaires de commerce au XVIIIe siècle,” Revue d’histoire
moderne et contemporaine 28 (1981), 36–67. See also Doris Höhmann, “Opere enci-
clopediche e dizionari specialistici in campo economico nell’area di lingua e cultura
tedescha (dal settecento al oggi),” Storia del pensiero economico 41 (2001), 131–63.
These works show the importance of East India companies for the transmission
of information from Asia to Europe. On recent trends of research in this field see:
Martine Julia van Ittersum, Profit and Principle. Hugo Grotius, Natural Rights Theories
and the Rise of Dutch Power in the East Indies 1595–1615, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual
History 139 (Leiden: Brill, 2006), xliv–liii.
For the rendering of ‘gens du monde’ as ‘Gebildete’ see “Uebersicht der seit 1830
erschienenen encyclopädischen und literarhistorischen Werke”, Allgemeine Literatur-
Zeitung, no. 1 (January 1834), col. 1–8 and ibid., no. 2 (January 1834), col. 9–16,
especially col. 9.
See Bernhard Kossmann, “Deutsche Universal-Lexika des 18. Jahrhunderts. Ihr
Wesen und ihr Informationswert,” Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 9 (1969).
cols. 1554–93.
backgrounds of knowledge 57

Daniel Longolius (1704–1779), and Carl Günther Ludovici (1707–

1778), 64 folio volumes were published from 1732 to 1750. The pub-
lication of a supplement was abandoned after only four volumes
(A-Caq) which had been published in the years 1751–1754.216
In 1728, Ephraim Chambers (c. 1680–1740) published his Cyclopae-
dia, or Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences.217 According to
the preface to his work, Chambers had been inspired “by the indus-
try and endeavours of a long race of ancestors”,218 among them the
Lexicon Technicum (1704) published by John Harris (1667–1719).
Until the 1780s Chambers’ Cyclopaedia remained the most successful
English language dictionary of arts and sciences. None of the diction-
aries published in the 1760s superseded the Cyclopaedia—neither The
Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1764–66) edited by Temple
Henry Croker (1729–1790?) nor A New and Complete Dictionary of
Arts and Sciences published by William Owen (fl. 1754–1763).219 In
1778, Abraham Rees (1743–1825) began to publish a revised and con-
siderably enlarged edition based on Chambers’ work. The four vol-
umes of this edition marked only a starting point of Rees’ endeavours
in this genre. From 1802 to 1820, he published his Cyclopaedia in 45
volumes (39 volumes text and 6 volumes plates).
In the early 1740s, the success of Chambers’ Cyclopaedia attracted
the commercial interest of the Parisian publisher André Le Breton

For the digitized version of Zedler see http://www.zedler-lexikon.de (accessed
2 May 2010). Research on Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon recently has increased consid-
erably. See Nicola Kaminski, “Die Musen als Lexikographen. Zedlers ‘Großes voll-
ständiges Universal-Lexicon’ im Schnittpunkt von poetischem, wissenschaftlichem,
juristischem und ökonomischem Diskurs,” Daphnis 29, no. 3–4 (2000), 649–693; Ines
Prodöhl, “ ‘Aus denen besten Scribenten’. Johann Heinrich Zedler’s Universal-Lexikon
im Spannungsfeld zeitgenössischer Lexikonproduktion,” Das Achtzehnte Jahrhundert
29, no. 1 (2005), 82–95. For a first assessment of geographical information given in the
dictionary see Ulrike Hönsch, Wege des Spanienbildes im Deutschland des 18. Jahrhun-
derts. Von der Schwarzen Legende zum ‘Hesperischen Zaubergarten’, Hermaea. Ger-
manistische Forschungen, N.S. 91 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2000), 46–63.
On Chambers’ Cyclopaedia see Richard Yeo, Encyclopaedic Visions. Scientific
Dictionaries and Enlightenment Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2001), Richard Yeo, “A Solution to the Multitude of Books. Ephraim Chambers’s
Cyclopaedia (1728) as ‘the Best Book in the Universe’,” Journal of the History of Ideas
64, no. 1 (2003), 61–72.—For a digitized version see http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/
HistSciTech/subcollections/CyclopaediaAbout.html (29 April 2010).
See Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 356.
See Frank A. Kafker, “The Achievement of Andrew Bell and Colin Macfarquhar
as the first publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,” British Journal for Eighteenth
Century Studies 18 (1995).
58 chapter one

(1708–1779). Le Breton first planned to publish a translation of the

work. In the early phase of the project the editorship of the work
changed twice. In 1747, Denis Diderot (1713–1784) and Jean le Rond
d’Alembert (1717–1783) took over responsibility for editing the Ency-
clopédie. Originally intended to be published in four volumes, the
prospectus of the Encyclopédie published in 1750 announced a ten-
volume work. The first volume of the epoch-making dictionary of arts
and sciences was issued in 1751. As the editors pursued an outspoken
anti-religious attitude, severe opposition by Roman Catholic circles
against the Encyclopédie was to be expected. The whole project was sus-
pended after the second volume had been published. Due to the help
of Guillaume Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (1721–1794),
who controlled the press, the publication could be resumed. In 1757,
d’Alembert’s portrayal of the clergy of Geneva caused another storm
of protest by the adversaries of the project. For the remaining part of
the project, Diderot mainly was assisted by Louis de Jaucourt (1704–
1780). Due to further restrictions, d’Alembert and other contributors
ended their work for the Encyclopédie. The situation grew even worse
when Claude-Adrien Hélvetius (1715–1771) published his De l’esprit
(1758), propagating a materialist philosophy. In March 1759, the Royal
Council withdrew the original privilege granted in 1746. Five months
later, in September 1759, a new privilege was accorded for work on
the plates. The editors of the Encyclopédie obtained a new privilege,
which only allowed them to prepare the plates. With the expulsion
of the Jesuits from France, the Encyclopédie lost its most eminent
From 1758 to 1781, several French-language editions of the Ency-
clopédie were published in Italy and Switzerland: at Lucca (1758–71),
Livorno (1770–79), Yverdon (1770–80), Geneva (1777–79), Lyon
(1780–81), and finally at Bern and Lausanne (1778–81).

For the history of the publication of the Encyclopédie see http://encyclopedie.
uchicago.edu/node/82 (last accessed 30 January 2010) as well as Rolf Geißler, “Der
historische Hintergrund und die wichtigsten Inhalte der ‘Encyclopédie’ ”, in: Grund-
riss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Begründet von Friedrich Ueberweg. Die Philoso-
phie des 18. Jahrhunderts. New edition, ed. Helmut Holzhey. Vol. 2: Frankreich, eds.
Johannes Rohbeck and Helmut Holzhey (Basel: Schwabe, 2008), 265–282 as well as
id., “Die Enzyklopädisten” in ibid., 283–295, see also ibid., 295–302 for a bibliography
on recent research on the Encyclopédie.
backgrounds of knowledge 59

Scottish Enlightenment owed much of its intellectual inspiration

to French influences.221 In the heyday of Scottish Enlightenment,
William Smellie (1740–1795) directed the first edition of the Ency-
clopaedia Britannica. This encyclopaedia finally comprised three vol-
umes (published in instalments from 1768 to 1771). Until the turn
of the nineteenth-century the size of the work grew considerably:
second edition (1777–1784) in 10 volumes, third edition (1788–1797)
in 18 volumes.222
Apart from the Encyclopaedia Britannica there emerged some other
remarkable projects. A growing interest for ‘useful’ knowledge had
been the driving force behind this development.223 In 1808, David
Brewster (1781–1868) began editing the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia (18
vols., finished in 1830). Contemporaries regarded the Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia as one of the most successful encyclopaedic projects.224
Another very influential reference work aiming to provide useful
knowledge was the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. The famous English
writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) had drafted the original
plan of the work.
Having close business relations with the Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge, Charles Knight (1791–1873) published the Penny
Cyclopaedia (1833–1845), edited by George Long (1800–1876). In his
assessment of the Penny Cyclopaedia, Thomas Watts pointed out that
various foreign scholars contributed to this work:
[. . .] many foreign names of rank, such as Rosen, the Sanscrit scholar;
Gayangos, the Spanish Orientalist; and Carl Ritter, the first geographer
of Germany. To Ritter, who had devoted years to the study of the geog-
raphy of Asia, the Cyclopaedia was indebted for an article on Asia in
which was embodied in a few pages the essence of all his labours.225

Richard B. Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book. Scottish Authors and Their
Publishers in Eighteenth Century Britain, Ireland, and America (Chicago, London:
Chicago University Press, 2006).
On the publishing history of the Encyclopaedia Britannica see Herman Kogan,
The Great EB. The Story of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago: Chicago University
Press, 1958) and Yeo, Encyclopaedic Visions, 170–192.
See Alan Rauch, Useful Knowledge. The Victorians, Morality, and the March
of Intellect (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 22–59. (Chapter 1: “Food for
Thought: The Dissemination of Knowledge in the Early Nineteenth Century”).
For the history of the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia see the ‘Introduction’ by Richard
Yeo in the reprint edition published by Routledge in 1999.—According to Fortia
d’Urban, Nouveau sistème bibliographique, 198, volume 14 of the Edinburgh Encyclo-
paedia had been published in May 1820.
Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 383.
60 chapter one

Eighteenth-century French and British encyclopaedias strongly influ-

enced the origins of at least two major German-language encyclopae-
dias: the Deutsche Encyclopädie and the Oeconomische Encyklopädie.
After it had proved impossible to find scholars for the translation
of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, the Frankfurt publisher Franz
Varrentrapp (1706–1786) proposed the translation of Diderot’s and
d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie under the direction of the historian Hein-
rich Martin Gottfried Köster (1734–1802), The plan of a translation
soon was abandoned. Köster and his collaborators decided to draw up
an entirely new work. The first volume of this new work, the Deutsche
Encyclopädie, appeared in 1778. After Köster’s death, the project was
directed by Johann Friedrich Roos (1757–1804). During the Napole-
onic Wars the project only made slow progress. Volume 23, published
in 1804 and containing entries up to ‘Ky’ and a volume of plates pub-
lished in 1807 marked the end of the Deutsche Encyclopädie.226
The Berlin physician and author Johann Georg Krünitz (1728–1796)
originally had worked on a translation of the Encyclopédie oeconomique
(16 vols.) published at Yverdon in 1770/71. From the very beginning
of his work, Krünitz saw the necessity for an overall revision of the
French original. The first volume of his Oeconomische Encyklopädie
was published in 1773. By the time of his death (1796), he worked
on volume 73. Under the direction of various editors the work finally
comprised 242 volumes. The last volume was issued in 1858. A pirated
edition had been published by Joseph Georg Traßler (1759–1816) at
Brünn (Moravia) from 1787 to 1823; after 129 volumes this pirated
edition was abandoned due to a considerable falling-off in sales.227
In 1782, the renowned Paris publisher Charles-Joseph Panckoucke
(1736–1798) began the publication of another encyclopaedia, variously

Apart from Willi Goetschel, Catriona Macleod, and Emery Snyder, “The
Deutsche Encyclopädie,” in Notable encyclopedias of the late eighteenth century: eleven
successors of the Encyclopédie, ed. Frank A. Kafker, Studies on Voltaire and the Eigh-
teenth Century, no. 315 (Oxford: The Voltaire Foundation, 1994), 257–333 see Uwe
Deckert, “Die ‘Deutsche Encyclopädie’,” Das Achtzehnte Jahrhundert 14 (1990), 147–
51; Edward Breuer, “The Deutsche Encyclopädie and the Jews,” Leo-Baeck-Institute/
Yearbook 44 (1999), 23–38.
An on-line edition of Krünitz’ work had been established by the University
Library of Trier University (Germany): http://www.kruenitz1.uni-trier.de. This web-
site provides also a wealth of information on the background and the history of
the work.
backgrounds of knowledge 61

labelled as the ‘ultimate encyclopaedia’ or as ‘super-encyclopaedia’:228

Panckoucke aimed to surpass the Encyclopédie with his Encyclopédie
Méthodique229 both in scope and in content. Having established more
than forty different series, each devoted to a specific subject, the publi-
cation began in 1782. Despite the troubles caused by the French revo-
lution, this project was continued even after Panckoucke’s death. By
1832, when the project was abandoned, 166 quarto volumes of text and
51 volumes of plates had been published—“in magnitude the greatest
cyclopaedia that has yet been completed.”230 The richly illustrated work
comprises 6439 plates.231
Early nineteenth-century French encyclopaedic dictionaries include
the Encyclopédie moderne,232 the Encyclopédie des gens du monde, the
Encyclopédie nouvelle, the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, and the
Encyclopédie Catholique.233 The most important nineteenth-century
planned general reference works in French were published after
our period of consideration: the Grand Dictionnaire Universel du

Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment. A Publishing History of the Encyclo-
pédie 1775–1800, 395–459 (‘ultimate encyclopaedia’); John Carter and Percy H. Muir,
eds., Printing and the Mind of Man. A Descriptive Catalogue illustrating the impact of
print on the evolution of Western Civilisation during five centuries. With an introduc-
tory essay by Denys Hay (London, Melbourne: Cassell & Comp, 1967), 121 (‘super-
On the Encyclopédie Méthodique see: Claude Blanckaert and Michel Porret, eds.,
L’Encyclopédie Méthodique (1782–1832). Des Lumières au Positivisme, Bibliothèque
des Lumières LXVIII (Genève: Droz, 2006).
Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 377.
Brockhaus, Vollständiges Verzeichniss, XIX.
For this study, the first edition of the Encyclopédie moderne (1823–1832) pub-
lished by Eustache Marie Pierre Marc Antoine Courtin (1768–1839) as well as a new
and enlarged edition (1861–1865) edited by Léon Rénier have been used. The article
on the geography of China inserted in the two editions was written by the geographer
and translator Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès (1767–1846).
Encyclopédie des gens du monde [. . .], 22 vols, ed. Jean Henri Schnitzler (Paris:
Treuttel and Würtz, 1833–1844). On German-French transmissions in this work
in general see Paul Rowe, “Upwardly Mobile Footnotes. German References in the
Encyclopédie des gens du monde,” Modern & Contemporary France 14, no. 4 (2006),
433–448; for transmissions of knowledge on China see Georg Lehner, “Le savoir de
l’Europe sur la Chine: transferts franco-allemands au miroir des encyclopédies (1750–
1850),” Revue Germanique Internationale 7 (2008), 26 f. and 30, Encyclopédie nouvelle.
Dictionnaire philosophique, scientifique, littéraire et industriel offrant le tableau des
connaissances humaines au XIXe siècle, par une société de savants et des littérateurs,
8 vols.; ed. Pierre Leroux, Jean Reynaud (Paris: Gosselin, 1836–1843); Encyclopédie
Catholique. Répertoire universel et raisonné des sciences, des letters, des arts et des
métiers, formant une bibliothèque universelle, avec la biographie des hommes célèbres,
ornée de plus de 3000 planches, 18 vols. (Paris: Parent-Desbarres, 1838–1849).
62 chapter one

dix-neuvième siècle, edited by Pierre Athanase Larousse (1817–1875)234

and the Grande Encyclopédie.235
Another large scale encyclopaedic undertaking was launched by
German scholars shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In an
attempt to revive the encyclopaedic ideal of the Enlightenment, Johann
Samuel Ersch (1766–1828) and Johann Gottfried Gruber (1774–1851)
initiated a new general encyclopaedia. This work should replace the
then rather outdated ‘Zedler’. Their ambitious project, the Allgemeine
Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, started publication in
1818. As the size grew more and more, it was decided to set up three
different sections, the first section covering the letters A–G, the sec-
ond covering the letters H-N and a third covering the letters O–Z.236
Writing in 1863, Thomas Watts commented not only on this practice
but also on the extent of the work:
As in some gigantic tunnel, for the execution of which three shafts are
obliged to be sunk, operations were till lately carried on at once in this
cyclopaedia from three different points of the alphabet. The first division,
beginning of course at A, has now advanced in 75 volumes to nearly the
end of G; the second, beginning at H, in 31 volumes to Junius; and the
third, beginning at O, in 25 volumes to Phyxius; making 131 volumes in
all. But the number of volumes sounds more formidable than it really is,
for the quartos of Ersch and Grüber [sic] are particularly thin for Ger-
man quartos, amounting to less than 500 pages each.237
Only the first of the three sections was completed. After the publica-
tion of a total of 167 volumes the whole project was discontinued in
The early nineteenth century brought a dramatic change and new
developments in the genre of general reference works. New types
of reference works were developed to meet the demands of a newly

See André Rétif, Pierre Larousse et son oeuvre (1817–1875) (Paris: Larousse,
1975), Chapter V : ‘Le grand dictionnaire.’
La Grande Encyclopédie. Inventaire raisonné des sciences, des letters et des arts;
31 vols, ed. Marcelin Berthelot (Paris: Lamirault, 1885–1902).
On Ersch’s role in this project see Joachim Bahlcke, “Enzyklopädie und
Aufklärung im literarischen Deutschland. Zu Leben und Wirken des schlesischen Bib-
liothekars Johann Samuel Ersch (1766–1828),” Berichte und Forschungen des Bundesin-
stituts für ostdeutsche Kultur und Geschichte 5 (1997), 81–99. On the diffusion, spread
and reception of this encyclopaedia see Bettina Rüdiger, “Der ‘Ersch-Gruber’. Konzep-
tion, Drucklegung und Wirkungsgeschichte der Allgemeinen Enzyklopädie der Wis-
senschaften und Künste,” Leipziger Jahrbuch für Buchgeschichte 14 (2005), 11–78.
Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 371.
backgrounds of knowledge 63

emerging middle class for reliable and useful information. In Germany

and France, these new developments are closely related to political
events. In the first decade of the nineteenth-century and caused by the
Napoleonic wars, Europe was in turmoil. In these times of change, the
market for works of general knowledge saw the creation of a new kind
of encyclopaedia. In 1808, Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus (1772–1823)
bought the stock of the Conversations-Lexikon mit vorzüglicher Rück-
sicht auf die gegenwärtigen Zeiten, originally drafted by Renatus Got-
thelf Löbel (1767–1799).238 Löbel had intended to supersede the Reales
Staats-, Zeitungs- und Conversations-Lexikon, which had seen many
editions throughout the eighteenth century. The first edition of that
work published in 1704 was compiled by Philipp Balthasar Sinold von
Schütz (1657–1742). The schoolmaster Johann Hübner (1668–1731)
wrote the preface—“the book was usually known from him as Hübner’s
Lexicon.”239 Later on, Brockhaus published not only the Conversations-
Lexikon mit vorzüglicher Rücksicht auf die gegenwärtigen Zeiten, but
also (from 1831) onwards the encyclopaedia initiated by Ersch and
The lasting success of Brockhaus’ Conversations-Lexikon was due to
its focus on the most recent developments.240
In 1832, on the occasion of the first English adaptation of the work
(published by Francis Lieber (1800–1872) under the title Encyclopae-
dia Americana), an anonymous reviewer characterised the encyclopae-
dia successfully developed by Brockhaus as follows:
For the information of those who may not be acquainted with the Con-
versations-Lexicon of Germany, either directly, or through any of its
numerous translations, it may be proper very briefly to state a few facts
in regard to its origin, history and success, which we have borrowed
from the work before us. The Allgemeine deutsche Real-Encyklopädie
für die gebildeten Stände originated with Mr. Brockhaus [. . .] He called
it the Conversations-Lexicon, as being a work chiefly designed for the
use of persons, who would take a part in the conversation and society

Anja Zum Hingst, Die Geschichte des Großen Brockhaus. Vom Conversations-
Lexikon zur Enzyklopädie, Buchwissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Deutschen
Bucharchiv München 53 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995).
Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 372.
The huge success of this newly developed genre of reference work may be seen
from notes in contemporary bibliographies (e.g. Friedrich Adolf Ebert, Allgemeines
bibliographisches Lexicon (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1821), Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung
1834, col. 13–16 as well as from the Festschrift published on the occasion of the two-
hundredth anniversary of the Brockhaus publishing group.
64 chapter one

of well-informed circles. The character of the work, however, has been

to a certain degree changed by numerous improvements, in each suc-
cessive edition; and its original title has therefore ceased to be strictly
appropriate. But as the book had become known, and had gained its
well deserved popularity under that name, it was thought inexpedient
to change the title.241
In 1863, Thomas Watts wrote on the lasting success of Brockhaus’
The leading idea in ‘Brockhaus’s Conversations-Lexicon,’ as it was uni-
versally called in honour of its publisher who was also partly its edi-
tor, was that it should be an ‘Encyclopaedia of Modern Times’, much
prominence being given to subjects of every kind after the date of the
French Revolution, in comparison to those before it. Especial attention
was also paid in it to literary matters in preference to scientific. One of
the elements of its original success was, no doubt, its paucity of volumes;
but it has gone on increasing and increasing, till it has now assumed the
proportions of a full-grown cyclopaedia [. . .].242
Watts also dealt with the supra-national success of Brockhaus’ idea:
That the success of the Lexicon of Brockhaus should have called forth
numerous or rather innumerable imitations in Germany, is not calcu-
lated to excite surprise; but the extent to which it has been made the
basis of similar undertakings in other countries is a phenomenon with-
out a parallel.243
Among the “rather innumerable imitations in Germany”, there were
encyclopaedias founded by Heinrich August Pierer (1794–1850),
Joseph Meyer (1796–1856), and Benjamin Herder (1818–1888) respec-
tively: Despite the reluctant attitude of the Saxon authorities, Pierer
succeeded with the first edition of his Universal-Lexicon der Gegen-
wart und Vergangenheit, finally completed in 1835. By this time—and
also in Saxony—the Hildburghausen based publisher Joseph Meyer
initiated and drafted another groundbreaking reference work. After
five years of planning and preparation, the first instalment of Großes
Conversations-Lexikon für die gebildeten Stände was published in
August 1839. In his preface, Meyer promised to promote ‘intellectual
equality’ (‘intellektuelle Gleichheit’) and to break the monopoly of the

Review on “Encyclopaedia Americana.” In: North American Review Vol. 34,
No. 74 (January 1832), 262–268.
Watts, “History of Cyclopaedias,” 373.
backgrounds of knowledge 65

‘aristocracy of knowledge’ (‘Aristokratie des Wissens’) in the diffusion

and popularization of knowledge.244
This kind of popularizing knowledge was opposed by political
authorities before the 1848 revolution changed the general mood in
the German-speaking area. In the 1820s, Austrian authorities restricted
the dissemination of ‘Brockhaus’.245 Similar restrictions were imposed
on the Staats-Lexikon founded by Carl von Rotteck (1775–1840) and
Carl Theodor Welcker (1790–1869).246

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 1 (1840), VI (Preface, dated August 1839).—On
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon (1839–55) see Johannes Hohlfeld, Das Bibliographis-
che Institut. Festschrift zu seiner Jahrhundertfeier (Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut,
[1926]), 102–108; Heinz Sarkowski, Das Bibliographische Institut. Verlagsgeschichte
und Bibliographie (Mannheim, Vienna, Zurich: Bibliographisches Institut, 1976),
54–57 and ibid., 217 (bibliographic description).
Utz Haltern, “Politische Bildung und bürgerlicher Liberalismus. Zur Rolle des
Konversationslexikons in Deutschland,” Historische Zeitschrift 223, no. 1 (1976),
61–97, especially 74 f.
On the role of the Staats-Lexikon see ibid., 74 f.


2.1 Knowledge from China: Chinese Sources for European


For a long time, scholars in Europe did not have sufficient command of
the Chinese language to take their information on China from Chinese
sources. Until the end of the eighteenth century, Roman Catholic mis-
sionaries, most of them Jesuits, played a key role to supply the Euro-
pean ‘republic of letters’ with information directly taken from Chinese
sources. The important role of translations of Chinese texts into Euro-
pean languages becomes obvious from the impact of the publication
of Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687).1 This translation of Confu-
cian writings served as a mine of information for revised editions of
Moréri’s Dictionnaire published from the early 1690s onwards. Euro-
pean missionaries perceived Chinese ways of describing and order-
ing the world in Europe with the first translations of Chinese works.
Indigenous responses of the Chinese and their views on Europe and
the Europeans only became obvious for European observers by restric-
tive regulations imposed by the Ming and Qing courts on foreign trade.
With his Description . . . de la Chine (1735), Du Halde prepared
the most outstanding example for an ‘indirect’ approach to Chinese
sources. Without any knowledge of Chinese he drafted his work rely-
ing on translations by his fellow Jesuits working in China. He freely
revised style and content of these translations.2 Two years after the
publication of Du Halde’s Description, a remarkable manuscript came
to Paris. It had been prepared by the French Jesuit Joseph Anne Marie
Moyriac de Mailla (1669–1748). De Mailla had made extensive use of
Zhu Xi’s 朱熹 (1130–1200) Tongjian gangmu 通鋻綱目 (an abridg-
ment of Sima Guang’s Zizhi tongjian). Only after the suppression of

For a thorough discussion of Confucius Sinarum Philosophus see Mungello, Curi-
ous Land, 247–299.
On the translations of Chinese works Du Halde used for his work see Landry-
Deron, La preuve par la Chine, 193–247.
68 chapter two

the Society of Jesus, Grosier published the manuscript under the title
Histoire générale de la Chine.3
The first European scholar possessing the necessary language skills
to make extensive use of Chinese-language materials held in a Euro-
pean library was the above-mentioned Joseph de Guignes. As far
as we know, de Guignes did not write for any of the major general
encyclopaedias published in eighteenth-century France. Nevertheless,
his scholarly contributions were widely acknowledged and used by
authors, compilers and editors of encyclopaedic dictionaries. This was
the case not only with his Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des
Mogols, et des autres Tartares occidentaux (1756–1758), but also with
his publication of a translation of the Shujing 書經 (1770), prepared
by Antoine Gaubil SJ (1689–1759).4 As early as in 1776, the French
translation of the Shujing formed the basis for the article ‘Chou-King’
(Shujing) inserted in the supplement of the Yverdon edition of the
Under the headword ‘Chinese’, the first edition of the Encyclopae-
dia Britannica had mentioned several Chinese works dealing with the
antiquity of the empire. The article mostly refers to the (presumed)
authors of these writings including works like the Shujing (in an edition
by Kong Anguo 孔安國 (c. 156–74 BC), the Kongzi jiayu 孔子家語
(School Sayings of Confucius) by Wang Su 王肅 (AD 195–256) and to
authors like Kong Yingda 孔穎達 (AD 574–648), and the Lu shi 路史
(Great history) of Luo Bi 羅泌 (d. AD 1176). It also mentions the Shiji
史記 (Records of the Scribe, compiled c. 104–87 BC) of Sima Qian
司馬遷 (c. 145–86 BC), and works by Huangfu Mi 皇甫謐 (AD 215–
282; presumably the Diwang shiji 帝王世紀 (Genealogical Records of
Emperors and Kings)) and Zuo Qiuming 左丘明 (Zuo zhuan 左傳
(Zuo’s tradition), fifth/fourth century BC).6 Not only due to the tran-

Joseph Anne Marie Moyriac de Mailla, Histoire générale de la Chine, ou annales
de cet empire; traduites du Tong-Kien-Kang-Mou, 12 vols; ed. Jean Baptiste Alexandre
Grosier and Michel Ange André Le Roux Deshauterayes (Paris: Pierres & Clousier,
1777–1783). See Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 2, p. 5 (no. 599).
On De Guignes’ edition of the Shujing (‘Classic of Documents’) see Cordier,
Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 1376 f., including references to contemporary reviews). For
the history of the Shujing, also known as Shangshu 尚書 (Venerated Documents) see
David Sheperd Nivison, “The classical philosophical writings”, in: Michael Loewe,
Edward L. Shaughnessy, eds., The Cambridge History of Ancient China (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999), 746.
Encyclopédie d’Yverdon, Supplément 2 (1775) 598–607 (s. v. ‘Chou-king’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st ed., vol. 2, p. 184–191 (s. v. ‘Chinese’).
formations of knowledge 69

scription of Chinese proper names is it likely that this presentation

was taken from French accounts based on Chinese sources.
A similar process took place in the presentation of information on
the Ryukyu islands. The Zhongshan chuanxin lu 中山傳信錄 (Report
on Ryukyu) by Xu Baoguang 徐葆光 (1671–1723/1740) concerning
the Chinese legation of 1719 had been introduced to Europeans by
the translation of Antoine Gaubil, originally published in the Lettres
édifiantes et curieuses. Under its headword ‘Loo-tchoo’ (Liuqiu 琉球,
i.e. Ryukyu), Rees’ Cyclopaedia referred to Gaubil’s work.7 In the early
decades of the nineteenth century, contributors to encyclopaedias still
relied on translations of Chinese sources into European languages.
In his entry on China written for the Encyclopédie Moderne, Eyriès
referred to Klaproths use of the Da Qing yitong zhi 大清一統志, the
imperial gazetteer of the Qing Empire.8
The early nineteenth century also saw the shift from merely men-
tioning the titles of Chinese works to the active use of these sources
due emerging language skills. In contributing to general encyclopae-
dias, early sinologists quoted from sources they had at their disposal
for their scholarly work either in their private collections or in nearby
In his article on the Yijing 易經 (Classic of Changes), Karl Friedrich
Neumann referred to the same Chinese works that had been men-
tioned in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In addition
to the works mentioned above, Neumann referred to the Yishi 繹史
(An Explanation of History) by Ma Su 馬驌 (d. 1670) and to the Wen-
xian tongkao of Ma Duanlin. Neumann also quoted from more general
works like Da Qing huidian 大清會典 (Collected statutes of the Great
Qing)—not to mention the Kangxi zidian 康熙字典 (Kangxi character
dictionary, 1716), which often had been referred to as the ‘Imperial
Dictionary’.9 Neumann pointed out that the different interpretations

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 20, fol. 4T2r, s. v. ‘Lieou-kieou’.—On this report see Schot-
tenhammer, “The East Asian Maritime World,” 45 f. and ibid., 46 n. 184. On the
publication of Gaubil’s translation (Mémoire sur les Isles que les Chinois appellant isles
de Lieou-kieou) of the text in the various editions of the Lettres édifiantes see the note
in Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 935.
Encyclopédie Moderne, 6 (1825) 549 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 120).—For remarks on
Klaproths use of the Da Qing yitong zhi in the French edition of the account given
by Timkovskij, Voyage, see Ritter, Erdkunde, Second Part, Second Book: Asien, vol. 1
(1832), 147.
Ersch/Gruber II 16 (1839) 111–119 (s. v. ‘I-king’, Karl Friedrich Neumann).
70 chapter two

of the Yijing given by the missionaries have been caused by the use
of different sources and commentaries.10 Neumann also possessed a
copy of the collectaneum Huang Qing jingjie 皇清經解 (Qing dynasty
exegesis of the classics) edited by the scholar-official Ruan Yuan
阮元 (1764–1849):11 In his Yijing article he referred to the Xici zhuan
繋辭傳 (Appended Statements Commentary; in the rendering ‘Hi-
tse’), in his article on Yu the Great 大禹, one of the mythical rulers
of ancient China, he made use of the Yugong zhuizhi 禹貢錐志 (A
Modest Approach to the Tributes of Yu) originally published in 1704
by Hu Wei 胡渭 (1633–1714).12
In his article on China written for Ersch/Gruber (published in
1830), Wilhelm Schott did not refer to any Chinese-language source.
However, he announced the preparation of an overview on the natu-
ral resources of China mainly based on the Guangyu tuji 廣宇圖記
(i.e. ‘Expanded map of the empire’).13 Schott’s memoir on the topog-
raphy of the Chinese Empire (published in 1844 in the proceedings
of the Prussian Academy of Sciences for 1842) formed one of the
major sources for the article on Yunnan inserted in Ersch/Gruber.14
In the entry on ‘Peking’ for the same encyclopaedia, Schott not only
referred to the Guangyu tuji, but also to the Huanyu ji 寰宇記 (‘Gaz-
etteer of the World’) as well as to the Yehuobian 野獲編 (lit. ‘Har-
vested in the wilds’) of Shen Defu 沈德符 (1578–1642). Moreover, he
mentioned that the description of Peking published by Iakinf Bičurin
(1777–1853) represents a mere extract of a Chinese work by far more
comprehensive than the work of this member of the Russian Eccle-
siastical mission to Peking.15 Schott did not mention author and title
of the work translated by Bičurin. This was the Chenyuan shilüe 宸垣
識略 (Sketches of the Imperial Enclosure) by Wu Changyuan 吳長元

Ersch/Gruber II 16 (1839) 112 (s. v. ‘I-king’, Karl Friedrich Neumann).
On Ruan Yuan see Betty Peh T’i Wei, Ruan Yuan, 1764–1849. The Life and Work
of a Major Scholar-Official in Nineteenth-Century China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong
University Press, 2006.
Ersch/Gruber II 16 (1839) 111–119 (s. v. ‘I-king’), ibid., II 26 (1847) 304–307
(s. v. ‘Jü’).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 162.
Ersch/Gruber II 29 (1852) 143–156 (s. v. ‘Jünnan’, by G. M. S. Fischer).—Wilhelm
Schott, “Skizze zu einer Topographie der Producte des Chinesischen Reiches“, Abhand-
lungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Aus dem Jahr 1842. Philologi-
sche und historische Abhandlungen (Berlin: Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften,
1844), 245–385.
Ersch/Gruber III 15 (1841) 87 and ibid., n. 15 (s. v. ‘Pe-king’).
formations of knowledge 71

(fl. 1770), who had used the Rixia jiuwen kao 日下舊聞考 (Study of
Ancient Accounts Heard in the Precincts of the Throne), an extended
version of the Rixia jiuwen 日下舊聞 (Ancient Accounts Heard in the
Precincts of the Throne) by Zhu Yizun 朱彜尊 (1629–1709).16
The authors of Ersch/Gruber also referred to the major bilingual dic-
tionaries of the Chinese language: the information on baidunzi 白墩子
(‘petuntse’)—one of the basic materials for making porcelain—partly
was drawn from the entry on porcelain in the English-Chinese part of
Morrison’s dictionary.17 In its information on Chinese perceptions of
Europeans, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon referred to the Guangdong
tongzhi 廣東通志 (Gazetteer of Guangdong province) edited by the
scholar-official Ruan Yuan.18
Writing for the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siécle, Édouard Biot
used the Da Qing huidian for his presentation of Chinese adminis-
tration.19 In his article on China prepared for the Encyclopédie Nou-
velle, Jean Pierre Guillaume Pauthier (1801–1873) not only mentioned
Song Yingxing’s Tiangong kaiwu, but also Fu Zehong’s Xingshui jin-
jian referring to the latter as the history and statistics of rivers and
The reference to and the use of Chinese sources in European ency-
clopaedias raises the question to what extent early sinologists con-
tributed to works of general knowledge (see below “On the Authors
of Entries on China”). For quite a long time, knowledge on China
emerged in closely following the few translations of Chinese works into
European languages that had been published during the seventeenth-
and eighteenth-centuries. With the emergence of sinology as an aca-
demic discipline, which was marked by growing philological interest
in Chinese sources and by the establishment of respective academic
institutions, two rather contrary developments took place. On the one
hand, the foundation of Asiatic Societies in France, England and Ger-
many contributed decisively to the formation of a sinological ‘body
of knowledge’. On the other hand, predominant European discourses

On these works and on their perception in Russia and Western Europe see the
references in Naquin, Peking. Temples and City Life, 1400–1900, 452–459 and ibid.,
487 f.
Ersch/Gruber III 19 (1844) 430 f. (s. v. ‘Pe-tun-tse’; by G. M. S. Fischer).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 296.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461.
Encyclopédie nouvelle, vol. 3, p. 538 f.
72 chapter two

on the supposed superiority of the “West” led to the marginalization

of China in educational knowledge.21
Nineteenth-century encyclopaedias contained short remarks on the
state of the emerging discipline of Chinese studies as well as infor-
mation on early sinologists.22 The first edition of the Staats-Lexicon
founded by Rotteck and Welcker mentions the “daily increasing num-
ber of sinologists”.23 In biographical articles on eminent sinologists,
encyclopaedias mentioned the most important works of these scholars.
Such articles may be found in Ersch/Gruber, Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon, in the Encyclopédie des gens du monde, and in the Penny
Cyclopaedia. Either within their information on Chinese language and
literature24 or within the presentation of the development of Oriental
studies in Europe, encyclopaedias referred to the history of Chinese
studies. Entries in Ersch/Gruber as well as in the Encyclopédie Nouvelle
may serve as the two most outstanding examples for this practice.25 In
structuring their subject they followed different patterns: while Ersch/
Gruber provides a chronological presentation of the different branches
of Oriental learning in Europe, the Encyclopédie Nouvelle arranges this
information according to the different ‘oriental’ languages: Concerning
the development of the study of Chinese in early modern times, both
encyclopaedias presented enumerations of Jesuit writings. Accord-
ing to the Encyclopédie Nouvelle, Joseph Amiot SJ (1718–1793) had
been the last Jesuit missionary who reported on Chinese literature.26
In presenting the history of Chinese studies in Europe mainly as an
achievement of French scholars, the Encyclopédie Nouvelle mentioned
the backwardness of the German speaking countries in this branch
of Oriental studies and critizised English efforts in the field, that only
would serve economic and political purposes.27

Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 36.
On this point see Georg Lehner, “Die Anfänge der Sinologie in französischen
und deutschen Enzyklopädien (1800–1850)“ (On the beginnings of sinology as mir-
rored in French- and German-language encyclopaedias) presented at the symposium
“Une Chine partagée. Présence de la Chine dans les Lettres françaises et allemandes
du début du XIXe siècle au début du XXe siècle” held at Amiens (France) in May
2009. A French translation of this paper will be published in the proceedings of the
Rotteck/Welcker, Staats-Lexicon, 1st ed., vol. 14 (1843) 549 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
Ersch/Gruber I 16 (1827) 364–373.
Ersch/Gruber III 5 (1834) 190–245 (s. v. ‘Orientalische Studien’, G. Flügel); Ency-
clopédie Nouvelle 7 (1843) 87–90 (s. v. ‘Orientalistes’).
Encyclopédie Nouvelle 7 (1843) 89.
Encyclopédie Nouvelle 7 (1843) 90.
formations of knowledge 73

2.2 European Sources on China

Investigations in early European writings on China have to bear in

mind a vast amount of material.28 Until recently, travelogues and the
works of the philosophes seem to have been predominating. Travel-
ogues formed an important part of early modern European libraries.
Together with reports and letters of the Roman Catholic missionar-
ies and the accounts of embassies to the court of Beijing, travelogues
came to form “a substantial body of ‘knowledge’ about the Ming and
Qing empires in general [. . .].”29 In depicting China in European ency-
clopaedias, these groups of works represent only a minor part of the
whole. Eighteenth-century European perceptions of China also were
shaped by vivid discussions among scholars and writers throughout
In their use of sources, encyclopaedias are both referential and
intertextual: referential in their use of travelogues, scholarly publica-
tions, scholarly journals, and newspapers; intertextual in their use of
reference works of all kinds (geographical gazetteers, economic dic-
tionaries, earlier encyclopaedias, etc.).30
In transnational perspective encyclopaedias serve as highly reliable
indicators for the various strands of European discourses on China.
Until now, studies on the emergence and changes of European dis-
courses on China do not analyze in detail the—sometimes very wide—
range of sources that helped to form the prevailing images of China
in Europe.
The ‘Chinese’ frame of reference (text A or hypotext) in which Euro-
pean discourses on the subject were placed soon became replaced by
other texts (text B or hypertext) that excessively dealt with information
provided by the former. Thus, European accounts on China may be
regarded as hypotexts. Texts produced in the course of perception,
learned communication, and further dissemination (including encyclo-
paedias and works of general reference) can be seen as hypertexts.31

Jürgen Osterhammel, “Welten des Kolonialismus im Zeitalter der Aufklärung,”
in Das Europa der Aufklärung und die außereuropäische koloniale Welt, ed. Hans-
Jürgen Lüsebrink (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006), 23.
Naquin, Peking. Temples and City Life, 478.
Jay L. Caplan, “Alphabetized knowledge. Dictionaries and encyclopedias,” Stan-
ford French Review 14, no. 3 (1990), 8.
Pekar, Der Japan-Diskurs im westlichen Kulturkontext (1860–1920), 49.
74 chapter two

As reflected not only by the source materials used by studies on

the history of early modern European perceptions of China, but also
by the references given in eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century
encyclopaedias, the period up to the middle of the nineteenth-century
saw numerous outstanding general works on China.
In the second half of the sixteenth-century, political and commer-
cial interests of Portugal and Spain in East Asia were reflected by the
publication of the first books entirely devoted to China, starting with
Gaspar da Cruz’ OP (d. 1570) Tractado [. . .] da China, published at
Évora in 1569.32 While da Cruz’ work had not been widely circulated,
a real bestseller was put to press in 1585: Using the eyewitness reports
of fellow Augustinian friars, Juan González de Mendoza wrote his His-
toria de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres del gran reyno de la
China, which was then translated into most of the European languages
and published in twenty-eight editions up to the year 1655.33
While Michele Ruggieri SJ (1543–1607) and Alessandro Valignano
SJ (1539–1606) only stayed at Macau, Matteo Ricci (1552–1610)
entered China and began work at Zhaoqing 肇慶 in 1582. After mov-
ing to Nanjing 南京 in 1595 and a first visit to Beijing in 1598, Ricci
finally gained permission to stay permanently in the capital of China
(1601), where he lived and worked until his death in 1610.34
Ricci’s achievements in China were disseminated by the Flemish
Jesuit Nicolas Trigault (1577–1628), who published an account of
Ricci’s work under the title of De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas
(1615).35 From mid-seventeenth century onwards, Europeans—or to be
more precise European scholars—were provided rather continuously

Gaspar da Cruz, Tractado em que se contam muito por estenso as cousas da China
(Evora: 1569). See Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 2063.
For research on this work see the references in Löwendahl, Sino-Western rela-
tions, vol. 1, p. 11 (no. 13).
On the beginnings of Jesuit missionary work in China see Dauril Alden, The
Making of an Enterprise. The Society of Jesus in Portugal, Its Empire, and Beyond 1540–
1750 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 66–71. For Ricci’s stay at Beijing see
John W. Witek, “The Emergence of a Christian Community in Beijing During the Late
Ming and Early Qing Periods,” in Encounters and Dialogues. Changing Perspectives
on Chinese-Western Exchanges from the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Xiaoxin
Wu, Monumenta Serica Monograph Series 51 (St. Augustin: Monumenta Serica Ins-
titute, 2005), 95–98.
Matteo Ricci, De Christiana expedition apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu,
trans. Nicolas Trigault (Augsburg: Mang, 1615). On the significance and influence
of this work in seventeenth-century Europe see Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations,
vol. 1, p. 29 f. (no. 54).
formations of knowledge 75

with information on China. Later major contributions in this field

started with Imperio de la China (1642) by the Portuguese-born Àlvaro
Semedo (Semmedo) SJ (1585–1658).36 Martino Martini SJ (1614–1661)
promoted knowledge on China by three very influential publications:
With De bello Tartarico (1654) he published a first-hand account of
the fall of the Ming and the rise of the Qing. Based on Chinese sources,
his Novus Atlas Sinensis (1655) greatly improved European knowledge
on the geography of China. Besides of beautifully coloured maps Mar-
tini gave a detailed description of all the provinces of China, deal-
ing with their administrative organization, their natural products, and
their main characteristics. According to Edwin J. Van Kley, Martini’s
Sinicae Historiae Decas Prima (1658) was “the first systematic account
of ancient Chinese history.” This transmission of knowledge caused
a major challenge for European writing of world history.37 The con-
troversies arising from the need to integrate Chinese history into the
patterns of early modern European studies of chronology occupied the
European ‘republic of letters’ until the end of the eighteenth century.
Unlike Ricci, Trigault, Semedo, and Martini, the German born poly-
math Athanasius Kircher SJ (1602–1680)38 never had been to China.
Besides his efforts to create new systems for the representation of
knowledge,39 he collected every bit of information on China available
to him and, in 1667, he published China monumentis . . . illustrata.40

Álvaro Semedo, Imperio de la China [. . .], Madrid: Sanchez, 1642.—On Semedo’s
work see David E. Mungello, Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of
Sinology [Studia Leibnitiana Supplementa XXV. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1985];
paperback edition Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989), 74–90.
Edwin J. Van Kley, “Europe’s ‘Discovery’ of China and the Writing of World
History,” American Historical Review 76, no. 2 (1971). 359. On Martini’s role for the
European study of the history and geography of China see Mungello, Curious Land,
On Kircher see Paula Findlen, ed., Athanasius Kircher. The Last Man Who Knew
Everything (New York: Routledge, 2004).
Olaf Breidbach, “Zur Repräsentation des Wissens bei Athanasius Kircher,” in
Kunstkammer – Laboratorium – Bühne. Schauplätze des Wissens im 17. Jahrhundert,
ed. Helmar Schramm, Ludger Schwarte, and Jan Lazardzig, Theatrum Scientiarum 1
(Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2003), 282–302.
Athanasius Kircher, China monumentis, qua sacris quà profanis, nec non variis
naturae et artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata.
Amsterdam: Janssonius & Weyerstraet: 1667. For an overview of scholarly research
on this work see Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 1, p. 68 f. (no. 132). For
another Amsterdam edition of 1667, “a counterfeit of the original edition” see ibid.,
p. 69 f. (no. 133).
76 chapter two

From the sixteenth century onwards, European seafarers, adven-

turers. and missionaries wrote extensively about their experiences in
the East. On the other hand, there are no contemporary published
records by Chinese travellers to the West. From mid-seventeenth cen-
tury onwards, Jesuit missionaries on their way back to Europe were
accompanied by Chinese converts. European scholars of that time
seized the opportunity to gain information on things Chinese from
these short-time visitors: Jacob Gool (1596–1667), professor of Ara-
bic at Leiden, got new insights in the geography of China. Thomas
Hyde (1636–1703), renowned oriental scholar and Bodley’s Librarian
at Oxford, got in touch with (Michael) Shen Fuzong 沈福宗 (c. 1658–
1691), who accompanied Philippe Couplet SJ (1623–1693).41
In the field of published syntheses of European knowledge on China,
the beginnings of French missionary activity in China were marked by
the Nouveaux mémoires sur la Chine (1696) published by Louis Le
Comte SJ (1655–1728), who returned to France after staying in China
for several years. The fact that this book had been censored by the
Sorbonne in 1700 at the instigation of the adversaries of the French
Jesuit missionaries at Beijing arose the curiosity of the public. Thus,
the Nouveaux Mémoires may be considered one of the most widely
read titles of that period.42
From the 1730s onwards, Europeans searching for information on
China relied heavily on Jean Baptiste Du Halde’s (1674–1743) four-
volume Description géographique, historique, chronologique et physique
de l’Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise (1735).43
The author of the entry on China inserted in the section on politi-
cal economy (Economie politique et diplomatique) of the Encyclopédie

For bibliographic references on Chinese Christians going abroad (and visiting
early modern Europe) see Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume
One: 635–1800, 449–455. On materials on the Chinese language received by Gool see
ibid., 871.
On the major seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French reports on China
see Zhimin Bai, Les voyageurs français en Chine aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris:
L’Harmattan, 2007), 58–94. On the controversies following the publication of Le
Comte’s account see ibid., 62 f.—On Le Comte see also Linda S. Frey and Marsha L.
Frey, “The Search for Souls in China. Le Comte’s Nouveaux Memoires,” in Distant
Lands and Diverse Cultures. The French Experience in Asia, 1600–1700, ed. Glenn J.
Ames and Ronald S. Love, Contributions in comparative colonial studies 45 (West-
port, Conn./London: Praeger, 2003).
On Du Halde and his work see Landry-Deron, La preuve par la Chine, Löwen-
dahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 1, pp. 180–183 (no. 394).
formations of knowledge 77

Méthodique44 has been well aware of the ground-breaking account

of Du Halde. To achieve a more balanced presentation he made use
of sources not considered by Du Halde, among them Marco Polo,
‘Emmanuel Pinto’ (presumably Fernão Mendez Pinto (1509/14–1583),
Domingo de Navarrete OP (1618–1686), Dutch travelogues, as well as
the reports of Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri (1651–1725), Lorenz
Lange (d. 1752), and Eberhard Isbrand Ides (1657–1708). The last two
authors mentioned in that article—George Anson (1697–1762) and
Pierre Poivre (1719–1786)—had published their accounts at a time
when Du Halde’s Description already had been issued.45
In 1785, Jean Baptiste Gabriel Alexandre Grosier SJ (1743–1823)
published another Description de la Chine, which saw two further edi-
tions up to 1820 as well as translations into English and German.46
However, Grosier’s synthesis of China-related information became
superseded before the close of the eighteenth century. Eye-witnesses’
reports published by members of the British embassy to China led by
Lord Macartney in 1792/93 made a huge contribution to a reshap-
ing of European images of China. Due to its attention to economic
issues, the Travels in China published by John Barrow (1764–1848) in
1804 proved especially influential throughout the first half of the nine-
teenth century (see also below pp. 117–119). Mainly led by a utilitarian
approach, Barrow gave a very critical assessment of Chinese civiliza-
tion in presenting it as stagnant, backward, and narrow-minded. He
pointed out that China has isolated herself from the rest of the world.
He also severely criticised China’s arrogance in its relations with for-
eigners and foreign nations in general.47

Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie politique et diplomatique, vol. 1 (1784) 545
(s. v. ‘Chine’). For a digitized version of this section of the Encyclopédie Methodique
see http://elib.doshisha.ac.jp/english/digital/yosyo.html (30 April 2010).
On the editions of Marco Polo’s Il Milione see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col.
1964–1988; on Mendes Pinto’s Peregrinacam (1614) ibid., col. 2065; on Navarrete’s
Tratados historicos, politicos, ethicos, y religiosos de la Monarchia de China (1676) ibid.,
col. 31 f, on Dutch travelogues ibid., cols. 2344–2348; on Gemelli Careri’s Giro del
Mondo (first published in Naples in 1699/1700) ibid., 2091; on Ides’ Three years travels
from Moscow overland to China (English edition 1706; Dutch edition 1704) ibid., cols.
2468 f, on Lange’s account (first published in 1725) ibid., col. 2471 f, on Anson’s A
voyage round the world (original edition 1748) ibid., cols. 2095–2097, on Poivre’s Voy-
ages d’un philosophe (original edition Yverdon 1768) see ibid., col. 2100 f.
On the various editions of Grosier’s work see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, cols.
For a critical assessment of twentieth-century research on the Macartney mission
see Joseph W. Esherick, “Cherishing Sources from Afar,” Modern China 24, no. 2
78 chapter two

Beginning in the 1830s, English as well as French writers met the

demand of an interested public for up-to-date information on China.
John Francis Davis (1795–1890), from 1813 onwards on service with
the East India Company’s factory in Canton, had published extensively
on China. His most influential work The Chinese. A general descrip-
tion of China, and its Inhabitants was published in 1836. The French
scholars Jean Pierre Guillaume Pauthier and Antoine Bazin (1799–
1863), both without any personal experience in China, compiled Chine
moderne ou description historique, géographique et littéraire de ce vast
empire. The first volume (1837), written by Pauthier, contained infor-
mation on the history of China. The second volume (1853) dealt with
a great variety of subjects (geography, administration, language, lit-
erature, philosophy, arts, natural history, agriculture, festivals, games,
etc.). By far more influential than these publications became The
Middle Kingdom written by the American missionary Samuel Wells
Williams (1812–1884). This work, first published in 1848, saw several
editions and translations into several European languages. Williams
portrayed the Chinese as an industrious nation that had not reached
an industrial level. According to Williams, despotism, distrust, lack
of solidarity, and ‘paganism’ were the main causes for the supposed
‘backwardness’ of the Chinese.48
These works formed a kind of ‘nucleus’ for the European perception
of China. Books and journal articles reflecting inner-European debates
greatly contributed to the shaping of China from the late seventeenth
to the early nineteenth centuries. The results of these debates on and
analyses of older works on China became another integral part of
European knowledge on China, which was mirrored also in the entries
of encyclopaedias.
The ways in which newly accessible sources on China were used
for entries in encyclopaedias differed considerably. Encyclopaedic ref-
erence works had perpetuated medieval accounts on the geography

(1998), 135-161. For an assessment of Barrow’s account see Jürgen Osterhammel,

China und die Weltgesellschaft. Vom 18. Jahrhundert bis in unsere Zeit (Munich: Beck,
1989), 27–29.
The various editions of Davis’ The Chinese are listed in Cordier, Bibliotheca
Sinica. col, 71–73; for La Chine moderne see ibid., col. 87 and for Williams’ The Mid-
dle Kingdom ibid., col. 85 f., for a table of contents of Bazin’s and Pauthier’s Chine
moderne see ibid., col. 87. On the main strands of discourse in Williams’ The Middle
Kingdom see Osterhammel, Weltgesellschaft, 31 f.
formations of knowledge 79

of East Asia until the middle of the seventeenth century.49 They were
replaced after Martini’s ground-breaking Novus Atlas Sinensis. At the
end of the eighteenth century, a similar process took place. In the wake
of the British embassy headed by Macartney the reports of the Jesuits
were dismissed as one-sided while information provided by accounts
of members of this embassy mostly was taken for granted.
Despite these significant changes in the use of sources the longev-
ity of European imaginations of China seems remarkable. Therefore,
encyclopaedias frequently listed new sources when they gave well-
known facts.
Sources on China used in the process of compiling encyclopaedias
may be grouped as follows:

1. Widely spread general works on universal geography and works on

specific areas:
a. Early modern cosmographies and universal geographies, for
example the several editions of the most influential cosmog-
raphies written by authors like Sebastian Münster or Pierre
b. Early European books on China and on other parts of Asia (trav-
elogues, general descriptions, etc.): Reports on Asian regions
other than China reveal how Europeans perceived some of the
mutual cultural transmissions within Asia (e. g. information on
Chinese influence on and Chinese borrowings from material
cultures in Southeast Asia).
c. Quasi-encyclopaedic works on China like the descriptions pub-
lished by Du Halde and Grosier.
d. Works dealing with the history of European countries and with
their expansion overseas: In Zedler’s entry ‘Formosa’ information
on Taiwan had been taken from the Annales des Provinces-Unies
by Jacques Basnage (1653–1723). On Russian trade relations
with China, the compilers of Zedler quoted from a treatise on

See Archontologia cosmica, sive imperiorum, regnorum, principatuum, rerumque
publicarum omnium [. . .], 2nd ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Merian, 1649), 182–202 (chap.
“Regnum Chinense, sive Sinarum regio”). Paul Boyer, Dictionaire servant de Bibliothè-
que universelle [. . .] (Paris: Sommaville 1649), 329a (s. v. ‘Chine’) referred to the works
of Abraham Ortelius and Gerhard Mercator. Fortia d’Urban, Nouveau sistème biblio-
graphique, 38–39 presented Boyer’s work among “mélanges enciclopédiques [sic]”.
80 chapter two

the trade of the Muscovites.50 Rees’ Cyclopaedia also made use

of works on Russia published by William Coxe (1748–1828)
and William Tooke (1744–1820) as sources for the history of
the Russo-Chinese border (used in Rees’ Cyclopaedia for entries
on ‘Kalmucks’, ‘Kiakta’, ‘Mandshurs’).51
2. Books, treatises and articles by early modern European scholars
dealing with China in a universal context on topics like history,
language, chronology, theology etc.: for example Isaac Vossius’
(1618–1689) Variarum observationum liber (1685) and Georg
Horn’s (1620–1670) Arca Noae sive historia imperiorum et regno-
rum a condito orbe ad nostra tempora (1666).
3. Compilations based on works mentioned sub 1. and 2.: Encyclo-
paedias derived some of their information on things Chinese from
the Recueil des observations curieuses published in Paris in 1749.
Krünitz made use of a description of Chinese lacquer and Rees
got information on Chinese porcelain.52 In the Dictionnaire de la
conversation et de la lecture information on China is drawn from
a volume in the series Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire ancienne
du globe terrestre published by Fortia d’Urban. Until now, sources
of this kind and their role for the disseminating of knowledge on
China have been widely neglected.
4. Predecessors in the genre of encyclopaedias as well as encyclopaedic
works on individual regions (e.g. Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale):
in preparing a new reference work, most contributors and editors
were keen to distinguish their work from existing encyclopaedias.
Nevertheless, much information contained in earlier encyclopaedias
(or in earlier editions) was perpetuated for quite a long time. As

Jacques Basnage, Annales des Provinces-Unies depuis les négociations pour la paix
de Munster, avec la description historique de leur gouvernement, 3 vols. (La Haye: Le
Vier, 1719–1726) vol. 1, p. 444–452 (on the Dutch embassy of 1655–57) and ibid.,
673 on the loss of Formosa to Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga); Paul Jakob Marperger,
Moscowitischer Kauffmann (Lübeck: Böckmann, 1705). For a short description of
Marpergers book see Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 1, p. 135 (no. 289).
William Coxe, An Account of the Russian discoveries between Asia and Amer-
ica. To which are added, the conquest of Siberia, and the history of the transactions
and commerce with China (London: Cadell, 1780); for a short description of the first
French edition (1781) of this work see Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 2, p. 9
(no. 611); William Tooke, History of Russia, from the foundation of the monarchy by
Rurik to the accession of Catherine the Second [. . .], 2 vols. (London: Longman and
Rees, 1800).
Krünitz 58 (1792) 524 (s. v. ‘Lackieren’); Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 18, s. v. ‘Hoache’
formations of knowledge 81

alphabetically arranged reference works on certain subjects became

more usual in the period under consideration, entries in dictionar-
ies on economy, medicine etc. were freely used by the compilers of
general encyclopaedic reference works.
5. Syntheses of early modern scholarship: Contributors to encyclo-
paedias often relied on acknowledged syntheses of knowledge.
These subject-oriented syntheses of knowledge on Asia could be
used very conveniently for the alphabetical arrangement of knowl-
edge. Examples for the most outstanding works of this kind include
Flora cochinchinensis (1790) by the Portuguese Jesuit João Loureiro
(1715–1794/96)53 and Die Erdkunde im Verhältniß zur Natur und
zur Geschichte des Menschen by the German geographer Carl Ritter

As interest in China reached a climax among eighteenth-century Euro-

pean scholars, their perception of China comprised a variety of subjects:
geography and ethnology, language (origin of languages, etc.), religion
(Catholic missions and indigenous religions of Asia as well), chronol-
ogy, history, music and natural studies to name only a few. In England,55

João Loureiro, Flora cochinchinensis: sistens plantas in regno Cochinchina nascen-
tes. Quibus accedunt aliae observatae in Sinensi Imperio, Africa Orientali, Indiaeque
locis variis [. . .] (Lisboa: Typis et expensis Academicis, 1790). On Loureiro and his work
see Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume One: 635–1800, 806.
Carl Ritter, Die Erdkunde im Verhältniß zur Natur und zur Geschichte des Men-
schen oder allgemeine vergleichende Geographie als sichere Grundlage des Studiums und
Unterrichts in physicalischen und historischen Wissenschaften, 2nd rev. and enlarged
ed. (Berlin: Reimer): vol. 1: Der Norden und Nord-Osten von Hoch-Asien (1832); vol. 2:
Der Nord-Osten und der Süden von Hoch-Asien (1833); vol. 3: Der Süd-Osten von
Hochasien; deren Wassersysteme und Gliederungen (1835).
On late seventeenth-century English scholars interest in China see Matt
Jenkinson, “Nathaniel Vincent and Confucius’s ‘Great Learning’ in Restoration Eng-
land,” Notes & Records of the Royal Society 60 (2006), 35–47 (on Vincent and Temple),
Lydia M. Soo, “The Study of China and Chinese Architecture in Restoration England,”
Architectura 31 (2001), 169–184 and Ciaran Murray, “Sharawadgi Resolved,” Garden
History 26, no. 2 (1998), 208–213 (on Temple). Robert Batchelor, “Concealing the
Bounds. Imagining the British Nation through China,” in The Global Eighteenth Cen-
tury, ed. Felicity A. Nussbaum (Baltimore, London: The Johns Hopkins University
Press, 2003), 79–92 (on Temple and Addison).—On the sources for Defoe’s image
of China see Francis Wilson, “The Dark Side of Utopia: Misanthropy and the Chi-
nese Prelude to Defoe’s Lunar Journey,” Comparative Critical Studies 4, no. 2 (2007),
193–207; J. G. A. Pocock, “Gibbon and the Idol Fo. Chinese and Christian history
in the Enlightenment,” in Sceptics, Millenarians and Jews, ed. David S. Katz and
Jonathan I. Israel, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 17 (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 15–34
(on Gibbon).—On eighteenth-century perceptions of China in England from a mainly
economic point of view see David Porter, “A peculiar but uninteresting nation. China
82 chapter two

France56 and in the German-speaking countries57 many eminent phi-

losophers, writers and scholars made more or less extensive use of
European texts on Asia.58
The sources used by the compilers of encyclopaedias for general
information on China changed continuously. This change is mirrored
by the bibliographic references given at the end of most of the entries
on ‘China’. Based on the bibliographic references given in the articles
on China of Hofmanns Lexicon Universale (1698) and of eighteenth-
and early nineteenth-century German- and English-language ency-
clopaedias, the table below (also containing references to Cordier’s
Bibliotheca Sinica, here abbreviated BS) shows the persistence and/or
change in encyclopaedias’ use of European publications on China.

and the discourse of commerce in eighteenth-century England,” Eighteenth Century

Studies 32, no. 2 (2000), 46–58.
On Montesquieu and China see Richter, “Montesquieu’s comparative analysis of
Europe and Asia”; Robert Charlier, “Montesquieus Lettres persanes in Deutschland.
Zur europäischen Erfolgsgeschichte eines literarischen Musters,” in Montesquieu.
Franzose – Europäer – Weltbürger, ed. Effi Böhlke and Etienne François (Berlin: Aka-
demie Verlag, 2005), 131–153. On Montesquieu’s discussion of ‘oriental despotism’
see Rubiés, “Oriental Despotism and European Orientalism: Botero to Montesquieu,”
162–169. For the leading role of French scholars in European discourses on China
see Ho-fung Hung, “Orientalist Knowledge and Social Theories: China and the Euro-
pean Conceptions of East-West Differences from 1600 to 1900,” Sociological Theory
21, no. 3 (2003), 254–80, mainly 259–62 and 264 f.
For German views on China see Adrian Hsia, ed., Deutsche Denker über China
(Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1985), Ingrid Schuster, Vorbilder und Zerrbilder.
China und Japan im Spiegel der deutschen Literatur, 1773–1890, Schweizer asiatische
Studien / Monographien, 6 (Bern: Lang, 1988), Willy Richard Berger, China-Bild
und China-Mode im Europa der Aufklärung, Literatur und Leben. N.S. 41 (Cologne:
Böhlau, 1990).
Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 199 f.; Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in
China. Volume One: 635–1800, 883–889. See also Walter W. Davis, “China, the Con-
fucian Ideal, and the European Age of Enlightenment,” Journal of the History of Ideas
44, no. 4 (Oct.–Dec. 1983), 523–548.
formations of knowledge 83

Encyclopaedias’ use of European publications on China



Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

Marco Polo (first printed edition: Nuremberg X
Juan González de Mendoza, Historia de las X X
cosas mas notables, ritos y costumbres del
gran Reyno de la China (Rome 1585) [on the
different eds. BS 8–15]
Luis de Guzman, Historia de las missiones X
[. . .] en los Reynos de la China y Japon (Alcala
1601) [BS 784 f.]
Nicolas Trigault, De Christiana Expeditione X X X
apud Sinas (Augsburg 1615) [BS 809]
Francisco de Herrera Maldonado, Epitome X
historial del reyno de la China (Madrid 1620)
[BS 20]
Michel Baudier, History of the court of the X
King of China (London 1634) [BS 21 f.]
Álvaro Semedo, Imperio de la China (Madrid X X X
1642) [BS 23, other eds., ibid., 23–25]
Alexandre du Rhodes, Divers voyages [. . .] en X
la Chine & autres Royaumes de l’Orient (Paris
1653) [BS 2080]
Martino Martini, Novus Atlas Sinensis X X
(Amsterdam 1655) [BS 182]
Adam Preyel, Artificia Hominum miranda X
Naturae in Sina & Europa (Frankfurt/Main
1655) [BS 387]
Martino Martini, Sinicae Historia Decas Prima X X
(Munich 1658) [BS 580]

On the numerous editions of Marco Polo’s Livre des merveilles printed in vari-
ous languages from 1477 up to the early nineteenth century see Cordier, Bibliotheca
Sinica, col. 1964–1987.
84 chapter two




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

Theophil Spizel, De re litteraria sinensium X
commentarius [. . .] (Leiden 1660) [BS 1412]
Johan Nieuhof, Legatio Batavica ad Magnum X X X X X
Tartariae Chamum Sungteium, Modernum
Sinae Imperatorem (Amsterdam 1668) [BS
2346 f., editions in other languages ibid.,
Athanasius Kircher, China . . . illustrata X X
(Amsterdam 1667) [BS 26]
Prospero Intorcetta, Sinarum scientia politico- X
moralis (Canton/Goa 1667) [BS 1388 f.]
Juan de Palafox y Mendoça, Historia de la X X
Conquista de la China por el Tartaro [. . .]
(Madrid 1670) [BS 627 f.]60
Melchisédec Thévenot, Relations de divers X
Voyages curieux, qui n’ont esté publiés [. . .]
(Paris 1672) [BS 1944 f. mentions the 1696
Couplet, Tabula chronologica Monarchiae X X
Sinicae (Paris 1686) [BS 559]
Gabriel de Magaillans, Nouvelle relation de la X X
Chine (Paris 1688) [BS 36]61
Andreas Müller, Basilicon Sinense (1689 ?) X
[BS 557 f.]
Mentzel, Kurtze Chinesische Chronologia oder X
Zeit-Register aller Chinesischen Kayser (Berlin
1696) [BS 559 f.]

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon refers to the English edition published in 1679.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1574 refers to “Magaillans Descr. Chinae”. See Cordier,
Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 36: “Cet ouvrage a été traduit en latin? (Avert. de l’éd. holl. de
Du Halde).”
formations of knowledge 85




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

Louis Le Comte, Nouveaux Mémoires sur l’État X X
present de la Chine (Paris 1696) [BS 39–43, on
various eds.]
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Novissima Sinica X
[. . .] (no place 1697) [BS 834 f.]
Adam Brand, A Journal of the Embassy [. . .] X
over Land into China (London 1698) [BS 2468]
Joaquin Bouvet, Histoire de l’Empereur de la X
Chine [. . .] (The Hague 1699) [BS 634]
Varia scripta de cultibus Sinarum, inter X
missionarios et patres Societatis Jesus
controversis (1700)
Lettres de quelques missionnaires de la X
Compagnie de Jesus (Paris 1702) [BS 926]62
E. Isbrand Ides, Three Years Travels from X X
Moscow overland to China [. . .] (London 1706)
[BS 2468f., other eds. ibid., 2466–2470]
François Gonzales de S. Pierre, Relation de la X
nouvelle persécution de la Chine [. . .] (1714)
[BS 916]
Constitution de N. S. P. le Pape Clement XI. X
ou il decide de nouveau [. . .] ce qu’il avoit déjà
jugé [. . .] touchant les cultes et les ceremonies
chinoises (Rome 1715)63 [BS 917]
Eusèbe Renaudot, Anciennes relations des X
Indes et de la Chine de deux Voyageurs
Mahometans (Paris 1718) [BS 1923 f.]

Zedler only refers to “Briefe der Missionarien in China” (i.e. ‘letters by the mis-
sionaries in China’). On the various eighteenth- and nineteenth-century edition of the
Lettres édifiantes et curieuses see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 926–957.
Presumably Zedler refers to this publication—we only read of “Clement XI. Epis-
tolae et bullarium.”
86 chapter two




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

David Faßmann, Der auf Ordre seines Kaysers X
reisende Chineser [. . .] (Leipzig 1721–1733)
[. . .] Le Gentil, Nouveau Voyage autour du X
Monde [. . .] (Amsterdam 1728) [BS 2094 f.]
Theophil Siegfried Bayer, Museum sinicum X
in quo Sinicae Linguae et Litteraturae ratio
explicatur [. . .], 2 vols. (St. Petersburg 1730)
[BS 1658]
Jean Baptiste Du Halde, Description X X X X
géographique, historique, chronologique,
politique de l’Empire de la Chine et de la
Tartarie chinoise (Paris 1735) [BS 45–48]
Antoine-Auguste Bruzen de la Martiniere, X
Introduction à l’histoire de l’Asie [. . .] vol. 1
(Amsterdam 1735)
Étienne Fourmont, Meditationes sinicae [. . .] X
(Paris 1737) [BS 1658 f.]
Étienne Fourmont, Linguae Sinarum X
Mandarinicae hieroglyphicae Grammatica
duplex (Paris 1742) [BS 1659]
Johann Lorenz Mosheim, Authentick memoirs X
of the Christian church in China [. . .] (London
1750) [BS 765–767; German original published
in 1748]
The Ancient Part of an Universal History, X X
vol. 20 (London 1748)
The Modern Part of an Universal History, X X
vol. 8 (London 1759)
Joseph de Guignes, Mémoire dans lequel on X
prouve, que les Chinois sont une colonie
égyptienne [. . .] (Paris 1759) [BS 571 f.]
Thomas Percy, Hau Kiou Choaan or the X
Pleasing History, a Translation from the
Chinese Language (London 1761) [BS 1755]
formations of knowledge 87




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

John Bell of Antermony, Travels from X X X
St. Petersburg in Russia to Diverse Parts of
Asia (Glasgow 1763) [BS 2093, other eds. ibid.,
2093 f ]
Peter Osbeck, A Voyage to China and the X X X
East-Indies (London 1771) [BS 2098; other eds.
ibid., 2097 f.]
Lettre de Pekin, sur le génie de la langue X X
chinoise, et la nature de leur écriture
symbolique (Bruxelles 1773) [BS 1735]
Corneille de Pauw, Recherches philosophiques X X X
sur les Egyptiens et les Chinois (Berlin 1773)
[BS 572–573]
Joseph de Guignes, Idée de la littérature X X
chinoise en général, et particulièrement des
historiens et de l’étude de l’histoire à la Chine,
Mémoires de Littérature, tirés des registres de
l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-
Lettres 36 (1774), 190–238.
Mémoires concernant l’Histoire, les Sciences, X X X
les Arts, les Mœurs, les Usages, &c. des
Chinois, 16 vols. (Paris 1776–1814) [BS 54–56]
Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, Mémoire X
[. . .] sur la Chine (Paris 1776) [BS 187]
Joseph Anne Marie Moyriac de Mailla, Histoire X X
générale de la Chine [. . .], 13 vols. (Paris
1777–1785) [BS 583 f.]
Pierre Sonnerat, Voyages aux Indes X X
Orientales et à la Chine, 2 vols. (Paris 1781)
[BS 2102–2103]
Jean Baptiste Grosier, Description générale de X X X
la Chine [. . .] (Paris 1785) [BS 60–62]
88 chapter two




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

George Leonard Staunton, An authentic X X X X
account of an Embassy from the King of
Great Britain to the Emperor of China, 2 vols.
(London 1797) [BS 2381]
Joseph-François Charpentier de Cossigny, X
Voyage à Canton [. . .] (Paris 1798) [BS 2105]
Andreas Everard van Braam Houckgeest, An X X X
Authentic Account of the Embassy of the
Dutch East-India Company, to the Court of the
Emperor of China (London 1798) [BS 2351]
George Henry Mason, The Costume of China, X
illustrated by Sixty Engravings [. . .] (London
1800) [BS 1858]
John Barrow, Travels in China, containing X X X X
descriptions, observations, and comparisons
[. . .] (London 1804) [BS 2388 f.]
William Alexander, The Costume of China, X
illustrated in forty-eight engravings (London
1805) [BS 1858 f.]
John Barrow, Some Account of the Public Life, X X
and a Selection from the unpublished writings,
of the Earl of Macartney (London 1807)
[BS 2391]
Chrétien Louis Joseph de Guignes, Voyages à X X X X
Peking, Manille et l’Île de France, faits dans
l’intervalle des années 1784 à 1801, 3 vols. and
atlas (Paris 1808) [BS 2351 f.]
Joshua Marshman, Dissertation on the X X
Characters and Sounds of the Chinese
Language (Serampore 1809) [BS 1661]
George Thomas Staunton, Ta Tsing Leu Lee; X X X
being the Fundamental Laws, and a selection
from the Supplementary Statutes, of the Penal
Code of China (London 1810) [BS 546 f.]
formations of knowledge 89




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

Stephen Weston, The Conquest of the Miao-tse X
[. . .] (London 1810) [BS 1791]
Robert Morrison, Horae Sinicae: Translations X X
from the popular literature of the Chinese
(London 1812) [BS 1683]
Chrétien Louis Joseph de Guignes, Dictionnaire X
chinois français et latin (Paris 1813) [BS 1589]
Robert Morrison, A Grammar of the Chinese X
Language (Serampore 1815) [BS 1662]
Robert Morrison, A Dictionary of the Chinese X
Language in Three Parts (Macao 1815–1823)
[BS 1592 f.]
Robert Morrison, A View of China, for X X
philological purposes; containing a Sketch of
Chinese Chronology, Geography, Government,
Religion & Customs (Macao 1817) [BS 65]
Henry Ellis, Journal of the Proceedings of the X X
late Embassy to China [. . .] (London 1817)
[BS 2393]
Antonio Montucci, Urh-Chih-Tsze-Tëen, being X
a Parallel drawn between the two intended
Chinese Dictionaries (London 1817) [BS 1594]
Indo-Chinese Gleaner (Malacca 1818–21) X
[BS 1296 f.]
William Milne, The Sacred Edict, containing X
Sixteen Maxims of the Emperor Kang-he,
amplified by his son, the Emperor Yoong-
Ching; together with a Paraphrase on the
whole by a Mandarin (London 1817) [BS 1426]
Clarke Abel, Narrative of a Journey in the X X X
Interior of China (London 1818) [BS 2395]
Julius Klaproth, Supplément au Dictionnaire X
chinois-latin du P. Basile de Glemona (Paris
1819) [BS 1589]
90 chapter two




Pierer 2nd ed.
Works cited

George Thomas Staunton, Narrative of the X
Chinese Embassy to the Khan of the Tourghout
Tartars (London 1821) [BS 637]
Jean Pierre Abel Rémusat, Élémens de X
la Grammaire chinoise [. . .] (Paris 1822)
[BS 1662]
George Thomas Staunton, Miscellaneous X
Notices relating to China and our Commercial
intercourse with that Country (London 1822)
[BS 67]
John Francis Davis, Chinese Moral Maxims, X
with a free and verbal translation; affording
examples of the grammatical structure of the
Language (Macao 1823) [BS 1429]
George Timkowski, Travels of the Russian X X
Mission through Mongolia to China (London
1827) [BS 2473; for eds in other languages
ibid., 2473 f.]
Chinese Repository, 20 vols. (Canton X
1832–1851) [BS 2286 f.]
Miscellaneous papers concerning China (Royal X
Asiatic transactions), 1834
Peter Auber, China. An outline of its X
government, laws, and policy [. . .] (London
1834) [BS 70]
John Francis Davis, The Chinese: A General X
Description of China and its Inhabitants
(London 1836) [BS 72]
Karl Friedrich Gützlaff, China opened; or, a X
Display of the Topography, History, Customs,
Manners, Arts, Manufactures, Commerce,
Literature, Religion, Jurisprudence etc., of the
Chinese Empire (London 1838) [BS 74 f.]
formations of knowledge 91

Bibliographical references are usually given in a rather abbreviated

form. Apart from the author’s name only some words of the title are
given. Date and place of publication as well as the language of the cited
edition are usually omitted. Exceptions may be found in two ency-
clopaedias: The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia contains short remarks on
the contents of the works listed.64 Data on editions in several Euro-
pean languages are given in the second edition of Pierer’s Universal-
Lexikon.65 Not included in this list are the following remarks from the
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana: “[. . .] and his [Rémusat’s] edition of the
Chun Tseu of Confucius together with his Tracts relating to China, in
the Mémoires de l’Academie des Inscriptions, and the Notices et Extraits
des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque du Roi [. . .] with the recent transla-
tions from the Chinese by Sir G. Staunton, Mr. Davis, &.c.”66 At the
close of its bibliographic references and in connection with the events
of the Opium War and its aftermath, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
referred the user to the then recent issues of journals published in
England, France and Germany.67
As might be expected not all of the influential works listed above
have been equally used as sources for China-related entries. On the
one hand this is due to the fact that some of the works albeit men-
tioned were regarded as outdated. While Krünitz did not make use
of the Flora Sinensis of Michael Boym SJ (1612–1659)68 he frequently
referred to Loureiro’s Flora cochinchinensis. On the other hand, access
to and use of these works always had been related to the vicinity to
important repositories of knowledge. Encyclopaedias also critically
assessed sources that were crucial for European images of China and of
Asia in general. In the seventh edition of Brockhaus (1827) it is stated
that (reliable) European sources on China are very few in number.69
In referring to the reports of medieval European travellers to Cen-
tral Asia one of the contributors to Ersch/Gruber pointed out that not
only the time lag between the journeys and the actual writing of the

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 330 f.
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 427 f.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (Miscellaneous and Lexicographical, vol. 3)
(London 1845) 595.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 313.
Michael Boym, Flora Sinensis [. . .] (Vienna: Typis Matthaei Rictij, 1656). On the
significance of the work see Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume
One: 635–1800, p. 804.
Brockhaus, 7th ed., vol. 2 (1827) p. 621 (s. v. ‘China’).
92 chapter two

reports often had been too long, but also that the criticism of sources
sometimes had been inadequate. As an example he mentioned that
John Mandeville had taken much of his material from Odorico da
Pordenone und Hayton (Hethoum) of Armenia.70 In its paragraphs
on “Progressive Geography” inserted under the headword “China”
Rees’ Cyclopaedia pointed out that the account given by Marco Polo
“remained so unknown” that Pope Pius II had been “contented with
the more imperfect account of Nicola Conti, a Venetian traveller of
his own time, who visited Cathay.” Medieval knowledge available on
Eastern Asia was described as “so perishable [. . .] as to have escaped
even a learned pontiff.”71
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon tried to give a critical assessment of
early modern European descriptions of the tea-plant: these correc-
tions referred to Der Orientalisch-Indianische Kunst- und Lust-Gärtner
(1692) published by George Meister (1653–1713) as well as to the
works of Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716).72 Another example for
the criticism of sources is the attitude towards George Psalmanazar’s
(1679–1763) An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa
(1704). In Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon Psalmanazar’s notes on the his-
tory of that island are presented but it is stated that there is no reason
to trust in the account of this author.73
Pierre Jacques Malouin (1701–1778), professor of medicine at the
Collège Royale, who wrote the article on pulse for the Encyclopédie,
regretted Du Halde’s rather confused presentation of the subject and
stated the impenetrable chaos in the Description. Regarding the degree
of obscurity, Malouin suggested that neither the (Chinese) author
(Wang Shuhe 王淑和, AD 265–316), nor the translator (Julien Placide
Hervieu SJ, 1671–1746), nor the editor (Du Halde) had understood

Ersch/Gruber I 36 (1842) 377–380 (s. v. ‘Erde’, L. F. Kämtz).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’, paragraph on ‘Progressive Geography’.—
On the travels of Niccolò de’ Conti (1395–1469) see Thomas Christian Schmidt, “Die
Entdeckung des Ostens und der Humanismus. Niccolò de’ Conti und Poggio Brac-
ciolinis ‘Historia de Varietate Fortunae’,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische
Geschichtsforschung 103 (1995), 392–418.
Zedler 43 (1745) col. 509 and 515 (s. v. ‘Thee’).—George Meister, Der Orientalisch-
Indianische Kunst- und Lust-Gärtner [. . .] (Dresden: Riedel, 1692). On Meister’s
account of Chinese gardening see Walravens, China illustrata. 242 f.
Zedler 9 (1735) col. 1498 (s. v. ‘Formosa’).—For the various editions of Psalma-
nazar’s work see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 281–283.
formations of knowledge 93

anything of the subject.74 In his Notes on Chinese Literature, Alexander

Wylie pointed out that Hervieu had translated Tuzhu maijue bianzhen
圖註脈訣辨真 (Illustrated annotations on the doctrine of the pulse),
a Ming edition of the Maijue—based on an edition supervised by Lin
Yi 林億 in 1068. According to Wylie, the Ming editor Zhang Shixian
張世賢 (fl. sixteenth century) “had not sufficient critical penetration
to discover the facts” and Hervieu had translated the work “under the
impression that it was the work of Wang Shŭh-hô.”75
The German translation of Du Halde’s Description de la Chine pro-
voked further criticism of sources. While Johann Lorenz von Mosheim
(1693–1755), the editor of the German translation, had pointed out
that Du Halde’s presentation was one-sided and incomplete,76 the sec-
tion on porcelain in the German edition of the Description later was
subject to severe criticism in Krünitz’ encyclopaedia.77 In its section
on political economy, the Encyclopédie Méthodique mentioned the
‘incompleteness’ of Du Halde’s work.78
The first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica introduced its
presentation of the most remote antiquity of China with remarks on
the nature of the available accounts: “But, when any thing is quoted
from the Chinese history, it is absolutely necessary to attend, 1. To
the times purely fabulous and mythological; 2. To the doubtful and
uncertain times; and, 3. To the historical times, when the Chinese his-
tory supported by indisputable monuments, begins to proceed on sure
In its article on Athanasius Kircher, the author of China . . . illustrata
(1667), Rees’ Cyclopaedia mentioned that Kircher had compiled much
information but that he had not critically digested the material.80

Encyclopédie 13 (1765) 222 (s. v. ‘Pouls’): “C’est un chaos impenetrable, l’obs-
curité est si grande qu’on seroit tenté de croire que ni l’auteur, ni le traducteur, ni
le faiseur de notes n’y entendoient rien.”—For an assessment of Du Halde’s use of
sources for information on Chinese medicine see Landry-Deron, La preuve par la
Chine, 166–168.
Wylie, Notes on Chinese Literature, 79.
Andreas Pigulla, China in der deutschen Weltgeschichtsschreibung vom 18. bis 20.
Jahrhundert, Veröffentlichungen des Ostasien-Instituts der Ruhr-Universität Bochum
43 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1996), 83.
Krünitz 115 (1810) 264.
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie politique et diplomatique 1 (1784) 545 (s. v.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st ed., vol. 2 (1771) 184 f. (s. v. ‘Chinese’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 20, s. v. ‘Kircher’.
94 chapter two

The Nouvel Atlas de la Chine, de la Tartarie chinoise, et du Thibet

(1737)81 prepared by Jean Baptiste d’Anville (1697–1782), which
accompanied the work of Du Halde, was severely critized by early
nineteenth-century scholars. In the Encyclopédie Moderne, Jean-Bap-
tiste Benoît Eyriès (1767–1846) pointed out that the romanization of
Chinese and Manchu toponyms given by the Jesuit missionaries was
teeming of mistakes. As d’Anville did not possess the necessary lan-
guage skills to correct them, these mistakes were perpetuated in all
later European maps of China and Chinese Tartary.82
In his article on pagodas written for Ersch/Gruber Gustav Flügel
dismissed the practice of geographers as well of authors of travelogues
to call the multi-storied buildings of China “pagodas.” Flügel pointed
out that, in a reduced size, these multi-storied buildings may be seen
in European parks usually referred to as Chinese towers. Contrary to
European imagination and imitation these towers would never be used
for any kind of worship.83
The use and the value of certain sources for information on China
changed quite considerably during the eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries. While nineteenth-century encyclopaedias still referred to
sources that had been available and widely used in the early eighteenth
century, these sources were used to show the evolution of knowledge
on China and to present information in a mere historical perspective
rather than to inform on the actual state of China.84
Although perpetuating the critical attitude towards the Jesuit
accounts of China that had become predominant in works of general
reference Ersch/Gruber relied on their writings for information on
Chinese bells as no other European descriptions of the subject existed
at that time.85
From the sources used for China-related entries in encyclopaedias
we see that as early as in the late seventeenth-century knowledge on
China had found its way into textual collections of curiosities. These

For a short presentation of the history of Jesuit cartography in China and its
European perception see Wilkinson, Chinese History, 148; Standaert, Handbook of
Christianity in China. Vol. 1: 635–1800, 756–763.
Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 560 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 125).
Ersch/Gruber III 9 (1837) 266 (s. v. ‘Pagode’, Gustav Flügel).
A similar use of sources has been pointed out in a case study on early mod-
ern European poetics by Hans-Henrik Krummacher, “Poetik und Enzyklopädie. Die
Oden- und Lyriktheorie als Beispiel,” in Enzyklopädien der Frühen Neuzeit. Beiträge zu
ihrer Erforschung, ed. Franz M. Eybl, et al. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1995), 266 n. 35.
Ersch/Gruber I 70 (1860) 83 f (s. v. ‘Glockengiesserei’, C. Reinwarth).
formations of knowledge 95

textual collections sometimes were used and/or quoted by the compil-

ers of encyclopaedias. In Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon there are numerous
references of this kind. One of the most frequently cited works of this
kind was Rariora naturae et artis item in re medica written by Johann
Christian Kundmann (1684–1751), published in 1737 and extensively
used by the contributors to the Universal-Lexicon ever since.86
Fabulous creatures had attracted the attention of seventeenth-
century European observers of China. Martini, Nieuhof, and Navarrete
engaged in the description of such ‘animals’, among these animals
one that ‘has no mouth and lives on air’ as well as ‘crabs on Hainan
that turn into stones when taken from the water’.87 These accounts
also reported on a bird living in the coastal regions of Guangdong
Province that turns into a fish before winter. European writers and
scholars tried to explain these phenomena. German-language encyclo-
paedias perpetuated these tentative explanations until the end of the
The Dictionnaire de Trévoux89 as well as Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon90
presented an entry on another curious animal—called ‘fefe’ and
described as a black ape said to live in Yunnan Province, which runs
very quick and would start laughing when attacking men. Traces of
this baroque relic may be found implicitly as late as in Rees’ Cyclopae-
dia. “[. . .] a curious species of black apes, having the shape and features
of a man, they are said to be very fond of women.”91 In his alphabetical
index to the Chinese ‘encyclopaedia’ Gujin tushu jicheng, Lionel Giles
referred to the feifei 狒狒 as ‘laughing ape’.92

Articles referring to Kundmann include ‘Sinesische Nieß-Erde’ (Zedler 37 (1743)
col. 1624); ‘Sinesischer Würffel-Stein’ (ibid., col. 1645), ‘Trinck-Geschirre‘ (ibid., 45
(1745) col. 804–812, on China see ibid., col. 809).
On Fernandez Navarrete’s presentation of these creatures see Donald F. Lach
and Edwin J. Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume Three: A Century of
Advance. Book Four: East Asia (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1993),
Zedler 10 (1735) col. 706 f. (s. v. ‘Gelb-Fisch’); Deutsche Encyclopädie 11 (1786)
547 f. (s. v. ‘Gelbfisch’).
Dictionnaire de Trévoux, 1771 éd, vol. 4, p. 81 (s. v. ‘Féfé’). The entry referred to
Nieuhof ’s account of the Dutch legation of 1655–1657 (“Ambassade des Hollandois à
la Chine, Part. II, Chap. XIV, p. 97”).
Zedler 9 (1735) col. 412 (s. v. ‘Fofe’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. XVII, fol. Kkv.
Lionel Giles, An Alphabetical Index to the Chinese Encyclopaedia Ch´in ting ku
chin t’u shu chi ch’êng (London: British Museum, 1911), 2 (‘Ape, laughing’) and ibid.,
26 (‘Fei-fei’).
96 chapter two

2.3 Disseminating China: The Role of the European Republic

of Letters

The perception of things Chinese in early modern Europe was a

transnational process. Throughout Europe scholars eagerly collected,
analyzed, and commented on information relating to China. Based
on reports written by eyewitnesses, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-
century European scholars more and more began to use information
on China as a kind of weapon in debates on genuinely European affairs.
Long before the emergence of ever-growing British commercial inter-
ests in East Asia and the failure of the Macartney embassy (1792/93),
sinophobe elements had been used in the debates and controversies
led by intellectuals throughout Europe.
Critical European remarks on certain aspects of Chinese civilization
can be traced back to the first accounts given by late sixteenth- and
early seventeenth-century Jesuit missionaries. Since the days of Mat-
teo Ricci, Europeans frequently presented Chinese art (architecture,
music, painting) in a quite unfavourable manner. Originally, these
critical remarks were intended to correct or at least to question Jesuit
positions. In the course of the eighteenth century, a sinophobe image
of China overlaid the earlier sinophile one. Both of these images con-
veyed an ‘imagined’ China and had nothing to do with the ‘real’ China
of early modern times. Elements that helped to create an ‘imagined’
China gradually were applied to the supposedly ‘real’ China.
From the late seventeenth-century onwards, encyclopaedias reflect
these struggles for this European re-invention of China in a very con-
densed way.
According to Hung Ho-fung, eighteenth-century sinophobe ideas
had been “not novel.”93 Hung points out that sinophilia and sinopho-
bia may be ascribed to different social strata. While eighteenth-century
France saw a diminishing influence of the Jesuits in the public sphere,
the importance of Jesuit writings for French and European discourses
on China was still growing.94
In his discussion of intended and unintended consequences of Mon-
tesquieu’s comparative analysis of Europe and Asia, Melvin Richter
showed that Montesquieu in De l’Esprit des Lois as well as Diderot

Hung, “Orientalist Knowledge and Social Theories,” 261.
Ibid., 264.
formations of knowledge 97

in the Encyclopédie included positive elements concerning China.95 In

the third edition of his Historie générale des Indes, Guillaume Thomas
Raynal (1713–1796) incorporated a “sharp dismissal of China written
on order by Diderot” that opposed his own “idealized image” of China.
As Richter put it, “Raynal called upon his readers to reconcile conflict-
ing views of this political system judged so diversely by Europeans.”96
In discussing the influence of Raynal’s Histoire des Deux Indes on late
eighteenth-century French encyclopaedic dictionaries, Muriel Brot
pointed out that information on China given by Raynal formed the
main source for the second part of the entry on ‘China’ inserted in the
section on political economy of the Encyclopédie Méthodique.97
In presenting knowledge on China, European encyclopaedias relied
on monographs and journals as well as on earlier published general
reference works. As shown above (Sources on China) all these kinds
of publications served the editors and compilers of encyclopaedias as
sources for information on China.
Throughout the encyclopaedic genre, the use of sources oscillated
between clearly marked quotations and plagiarism. During the forma-
tive phase of sinology as an academic discipline, accusations of pla-
giarism were quite common. The most prominent example was the
dictionary written by Basilio Brollo de Gemona OFM (1648–1704) and
published in 1813 by Chrétien Louis Joseph de Guignes (1759–1845)
under the title Dictionnaire chinois, français et latin.98
In defining their scholarly or educational aims, the editors of ency-
clopaedic reference works often used to point out their position com-
pared to earlier published works of this kind. On the one hand, they
saw themselves as followers of earlier works of this kind with the main
aim of updating information. On the other hand, they clearly stated
their delimitation from earlier encyclopaedic reference works. An

Melvin Richter, “Montesquieu’s comparative analysis of Europe and Asia:
intended and unintended consequences,” in L’Europe de Montesquieu. Actes du Collo-
que de Gènes (26–29 mai 1993), organisé par la Société Montesquieu, la Società italiana
di studi sul secolo XVIII, l’Istituto italiano per gli studi filosofici et le Centro di Studi
sull’Età Moderna, ed. Alberto Postigliola and Maria Grazia Bottaro Palumbo (Napoli:
Liguori, 1995), 342 and 344–346.
Ibid., 345.
Muriel Brot, “Les dictionnaires de l’Histoire des deux Indes,” Dix-huitième siècle
38 (2006), 306.
Chrétien Louis Joseph de Guignes, Dictionnaire chinois, français et latin, publié
d’après l’ordre de Sa Majesté l’Empereur et Roi Napoléon le Grand (Paris: Imprimerie
Impériale, 1813). Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 181 and 183.
98 chapter two

example for this may be the refutation of the views expressed in the
French Encyclopédie in the preface of the third edition of the Encyclo-
paedia Britannica. It was one of the aims of this edition “to counteract
the tendency [of anarchy and atheism] of that pestiferous work.”99
Encyclopaedias sometimes quoted very freely from their predeces-
sors and thus represent collections of marked and unmarked adap-
tations of earlier works on general knowledge and of information
contained in earlier works on China as well. Examples for direct but
unmarked quotations relating to information on China are numerous:
Information on the personal names of the Chinese given in Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon was inserted in Krünitz’ encyclopaedia without any
reference. Under the headword ‘Mandarin’ Krünitz follows the 1757
edition of Hübner’s Reales Staats- und Zeitungs-Lexicon with only
slightly modified orthography but omitting any reference. A similar
practice may be found in the information on dogs in China given in
the Deutsche Encyclopädie—word by word borrowed from Krünitz’
On the other hand, ‘inner-encyclopaedic’ adaptations sometimes
quoted from and referred to their predecessors.101 These ‘inner-
encyclopaedic’ adaptations occurred also across language areas. Rees’
Cyclopaedia derived its biographical information on the French scholar
Étienne Fourmont from Moréri’s Grand Dictionnaire historique. In
its entry on the city of ‘Hiao-Y’ (near Fenzhou in Shanxi province),
Ersch/Gruber refers to the information in Rees’ Cyclopaedia.102 In its
information on Chinese architecture, the Penny Cyclopaedia refers to
the long article contained in the respective section of the Encyclopédie
Ersch/Gruber derived information on decapitations in China directly
from Krünitz. Information on theft in China is based on Staunton’s
English translation of the Da Qing lüli 大清律例.104 Individual

Quoted in Carter and Muir, eds., Printing and the Mind of Man, 132 (no. 218).
Krünitz 26 (1782) 455 (s. v. ‘Hund’), Deutsche Encyclopädie 16 (1791) 382 (s. v.
Krünitz 105 (1807) 123 (s. v. ‘Onyx’) refers to Zedler 25 (1740) col. 1487 (s. v.
Ersch/Gruber II 7 (1830) 386 (s. v. ‘Hiao-Y’).
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 89 f. (s. v. ‘Chinese Architecture’).
Ersch/Gruber I 25 (1834) 27 (s. v. ‘Diebstahl’).—For Staunton’s Ta Tsing Leu
Lee; being the fundamental laws, and a selection from the supplementary statutes, of the
Penal Code of China (London 1810), its French and Italian translation as well as for
formations of knowledge 99

preferences of the contributors may have caused this choice of differ-

ent sources.
The entry on ‘China’ in the Encyclopédie des gens du monde referred
to the processes of ‘inner-encyclopaedic’ adaptations. Materials that
had been put together by Julius Klaproth shortly before his death had
been enriched with information given in the article on ‘China’ in the
seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Another example for the transnational dimension of the dissemi-
nation of China-related knowledge within Europe may be found in
Hobson-Jobson.105 Under the entry on ‘Tea’ it referred to the respective
article of Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon. In its article on tea, the Universal-
Lexicon also referred to English publications (not only to Thomas
Salmon’s (1679–1767) description of China but also to the report on
the Zhoushan archipelago by Cunningham published in the Philosoph-
ical Transactions).106
Eighteenth-century Europe saw the emergence of a host of jour-
nals and other rather periodically issued publications. The editors
and compilers of encyclopaedic reference works were well aware of
the importance of this comparatively new medium. Sometimes they
explicitly mentioned this booming market.107
While the publication of translations of monographs had been a
very expensive and time-consuming task, journals represented an ideal
forum for quick dissemination of newly available information. How
quick and in which ways this information spread throughout Europe
before it found its way into works of general knowledge may be best
seen from the bibliographic information listed in the early volumes of

early-nineteenth century reviews and translations of the work see Cordier, Bibliotheca
Sinica, col. 547 f, see also Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, vol. 2, p. 60 (no. 748).
Henry Yule and Arthur Coke Burnell, Hobson-Jobson: Being a glossary of Anglo-
Indian colloquial words and phrases, and of kindred terms; etymological, historical,
geographical and discursive (London: Murray, [1886], new edition edited by William
Crooke, 1903), 908 (s. v. ‘Tea’).
Zedler 43 (1745) col. 506 (reference to Salmon’s Modern History, see Cordier,
Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 43) and Zedler 43 (1745) col. 511, 516 and 517 (references to
Cunningham; on Cunningham’s observations at Zhoushan see “Part of Two Letters
to the Publisher from Mr James Cunningham, F.R.S. and Physician to the English at
Chusan in China. Giving an Account of His Voyage Thither, of the Island of Chusan,
of the Several Sorts of Tea, of the Fishing, Agriculture of the Chinese, etc. with Several
Observations not Hitherto Taken Notice of,” Philosophical Transactions 23 (1702),
1177–1201. See also Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 253.
See for example a remark in Zedler 47 (1746) col. 2044 (s. v. ‘Versteinerte
100 chapter two

Krünitz’ encyclopaedia (i.e. as long as Krünitz himself prepared and

edited the work). The references given in the information on Chinese
gardens clearly show the English, French, and German ways of per-
ceiving and disseminating the main points of the writings of William
Chambers (1722–1796). Chambers’ Designs of Chinese Buildings, Fur-
niture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils published in May 1757 soon
was presented in English, French and German periodicals. Among
the journals cited we find the London Magazine (May 1757) and the
Gentleman’s Magazine (May 1757) as well as the Journal étranger (Sep-
tember 1757), the Journal oeconomique (May 1762), and the Bremis-
ches Magazin of 1758.108
Apart from journals intended for a more general public, encyclo-
paedias relied on the proceedings of academies and learned societ-
ies. In Rees’ Cyclopaedia we find many references to the Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society which had played a key role for the
dissemination of knowledge on China among late seventeenth- and
early eighteenth-century English scholars.109 In its information on
white wax (baila 白蠟) Krünitz’ encyclopaedia referred to a treatise of
George Pearson (1751–1828) published in the Philosophical Transac-
tions for the year 1794.110 In its presentation of Chinese chess, Rees’
Cyclopaedia also mentioned a letter written in Guangzhou and pub-
lished in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy.111

2.4 On the Authors of Entries on ‘China’

Up to the early nineteenth-century, entries in encyclopaedias were

mostly published anonymously. In encyclopaedic reference works of
general knowledge published by Brockhaus this practice remained
unchanged since the publishing house engaged in this kind of

Krünitz 15 (1778) 186.—On the German translation published in Bremisches
Magazin see also Walravens, China illustrata, 243 f.
See John H. Appleby, “Ginseng and the Royal Society,” Notes and Records of the
Royal Society of London 37, no. 2 (1983), 121–145.
Krünitz 108 (1808) 245 (s. v. ‘Pé-la’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4H2r–v (s. v. ‘Chess’) referred to “An account of
the Game of Chess, as played by the Chinese, in a letter from Eyles Irwin, Esq., to the
Right Honourable the Earl of Charlemont, President of the Royal Irish Academy.”
Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 5 (Dublin: Printed by George Bonham,
n.d. [1800 ?]), 53–63.
Carter and Muir, eds., Printing and the Mind of Man, 163.
formations of knowledge 101

In the context of the intellectual history of seventeenth- and eigh-

teenth century Europe the attitudes of Pierre Bayle and Denis Diderot
towards China and East Asia in general have attracted the attention
of scholars.113 At least two other early eighteenth-century editors of
encyclopaedias dealt with China in their other writings. Étienne Sou-
ciet SJ (1671–1744) not only was in charge of the 1721 edition of the
so-called Dictionnaire de Trévoux, but also played a crucial role for
the transmission of knowledge on astronomy and mathematics gener-
ated by the China Jesuits. Louis Ellies Du Pin (1657–1719), who was
responsible for the 1712 and 1718 editions of Moréri’s dictionary, also
was engaged in polemics concerning the Rites Controversy.114
According to the letter ‘q.’, James Brewster (1777–1847) wrote the
extensive article on ‘China’ for the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, which
was planned and edited by his younger brother David. The entry on
“Chinese music” inserted in Rees Cyclopaedia had been written by the
musician and author Charles Burney (1726–1814) who mentioned his
General History of Music (1776–1789).115 From the list of contributors
to the Penny Cyclopaedia we see that John Francis Davis, “late his Maj-
esty’s Chief Superintendent to China”, wrote the entry on ‘China’.116

On Diderot and China see Huguette Cohen, “Diderot and the image of China
in Eighteenth-Century France,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 242
(1986), 219–232; on Bayle and East Asia see (apart from literature mentioned in
Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume One: 635–1800, 883 n. 11)
Étiemble, L’Europe chinoise, vol. 2, 308–320 (on Bayle’s perception of the rites contro-
versy); Sergio Zoli, “Pierre Bayle e la Cina,” Studi Francesi 33, no. 3 (1989), 467–72;
Joy Charnley, “Near and Far East in the Works of Pierre Bayle,” The Seventeenth Cen-
tury 5, no. 2 (1990), 173–83; Thijs Weststeijn, “Spinoza sinicus: An Asian Paragraph
in the History of the Radical Enlightenment,” Journal of the History of Ideas 68, no. 4
(2007), 537–561. On the whole subject see also Jonathan I. Israel, Enlightenment Con-
tested. Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2006), 640–662 (chapter 25: “Spinoza, Confucius, and Clas-
sical Chinese Philosophy”).
See Louis Ellies Du Pin, Défense de la censure de la Faculté de théologie de Paris,
du 18 octobre 1700, contre les propositions des livres intitulés: ‘Nouveaux Mémoires sur
l’état présent de la Chine’, ‘Histoire de l’édit de l’Empereur de la Chine’, ‘Lettre des cere-
monies de la Chine’ (Paris: Pralard 1701); Étienne Souciet, ed., Observations mathéma-
tiques, astronomiques, géographiques et physiques, tirées des anciens livres chinois, ou
faites nouvellement aux Indes et à la Chine, 3 vols. (Paris: Rollin, 1729–1732).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘Chinese Music’.—On Burney’s contributions to
the Cyclopaedia see Kerry Scott Grant, Dr. Burney as Critic and Historian of Music,
Studies in Musicology 62 (Ann Arbor: UMI Press, 1983).
Penny Cyclopaedia 27 (1843), ‘List of Contributors’.
102 chapter two

While issuing the first volumes of his encyclopaedia, the Berlin phy-
sician Johann Georg Krünitz was engaged in the preparation of the
German translation of Corneille de Pauw’s Recherches philosophiques
sur les Egyptiens et les Chinois (1773). In his encyclopaedia Krünitz
also referred to his own translation.117
From mid-eighteenth-century onwards, encyclopaedias prepared in
cooperation by a group of scholars sometimes disclosed the names of
their contributors. Early examples for this practice include the Ency-
clopédie (Diderot himself wrote the article on Chinese philosophy) and
the Deutsche Encyclopädie, the latter publishing a list of abbreviations
used in the course of publication. Johann Georg Purmann (1733–
1811), a schoolmaster in Frankfurt/Main wrote most of the articles on
things Chinese as well as on most other Asia-related subjects.118
Beginning with the formative phase and professionalization of
Chinese studies as an independent academic discipline, French and
German sinologists contributed to encyclopaedias: Julius Klaproth
(1783–1835) wrote several articles for the first volumes of the Encyclo-
pédie des gens du monde and had assembled the material for his article
on China at the time of his death in August 1835. His death deprived
the editors of the work of one of the leading experts in the field and
the article thus finally was based on that of the seventh edition of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica.119

Krünitz 72 (1797) 219 (s. v. ‘Leibes-Schönheit und Häßlichkeit’).
Articles in the Deutsche Encyclopädie written by Purmann that presented infor-
mation on China include: ‘Ciam’ (5 (1781) 524), ‘Dynastie’ (7 (1783) 776 f.), ‘Ehe der
Morgenländer’ (7 (1783) 937; ‘Essen der morgenländischen und anderer Völker (9
(1784) 24–28); ‘Fenster’ (9 (1784) 706 f.) ‘Feste, Festtage der Morgenländer’ (9 (1784)
758–762); ‘Flöte’ (10 (1785) 246); ‘Fo, Foe, auch Fwi’ (10 (1785) 313–315); ‘Fuhrwerk
der Morgenländer (orient.), (10 (1785) 635 f.; ‘Garten (morgenl.)’ (11 (1786) 80–82;
‘Gefängnis (morgenl.)’ (11 (1786) 365); ‘Geld der Morgenländer’ (11 (1786) 563–
565); ‘Gerichte der Morgenländer’ (11 (1786) 563–565); ‘Getränke (antiq. orient.)’
(12 (1787) 241 f.); ‘Götter des asiatischen Heidenthums’ (12 (1787) 755–758, mainly
including various cross-references); ‘Hauptschmuck’ (14 (1789) 533–536); ‘Jin-Seng’
[i.e. ginseng] (17 (1792) 168); ‘Joostje’ (18 (1794) 84 [i.e. joss, for the etymology see
Yule and Burnell, Hobson-Jobson, 463 f.]); ‘Ki’ (20 (1799) 196 [qi 氣, i.e. breath, spirit,
energy flow], ‘Kiao-kin-kiao’ (20 (1799) 197); ‘Ki-mung-ye’ [presumably jimang 雞盲,
i.e. nyctalopia] (20 (1799) 294); ‘Kiu-tsin’ [ juren 擧人, i.e. Provincial Graduate, one of
the degrees in the Chinese examination system] (21 (1801) 90); ‘Kleidungsstücke der
Morgenländer’ (21 (1801) 303–310, on China see ibid., 309); ‘Ko-Laos, oder Kolawen’
[gelao 閣老, i.e. unofficial reference to a Grand Secretary (da xueshi 大學士)] (22
(1802) 229); ‘Kong-pu’ [gongbu 工部, i.e. ministry of works] 22 (1802) 314 f.).
For more details concerning the situation caused by the death of Klaproth see
Lehner, “Le savoir de l’Europe sur la Chine”, 26 f.
formations of knowledge 103

After the death of Klaproth Pauthier wrote articles on things Chinese

for the Encyclopédie des gens du monde. To the Encyclopédie nouvelle
Pauthier contributed the entry on China. Édouard Biot contributed
the article on China to the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle. Fur-
ther articles on things Chinese for this encyclopaedia were written by
Pauthier and by the Italian-born Giuseppe Calleri (1810–1862).
Auguste Savagner (1808–1849) compiled the extensive article on
China for the Encyclopédie Catholique. He also published a two-
volume Abrégé de l’histoire de la Chine d’après les meilleurs documents
(Paris 1844).120 The prolific French writer Fortia d’Urban not only dealt
with ancient history (including China) and compiled a bibliographic
overview of encyclopaedias but also wrote the entry on the Huang He
黃河 (Yellow River) for the Encyclopédie des gens du monde.
In the revised edition of the Encyclopédie moderne four contributors
were responsible for information on China: Eyriès for information on
the geography of China, Théodore Bénard (1808–1873) for informa-
tion on the history of China, Leon Vaïsse (1807–1884) for information
on Chinese language, writing and literature, and a certain Charles Cas-
sou for information on philosophy and religion of the Chinese.121
For some of the early-nineteenth century German-language encyclo-
paedias we can trace close connections between publishers and editors
on the one hand and contributors on the other hand. The linguist Hans
Conon von der Gabelentz (1807–1874) had close and friendly rela-
tions with both the publisher Heinrich August Pierer and Pierer’s chief
editor Julius Löbe (1805–1900). Löbe prepared the article on China.
Von der Gabelentz wrote the article on Chinese language and litera-
ture (beginning with the second edition issued from 1840 onwards).
A similar relationship between the publisher and the expert on Chi-
nese literature can be traced for Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon. The
philologist Georg Anton Adolf Ellissen (1815–1872) who engaged in
the study of the Chinese language (in 1838 he visited Karl Friedrich
Neumann (professor of Chinese and Armenian in Munich). had estab-
lished friendly relations with the publisher Otto Wigand (1795–1870).
In 1847, Ellissen wrote an extensive article on Chinese language and
literature for Wigand’s Conversations-Lexicon.122 The above-mentioned

For the table of contents of this Abrégé see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 588 f.
Encyclopédie moderne. new ed., vol. 9, p. 116–207.
Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon 3 (1847) 306–317 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache
und Literatur’, Ellissen).
104 chapter two

Karl Friedrich Neumann also took an active part in the popularization

of knowledge on China. From the 1830s to the 1860s he not only pub-
lished a wealth of newspaper articles but also wrote for encyclopaedias:
Having contributed several shorter articles to Ersch/Gruber, he finally
wrote the article on ‘China’ for the third edition of the Staats-Lexicon
initiated by Rotteck and Welcker.123 From the late 1820s to the early
1840s, Wilhelm Schott, whose main focus was on Chinese and Finno-
Ugric studies, wrote several articles for Ersch/Gruber, including the
article on ‘China’.124

China-related articles by Neumann for Ersch/Gruber include: ‘Jang’ (yang 陽,
i.e. the ‘positive’ principle; II 14 (1837) 301); ‘Jao’ (i.e. the mythical ruler Yao 堯; II
14 (1837) 365 f.), ‘I-King’ (Yijing 易經; II 16 (1839) 111–119), ‘Jü’ (the mythical ruler
Yu 禹 the Great; II 26 (1847) 304–307 as well as ‘Java’ (II 30 (1853) 363–373.—For
his article on “China” in the third edition of Rotteck/Welcker see: Das Staats-Lexikon,
3rd ed., vol. 3 (1859) 516–536.
The following articles in Ersch/Gruber were written by Schott: ‘China’ I 21
(1830) 159–176; ‘O-lo-pen, oder O-lo-puen’ [Aluoben 阿羅本] III 3 (1832), ‘Pe-king’
[Beijing] III 15 (1841) 83–87, ‘Pen-tsao’ [bencao 本草] III 16 (1842) 128–130.


3.1 Describing China: Structures of Entries on ‘China’

Encyclopaedias as works of general reference present a compilation

of what is considered worth knowing at the time of publication. A
diachronic analysis of China-related entries therefore reveals unique
insights into the shaping of a fixed set of knowledge about China
and its changes. The compilers were well aware of the very narrow
limits of European knowledge on China. All encyclopaedic projects
endeavoured to provide information “according to the best and latest
The limits of knowledge on China available for Europeans in our
period of consideration were due to the Chinese control of foreign
intercourse. In the early nineteenth century, a time of growing Euro-
pean economic interest in East Asia, encyclopaedias repeatedly pointed
out that restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on foreign
trade prevented a detailed knowledge of China.
The knowledge of the origin, history, and condition of this extensive and
extraordinary empire is still extremely imperfect and uncertain. It was
only at a late period that the nations of Europe became acquainted even
with the existence of the country; and even then, the peculiar nature of
the language, and the careful exclusion of foreigners by the Government
prevented, and still in a great measure prevent, that degree of intercourse
with the people, which is necessary to procure correct information of
their manners, and free access to their historical records.2
Encyclopaedias had to cope with selecting reliable sources in presenting
information on China. In labelling Chinese history as ‘uncertain’ and
‘uninteresting’, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia referred to this problem:
That we may occupy as small a space as possible with what is so very
uncertain and uninteresting, though necessary to be known as a por-
tion of acknowledged history, we shall merely present a chronological

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 216.
106 chapter three

view of each dynasty; and without noticing the progress of every reign,
shall content ourselves with selecting the most remarkable events of the
Europeans considered not only their own classifications of knowledge
but also adopted Chinese patterns in canonizing knowledge on China.
In classifying the literary traditions of China, Europeans steered a
middle course: while adopting the Chinese presentation of sishu 四書
(Four Books) and wujing 五經 (Five Classics)4 for the most impor-
tant sources of Chinese tradition, Europeans very early labelled the
Confucian writings as the ‘classical’ writings of China—in analogy to
European traditions of classical scholarship that dealt with Greek and
Roman antiquity. Chinese classifications of geographical features also
found their way into European encyclopaedias. Examples include not
only the five lakes (wuhu 五湖, i.e. Dongting Hu 洞庭湖, Poyang Hu
鄱陽湖, Hongze Hu 洪澤湖, Xi Hu 西湖, and Tai Hu 太湖),5 but
also the five holy mountains (wuyue 五嶽) according to Chinese cos-
mology.6 European scholars pointed out that the Chinese had ample
descriptions of single mountains but that they did not have classified
any of their mountain ranges—a task left to be done by Europeans.7
This invention of classifications for certain geographical features of
Asia became a major task of nineteenth-century European scholars.8
In Ersch/Gruber, Schott on the one hand pointed out the general lack
of scholarly synopses and classifications in China, on the other hand
he wrote that Chinese works on history, geography and natural history
will be of an ever-lasting value.9

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 218.
On the formation of the Confucian canon see Wilkinson, Chinese History, 475 f.
The five lakes were mentioned in the Encyclopédie nouvelle 3 (1841) 526 and in
the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 454.—Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 162
(s. v. ‘China’, W. Schott) also mentions the five lakes, Schott did not refer to the Xi
Hu but to the Gaoyou Hu 高郵湖 in Jiangsu and Anhui Province (“Kao-yeu in Kiang-
nan”). In its article on Asia, Meyer mentions for China proper only the Dongting Hu,
the Poyang Hu, and the Hongze Hu (Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 4,1 (1843) 822
(s. v. ‘Asien’). The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 661 only mentioned
the Poyang Hu.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 232. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,
vol. 6, p. 247 provided information on the historical evolution of the “five yo [ yue] or
mountains of sacrifice”, without naming all these five mountains.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 3 (1850) 638 (s.v. ‘Petscheli’).
Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 23 and ibid., 409 n. 30.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 163.
canonizing china 107

Processes of standardization and canonization of knowledge always

mean to discover, to correct, and to avoid errors and mistakes. Errors
and mistakes always have to be seen in their contemporary intellec-
tual environment. Very common forms of errors are erroneous tran-
scriptions of Chinese words. These erroneous transcriptions could not
be avoided as either the authors of the entries, or the editors, or the
printers—or even all of them—usually were unfamiliar with things
The rise and prevalence of errors seems to be one of the timeless
phenomena in the history of the configuration of general knowledge.
Examples for the perpetuation of errors in encyclopaedias are still to
be found nowadays. For example, the title of the Chinese ‘encyclo-
paedia’ Gujin tushu jicheng is rendered erroneously as “Gu-jin-tu-
shu-ji-chang” in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first edition of
As may be seen from a remark in the Encyclopédie nouvelle,
nineteenth-century encyclopaedias aimed to meet the growing demand
for information on the actual state of China.11 In the concluding remark
of the entry on China in the Encyclopédie Catholique, Auguste Savag-
ner (1808–1849) wrote that he had tried to make China known in a
more complete manner as any other reference work of this kind.12
Due to the wealth of information available in various European
repositories of knowledge, some eighteenth-century European schol-
ars regarded China as the best-described part of the non-European
world. However, at all times scholars were conscious about their lim-
ited knowledge on China. In his review of the Encyclopaedia Sinica
(edited by Samuel Couling) Berthold Laufer wrote in 1919, that
“our knowledge of China is still far from being complete.”13 In 1990,
Gregory Blue pointed out “that even today, when a great deal more
information and scholarship are available than they were during the
enlightenment, our effective knowledge of China can still remain only
insecure, fragmentary and tentative.”14

See Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, 19th, completely rev. ed., vol. 6 (1988) 452 (s. v.
‘Enzyklopädie’), Brockhaus. Die Enzyklopädie, 20th, rev. and updated ed., vol. 6 (1997)
455 (s. v. ‘Enzyklopädie’); Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, 21st ed., vol. 8 (2006) 175 (s. v.
‘Enzyklopädie’).—The italics in the quotation are mine.
Encyclopédie nouvelle 3 (1841) 539.
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 438 (‘Chine’).
American Anthropologist, N.S. 21 (Jan.—Mar. 1919) 89 (B[erthold] L[aufer]).
Gregory Blue, “The Chinese presence in Europe,” Comparative Criticism 12
(1990), 296.
108 chapter three

The foremost aim of the editors and compilers of encyclopaedias at

all times was to present easily retrievable information on a great wealth
of subjects. In describing the the largest East Asian empire, encyclo-
paedias followed a well established scheme that also has been used to
describe European countries. In his Geographia generalis (1650), the
Dutch scholar Bernhard Varen(ius) (1622–1650) recommended three
classes of ‘particulars’ (‘terrestrial’, ‘celestial’ and ‘human’).
Eighteenth-century encyclopaedias limited their presentation of the
various (European as well as non-European) countries to the terres-
trial and human particulars. According to Sitwell these two groups
included information on the following subjects:15

Terrestrial particulars:
1. The limits and bounds of the country
2. The longitude and situation of places
3. The figure of the country (i.e., its shape on a map)
4. Its magnitude
5. Its mountains; their names, situations, altitudes, properties, and
things contained in them
6. Its mines
7. Its woods and deserts
8. Its waters; as seas, rivers, lakes, marshes, springs; their rise, ori-
gin, and breadth; the quantity, quality, and celerity of their waters,
with their cataracts
9. The fertility, barrenness, and fruits of the country
10. The living creatures

Human particulars:
1. The stature of the inhabitants; their meat, drink, and origin
2. Their arts, profits, commodities, and trade
3. Their virtues and vices; their capacity and learning
4. Their ceremonies at birth, marriages and funerals
5. Their speech and language
6. Their political government
7. Their religion and church government
8. Their cities

On Varenius’ recommendation see Sitwell, Four Centuries of Special Geography,
canonizing china 109

9. Their memorable histories

10. Their famous men and women, artificers, and inventions

This way of describing the world had been pursued by early modern
European geographers. A comparison of the main subjects treated in
the entries on China in Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon and in the German
edition of the Grand dictionnaire géographique et critique (1726–1739)
of Bruzen de la Martinière16 shows that the order of subjects treated in
these entries was quite unsystematic:

Zedler (col.) Bruzen de la Martinière

names of China (exonyms and 1556 968, 972
Chinese names)
geography of China 1557 972–974
geographical concepts of the 1557 f., 1572 971–972, 1001–1004
Chinese (incl. China and her (relations with Russia)
mountains, terraces, irrigation 1558 979 f., 980, 980 f.
agriculture, natural products, 1559, 1560, 1566 981–987, 990
mineral resources
wood (including commerce 1558 f. 981
and transport)
inhabitants, number of 1560 f. 976 f.
number of cities, capitals, 1558, 1559, 1561 974, 975 f., 999–1001
fortresses (longitudes and
architecture (including Great 1556 f., 1561, 980, 990 f.
Wall) 1563 f.
arts and sciences (including 1561, 1563, 1564 991, 992, 995

A. A. Bruzen de la Martinière, Historisch-Politisch-Geographischer Atlas der
gantzen Welt. Oder grosses und vollständiges Geographisch- und Critisches Lexicon [. . .],
vol. 10 (Leipzig: Heinsius, 1748), col. 968–1004.
110 chapter three

Zedler (col.) Bruzen de la Martinière

Chinese writing 1562 f. 994 f. (including

imperial court, central 1564 f., 1574 992–994, 995–999
tusi [土司] system (aboriginal 1559 f. 974
offices in South and Southwest
religions (including 1565 f., 1566 977–979, 981
Christian missions and Rites
customs and manners 1561, 1562 987–990
antiquity and history of China 1566–1572 968–971
travelling in China 1563 –
travel routes to China 1566 –
bibliography 1574 1004 (including notes
on maps)

From mid-eighteenth century onwards, information on geographical

subjects became much more systematic and much more concise. An
example for the latter development is the article on China inserted in
the French Encyclopédie edited by Diderot and d’Alembert:
China, (Geography), great empire of Asia, limited in the north by Tartary,
from which it is separated by a wall of four hundred miles, in the east by
the ocean, in the west by high mountains and deserts, and in the south
by the ocean, by the kingdoms of Tongking, Laos and Cochinchina.
China is about seven hundred miles in length and five hundred miles
in breadth. This is the most populated and the best cultivated country
on earth; it is irrigated by several grand rivers & intersected by an infi-
nite number of canals. The most remarkable of these is the Royal Canal,
which crosses the whole of China. The Chinese are very industrious, they
like the arts, the sciences, and commerce: the use of paper, of printing,
and of gunpowder was known to them long before Europeans thought
of it. This country is governed by an emperor, who at the same time is
chief of religion & who commands the Mandarins, who are the masters
of the country. They have the freedom to tell him his deficiencies. The
government is very gentle. The people of that country are idolaters and
canonizing china 111

they take as much wives as they like. See their philosophy under the
article Philosophy of the Chinese. The commerce of China consists of
rice, silk, fabrics, and spices of all kinds.17
This article collects the most important bits of information on China
considered useful for mid-eighteenth-century European readers. Like
entries in earlier reference works—the Universal, Historical, Geo-
graphical and Poetical Dictionary (London 1703), the first edition of
Reales Staats- und Zeitungs-Lexicon (Leipzig 1704), and Zedler’s Uni-
versal-Lexicon—, the entry on China of the Encyclopédie perpetuates
an already well-established set of information. Apart from remarks
concerning the geographical situation of the country, the entry refers
to the huge population of China, to the efforts in irrigation and water
conservancy. The Chinese were said to be very industrious and to be
fond of arts and sciences. While religion (considered idolatry) as well
as polygamy and the importance of the emperor as head of religion
are covered in the entry on ‘China’, there is a separate article on the
philosophy of the Chinese.
Each of the multi-volume encyclopaedias contains an entry on
‘China’ or ‘Chinese’ with one sole exception: Krünitz’ Oeconomische
Encyclopädie. This seems surprising—considering the fact that there
is a lengthy entry on Burma (‘Vermanisches Reich’); in a similar way,
information on China could have been presented under headwords
like ‘Sina’ or ‘Tschina’, as both spellings had been common in early
nineteenth-century German. Despite the lack of a general article on
China, the 242 volumes of Krünitz provide a wealth of information
on China—a search for China in the online-edition (not including
the plates) retrieves 1662 hits for ‘China’. Longer sections on China
are included in entries on war, military academies, government, and
ethnology.18 In the early nineteenth century, most of the more com-
prehensive entries on ‘China’ arranged information thematically. A
different approach can be found in the Encyclopaedia Perthensis, also
published under the title New Universal Dictionary, where subject

Encyclopédie 3 (1753) 339.—Translation is mine. For a German translation of this
article see Anette Selg and Rainer Wieland, eds., Die Welt der Encyclopédie (Frankfurt/
Main: Eichborn, 2001), 45 f.
Krünitz 49 (1790) 574–579 (s. v. ‘Krieg’), ibid. 52 (1790) 81–86 (s. v. ‘Kriegs-
Schulen’); ibid., 162 (1835) 656–685 and ibid., 690–696 (s. v. ‘Staat’); ibid., 227 (1855)
432–440 (s. v. ‘Völkerkunde’).
112 chapter three

headings within the headwords “China” and “Chinese” were arranged

In the course of the period under consideration, information
given under the headword ‘China’ became more and more extensive:
Encyclopédie catholique (169 pages); Edinburgh Encyclopaedia: (125
pages)—Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon (83 pages on “China”, 2 pages
on “Chinese drama and theatre” and 7 pages on Chinese language,
writing, and literature).20
The following listing shows the arrangement of subjects in the
‘China’ articles of these three encyclopaedias.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia: Topography—History—Government—
Religion—Laws—Revenues—Army—Police—Language and Literature—
Arts and Sciences—Agriculture [including gardening]—Population—
Navigation—Money and Weights—Trade—Manufactures and Trade—
Characters and Manners—Natural History—View of the progressive
intercourse of other nations with China—[Bibliography]
Encyclopédie Catholique: Extent and boundaries of the whole
empire [Etendue et limites de l’Empire entier]—China proper: origin
of the name [Chine propre.—Origine de ce nom]—Topographic divi-
sion [Division topographique]—Basic elements of Chinese chronology
[Principes de la chronologie chinoise] (including a detailed account of
the history of China from the earliest times to the Opium War)—List
of place-names (including data on the latitude and longitude of each
of these places) [Lexique topographique]—Chinese government [Gou-
vernement chinois: classes; commerce; arts et metiers, etc.]—Chinese
language [Langue chinoise]—Chinese writing [Écriture chinoise]—
Chinese literature [Littérature chinoise]—Chinese theatre [Théâtre
chinois]—Chinese music [Musique chinoise]—Conclusion
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon: Names, situation, boundaries,
extent (Namen, Lage, Grenzen, Größe)—Topography and natural
resources (Natürliche Beschaffenheit)—Number of inhabitants (Zahl
der Einwohner)—Origin of the Chinese (Abstammung des Volkes)—
Physical constitution (Körperliche Beschaffenheit)—National character

Encyclopaedia Perthensis 5 (1816) 519–557 (s. v. ‘China’, ‘Chinese’); The New
Encyclopaedia 5 (1807) 508–549 (s. v. ‘China’, ‘Chinese’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 206–331 (s. v. ‘China’); Encyclopédie
Catholique vol. 7 (1844) 269–438 (s. v. ‘Chine’); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2
(1845) 230–313 (s. v. ‘China’); ibid., 333–335 (s. v. ‘Chinesisches Drama und Theater’);
ibid., 335–342 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache, Schrift und Literatur’).
canonizing china 113

(Volks-Charakter)—Religion (Religion)—Language (Sprache) [cross-

reference to ‘Chinesische Sprache und Literatur’ (Chinese language
and literature)]—Society (Gesellschaftliche Zustände)—Customs and
manners (Sitten und Gebräuche)—Arts and Sciences (Intellektuelle
Bildung durch Wissenschaft und Kunst)—Government (Staatsverfas-
sung, also including a cross-reference to ‘Armee’ (army))—History
(Geschichte)—History of Sino-European relations (Geschichtliche
Darstellung China’s in seinem Verhältnisse zu Europa)—Bibliography
The rather extensive information collected under the headword
‘China’ can be regarded as a finding aid to access further informa-
tion on China given under separate headwords. Entries on the various
provinces of China may have served the same purpose, although the
variety of possible transcriptions in use for each of the provinces even
today may be seen as a major obstacle for the retrieval of information
in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reference works, e.g. Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon disposed information on Fujian Province under
the headword “Phukian”.21
Although the first edition of Bayle’s Dictionaire historique (1697)
provided an alphabetical index, this kind of retrieval tools was only
common from the late eighteenth century onwards, starting with the
two-volume Table to Diderot’s Encyclopédie. As an alternative to an
index covering the whole work, early nineteenth-century French general
reference works mainly tended to add a list of headwords included in
each of the volumes (see for example the Encyclopédie des gens du monde
and the Encyclopédie nouvelle). The index to Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon only partly refers to information on China disposed in the
whole work. Information on China disposed in Meyer’s biographical
and geographical headwords may not be retrieved.22
The only entry on ‘China’ supplied with an extra alphabetical index
seems to be that in the Encyclopaedia Londinensis. The text of this
article was not structured by headings, subheadings, or marginalia.23
While headings and subheadings within single entries have been
used in German-language encyclopaedias (usually set in spaced type),

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 3 (1850) 1042 f. (s. v. ‘Phukian’).
See Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon, Supplement, vol. 6.
Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 435–498.
114 chapter three

English-language encyclopaedias facilitated retrieval of information by

supplying marginalia.
Information on China partly was presented under transliterated
Chinese headwords. On the one hand, we may ask to which extent
knowledge disposed in this way had been retrievable for the users of
encyclopaedias, i.e. how many users searched Ersch/Gruber under the
entry ‘Pen-tsao’ (bencao) for information on Chinese pharmacology.24
On the other hand, this practice shows how the editors of encyclopae-
dias tried to present knowledge on China equal to that on other parts
of the world, mechanics and natural sciences, as well as knowledge on
and Greek and Roman antiquity.
Apart from the most important place names of China and the
names of Chinese individuals (either historical or contemporary) the
most prominent example for the introduction of Chinese terms as
headwords in encyclopaedias are terms relating to the production of
porcelain, e.g. petuntse and kaolin. For the introduction of the latter
into the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary even refers
to the editio princeps of Chambers’ Cyclopaedia (1727/28).25 In a simi-
lar way, the Trésor de la Langue Française refers to the Encyclopédie
Méthodique for the introduction of Chinese terms.26
Chinese terms chosen as headwords in encyclopaedias may be
divided into the following groups:

1. the natural resources of China (including the animal, vegeta-

ble, and mineral kingdom): among them terms like huashi 滑石
(soapstone),27 huojing 火井 (gas well),28 pengsha 硼砂 (borax), jian
鹼 (alkali) from the mineral kingdom,29 various fruits like lizhi
荔枝 (lychee),30 longyan 龍眼 (longan), shizi 柿子 (persimmon),
trees (nanmu 楠木, wutong 梧桐),31 products from the vegetable

Ersch/Gruber III 16 (1842) 128–130 (s. v. ‘Pen-tsao’, W. Schott). Meyer,
Conversations-Lexikon II 3 (1850) 118 (s. v. ‘Pen-tsao’) mentions Li Shizhen’s 李時珍
(1518–1593) Bencao gangmu 本草綱目 and refers to the article on Chinese language,
writing, and literature.
Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., s. v. ‘kaolin’.
Trésor de la Langue Française 11 (1985) 1184 (s. v. ‘Moxa’).
Encyclopédie 8 (1765) 232 (s. v. ‘Hoatché’); Krünitz 24 (1781) 21–22 (s. v. ‘Hoa-che’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 15 (1850) 1294 (s. v. ‘Ho-tsing’).
See Krünitz 37 (1786) 439 (s. v. ‘Kien’); ibid., 116 (1810) 612 (s. v. ‘Pounxa’).
Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 484 (s. v. ‘Lichi’); ibid., 689 (s. v. ‘Lon-yen ou Lum-yen’);
Penny Cyclopaedia 14 (1839) 43 (s. v. ‘Li-tchi, or Leechee’).
Krünitz 101 (1806) 212 f. (s. v. ‘Nan-mu’).
canonizing china 115

kingdom like the oil from the tallow tree ( jiuyou 桕油) as well as
food like doufu 豆腐 (bean curd)32
2. Various ethnic groups living within the Chinese Empire: Yi 彜 (in
encyclopaedias referred to as Lolo 玀玀 or 羅羅),33 Miao 苗, etc.34
3. Religion and philosophy: including denominations of religion in
China such as fo 佛 (Buddha), fojiao 佛教 (Buddhism) or tiaojinjiao
挑筋教 (Jews) as well as terms like miao 廟 (temple) or wenmiao
文廟 (Temple of Confucius), city gods (chenghuang 城隍) as well
as names of other tutelary gods and goddesses—the latter including
Mazu 媽祖 (in eighteenth-century works rendered as ‘Neoma’) and
Guanyin 觀音 (‘Quanina’).35
4. Government and administration: In encyclopaedias, the six boards
(liubu 六部) of the central government frequently were presented in
their respective Chinese renderings.36 Similarly, the various degrees
of Chinese literati as mirrored by the examination system (xiucai
秀才 (lit. Cultivated Talent), juren 擧人 (Provincial Graduate),
jinshi 進士 (Metropolitan Graduate))37 were introduced as head-
words. The Encyclopédie des gens du monde contained a headword
‘Han-lin’ (Hanlin 翰林 or Imperial academy).38
5. Trade and Commerce: Encyclopaedias perpetuated a host of Chi-
nese headwords mainly derived from eighteenth-century economic
dictionaries, these Chinese terms referred to various fabrics and to
weights and measures (for example bu 步 (pace)39 and li 里 (mile)).40

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon S5 (1854) 1199 (s. v. ‘Taofoo’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 21, fol. Ppv-Pp2r (s. v. ‘Lo-los’); Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 19,2 (1851) 802 (s. v. ‘Lolos’).
Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 484 (s. v. ‘Miao-fses’ [sic]); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon
I 21 (1852) 557 f. (s. v. ‘Miaothe’).
On Mazu see Zedler 23 (1740) col. 1713 (‘Neoma’) on Guanyin see ibid., 30
(1741) col. 67 (s v. ‘Quanina’); Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 137 (‘Kouan-in’). On city gods
(chenghuang) see Deutsche Encyclopädie 5 (1781) 510 (s. v. ‘Chim-Hoam’).
E.g. the bingbu 兵部 (Ministry of War): Encyclopédie 12 (1765) 728 (s. v. ‘Pim-
pou’), the hubu 戶部 (Board of Revenues): Encyclopédie 8 (1765) 355 (s. v. ‘Hu-pu’),
the xingbu 刑部 (Board of Justice) Encyclopédie 8 (1765) 210 (s. v. ‘Hing-pu’).
Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 132 (s. v. ‘Kiu-gin’ (i.e. juren); ibid., 16 (1765) 731 (‘Tsin-
sé’, i.e. jinshi).—For explanations of these three terms see Charles O. Hucker, A
Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1985), 248 f. (no. 2633, s. v. ‘hsiù-ts’ái’); ibid., 197 (no. 1682, s. v. ‘chü-jén’); ibid., 167
(no. 1148; s. v. ‘chìn-shìh’).
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 13 (1840) 434 f. (s. v. ‘Han-lin‘, G. Pauthier).
Zedler 29 (1741) col. 1123 (s. v. ‘Pu’); Krünitz 118 (1811) 459 (s. v. ‘Pu’).
Zedler 18 (1738) col. 1412 (s. v. ‘Ly’), Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 463 (s. v. ‘Li, Ly, Lis,
Lys’); Krünitz 82 (1801) 94 (s. v. ‘Ly’).
116 chapter three

Several cycles concerning the ‘rectification of names’ took place in

the context of cultural contacts and transmissions between China and
Europe. The ‘wonders’ of ‘India’ clearly had influenced medieval Euro-
pean accounts on and perceptions of East Asia in general. At that time,
India, Central Asia and East Asia were usually treated as a whole.41 A
similar development took place in early modern times: Natural phe-
nomena of Southeast Asia as well as observations on the material cul-
ture of the overseas Chinese living in these regions were ascribed to
East Asia and China with some delay. The most striking examples for
this practice include entries on Daoism, on typhoons, and on the Chi-
nese gong (luo 鑼) in Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon—all three referring to
early European accounts of Southeast Asia.42
Chinese terms introduced and explained by early nineteenth-
century encyclopaedias rarely became part of general knowledge. The
example of the river Baihe 白河 (usually referred to as ‘Peiho’), an
important waterway in Northern China, highlights this particular fail-
ure and even sheds light on the repeatedly stated immobility of the
academic discipline of sinology.43 While we find the correct meaning
(i.e. White River) of this toponym in Rees’ Cyclopaedia, in the Penny
Cyclopaedia as well as in Ersch/Gruber44 and in some nineteenth-cen-
tury travelogues and although detailed explanations of the name were
provided, even in sinological literature the wrong meaning ‘North
River’ prevailed until today.45
In some cases, misprints and erroneous spellings retarded or even
prevented attempts for a ‘rectification of names’. Badly distorted proper
names (personal names, reign periods, titles of works) that occurred in
accounts of China also appeared in encyclopaedias. The entry on China
in the section on political economy of the Encyclopédie Méthodique

Reichert, Begegnungen mit China, 10.
Zedler 11 (1735) col. 181 (s. v. ‘Gong’); ibid., 16 (1737) col. 375 f. (s. v. ‘Lancu’),
ibid. 57 (1748) col. 607 f. (s. v. ‘Wind’).
Harriet T. Zurndorfer, “La sinologie immobile,” Études chinoises 8, no. 2 (1989),
99–120, a review of Alain Peyrefitte, L’empire immobile ou le choc des mondes (Paris:
Fayard, 1989).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 26 (s. v. ‘Pei-ho, or White River’); Penny Cyclopaedia 7
(1837) 74 (s. v. ‘China’); in Ersch/Gruber III 9 (1837) 273 (s. v. ‘Pai-ho’) Schott refers
to ‘albus fluvius’) as the only correct meaning of this toponym; in ibd, III 14 (1840)
344 f. (‘Pay, oder Pay-ho’) the meaning of the name is not mentioned at all.
See J. Y. Wong, review of English Lessons, by James Hevia, Journal of Asian Stud-
ies 65, no. 4 (Nov. 2006), 807, who refers to the description of the ‘White River’ in the
Jiaqing edition of the Da Qing yitong zhi.
canonizing china 117

speaks of ‘Lang-hi’ (i.e. Kangxi), of ‘Hau-lin’ (i.e. Hanlin) and of ‘Si-

Anhya’ (Xiaoxue 小學, i.e. Zhu Xi’s ‘Learning for Children’).46 In Krünitz’
encyclopaedia, we find the headword ‘Kieu-yen’ (instead of ‘Kieu-
yeu’ ( jiuyou) which was the most widespread spelling in eighteenth-
century Europe) referring to the oil from the tallow tree).47 In the
Penny Cyclopaedia we read of ‘Meao-toa’ (i.e. the Miaodao 廟島
Archipelago), of ‘Mioa-tsee’ (Miao) and of Poa-king-foo (i.e. the city
of Baoqing 保慶).48 As this phenomenon has not been restricted to
Chinese proper names, it may be mentioned that in the entry on
Tatars in Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon we read of ‘Résumat’ instead
of Rémusat49—earlier this reference work had presented biographical
and bibliographical information on Rémusat in the correct spelling.50

3.2 Updating Information on China

Of such a country it would be unpardonable not to give some account

in a work of this nature; but we have not, in truth much to add to what
has been said of China and the Chinese in the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Since the article China in that work was published, the court of Pekin
[sic] has indeed been visited by an embassy, and the origin of the peo-
ple, as well as the antiquity of their empire has been investigated by Sir
William Jones with his usual diligence; but from his memoir, published
in the second volume of the Asiatic Researches, and from Sir George
Staunton’s account of the embassy, there is not much to be extracted
which would be either amusing or instructive to our readers.51
These remarks from the opening paragraph of the supplement to
the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1801,
named two of the most important sources English-language encyclo-
paedias relied on for presumed up-to-date information on China dur-
ing the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Not only the scholarly
contributions of Sir William Jones (1746–1794), but also the account
of the Macartney embassy published by George Leonard Staunton
(1737–1801) became widely used sources on China and the Chinese.

Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie politique et diplomatique 1 (1784), 557, 556
and 553 respectively.
Krünitz 37 (1786) 517.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 72 f.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 11 (1851) 187 (s. v. ‘Tataren’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 5 (1850) 903 (s. v. ‘Rémusat’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Supplement to the Third Edition, vol. 1, p. 416.
118 chapter three

The process of updating information on China was stimulated further

by the publication of John Barrow’s Travels in China (1804).
Apart from their naming of sources, these lines also demonstrate,
that not only instruction, but also amusement of readers was one of
the goals of early-nineteenth century encyclopaedias.
All editors of encyclopaedias had to cope with the problem of
adding or updating information on articles already published in an
earlier part of the work. Some of them solved the problem by add-
ing supplementary volumes to the original work. This may be seen
from Zedler’s Universal-Lexikon, from Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s
Encyclopédie, from the Yverdon edition of the Encyclopédie pub-
lished by Fortunato de Felice (1723–1789), from the third edition of
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, from the Penny Cyclopaedia or from
Meyer’s Großes Conversations-Lexikon—the six-volume supplement
of the latter was published after our period of consideration (under
the headword ‘China’ this supplement mainly provided statistical
and ethnographic data and updated information on the first phase
of the Taiping Rebellion).52 While eighteenth-century supplements
also included additional information on the ancient history of China,
nineteenth-century supplements mainly served to update information
on contemporary developments and events—in our case concerning
recent developments and events in China or newly published scholarly
works on China. To serve this purpose, the supplementary volumes
to Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon included larger sections from pub-
lished British consular reports and from the annual reports by Jules
Mohl (1800–1876) presented to the Société Asiatique.53
Especially works, that comprised more than twenty volumes also
tried to integrate additional information in the course of the latter
part of the alphabet. Apart from the headword ‘China’, the Allgemeine
Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste (General encyclopae-
dia of arts and sciences) initiated by Ersch and Gruber in 1818 sup-
plied much China-related information under a variety of headwords.
Entries on single provinces of China are based on travelogues and
general descriptions on China. Most of these entries provide a syn-
opsis of information drawn from these materials containing a wealth

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon, Supplement, vol. 2 (1853) 953–971 (s. v. ‘China’).
See e.g. Penny Cyclopaedia, Supplement 1 (1845) 356–362 (s. v. ‘China’), Second
Supplement to the Penny Cyclopaedia (1858) 137 (s. v. ‘China’); Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon, Supplement 2 (1853) 953–971 (s. v. ‘China’).
canonizing china 119

of details concerning the customs, manners and the material culture

of the Chinese.54 Cross-references to an entry on Confucius show that
the insertion of this article was postponed several times. Due to the
course of publication of the whole work this postponement caused a
delay of several decades until the article (then written by the German
linguist and sinologist Georg von der Gabelentz (1840–1893)) finally
could be published in 1887—long after our period of consideration.
The entry ‘Confucius’ only referred to a future headword ‘Kong-Fu-
Tse’. Ample information on Confucius finally was presented sub verbo

3.3 Visualizing China: Knowledge in Plates, Diagrams and Tables

Encyclopaedias contain only few visual representations of non-European

regions. Yet there was a small, but distinct visual canon of China
throughout early modern European literature. According to Osterham-
mel the following illustrations dominated the early modern European
visualization of China: idealized portraits of Confucius, illustrations
depicting the Great Wall, the Porcelain Tower at Nanjing, and the
Potala Palace at Lhasa. Osterhammel also mentions illustrations dis-
playing the ploughing ceremony as performed by the Emperor.56
European publications show portraits of Confucius, visual repre-
sentations of the Great Wall, and the Porcelain Tower at Nanjing
as early as in the 1660s. The publications of Athanasius Kircher’s
China . . . illustrata (1667) and the accounts of the early Dutch lega-
tions to China given by Johan Nieuhof (1618–1672) and Olfert Dapper

Ersch/Gruber, s. v. ‘Junnan’ (II 29 (1852) 143–156 (G. M. S. Fischer), ibid., s. v.
‘Pe-king’ (III 15 (1841) 83–87, W. Schott) and ibid. s. v. ‘Pe-tsche-li’ (III 19 (1844)
399–419, G. M. S. Fischer).
Ersch/Gruber I 19 (1829) 72 (s. v. ‘Confucius’) and ibid. II 40 (1887) 230–240 (s.
v. ‘Kung-Fu-Tse’; G. v. d. Gabelentz).
Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 176. For a preliminary assessment of early mod-
ern European visual representations of China see Manfred Boetzkes, “Aspekte der
Chinamode in der Buchillustration des 18. Jahrhunderts.” in Die Buchillustration
im 18. Jahrhundert. Colloquium der Arbeitsstelle 18. Jahrhundert, Gesamthochschule
Wuppertal—Universität Münster, Düsseldorf, 3.–5. Oktober 1978 (Heidelberg: Win-
ter, 1980); Ying Sun, Wandlungen des europäischen Chinabildes in illustrierten Reise-
berichten des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, Studien zur neueren Literatur 1 (Frankfurt
a. M.: Lang, 1996), Hans-Jürgen Lechtreck, “Herrscher im ‘royaume agricole’. Das
kaiserliche Pflügen als Gegenstand reformabsolutistischer Bildsprache,” Zeitschrift für
Kunstgeschichte 64, no. 3 (2001), 364–380.
120 chapter three

(c. 1635–1689) proved to be crucial for the shaping of visual represen-

tations of China.57 Shortly thereafter, the circulation of these images
began. They were repeatedly engraved and reprinted in a great variety
of works.58
Seventeenth-century European visual representations of China later
were included in printed collections that offer valuable information con-
cerning the canonization of European visualizations of non-European
regions. The two outstanding publications of this kind were initiated
during the 1720s in the Netherlands. About 1729/30, the Leiden pub-
lisher and printer Pieter van der Aa (1659–1733) issued La Galérie
agréable du monde. This vast collection, a limited edition of 100 copies,
contained a series of engravings, formerly published in seventeenth-
and early eighteenth-century works. Each of the volumes was issued
with an introduction containing information on the regions repre-
sented in the respective volume. Out of the 2400 plates of the whole
work, 113 dealt with things Chinese.59 The Amsterdam-based engraver
Bernard Picart (1673–1733), one of the numerous French émigrés in
the Netherlands, published the beautifully illustrated Cérémonies et
coûtumes religieuses de tous les peoples du monde.60 In 1733/34, an
English version of this work was published in London.61 From 1746
to 1748, the Swiss engraver David Herrliberger (1697–1777) edited a
German translation of the part containing information on the reli-
gions of China. Compilers of encyclopaedias used Picart’s work, e.g.

On the visual representation of China in Nieuhof ’s book see Friederike Ulrichs,
Johan Nieuhofs Blick auf China (1655–1657). Die Kupferstiche in seinem Chinabuch
und ihre Wirkung auf den Verleger Jacob von Meurs, Sinologica Coloniensia 21 (Wies-
baden: Harrassowitz, 2003).
On the spread of the illustrations published in Nieuhof ’s account see Reed and
Demattè, China on Paper, 142 (cat. no. 2).
This calculation is based on the copy in the Austrian National Library, Vienna
(shelfmarks BE.8.H.13 and BE.8.H.14). For a bibliographic description of this copy as
well as a detailed enumeration of the parts of the whole work see Ingo Nebehay and
Robert Wagner, eds., Bibliographie altösterreichischer Ansichtenwerke aus fünf Jahr-
hunderten. Die Monarchie in der topographischen Druckgraphik von der Schedel’schen
Weltchronik bis zum Aufkommen der Photographie, vol. 1 (Graz: Akademische Druck-
und Verlags-Anstalt, 1981), 1–3.—See also the comment in John Lust, Western Books
on China published up to 1850 in the Library of the School of Oriental and African
Studies, University of London. A Descriptive Catalogue (London: Bamboo Publishing
Ltd, 1987), 1 (no. 1); Reed, Demattè, China on Paper, 19.
For a recent study of this work see Paola von Wyss-Giacosa, Religionsbilder der
frühen Aufklärung. Bernard Picarts Tafeln für die Cérémonies et coutûmes religieuses
de tous les peuples du monde (Wabern: Benteli, 2006).
See Israel, Enlightenment Contested, 379.
canonizing china 121

the Padova-born scholar Giovanni Francesco Pivati (1689–1764) for

his Nuovo Dizionario scientifico e curioso sacro-profano (1746–1751).62
Like their early modern Latin predecessors, the earliest general ref-
erence works published in the vernacular languages of Europe quite
rarely presented illustrations63 not only due to technical and economic
reasons but also due to the fact that encyclopaedias for a long time
were intended as textual representations of the ordo rerum. However,
eighteenth-century progress in mechanics, engineering and natural
sciences made it desirable for the editors to add graphic representa-
tions of subjects treated in single articles.
The first volumes of Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon did not include
any illustrations. Later on, the editors of the Universal-Lexicon only
reluctantly made use of illustrations. Concerning the representation
of China only one figure was to be included. This figure—presumably
derived from the works of Leibniz—is to be found in an article on
Chinese coins, showing the yinyang 陰陽 symbol circumscribed by
the eight trigrams.64
The plates of Diderot’s Encyclopédie occasionally dealt with things
Chinese: apart from the section ‘Caractères étrangers’ which contained
a presentation of the so-called Kangxi classifiers (significs used for the
arrangement of characters in Chinese dictionaries),65 China only occurs
in the sections on heraldry, pottery, music and natural history.66
Encyclopaedias published in the first half of the nineteenth century
show different approaches towards illustrating things Chinese.
Representations of things Chinese included in Brockhaus’ Bilder-
Conversations-Lexikon still were rather generic. A visual representation

Silvano Garofalo, “Gianfrancesco Pivati’s Nuovo dizionario,” in Notable ency-
clopedias of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Nine predecessors of the Ency-
clopédie, ed. Frank A. Kafker, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 194
(Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1981), 197–218; Franco Arato, “Savants, philosophes,
journalists: l’Italie des dictionnaires encyclopédiques”, Dix-huitième siècle 38 (2006),
69–82, especially 72.
On the history of illustrations in encyclopaedic reference works see Hupka, Wort
und Bild. as well as Barbara Holländer, “Die enzyklopädische Ordnung des Wissens in
bildlichen Darstellungen,” in Erkenntnis, Erfindung, Konstruktion. Studien zur Bildg-
eschichte von Naturwissenschaften und Technik vom 16. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert, ed.
Hans Holländer (Berlin: Mann, 2000), 163–179.
Zedler 22 (1739) col. 475 f. (s. v. ‘Müntze (Chinesische)’).
On these significs (also called ‘classifiers’ or ‘radicals’) see Wilkinson, Chinese
History, 412 and 415 f.
Encyclopédie, Recueil des Planches, sections ‘Blason’ (heraldry), ‘Fayancerie’
(faience), ‘Musique’ (music) and ‘Histoire naturelle’ (natural history).
122 chapter three

of the Great Wall and seven different forms of the character ma 馬

(horse) were displayed in the entry on ‘China’.67 Further China-related
illustrations were provided for the entries ‘Mandarin’ and ‘Peking’, the
latter showing a rather Europeanized city wall.68
In its article on “China”, the Encyclopédie Catholique presented
about 120 illustrations (on 170 quarto pages). These illustrations were
rather generic, too. The plates included in the Mémoires concernant
l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les mœurs, les usages &c. des Chinois still
formed the main source. The table below provides an overview of these
illustrations including the French captions of these illustrations as well
as indicating the subjects shown in these illustrations:69

page Caption Subject

271 “La grande muraille de la Chine.” architecture—Great Wall
288 “Fou-hi et les instruments de musique antiquity—music
inventés par ce prince.”
291 “La sphere de l’empereur Chun.” antiquity—astronomy
292 “Peuples anciennement connus des antiquity—ethnography
301 “Salle exterieure du Ming-tang.” antiquity—architecture
306 “Lao-tseu monté sur un boeuf.” Laozi 老子—portrait
306 “Portrait de Confucius.” Confucius—portrait
309 “Tombeau de Confucius.” Confucius—grave
311 “Les trois temples de la Lumière.” Temple
312 “Meng-tseu, philosophe chinois.” Mengzi 孟子—portrait
314 “Le grand char des empereurs chinois.” emperors—chariot
315 “Char de guerre de plusieurs soldats.” soldiers—chariot
315 “Costumes, anciennes personnages.” antiquity—dress
316 “Costumes, anciennes personnages.” antiquity—dress
317 “Thsin-chi-houang-ti, empereur de la Qin Shihuangdi 秦始皇
Chine.” 帝—portrait
319 “Hiang-yu ou Hiang-hi, general Xiang Yu 項羽—portrait
319 “Kao-hoang-ti, empereur chinois.” Han Gaodi

Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon für das deutsche Volk. Ein Handbuch zur Verbrei-
tung gemeinnütziger Kenntnisse und zur Unterhaltung, 4 vols. (Leipzig: Brockhaus
1837–1841), vol. 1 (1837), 412 (Great Wall) and 414 (characters).
Ibid., vol. 3 (1839), 41 (s. v. ‘Mandarin’), ibid., 436 (s. v. ‘Peking’).
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 269–438.
canonizing china 123

page Caption Subject
319 “Grande route sur les piliers.” architecture—road,
320 “Portrait de Fou-seng, lettré chinois.” Fu Sheng 伏勝—portrait
322 “Sou-tseu-king.” Su Wu 蘇武—portrait
322 “Toung-fang-sou, ministre.” Dongfang Shuo 東方朔
(154–93 BC), Daoist,
counsellor to Emperor
Wu of Han—portrait
322 “Toung-tchoung-tchou, sage et philoso- Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒
phe.” (179–104 BC), sage and
327 “La lettrée Pan-hoeï-pan.” Ban Zhao 班昭 (style
name Huiban 惠班),
first female Chinese
340 “Kao-tseu Ier, empereur chinois.” Tang Gaozu
341 “Thaï-tsoung, empereur chinois.” Tang Taizong
347 “Thou-fou, poète chinois.” Du Fu 杜甫,
347 “Li-tai-pe, poète chinois.” Li Taibo 李太白,
355 “Tai-tsou, empereur chinois, fondateur Song Taizu
de la dynastie des Soung.” 宋太祖—portrait
357 “Se-ma-kouang, historien chinois.” Sima Guang 司馬光,
Chinese historian—
361 “Tchou-hi, lettré chinois.” Zhu Xi 朱熹
(1130–1200), Chinese
362 “Tching-te-sieou, philosophe chinois.” Zhen Dexiu 真德秀
(1178–1235), Chinese
366 “Ye-sou-hai ou Taï-tsou, fondateur de la Yuan Taizu 元太祖
XXe dynastie des empereurs chinois.” (i.e. Genghis Khan;
the article refers to
the father of Genghis
367 “Hiu-heng, philosophe et homme d’état Xu Heng 許衡,
chinois.” philosopher—portrait
369 “L’empereur Houpilai, dans une tour Khubilai Khan—portrait
portée par quatre elephants.”
124 chapter three

page Caption Subject
371 “Passage d’une écheine sur le grand architecture—Grand
canal de la Chine.” Canal
377 “Ming-taï-tsou, fondateur de la dynastie Ming Taizu 明太祖,
chinoise des Ming.” the Hongwu Emperor
(r. 1368–1398)
381 “Taï-tsou, fondateur de la dynastie des Nurhaci, founder of the
Mantchous.” Manchu dynasty
403 “Tour de porcelaine de Nan-king” architecture—porcelain
404 “La bastonnade en Chine” justice—bastinado
412 “La marchande de riz.—Costumes daily life
actuels; hommes, femmes, enfants,
428 “Spectacle chinois.” Chinese theatre
430– [various musical instruments;
434 illustrations without captions]

While French and German encyclopaedias preserved visual represen-

tation of China provided by the Jesuit missionaries, English encyclo-
paedias began to rely on contemporary visual representations of China
supplied by William Alexander (1767–1816) and other members of
the Macartney embassy to Beijing (1792/93). The illustrations of the
Encyclopaedia Londinensis (published in 1810) may serve as an early
example for this practice.70
Another way of providing information apart from running text or
plates was the insertion of tables and diagrams. Beginning in the 1690s,
the subsequent editions of Moréri’s Grand dictionnaire historique pro-
vided information on the history of China in form of a lengthy table
listing the rulers of China from remote antiquity down to the emper-
ors of the early Qing dynasty. For each ruler, the table lists the year he
ascended to the throne and the duration of his rule. For some of them,

Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810), between pages 462 and 463: “A Chinese
Prince of the present Manchoo Tartar race”; “A Chinese Princess of the present Man-
choo Tartar race”; ibid., between pages 480 and 481: “A Sketch of the Chinese Wall,
Military Post and Guard, Watch Tower and Pagoda”, between pages 482 and 483:
“Tchien Lung Emperor who gave Audience to the British Embassy in 1793.”
canonizing china 125

remarkable events occurring under the reign are mentioned.71 Other

encyclopaedias dealt with the rulers of China in a similar way. The
editors of Zedler provided a list showing the names of subsequent rul-
ers. Many of them were introduced under separate headwords spread
throughout the entire work.72 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia attempted
to support the narrative on the major events in the history of China by
inserting separate lists of rulers for each of the dynasties presented.73
New ways for a visual representation of knowledge in encyclopae-
dias emerged in the first decades of the nineteenth century—compara-
tive tables and graphs showing the lengths of rivers and the heights of
mountains found their way into encyclopaedic dictionaries. Examples
may be found in Ersch/Gruber as well as in the Bilder-Conversations-
Lexikon.74 Another way to compare the length “of some of the most
noted rivers in the world” presented by James Rennell (1742–1830)
had been adopted in Rees’ Cyclopaedia: all rivers listed were put in
relation to the length of the river Thames (346 km) while the Huang
He (5,464 km—thus 12.7 times longer than the river Thames) was said
to be 13.5 times longer, the Yangzi (6,385 km—thus 18.4 times longer)
was said to be 15.5 times longer than the river Thames.75

3.4 Explaining China: Comparisons with Europe and Other Parts

of the World

Classifying the world always represents an attempt of categorizing the

self and the other. Eighteenth-century European publications on non-
European regions abound in comparisons and equations between the
self and the other. These comparisons were intended to explain the
‘peculiarities’ of non-European cultures and to help to put new infor-
mation in a seemingly appropriate context. The comparisons helped

Moréri, 1712 edition, vol. 2, pp. 273–279 (‘Suite chronologique, et historique des
rois ou empereurs de la Chine’); ibid., 1725 edition, vol. 3, pp. 145–152 (‘Suite chrono-
logique des familles imperiales de la Chine’), ibid., 1759 edition, vol. 3, pp. 629–636.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1567–1572 (list of emperors s. v. ‘Sina’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, pp. 219–232.
The tables in Ersch/Gruber I 45 (1847) 460 f. (s. v. ‘Fluss’) and Meyer, Conver-
sations-Lexikon I 10 (1847) 624 (s. v. ‘Fluß’) contain data on the length of the world’s
largest rivers, on the catchment area of each river and on the linear distance between
their spring and their mouth.—See also Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon 2 (1838) 66 (s. v.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 30, fol. Ssr (s. v. ‘River’).
126 chapter three

to construct the non-European other in the process of constituting

the identity of the European self. The presentation of China in Euro-
pean encyclopaedias was closely linked to these categories of ‘self ’ and
‘other’ and showed the search for similarities and differences between
Europe and China. In this search, constructions and deconstructions
took place. From the entries of encyclopaedias we see how China
was put into European patterns of interpretation. Attempts to clas-
sify (European knowledge on) China tended to describe it in familiar
European categories. Until the early nineteenth century, the European
‘confrontation’ with China mainly took place on an intellectual level.
In preparing articles on China for encyclopaedias, Europeans always
had to cope with the challenge of pointing out (presumed) characteris-
tics and peculiarities of ‘Chinese’ culture. Their description of presumed
peculiarities reveals how they saw the main constitutive elements of
‘European’ culture.76 Beginning with the widening of horizons in Ren-
aissance times, Europeans compared newly discovered civilizations
in America, Asia, and Africa to pagan civilizations of European and
Near Eastern antiquity.77 The search for comparisons and conformi-
ties often led to confusion. Concerning China, elements of the search
for comparisons or conformities can be traced back to the end of the
sixteenth century. In dealing with the origins of the indigenous people
of America in his Historia natural y moral de las Indias (1590), José
de Acosta SJ (1539–1600) also referred to China and to the Chinese
in the light of the then newly published account of Juan González de
About a century later, the search for comparisons and conformities
between Asia and ancient Europe began to flourish. In 1700, at the
heyday of the Rites Controversy, Noël Alexandre (1639–1724) pub-
lished his Conformité des ceremonies chinoises avec l’idolâtrie grecque et
romaine. In 1704, a certain M. de la Créquinière published his Confor-
mité des Coutumes des Indiens Orientaux, avec celles des Juifs & des

Eduard Matt, Ethnographische Beschreibungen. Die Kunst der Konstruktion der
Wirklichkeit des Anderen, Geschichte und Theorie der Ethnologie 3 (Münster: LIT,
2001), 192.
Michael Ryan, “Assimilating New Worlds in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Cen-
turies,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 23 (1981), 526–536.
On Acosta’s remarks on China see Michel Cartier, “La Chine vue de l’Amérique
espagnole à la fin du XVIe siècle,” Études chinoises 25 (2006), 101–112.
canonizing china 127

autres peoples de l’Antiquité.79 De la Créquinière may have influenced

the French Jesuit Joseph François Lafitau (1681–1746) in his Mœurs
des sauvages amériquains, comparés aux mœurs des premiers temps
(1724).80 One of Lafitau’s later critics was the Dutch-born Protestant
clergyman Cornelius de Pauw (1739–1799), who, in 1773, severely
criticised the Jesuit representation of China. In comparing ancient
Egypt and China, de Pauw disproved the favourable Jesuit reports on
China. His Recherches philosophiques sur les Égyptiens et les Chinois,
published just at the time of the suppression of the Jesuit order, were
influential in paving the way for a more critical attitude of Europeans
towards China.81
Cross-cultural comparisons were also used for presentations of the
Chinese language. The French Encyclopédie pointed out that the pro-
nunciation of the Chinese language even varies in the different prov-
inces and compared the various modes of pronouncing the language
to the pronunciation of European languages: The people in Fujian,
Zhejiang, Huguang, Sichuan, Henan, Jiangxi would pronounce the
language more ponderous than the Spaniards. The inhabitants of the
provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan would pronounce
the language as short as the English. Except the cities of Songjiang
松江, Zhenjiang 鎮江 and Fengyang 鳳陽, the inhabitants of the
province of Nanjing would speak as pleasant as the Italians. Finally,
the people in Zhili, Shandong, Shanxi, and Shaanxi would aspirate as
much as the Germans.82 In using this comparison, early modern Euro-
pean observers noticed the existence of major regional dialects in the
various parts of China.83
The physical geography of the Chinese Empire served for various
comparisons and equations with European landscapes: encyclopaedias

Lucas Marco Gisi, Einbildungskraft und Mythologie. Die Verschränkung von
Anthropologie und Geschichte, spectrum Literature 11 (Berlin, New York: Walter de
Gruyter, 2007), 114–149.
On Lafitau’s presentation of comparisons and conformities see Ryan, “Assimilat-
ing New Worlds in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” 531 and 536; Werner
Petermann, Die Geschichte der Ethnologie (Wuppertal: Hammer, 2004), 180–184; Gisi,
Einbildungskraft und Mythologie, 118–125.
Corneille de Pauw, Recherches philosophiques sur les Égyptiens et les Chinois,
2 vols. (Berlin: Decker, 1773).
Encyclopédie, Recueil de planches, Seconde livraison, première partie, Alphabets
anciens, p. 16.
On major regional dialects in China see Cohen, Introduction to Research in
Chinese Source Materials, 7–10; Wilkinson, Chinese History, 24–26.
128 chapter three

repeatedly spoke of the region between the Huang He and the

Changjiang as of Chinese Mesopotamia. In China, too, this region
between the two great rivers could be addressed as the region of learn-
ing, riches and power—like the region between Yamuna and Ganges
in India or that between Euphrates and Tigris in the time of Assur.84
According to the Penny Cyclopaedia the East China Plain was seven
times larger than Lombardy, “with which it may be compared in many
respects.”85 Another comparison referred to the presumed freedom
of mountaineers. Due to the desire for freedom of the inhabitants,
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon labelled the province of Fujian “the
Tyrol of the Middle Kingdom.”86 Guizhou province usually was
labelled as “the Siberia of China”87 as disgraced mandarins sometimes
were “punished by being sent to this province.”88
In the early eighteenth century, another comparison became quite
common. Due to their important role in the Southeast Asian trade net-
works, Chinese were labelled as the ‘Jews of Asia’. Presumably starting
with the first edition of Savary des Bruslons’ Dictionnaire du commerce
(1723) this comparison found its way into European dictionaries and
encyclopaedias. From the very beginning, this comparison always was
accompanied by extremely pejorative remarks.89 During the follow-
ing decades, this comparison spread throughout Europe. Carl Günther
Ludovici, one of the editors of Zedlers Universal-Lexicon, included it
in his Eröffnete Akademie der Kaufleute,90 first published just a dec-
ade after the article on China in ‘Zedler’. The volumes of Krünitz’
Oeconomische Encyclopädie repeatedly used this comparison.91 In Ger-
man dictionaries, the comparison was still in use in the first half of
the nineteenth century: for example remarks in articles of Allgemeine

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 4,1 (1843) 815 (s. v. ‘Asien’).
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 74 (s. v. ‘China’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 3 (1850) 1042 (s. v. ‘Phukian’). For similar com-
parisons, that were drawn in eighteenth century European texts see Osterhammel,
Entzauberung. 269.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 212; Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 20, s. v. ‘Koei-tcheou’.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 401.
Jacques Savary des Bruslons, Dictionnaire universel de commerce, contenant tout
ce qui concerne le commerce qui se fait dans les quatre parties du monde, vol. 1 (Paris:
Estienne, 1723) col. 1175. See also Dermigny, La Chine et l’Occident. vol. 1, p. 29.
Carl Günther Ludovici, Eröffnete Akademie der Kaufleute: oder vollständiges
Kaufmanns-Lexicon [. . .], vol. 2 (Leipzig: Breitkopf, 1753). col. 318 (s. v. ‘China’).
E.g. Krünitz 16 (1779) 457 (s. v. ‘Gast-Freyheit’); ibid., 227 (1855) 528 f. (s. v.
canonizing china 129

Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste and of Pierer’s Universal-

Lexikon.92 Only Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon mentioned that Joshua
Marshman (1768–1837) clearly had dismissed any construction of
similarities between Chinese and Hebrews.93
Mainly following their sources, encyclopaedias tended to draw
cross-cultural comparisons and parallels between ancient China and
other early developed civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea,
and—not only in connection with writing—to pre-Columbian civili-
zations. In discussing the character pao 跑 (to run), Rees’ Cyclopae-
dia pointed out, that the etymology of this word may have the same
origin as a practice of ‘wrapping the feet’ in use among some ‘savages
of Louisiana’.94 Most of these comparisons originated from Jesuit writ-
ings. In their reports, they pointed out the huge number of cities and
towns throughout China. Comparisons of this kind were in use since
medieval times, for example in the itinerary of Odorico da Pordenone.95
Le Comte’s Nouveaux mémoires sur l’état present de la Chine became
the main source for comparisons of this kind in eighteenth- and early
nineteenth-century encyclopaedias. This may be seen from the last
edition of the Dictionnaire de Trévoux (published in 1771).96
Technical developments and inventions both in China and Europe
formed a vast field for comparisons between these two civilizations.
Early modern European scholars widely acknowledged the fact, that
the Chinese had made technical and mechanical inventions (paper and
printing, gunpowder, and compass) long before the Europeans.
Europeans tended to label Chinese civilization ‘unique’. As a con-
sequence of this supposed ‘uniqueness’ of the observed, the observers
denied any comparability and connection of European and Chinese
inventions. Although the Chinese had found many basic principles in
mechanical engineering as well as in the construction of very useful
technical devices, European observers stressed the ‘otherness’ of the

See Ersch/Gruber I 3 (1819) 329 (s. v. ‘Amboina’) and ibid. I 7 (1821) 54 (s. v.
‘Bad’); Pierer, 4th ed., vol. 4 (1858) 10.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 238 (s. v. ‘China’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 20, fol. [Mm4r] (s. v. ‘Language’).
Osterhammel, Weltgesellschaft, 26 f.
Dictionnaire de Trévoux, 1771 ed., vol. 2, p. 543 f.
130 chapter three

3.5 Simplifying China: The Dissemination of Stereotypes

The significance of encyclopaedias as indicators for the formation

and prevalence of stereotypes has been pointed out by Hans-Joachim
Schoeps as early as in 1959.97 While stereotypes concerning European
regions and their population98 as well as the presentation of European
minorities transmitted by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ency-
clopaedias have been subject to several studies, encyclopaedias have
been completely neglected in the context of creating and disseminat-
ing European stereotypes regarding China and the Chinese.99
Encyclopaedias are a reliable indicator for the genesis and evolution
of one of the most persisting stereotypes connected with the Chinese—
the colour of their skin as ascribed to them by Europeans.100 In their
writings, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European scholars
introduced a comparatively wide range of colours to depict East Asian
people: while the French historian François-Xavier de Charlevoix

Schoeps, Was ist und was will die Geistesgeschichte, 64–66 and 99–116.
On Spain see J[uana] Ugarte, “Un discours masqué. L’article ‘Espagne’ de
l’Encyclopédie Méthodique où l’image de l’Espagne en Europe à travers d’un text,”
Cahiers de lexicologie 58 (1991), Hönsch, Wege des Spanienbildes, 47–62, Françoise
Étienvre, “Avant Masson, Jaucourt. L’Espagne dans l’Encyclopédie de Diderot et
d’Alembert,” Bulletin Hispanique 104, no. 1 (2002), 161–180 and Gerstenberger, Ibe-
rien, on Serbia Hilmar Walter, “Das Serben- und Serbienbild in deutschsprachigen
Enzyklopädien des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Hum-
boldt-Universität zu Berlin, Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Reihe 38, no. 1 (1989), 66–70;
on Switzerland Ina Ulrike Paul, “ ‘Wache auf und lies . . .’ Zur Tradierung von Natio-
nalstereotypen in europäischen Enzyklopädien des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Populäre
Enzyklopädien. Von der Auswahl, Ordnung und Verwaltung des Wissens, ed. Ingrid
Tomkowiak (Zurich: Chronos, 2002), 197–220.
For attitudes towards gypsies in German encyclopaedias see Aparna Rao and
Michael J. Casimir, “Statica e dinamica degli stereotipi. La voce ‘Zigeuner’ nella let-
teratura enciclopedia tedesca del XIX e del XX secolo,” La Ricerca Folkloristica, no.
22 (1990), 37–46.
Until now, encyclopaedias’ entries have been totally neglected in research on
this subject. See e.g. Walter Demel, “Wie die Chinesen gelb wurden. Ein Beitrag zur
Frühgeschichte der Rassentheorien,” Historische Zeitschrift 255 (1992), 625–666 (see
also id., “The Images of the Japanese and the Chinese in Early Modern Europe. Physi-
cal Characteristics, Customs and Skills. A Comparison of Different Approaches to the
Cultures of the Far East,” Itinerario. European Journal of Overseas History 25, no. 3–4
(2001), 34–53); Gregory Blue, “Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the ‘Yellow Peril,’
and the Critique of Modernity,” Journal of World History 10 (1999), 93–131; Rotem
Kowner, “ ‘Lighter than yellow, but not enough’. Western Discourse on the Japanese
‘Race’, 1854–1904,” Historical Journal 43 (2000), 103–131; id., “Skin as a Metaphor:
Early European Racial Views on Japan, 1548–1853,” Ethnohistory 51, no. 4 (2004),
canonizing china 131

(1682–1761) labelled Japanese skin colour olive, the Scottish anato-

mist John Hunter (1728–1793) described East Asian people as brown.
In 1775, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach wrote of a yellow complex-
ion. While Kowner assumes, that Blumenbach had been the first to
do so,101 a glimpse into Krünitz’ encyclopaedia shows that various ear-
lier accounts of China mentioned the colour of yellow in referring to
the Chinese: Based on the accounts of Le Comte, Du Halde, and Olof
Toren, Krünitz describes the complexion of the Chinese as “yellow”.102
In the article ‘Civilisation’ of the Dictionnaire de la conversation et
de la lecture, Jules Joseph Virey (1775–1847) speaks of the Mongol or
yellow race.103 In 1835, the Encyclopédie des gens du monde also men-
tioned the “yellow complexion” of the Chinese.104
In subsequent editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica information
on the complexion of the Chinese underwent a considerable change:
“Near the tropic, their complexions incline to tawny; but in the north-
ern parts, they are as fair as other people under the same parallel.”105
Decades later, the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
noted “a sickly white, or pale yellow, like that of a faded leaf, or the
root of rhubarb.”106 The 1814 edition of Hübner speaks of a “dark
brown”,107 the Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon mentions “brownish yel-
low skin”.108 According to the Encyclopaedia Edinensis, “the complex-
ion varies from the darkest brown to the brightest olive.”109 In the
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana we read of an “olive complexion” of the
Manchu and the Chinese.110 Both the Damen-Conversations-Lexicon
and Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon also referred to a “brownish yel-
low” (bräunliches Gelb) and Meyer adds that this may vary according
to the different regions of the empire and to the different professions

Kowner, “Skin as a Metaphor,” 764. For an analysis of Blumenbach’s description
of the Chinese in subsequent editions of his Handbuch der Naturgeschichte and in
some of his other writings on natural history see Demel, “Chinesen,” 649–651.
Krünitz 71 (1796) 688.
Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture 14 (1834) 409–421 (s. v. ‘Civilisa-
tion’), on China see 409, 411 and 413.
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 722.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1919.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 549.
Hübner 1814 ed., vol. 2, p. 768.
Bilder-Conversations-Lexicon 1 (1837) 413.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 406.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 571.
132 chapter three

as well.111 In Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon, published in 1847, we

also read of a yellow complexion of the Chinese subject to regional
disparities.112 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia provides information on
this subject under its heading ‘Physical character’:
The natural colour, both of the Tartars and Chinese, is that intermediate
hue between a fair and a dark complexion called brunette; and those who
are exposed to the influence of the climate, especially the women who
labour in the fields, have a deeper colour and coarser features.113
The Encyclopédie Catholique discusses this point quite similarly: The
people in northern China are “as white as the Europeans” while those
in the south are “as bronzed as the people of Tanger and Morocco”.114
In writing for the Encyclopédie moderne, Eyriès described the com-
plexion of the Chinese as ‘light-brown’, the lower classes are quite
bronzed, the higher classes have a much lighter and sometimes healthy
The Penny Cyclopaedia has the following on this subject:
Among those who are not exposed to the climate the complexion is fully
as fair as that of the Portuguese; but the sun has a powerful effect on
their skins, and that upper portion of a man’s person which is habitually
exposed in the summer above his loose trowsers [sic] is often so different
from the remainder, that when stripped he looks like the lower half of a
European joined on to the upper moiety of an Asiatic.116
Origin and dissemination of many of the stereotypes concerning
the supposed ‘national character’ of the Chinese were caused by the
restricted access Europeans had been granted to China. In his Travels
of China, John Barrow explicitly opposed the favourable assessment
of the Chinese given in the French Encyclopédie. The Encyclopédie had
the following on this subject:

Damen-Conversations-Lexicon, 1st ed., 2 (1834) 365; Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 239. In ibid., I 21 (1852) 220 (s. v. ‘Menschenracen’), we read of
a “white-yellowish” complexion of the Chinese. In ibid., I 15 (1850) 1163 Meyer refers
to the ‘Homo sinicus’ in a scheme developed by the French naturalist Jean Baptiste
Bory de Saint-Vincent (1780–1846) describing the complexion of the Chinese as “yel-
low, oily”, that of Chinese women as “white, but somewhat suety.”
Wigand’s Conversations-Lexicon 3 (1847) 295.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 308.
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 411.
Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 550 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 120).
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 79.
canonizing china 133

The Chinese, who, by common consent, are superior to all the Asiatic
nations, in antiquity, in genius, in the progress of the sciences, in wis-
dom, in government, and in true philosophy; may moreover, in the
opinion of some authors, enter the lists, on all these points, with the
most enlightened nations of Europe.117
About 1840, the repertoire of positive and negative connotations
concerning China was fully developed. Accordingly, European (re-)
presentations of China at that time were very inhomogeneous. Ency-
clopaedias and their sources offered material for a considerable variety
of interpretations.
The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana labelled the habits and manners
of the Chinese “unerring evidences of the national character”.118 As
we read in the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Euro-
peans should be cautious in judging on the national character of the
Like other nations, therefore, the Chinese character has its bright as well
as its dark side; and if we find the latter to be the most prominent, it
should be remembered that it is drawn chiefly by foreigners, and princi-
pally by those who have only visited one of their out-ports, distant many
hundred leagues from the seat of government.119
In the Encyclopédie des gens du monde120 and in Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon we find a similar approach: for a description of the character
of the Chinese (‘Volks-Character’ in the German original), Europe-
ans relied on travel accounts. Travellers’ individual observations often
show their bitter experiences and disappointment, however, as some
principal features are to be found in most of the travelogues, there may
be a grain of truth in these reports. Most of these principal features
were affirmed by the reports of Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (1803–
1851). In the Conversations-Lexikon we read that Gützlaff ’s published
accounts of China were balanced except for matters of religion.121

English translation given by John Barrow, Travels in China, containing descrip-
tions, observations, and comparisons, made and collected in the course of a short resi-
dence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-Min-Yuen, and on a subsequent journey through
the country from Pekin to Canton, in which it is attempted to appreciate the rank that
this extraordinary empire may be considered to hold in the scale of civilized nations
(London: Cadell and Davies, 1804), 26.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 571.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 587.
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 730.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 240.
134 chapter three

The process of creating and disseminating stereotypes took place at

a very early stage of European contacts with China.122 Most of the ste-
reotypes concerning the national character of the Chinese soon found
their way into works of general reference. Adaptations of these works
in different languages paved the way for the spread of such prejudices
throughout Europe. An early example for this practice can be found
in Moréri’s historical dictionary, where the Chinese were labelled as
‘proper’, ‘decent’, ‘polite’, ‘industrious’ but ‘furiously avaricious and
jealous’.123 This description prevailed not only in the subsequent edi-
tions of Moréri but also in English- and German-language encyclopae-
dias throughout the first half of the eighteenth century.124 As pointed
out in the Encyclopédie nouvelle on the eve of the so-called ‘opening’
of China, the industriousness of the Chinese had become proverbial
among Europeans.125
Apart from superstitions prevailing among the Chinese and their
national pride, Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon mentioned a number of
positive attributes under the headword ‘Sineser, Sinenser, oder Chi-
neser’: the wisdom of the Chinese may be seen from the nice order in
all their affairs, their politeness, and their serious character. They are
experienced in their moral maxims and the fathers take care of the
education of their children.126
In its section on political economy, the Encyclopédie Méthodique
pointed out that there is no nation more laborious than the Chinese,
no nation more moderate (sobre) and more industrious than them.127
The Allgemeinnütziges Geschicht- und Staaten-Wörterbuch (i.e.
Historical and geographical dictionary for general use) published in

On seventeenth-century European impressions of the character of the Chinese
(and on efforts to distinguish between Chinese and Manchu) see Lach and Van Kley,
Asia in the Making of Europe. III/4, 1702 f.
Moréri, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (1683), 881 (s. v. ‘Chine’): “propres, civils, politiques,
industrieux, mais furieusement avares et jaloux.”
See for example An Universal, Historical, Geographical, Chronological and Poeti-
cal Dictionary, vol. 1, s.v. ‘China’ (“The Men are Civil, Wellbred, Politick, and Indus-
trious, but insupportably Jealous and Covetous [. . .].”); Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1561;
Coetlogon, An Universal History of Arts and Sciences, vol. 1 (1745) 1153. For an
assessment of European discourses on the politeness of the Chinese see Osterham-
mel, Entzauberung, 344–346.
Encyclopédie nouvelle, vol. 3 (1841) 558.—See also Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon
II 3 (1850) 1042 (s. v. ‘Phukian’).
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1613 (s. v. ‘Sineser, Sinenser, Chineser’).
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie politique et diplomatique 1 (1784) 549 (s. v.
canonizing china 135

1794 in Vienna described the ‘national character’ of the Chinese as

‘very bright’, ‘polite’, ‘laborious’, and ‘fond of scholarship, arts and
The accounts published by various members of the Macartney
embassy to China changed the general mood in the European percep-
tion of the ‘national character’ of the Chinese. Especially the account
of John Barrow seems to have been of strong influence on early nine-
teenth century European images of China. Based on his own obser-
vations made during his stay at Canton in 1805/06, Adam Johann
Krusenstern (1770–1846), captain of the Russian navy, referred not
only to the account of Barrow but also to the negative presentation
of China and the Chinese in the Recherches by de Pauw.129 For its
presentation of the ‘national character’ of the Chinese, the Neues Rhei-
nisches Conversations-Lexicon referred to the accounts of Barrow and
About the year 1800, a fundamental change in European views of
the manners and customs of the Chinese began to take place. What
at the first glance seemed to be a more balanced account of the Chi-
nese than reported by the Jesuits proved to be a disparaging presenta-
tion of the Chinese. In the seventh edition of Brockhaus as well as in
Rheinisches Conversations-Lexicon we read, that the Chinese have the
usual virtues and vices of a servile (sklavisch), skillful (kunstfleißig) and
trading people.131
Unfavourable European opinions of the merchants of Guangzhou
seem to have prevailed since the middle of the eighteenth century.
Robinet’s Dictionnaire universel distinguished between the inhabitants
of big cities and the sea ports on the one hand and the people living
in the rural parts of China on the other. Concerning the former, the
foreign observer may be stunned by their ‘cowardness’ (lâcheté), their
‘bad faith’ (de leur mauvaise foi) and their ‘greed’ (de leur avarice).132

Allgemeinnütziges Geschicht- und Staaten-Wörterbuch [. . .], vol. 1 (Vienna:
Alberti 1794), 507.
Adam Johann von Krusenstern, Reise um die Welt in den Jahren 1803, 1804,
1805 und 1806 auf Befehl Seiner Kaiserlichen Majestät Alexander des Ersten auf den
Schiffen Nadeshda und Newa, 3 vols. (St. Petersburg: Schnoor, 1810–1812). On China
see ibid., vol. 2 (1811), 295–382 (chapters 10 and 11), on Krusenstern’s praise of
Barrow and de Pauw see ibid., 323.
Neues Rheinisches Conversations-Lexicon 3 (1832) 332.
Brockhaus, 7th ed., vol. 2 (1827) 623; Neues Rheinisches Conversations-Lexicon
3 (1832) 332.
Robinet 11 (1779) 647.
136 chapter three

Another early example, quoted by the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,

was the travelogue published by the Swedish clergyman and botanist
Peter Osbeck (1723–1805). The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia presented
the most likely explanation for “the contempt testified by the Chinese
towards foreign traders” in pointing out that this “is no doubt greatly
confirmed by the knavery and deceit, which are sometimes practised
upon their own people, by the merchants of Europe.” Bad experiences
of the Chinese with English merchants who tried to sell them “gaudy
watches” and “similar articles of indifferent workmanship” had been
noted by John Barrow in his Travels in China. The Edinburgh Encyclo-
paedia also mentions the mutual contempt between English and Chi-
nese merchants under the headings ‘Commercial tricks of the Chinese’
and ‘English tricks.’133
In describing the ‘national character’ of the Chinese, the Penny
Cyclopaedia made use of the writings of Robert Morrison and stressed
his eminent knowledge on China and his life-long efforts towards a
better understanding of China and the Chinese. Writing for the Penny
Cyclopaedia, John Francis Davis pointed out that it would be “unrea-
sonable to infer the whole character of the nation from the unfavour-
able aspect in which it appears at Canton, a trading seaport, as to form
an estimate from our national character in England from an experi-
ence equally limited and disadvantageous.”134
The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed out that the higher officials
at Guangzhou “have conceived a rooted prejudice against the British,
which may not easily be removed.”135
One of the stereotypes usually mentioned in European descriptions
of the Chinese referred to their skill in imitation. As early as in 1676,
Navarrete wrote that the people of Guangdong province “have coun-
terfeited several things so exactly that they sell them inland for goods
brought from Europe.”136 The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana pointed
out that “those nations which are least remarkable for original inven-
tions” would succeed “most readily in arts which are merely imitative”
and referred to European reports on the Poles and Russians “each of

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 301.
Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 78 f. See also English Encyclopaedia 2 (1802)
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 237.
Quoted in Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III/4, 1692.
canonizing china 137

whom have a peculiar aptitude at seizing the accent and niceties of a

foreign language.”137
The Penny Cyclopaedia provided a summary of positive and nega-
tive elements:
The advantageous features of their character, as mildness, docility,
industry, peaceableness, subordination and respect for the aged, are
accompanied by the vices of insincerity and falsehood, with their conse-
quences, mutual distrust and jealousy. Lyeing and deceit, being generally
the refuge of the weak and timid, have always been held among us as
disgraceful vices, while the Chinese at any time, do not attach the same
degree of disgrace to deceit, and least of all when it is practised towards
an European.138
In his presentation of China written for the Encyclopédie du dix-
neuvième siècle, Édouard Biot only mentioned positive characteristics
of the ‘national’ or ‘moral’ character of the Chinese.139 In the early
nineteenth-century at the latest, most other encyclopaedias provided
overviews on good and bad features of the moral character of the
Chinese. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia highlighted these features as
it placed the following subheadings in the margins of its presentation
of ‘character and manners’ of the Chinese—mentioning mendacity,
inhumanity, vindictive temper, licentiousness, sobriety, and vanity. At
the end of the section on the character and manner of the Chinese, we
read that these words only would describe the ‘prevailing character’
of the Chinese. According to the accounts given by the members of
the British embassy of 1792/93 “there are not wanting (though in a
smaller proportion than in other countries,) individuals possessed of
real humanity, integrity, and disinterested minds.”140
In the Encyclopédie des gens du monde, in Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon,
and in the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the alleged
main features of the ‘national character’ of the Chinese were simply
enumerated—the following table shows the notions chosen in the
respective languages to present the ‘national character’ of the Chinese
in selected French, German, and English encyclopaedias.141

Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 585.
Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 79.—In dealing with the commerce of China,
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 580 pointed out that: “The Chinese
are rarely to be trusted where numbers are concerned; [. . .].”
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 457.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 308 f.
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 730; Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd
ed., vol. 6 (1841) 420; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 587 f. (as may
138 chapter three

Encyclopédie des gens du Pierer, Universal– Encyclopaedia

monde Lexikon, 2nd ed. Britannica, 7th ed.
froid kalt cold
rusé listig cunning
méfiant – distrustful
cupide – covetous
– bestechlich – [bribable, corrupt]
fourbe betrügerisch deceitful
chicaneur – dastardly
– – quarrelsome
vindicatif rachsüchtig vindictive
– feig timid
– falsch – [treacherous]
– wollüstig und unmäßig – [lustful and
– unerträglich national- – [inordinately proud of
stolz their nation]
– festhaltend am Alten – [clinging to traditions]
piété filiale – honouring his father
and mother
respect pour la vieillesse – – [respect for the aged]
sobre – sober
labourieux fleißig industrious
exact geschickt exactness and
très affable höflich mild and affable
– gehorsam obeying the commands
of his superior

In 1834, the Damen-Conversations-Lexicon (General Dictionary for

Women) pointed out, that in Europe the word ‘Chinese’ has got the
meaning of ‘peculiar’, ‘strange’, ‘pedantic’ and ‘funny’ (“seltsam, sonder-
bar, pedantisch, komisch” in the German original).142 In this sense, the
German writer and poet Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) had presented

be seen from a note in the Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 719 the article on
China has been published in the early 1830s). In the table above the English render-
ings for terms given in Pierer or in the Encyclopédie des gens du monde, but not in
the Encyclopaedia Britannica are added in brackets and set in italics.—Similar lists
also have been included in Brockhaus (8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 607, ibid., 9th ed., vol. 3
(1843) 385) in Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon 3 (1847) 296 and in the Encyclopédie
Moderne 6 (1825) 567 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 130).
Damen-Conversations-Lexicon, 1st ed. (1834), vol. 2, p. 361.
canonizing china 139

his characterization of China and the Chinese in Die romantische

Schule, a pamphlet on the developments in German literature from
1800 to 1830 (published in 1835). This text, including a severe critique
of his compatriot and fellow writer Clemens Brentano (1778–1842),
opens with a wide range of stereotypes usually ascribed to China and
the Chinese.143 For England and France there exist similar approaches
to widely spread stereotypes concerning China: With Life in China.
The Porcelain Tower; or, Nine Stories of China (London 1841), Thomas
Henry Sealy (1811–1848) published “a book purporting to provide
more information on the country, but more likely intended as a great
‘send-up’ of the entire Chinese nation.”144 The French caricaturist and
painter Honoré Daumier (1808–1879) published his ‘Album comique’
Voyage en Chine (Voyage in China) consisting of 32 lithographs.145
In dealing with a repertoire of stereotypes, encyclopaedias sometimes
presented a comparison of the good and bad traits in the ‘national’
or ‘moral character’. After referring to the influence of “ceremonious
constraint” exerted on the Chinese people, which makes it “unfair to
look for sincerity, candour, or confidence,” the Encyclopaedia Edinensis
had the following on this subject:
But the moral qualities of this people are represented not to be of a nega-
tive description, but to exhibit many shades and degrees of positive wick-
edness. They are said to be at once proud and mean, grave, and frivolous,
excessively refined, and grossly indelicate; they are accused of jealousy,
hypocrisy, and falsehood; of bitter malice and vindictive tempers.146
Some years later, the Damen-Conversations-Lexicon made use of an
interesting stylistic device that portrayed China as a country of contra-
dictions in juxtaposing positive and negative elements of the supposed
‘national character’ of the Chinese. It contrasted the moral philosophy
of the Chinese with their idolatry, their sense of honour with their

Heinrich Heine, Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe der Werke. Vol. 8,1, ed.
Manfred Windfuhr (Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe, 1979), 199.
James Hayes, “Canton Symposium. The World of the Old China Trade. The
Locales and the People,” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Soci-
ety 43 (2003), 47.—For bibliographical details see Lust, Western Books on China, 293
(no. 1283).
This series of 32 lithographs was published in the French satirical magazine
Le Charivari between December 1843 and June 1845. See “Series Details” and “Back-
ground Details” in the Daumier Register, DR 1189–1220 http://www.daumier-register
.org/werkview.php?key=1189 (accessed: 29 April 2010).
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 425.
140 chapter three

corporal punishments, and their tender love poems with the inferior
position of women in Chinese society.147
Another of the stereotypes Europeans tended to assign to the Chi-
nese concerned the supposed lack of hygiene. While the Encyclopaedia
Edinensis labels the Chinese as ‘a frowsy race’,148 the Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia has the following on the ‘general filthiness’ of the Chinese:
They [i.e. the Chinese] are by no means a cleanly people, either in their
persons or dress. They seldom change their under garments for the pur-
pose of washing them; never employ the bath, either cold or warm; make
no use of soap, and scarcely ever wash their bodies; and even the interior
wrappers of the ladies feet are allowed to remain, as long as they will
hold together.149
In Ersch/Gruber it was pointed out that the emperors and the nobles
of the Chinese Empire were fond of the numerous warm springs. As
the best travelogues would remain silent on the subject it may be sup-
posed that the lower classes only very rarely would enjoy a bath.150
Quite usually, encyclopaedias combined various stereotypes that
were perpetuated since the times of early modern European observers.
For instance, the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana combined the common
stereotypes of the ‘dirty’ Chinese on the one hand and of the alleged
preference of the Chinese for food regarded as disgusting by Europeans:
Want of sensiblity and cleanliness are among the most glaring defects
of the Chinese. Their dress is seldom changed; their persons are more
rarely washed; scraps of paper serve for pocket handkerchiefs, and dirty
fingers are wiped on their dirty sleeves. At night they scarcely undress at
all; their clothes therefore harbour innumerable tribes of vermin, which
they pick off and crack between the teeth with the utmost sang-froid.151
These repeatedly presented enumerations of stereotypes worked to
simplify European images of China. This can be seen best from the
articles on ethnology published in Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon and
in Krünitz’ encyclopaedia. Meyer presented widespread stereotypes
relating to China and the Chinese in the light of China’s representation
on the occasion of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of

Damen-Conversations-Lexicon, 1st ed (1834), vol. 2, p. 361 f.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 406.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 308.
Ersch/Gruber I 7 (1821) 54 (s. v. ‘Bad’).
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (1845) 572. See also Edinburgh Encyclopae-
dia, vol. 6, p. 308; Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 552 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 122).
canonizing china 141

All Nations (1851) held at London.152 In 1855, Krünitz’ encyclopae-

dia pointed out that subjection had led to a intellectual and moral
degradation of the Chinese people—adding that the Chinese would
be known everywhere as the “most deceitful and most wily people
on earth.”153

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 14 (1853) 161 (s. v. ‘Welt-Industrieausstellung’).
Krünitz 227 (1855) 437 (s. v. ‘Völkerkunde’). For German precolonial discourses
on China see George Steinmetz, “ ‘The Devil’s Handwriting’: Precolonial Discourse,
Ethnographic Acuity, and Cross-Identification in German Colonialism,” Comparative
Studies in Society and History 45, no. 1 (Jan. 2003), 73–77.


4.1 Defining China: What’s in a Name?

In describing China, European observers had been well aware of the

fact that the name they used for the country represents an exonym
and thus originally had been unknown to the Chinese. Throughout
our period of consideration, European encyclopaedias regularly listed
Chinese names for the country described. They also added exonyms
for China used by the other East Asian and Southeast Asian people.1
In the opening paragraph to its article on ‘China’, Rees’ Cyclopaedia
gave a concise presentation of the name of the country:
The word China is well known to the people whom we call Chinese; but
the most learned among them never apply it to themselves or their coun-
try. They wish to be described as the people of Han, or of some other
illustrious family, by the memory of whose actions they flatter their
national pride; and their country they call Chum-cue [i.e. Zhongguo],
or the central kingdom, representing it in their symbolical characters
by a parallelogram exactly bisected; at other times they distinguish it by
words that mean all that is valuable upon earth.2
Before the nineteenth century, when Zhongguo 中國—the expression
referred to in the quotation above—emerged as the name for the coun-
try there existed numerous other expressions. During the Western
Zhou 西周 (1045–771 BC), the term Zhongguo referred to all ‘inside
the kingdom’ (guozhong 國中 in the sense of guonei 國内). Afterwards
the term was used to refer to some of the feudal states in the middle
and lower Huang He (Yellow River) region. In the Confucian classics
the term Zhongguo represents a “concept to differentiate the Huaxia
[華夏, literally ‘glorious and extensive’ [which] originally referred to a

See e.g. Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 585 (new ed. vol. 9, col. 142); Encyclopédie
Catholique, vol. 7 (1844) 269.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4O2r (s. v. ‘China’).—Italics according to the original.
144 chapter four

group of people living along the Yellow River] from the barbarians.”3
During the third and fourth centuries AD, the terms Zhongguo and
Huaxia were abbreviated to Zhonghua 中華, an expression that soon
came into general use.4
As we may see from Johann Jacob Hofmann’s Lexicon Universale,
the denominations of China as Zhongguo (Middle Kingdom; trans-
lated by Hofmann as medium regnum) and Zhonghua (translated as
medius hortus) were known to Europeans by the end of the seven-
teenth century.5 In 1743, Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon mentioned the
terms Zhongguo, Zhonghua, Da Qing Guo 大清國 (Realm of the
Great Qing), and also Taipingguo 太平國 (Realm of Great Peace)—a
term that did not occur in any other of the encyclopaedias inspected.6
For one and a half century information on Chinese denominations
for China had been derived from the writings of (mainly Jesuit) mis-
sionaries. English-language encyclopaedias usually only mentioned the
term Zhongguo.7 In the Encyclopédie Nouvelle, Pauthier mentions the
terms Zhongguo and Tianxia 天下, the latter rendering as ‘le Dessous
du Ciel’ (i.e. ‘All under Heaven’).8 In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième
siècle, Édouard Biot (1803–1850) only introduced French translations
for the denominations Zhongguo (‘royaume du milieu’, i.e. Middle
Kingdom) and Zhonghua (‘fleur du milieu’, i.e. flower of the middle).9
Presumably due to the beginnings of serious scholarly studies of the
Chinese language, this list was continuously enlarged. In 1841, the sec-
ond edition of Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon presented eight different Chi-
nese denominations for China (Zhongguo, Zhonghua, Da Qing Guo,
Tianxia, Sihai 四海 (lit. ‘Four Seas’), Zhendan 震旦 (i.e. the abbrevi-
ated phonetical transcription for the Sanskrit ‘Cinasthana’, referring
to the Qin dynasty, third century BC), Dongtu 東土 (lit. ‘Land in the
East’), and Tianchao 天朝 (lit. ‘Celestial Dynasty’).10 Four years later,

Wilkinson, Chinese History, 132 (Box 2).—On these early concepts of Chinese-
ness see Chen Zhi, “From Exclusive Xia to Inclusive Zhu-Xia: The Conceptualisation
of Chinese Identity in Early China,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 3rd series, 14,
no. 3 (Nov. 2004), 185–205.
Wilkinson, Chinese History, 132 (Box 2).
Johann Jacob Hofmann, Lexicon universale, 3rd ed. (1698), vol. 1, p. 834a.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1556.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 206.
Encyclopédie Nouvelle 3 (1837) 524.—On the term tianxia see Cohen, Introduc-
tion to Research in Chinese Source Materials, 474.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 452.
Pierer, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 420.
geography 145

Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon listed seven denominations offering

a German translation of each of the Chinese terms—comparing the
term tianxia to the orbis Romanus of Ancient Rome.11
Encyclopaedias eagerly presented and perpetuated early European
views and speculations on the ‘true’ meaning of some these terms.
Most of them commented on the term Zhongguo (‘Middle Kingdom’).
In the English Encyclopaedia we read that the country “probably owes
its name to a Chinese word, signifying middle, from a notion the
natives had that their country lay in the middle of the world.”12 Con-
cerning the names of China, Wilhelm Schott (1802–1889) referred to
the works of Julius Klaproth. Apart from Asia polyglotta (1823), he
also mentioned Klaproth’s article on the subject published in the tenth
volume of the Journal Asiatique.13 Schott pointed out that the term
Zhongguo is derived from the ‘old illusion’, that the earth is a quad-
rangular area surrounded by four seas. China, situated in the middle
of this area, would be “the most splendid empire, the flower of all the
In the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, James Brewster also discussed the
ancient imagination behind this Chinese concept:
[. . .] they formerly imagined, that it was situated in the centre of the
earth, and that all other countries lay scattered around their empire in
the form of small islands. In later times, they have indeed, acquired a
more correct geography; but so inveterately do they adhere to ancient
opinions, and especially to whatever flatters their national vanity, that
they still continue to express themselves in this erroneous manner, and
to preserve unaltered every sentiment and expression of their great phi-
losopher Confucius.15
Although Brewster admitted, that the Chinese had made some prog-
ress in their geographical knowledge, he linked the information on
the name of the country to well-established European stereotypes and

Meyer, Conversations-Lexicon I 7,2 (1845) 231.
English Encyclopaedia 2 (1802) 493.
[Julius] Klaproth, “Sur le nom de la Chine”, Nouveau Journal Asiatique 10 (1827),
53–61. For further nineteenth-century studies on this subject see Cordier, Bibliotheca
Sinica, col. 357 f.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 168 n. 7: “gründet sich auf den alten Wahn, daß unsere
Erde eine viereckige, von vier Meeren umgebene Fläche sey, in deren Mitte das edel-
ste Reich, die Blume aller übrigen, d. h. China, liege.” For a similar presentation see
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 231. On the term sihai (four seas) see above
p. 144 and Wilkinson, Chinese History, 710.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 206.
146 chapter four

prejudices referring not only to China as a static and unchanging soci-

ety but also to the pride of the Chinese. Not only works of general
reference implied
that the Chinese were unique in regarding their country as central.
Nothing could be further from the truth: the ancient Greeks, Romans,
Indians, Japanese, Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs all saw their countries as
the center of the world—but only the Chinese came to use the concept
for the name.16
Encyclopaedias usually also referred to the medieval and early mod-
ern European denominations of China.17 Under its headword ‘Catay’,
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon pointed out that this term referred to the
six northern provinces of China (i.e. Zhili, Shandong, Henan, Sich-
uan, Shaanxi and Shanxi), while the term ‘Mansi’ (sic) would have
been applied to the other nine provinces of (Southern) China. In addi-
tion, Zedler notes that in earlier times Europeans thought that ‘Catay’
is a kingdom situated in ‘Great Tartary’. Only in the course of time
Europeans discovered that all accounts of Cathay had described the
six northern provinces of China and that the city of ‘Cambalu’ is that
of Peking. References given in this article include Marco Polo, Bento
de Goís Iornada al Cathay, Martini’s atlas of China, Andreas Müller’s
Disquisitio geographica & historica de Chataja (Berlin 1671), and the
Histoire du commerce et de la navigation des anciens (Paris 1716) pub-
lished by the French scholar Pierre Daniel Huet (1630–1721).18
In its closing paragraph on ‘China’, the Penny Cyclopaedia points
out that before the arrival of the Europeans China “was frequently
divided into two or three states.”19 In its information on Confucius, it
mentioned that
when Confucius began his mission, there seem to have been as many
independent kings in China as there were in England under the Saxon
heptarchy. From the vast extent of the country, each of these states or
kingdoms was probably as large as all England put together.20

Wilkinson, Chinese History, 132.
For the presentation of the various names for China in seventeenth-century
European first-hand accounts of the empire see Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Mak-
ing of Europe III/4, 1688.
Zedler 5 (1733) col. 1459/1460 (s. v. ‘Catay’). On Müller’s Disquisitio see Cordier,
Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 29 f, for the dissemination of Goís’ report on his journey from
India to China in early seventeenth-century Europe see the titles listed in ibid., col.
Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 83 (s. v. ‘China’).
Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 445 (s. v. ‘Confucius’).
geography 147

The Penny Cyclopaedia linked the different names that had been used
to denominate the northern and the southern parts of China to the
repeated divisions of the Empire. The central Asiatic neighbours had
called the northern parts of the empire Cathay.21
According to Zedler, the term Cathay had been used by Inner Asian
Muslims and by the Tartars—according to Ersch/Gruber, the Mongols
and Russians had adopted the term ‘Cathay’ for China in their respec-
tive languages, the inhabitants of India usually called the southern
parts of the empire “Cin”.22 Relying on Klaproth’s publications on the
subject, Schott wrote in Ersch/Gruber that the term ‘China’ may have
been used for the first time by the people living east of the Ganges,
possibly derived from one of the dynasties Qin 秦, Jin 晉, or Jin 金.
Schott also mentioned the Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Aramaic ren-
derings of this term.23
Contrary to the term ‘Cathay’, the term ‘Mangi’ is nowadays com-
pletely out of use. Under the headword ‘Mangi’, contributed by Jau-
court, the Encyclopédie points out, that this term had been applied
to the southern parts of China in a like manner as ‘Cathay’ had been
applied to the northern parts.24 In Zedler we read that ‘Mangi’ referred
to continental Southeast Asia.25
European works on universal geography as well as encyclopaedias
discussed the Manchu conquest of China. Rather soon it became quite
common to distinguish between China proper (i.e. China until the end
of the Ming) and the Chinese Empire (i.e., the incorporation of ‘Tar-
tary’ as seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors put it). Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon pointed out that this incorporation was quite
important.26 Concerning the question of the incorporation of Manchu
and Mongol territories Rees’ Cyclopaedia remained quite undecided:
“though by transferring the seat of empire to Peking, and by adopting
the Chinese language, manners and customs, Tartary seems rather to
be incorporated with China, than the conqueror of it.”27 In referring
to Khubilai Khan, Wilhelm Schott pointed out that all former foreign
dynasties that ruled China also had adopted Chinese manners and

Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 83 (s. v. ‘China’).—Similar explanations of these
two terms in Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 231.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 168 n. 7.
Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 19. (s. v. ‘Mangi’).
Zedler 19 (1739) col. 952 (s. v. ‘Mangi’).
Ibid., 37 (1743) col. 1557 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, [fol. 4O3r] (s. v. ‘China’).
148 chapter four

customs. According to Schott, this refinement soon led to the decay

of the Yuan.28
To explain the difference between “China” and “Chinese Empire”
(and admitting that the comparison would be rather weak), the first
edition of the Staats-Lexicon initiated by Rotteck and Welcker referred
to European history: China had to be distinguished from the Chinese
Empire in a like manner as mid-nineteenth-century Prussia has to be
distinguished from the early Prussian kingdom.29

4.2 Extent, Boundaries and Political Geography

Extent and boundaries of China have been described by Europeans

since their ‘rediscovery’ of the East Asian Empire in the sixteenth cen-
tury. Although the Jesuits greatly had improved European knowledge
on the geography of China, data on the territorial extent of China were
ignored or remained rather vague for a long time. This was pointed
out in the article on China in the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia
We can easily trace the boundaries and mark the extreme limits of these
two great empires [i.e. China and Russia], by parallels of latitude and
meridional lines of longitude; but when we come to reduce them to
square miles, or speak of their contents in acres, the mind is bewildered
by the magnitude of the numbers required to express them, and forms
but an indistinct idea of their superficial extent.30
Therefore, the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica pro-
vided information on the boundaries of the Chinese Empire.
Much more detailed data may be found in the Penny Cyclopaedia,
which not only presented data based on Staunton’s account of the
Macartney embassy (and referring to another source which remained
unnamed) but also a comparison to the territorial extent of the British
isles (“an area more than eleven times as large as that of the British

Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 174 n. 58.
Rotteck/Welcker, Staats-Lexicon, 1st ed., vol. 14 (1843) 521 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 548.
Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 72.
geography 149

In Ersch/Gruber, Schott wrote that China would be at least six times

larger than Germany. He added degrees of longitude and latitude to
show the territorial extent.32
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon presented four different data con-
cerning the area of the Chinese Empire, ranging from 60,000 to 70,000
(German) square miles.33
In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Biot supplied additional
information on the territorial extent of China: 2,100 kilometres from
north to south and 2,400 kilometres from west to east. He added that—
according to the map drawn by the missionaries at the beginning of
the eighteenth century—China (Proper) comprises 3,3 million square
kilometres being six times as large as France.34
Early modern European reports on the geography of China usually
treated the physical geography of the country following the admin-
istrative division. Usually this description starts with a lengthy enu-
meration of neighbouring countries and adjacent areas, followed by a
presentation of the physical and political geography of China. Ency-
clopaedias described the shape of China as defined by its borders as
immense and almost circular.35 This definition, which can be found as
early as in the Nouveaux mémoires published by Le Comte in 1696,
remained in use until the early nineteenth century. At that time, the
territorial expansion of Qing China that that taken place in the eight-
eenth century was taken into account in works of general knowledge.
From then on, most entries of encyclopaedias analyzed for this study
began to distinguish between the ancient and the then present extent
of China and the Chinese Empire.36
In his introductory remarks on the subject written for the Ency-
clopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Biot pointed out that the territo-
rial divisions of China have changed considerably in the course of
time. Extent and name of the provinces had been modified in a very
sensible way.37

Ersch/Gruber 21 (1830) 160.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 231.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 455.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1557, Encyclopédie nouvelle 3 (1841) 524 (‘une aire immense
et presque circulaire’).
Encyclopédie nouvelle 3 (1841) 524: (‘Cette ancienne Chine [. . .] La Chine actuelle
[. . .]’).
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 455.
150 chapter four

In presenting the administrative division of China, eighteenth-

and nineteenth-century Europeans had been less sensible. Like other
works, encyclopaedias perpetuated information provided by mid-
seventeenth century Jesuits. In his Novus Atlas Sinensis, Martini
described the fifteen provinces of late Ming/early Qing China. When
compiling his China . . . illustrata and writing on the fifteen provinces
of China38 Kircher closely followed the description of Martini. Shortly
before Kircher got the imprimatur for his quasi-encyclopaedic over-
view on European knowledge on China (1664), Qing authorities cre-
ated new administrative units by dividing very large provinces. The
province of Jiangnan was divided into Jiangsu and Anhui (1662) and
the province of Huguang was divided into Hubei and Hunan.
Due to the great success of the works of Martini and Kircher,
the European ‘republic of letters’ largely remained unaware of these
changes in the political geography of China. As a consequence, ency-
clopaedic dictionaries perpetuated the scheme of the fifteen provinces
of China until the closing years of the eighteenth century. Thus, this
presentation of the administrative division of China may be labelled
as an example par excellence for the perpetuation of outdated infor-
mation contained in encyclopaedias. Only occasionally eighteenth-
century European encyclopaedias mention more than fifteen provinces,
most of them including the Liaodong 遼東 area (Southern Manchuria)
among the provinces (only in the late nineteenth century, Inner Asia
began to be organized into provinces; Manchuria and Mongolia fol-
lowed in the early twentieth century),—the 1757 edition of Hübner
even started its enumeration with Liaodong.39 Presumably following a
similar source, the Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences mentions
that China “is usually divided into sixteen provinces.”40
Within this perpetuation of outdated information the compilers of
encyclopaedic dictionaries created varying schemes in the enumera-
tion of the provinces of China. Beginning with Moréri and Hofmann,
nearly all encyclopaedias inspected contain a list of the provinces. An
exception of this was the New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and
Sciences (first ed. 1754, second ed. 1764). Under the headword ‘China’

Kircher, China . . . illustrata, 3.
Johann Hübners Neu-vermehrtes und verbessertes Reales Staats- Zeitungs- und
Conversations-Lexicon [. . .] (Regensburg/Vienna: Bader, 1757), 261 f.
Temple Henry Croker, The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, vol. 1 (Lon-
don 1764) fol. 5 Iv (s. v. ‘China’).
geography 151

we find no list of the provinces; it is mentioned, that the provinces of

China will be presented in their appropriate place according to the
Encyclopaedias obviously followed different sources in enumerat-
ing the provinces of China. Only the compilers of the Dictionnaire
de Trévoux (see the 1771 edition) as well as Carl Günther Ludovici in
his economic dictionary presumably may have adopted the scheme of
Martini’s atlas.42
Other patterns developed for the enumeration of provinces by
eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century encyclopaedias followed the
geographical position of the provinces: Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon
starts with Guangdong province and the other coastal provinces up to
Zhili and continues with a counter-clockwise enumeration of the inte-
rior provinces of China starting with Shaanxi and ending with Henan.43
From the second to the sixth edition inclusively, the Encyclopaedia
Britannica arranged the provinces clockwise starting with Shaanxi. In
all these editions of the Britannica, Huguang Province is not rendered
“Huquang”, as it had been common throughout eighteenth century
geographical literature, but in the erroneous form of “Huquand”.44
European encyclopaedias perceived the changes in the administra-
tive division of China introduced during the early years of the Kangxi
reign (1662–1722) only with a considerable time lag. The replacement
of the old order started during the last years of the eighteenth century.
Based on the German translation of a Russian treatise on the Da Qing
yitong zhi of 1764,45 the Allgemeines Geschicht- und Staaten-Wörterbuch

A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences; Comprehending All The
Branches of Useful Knowledge [. . .]. By a society of Gentlemen, vol. 1 (London: Printed
for W. Owen, 1754), 567 f. (s. v. ‘China’).
Dictionnaire de Trévoux, 1771 ed., vol. 2, p. 543 f, Ludovici, Eröffnete Academie
2 (1753) 315.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1557.
See Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1907, English Encyclopaedia
2 (1802) 493.
“Kurze Beschreibung der Städte, Einwohner u. s. w. des Chinesischen Reichs, wie
auch aller Reiche, Königreiche und Fürstenthümer, welche den Chinesern bekannt
sind; aus der unter der Regierung des jetzigen Chans Kj’an’ Lun zu Pekin in Chinesis-
cher Sprache gedruckten Chinesischen Reichs-Geographie ausgezogen von dem Herrn
Secretair Leontiew. Aus dem Ruszischen des Herrn Secretairs Leontiew ins Deutsche
übersetzt von M. Christian Heinrich Hase [. . .],” Magazin für die neue Historie und
Geographie 14 (1780).
152 chapter four

mentioned the administrative division of China into eighteen prov-

inces adding that a division into fifteen provinces is “not unusual”.46
The very slow process of updating information on the administra-
tive division of China becomes evident from remarks in encyclopaedias
published in the early nineteenth century: In presenting information
on Huguang Province, the Cyclopaedia edited by Abraham Rees sepa-
rately mentions the number of cities and towns for the northern and
the southern parts of the province without introducing the names of
Hubei and Hunan.47
The inconsistencies in the European perception of the administra-
tive division of China are probably mirrored best in the Dictionnaire
de la conversation et de la lecture where we read of fifteen as well as of
eighteen provinces. Hunan, Guizhou and Gansu were omitted in the
enumeration of the provinces.48
In 1845, about 180 years after Jiangnan and Huguang had been
divided into two provinces each, Édouard Biot in the Encyclopédie du
dix-neuvième siècle still spoke of “new divisions”.49 In other encyclo-
paedias we find similar strategies to justify the considerable time lag in
the perception of China’s political geography.50 Following John Fran-
cis Davis’ presentation, the author of the entry on Zhili Province in the
Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste pointed out,
that at the time of Du Halde China still had been divided into fifteen
provinces. The ‘new’ administrative division of China had been imple-
mented after the publication of the Jesuit maps of the empire.51
Without any remarks on the changed political divisions of China,
Brockhaus’ Conversations-Lexikon, Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon, and
Meyer’s Großes Conversations-Lexikon gave lists of the eighteen prov-
inces of China—Pierer (2nd ed.) and Brockhaus (8th ed.) numbered
Liaodong as the nineteenth province of China. In its seventh edition
(1827) Brockhaus still presented the fifteen provinces of China. The
update in the eighth edition was based on information derived from

Allgemeines Geschicht- und Staatenwörterbuch (Vienna: Alberti 1794), vol. 1,
p. 508 (s. v. ‘China’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 18, s. v. ‘Hou-quang’ and ibid, vol. 19, s. v. ‘Kiang-nan’.
Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture 14 (1834) 114 (fifteen provinces)
and 128 (eighteen provinces).
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 455 (s. v. ‘Chine’).—See also Ency-
clopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 275 (division territoriale nouvelle de la Chine).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 17 (1850) 1079 (s. v. ‘Kiannan’) points out that
Jiangnan ‘now’ is divided in Jiangsu (the eastern part) and Anhui (the western part).
Ersch/Gruber III 19 (1844) 399 n. 2 (s. v. ‘Petschili’).
geography 153

the works of Rémusat.52 In 1835, the Encyclopédie des gens du monde

spoke of ‘18 or 19 provinces’, referring to a variety of sources, such
as the Asiatic Journal and descriptions of China given by Schott (for
Ersch/Gruber) and by Rémusat. While Schott gave the number of
provinces as sixteen, Rémusat had spoken of nineteen provinces, pre-
senting them with ‘somewhat different’ names.53 In its entry on the
armies of the different nations, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon listed
the provinces of China and referred to the meaning of each of their
In mid-nineteenth-century, encyclopaedias contained information
on the changing names of Chinese cities in the course of history. In
referring to Biot’s Dictionnaire, the ninth edition of Brockhaus men-
tioned that due to these changes the historical geography of China
seemed rather confusing.55
Eighteenth-century European scholars—and with them most of the
works of general reference—freely applied to China various theories
on climates that partly were the legacy of European antiquity and
partly had originated in Renaissance times. Nineteenth-century ency-
clopaedias had a more sophisticated approach in pointing out that the
climate of China varies considerably according to its extent and its
surface. In the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read
that due to the vast extent of the empire “it is impossible that either
the climate or soil should be alike in all places.”56 According to the
Encyclopédie nouvelle, the winters in Northern China would resemble
those of Siberia while the summers in Southern China are like those
in India.57
Encyclopaedias usually mentioned the fertility of the soil. Accord-
ing to the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “all travellers
agree in this respect, and make encomiums on the extent and beauty
of its plains.”58

Brockhaus 7th ed., vol. 2 (1827) 621, ibid., 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 606, Pierer,
Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., 6 (1841) 420, Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845)
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 721 f.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 4,1 (1843) 216 (s. v. ‘Armee’).
Brockhaus, 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 399 and ibid., 10th ed., vol. 4 (1852) 121.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917. See also English Encyclo-
paedia 2 (1802) 493.
Encyclopédie nouvelle 3 (1841) 526.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 662.
154 chapter four

4.3 Natural Resources

Up to the mid-eighteenth century, European writers continued to

describe China’s “wealth, products, crafts, and commerce in superla-
tive terms, often repeating earlier descriptions”59 and to admire the
domestic trade of the empire. In its presentation of the domestic trade
of China, the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica oscil-
lated between admiration and contempt: “No country in the world
is better adapted, from situation, climate, and products, for extensive
commerce, than China; yet no civilized country has profited less by
these advantages.”60 In the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana we read that
the “valuable productions of their soil, together with the many arts and
manufactures successfully carried out by the Chinese” would “furnish
materials for an extensive commerce.”61
Although reliable and/or exact data on the economic state and on
the natural resources of China were not available to Europeans in the
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the presentation of infor-
mation on this subject changed considerably. Apart from headwords
like ‘porcelain’, ‘silk’ or ‘tea’, most eighteenth-century encyclopaedias
usually presented information on the natural resources of China in
articles dealing with the provinces and cities of China. Under the
headword China, the various editions of Moréri’s Grand Diction-
naire historique referred to the natural resources under the heading
“Richesses du pays” (i.e. wealth of the nation). Under its headword
‘Mines’, the Encyclopédie pointed out that China is rich in all kinds
of metals and minerals but that it is prohibited by law to open gold
or silver mines62—a fact that has been known among Europeans since
early modern times.63 In the English Encyclopaedia we read that China
produces “all metals and minerals that are known in the world.”64 The
Encyclopaedia Edinensis has the following on the subject:
The metallic ores and mineral productions of the Chinese mountains
are various and valuable. Numerous veins of gold and silver have been
discovered, but the working of them is discouraged from political con-

Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III.4, 1691.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 580.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 589.
Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 529 (s. v. ‘Mines’).
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1560.
English Encyclopaedia 2 (1802) 494.
geography 155

siderations. A good deal of gold, however, is collected from the sand of

the mountain-streams. Mines of copper, iron, tin, lead, and other met-
als, are open and productive; and quarries of stone, marble and coal, are
abundant in most of the mountain districts. A sonorous stone, called yu
[ yu 玉, i.e. jade], of which musical instruments are made, is found in
the bed of torrents; lapis lazuli, rubies, rock-crystal, &c. are also among
the products of the Chinese mountains.65
The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia referred to the deposits of metallic ores
and mineral productions of China in presenting information on differ-
ent regions of the empire. It described the copper mines of Yunnan
and Guizhou as “very productive.” Due to their abundance, iron, lead,
and tin were sold “at a moderate price, in every quarter of the empire.”
For Fujian Province, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia mentions marble
quarries. It added that the Chinese “are said to be unacquainted with
the best modes of working them.”66
In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Biot followed a similar
pattern for his presentation: he mentioned the gold and silver mines
of western and southern China; deposits of copper, tin and lead for
Jiangxi Province, the rich mineral resources of every kind in Guizhou
and Yunnan as well as the jade deposits of northern China.67
As Ulrich Johannes Schneider has shown for the entry on vanilla in
Zedler, information on natural products inserted in eighteenth-century
general encyclopaedias owed much to the then emerging economic
dictionaries.68 The description of non-European natural products
much depended on the importance of these products for European
overseas trade and for the European market. As Japanese tea had not
been an article of commerce for European traders, Zedler labelled it
‘uninteresting’.69 In its article on tea, published in 1844, Krünitz’ ency-
clopaedia not only noticed that Assam tea could endanger the Chinese
monopoly in the future, but also pointed out that tea had become the
most important commodity in the European trade with Asia.70

Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 397.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 317.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 455.
For an analysis of the entry on vanilla see Ulrich Johannes Schneider, “Die Kon-
struktion des Wissens in Zedlers ‘Universal-Lexicon’,” in Wissenssicherung, Wissen-
sordnung und Wissensverarbeitung. Das europäische Modell der Enzyklopädien, ed.
Theo Stammen and Wolfgang E. J. Weber, Colloquia Augustana 18 (Berlin: Akademie
Verlag, 2004), 94–101.
Zedler 43 (1745) col. 518 (s. v. ‘Thee’).
Krünitz 183 (1844) 8 (s. v. ‘Thee’).
156 chapter four

Eighteenth century discourse on the equality of European and

Chinese natural products also became part of European general
Due to the vast quantities of tea consumed in eighteenth-century
Europe, European scholars were concerned with the search for indig-
enous plants to substitute these imports. The extensive entry on tea in
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon contained a detailed account of European
efforts in the search for substitutes and surrogates and listed about
thirty plants German scholars had taken into consideration for serving
this purpose.72
The fact that seventeenth-century accounts had described the tea
plant as herb73 inspired European scholars to search for an equivalent
for tea in European flora. In this search, the European ‘republic of
letters’ mainly relied on eyewitnesses’ reports from East Asia74 and on
correspondence with European residents in Southeast Asia, Japan, and
China. After the scholar and physician Simon Paulli (1603–1680) had
written that the tea plant might be equated with Myrthus Brabantica
(also Rhus Sylvestris) the German physician Andreas Cleyer (1634–
1697/98) on service with the Dutch East India company in Batavia
published an extensive refutation of Paulli’s theory.75
In 1694, Friedrich Hofmann (1660–1742), a Halle based professor of
medicine, had advocated the use of speedwell (Veronica officinalis) as
a surrogate for tea. His contemporary Johann Franck(e) (1648–1728)
also shared this favourable opinion on the use of speedwell. Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon did not present Franck’s publication (together with
bibliographic references on the subject) under the entry on tea but
under the entry on veronica (as in almost every other eighteenth-

The dwindling purchasing power of the Europeans caused by the importation
of luxury goods from Asia was repeatedly stated in encyclopaedias. See e.g. Zedler 28
(1741) col. 1681 (s. v. ‘Porzellan’).
Zedler 43 (1745) col. 527 f. (s. v. ‘Thee’).
See the remark in ibid., col. 502 (s. v. ‘Thee’).
The Amsterdam physician Nicolaes Tulp (1593–1674) provided an early synopsis
of sixteenth- and seventeenth-European descriptions of the tea plant (Nicolaus Tulp,
Observationes medicae (Amsterdam: Elsevir, 1672)). Zedler’s article on tea (43 (1745)
col. 518) as well as the Penny Cyclopaedia 24 (1842) 284 (s. v. ‘Thea’) include a refer-
ence to Tulp’s book.
For a summary of this discussion see Zedler 43 (1745) col. 522–524 (s. v. ‘Thee’).
On Pauli’s extensive treatment of the subject see Simon Paulli (Pauli), Commentarius
De Abusu Tabaci Americanorum Veteri, et Herbae Theé Asiaticorum in Europa Novo
(Argentoratum [i.e. Strasbourg]: Sumptibus Authoris Filij Simonis Paulli, 1665).
geography 157

century encyclopaedia).76 Franck’s pamphlet on the subject had been

translated into French and even the Encyclopédie d’Yverdon mentioned
Franck’s favourable description of veronica.77
The search for surrogates and substitutes reached its peak during
the first quarter of the eighteenth century. As the authors of Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon put it, the scope of interest in this search mirrored
the economic positions of the European powers. England and the
Netherlands imported large quantities of tea. In an attempt to evade
dependence on English and Dutch tea trade, the French and Germans
had started searching for appropriate substitutes.78
Later encyclopaedias repeatedly reported on the rejection of veronica
as an appropriate substitute for tea. The author of the entry on Veron-
ica officinalis in the Deutsche Encyclopädie closed with the remark, that
those who think to substitute Chinese tea by this herb never must have
had the chance to taste or smell the East Asian original.79
Mid-nineteenth century encyclopaedias recapitulated the history of
this search. In the Penny Cyclopaedia we read:
Paullix, an old Danish botanist, endeavoured to prove that this plant was
identical with the tea-plant of China, and it was once extensively used
as a substitute for tea. It has an astringent bitter flavour, and is not so
agreeable to the taste as tea. If however the consumption of tea depends
on its containing chemical principles which it has in common with other
plants, the analysis of the constituents of common European plants is
perhaps an object worth the attention of the chemist.80
As late as in the early nineteenth century, encyclopaedias provided
enumerations of natural resources from the animal, vegetable, and
mineral realm respectively. Besides the mineral resources, the Edin-
burgh Encyclopaedia discussed the ‘vegetable productions’ and the
animals of the country in detail.81 Regarding the natural history of
China, the Penny Cyclopaedia criticised a certain one-sidedness of the

Zedler 8 (1734) col. 433–436 (s. v. ‘Ehrenpreiß’).
Lehner, “Le savoir de l’Europe sur la Chine”, 24–25 (including references to the
writings of Hofmann and Franck(e)).
Zedler 43 (1745) 521 f. (s. v. ‘Thee’).
Deutsche Encyclopädie 7 (1783) 1045 (s. v. ‘Ehrenpreis’).
Penny Cyclopaedia 26 (1843) 271 (s. v. ‘V[eronica] officinalis’). For similar assess-
ments see Krünitz 163 (1844) 2 f. (s. v. ‘Thee’); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 11
(1851) 585 (s. v. ‘Thea’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 317 f. (‘Mineralogy’), ibid., pp. 319–324
(‘Vegetable productions’) and ibd, p. 324 f. (‘Animals’).
158 chapter four

subjects covered by Jesuit publications and regretted that they “lost an

opportunity, which may perhaps never again occur”, as they missed
the chance to investigate and describe the natural resources while they
were preparing their “excellent map of the empire” during the Kangxi
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon provided one of the most extensive
enumerations of the natural products of China of all German-language
encyclopaedias, giving separate lists for the mineral, the vegetable,
and the animal kingdom and further distinguishing within these three
realms. In classifying the mineral kingdom, it presented metals, fos-
sils (solid as well as combustible), earths and salts; in presenting the
vegetable kingdom, it distinguished between northern, central and
southern China. The opening remarks to the presentation of the ani-
mal kingdom mentioning the fauna of Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan
were followed by information on domestic animals, birds, reptiles,
fishes, insects, worms, octopuses, and mussels.83
In presenting the vegetable and the animal kingdom, the Edin-
burgh Encyclopaedia also referred to the Chinese terms for most of
the plants. Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon did not refer to the Chinese
terms. At the end of the section on natural resources, it pointed out
that these lists by no means can be complete, as observations had been
very limited until the most recent past due to the restricted access to
the country.84

4.4 China’s Position in the World

European attitudes and political strategies regarding non-European

regions also found their way into works of general knowledge. Rees’
Cyclopaedia linked the supposed superiority of European arms to the
vast extent of the Chinese Empire:
The political importance and relations of China may be said to be con-
centrated within itself, as no example is known of alliance with any
other state. It has been supposed, that one European ship would destroy
the Chinese navy, and that 10,000 European troops might over-run the
empire. Yet its very extent is an obstacle to foreign conquest, and, per-

Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 75.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 235–237.
Ibid., 237.
geography 159

haps, not less than 100,000 soldiers would be necessary to maintain the
quiet subjugation of it: so that any foreign yoke must prove of very short
German and English encyclopaedias vividly discussed the disadvan-
tages Russia had to cope with due to the unsatisfying border regula-
tions of the Treaty of Kiakhta (1727). While Krünitz had pointed out
that Russia lost important deposits of iron ore, Rees stated that the
Russians had no inland waterway to the Sea of Okhotsk.86
In referring to Xiamen 廈門 (Amoy), Rees’ Cyclopaedia pointed out
that the East India Company “had once a factory there” and that “the
port of Amoy has been described as one of the most convenient and
safe harbours in India.”87
In the light of trade rivalries encyclopaedias commented on the rea-
sons of the rise and fall of European colonial outposts in East and
Southeast Asia. In this context, they did not consider the dynamics and
changes in East Asian politics and economics. Quoting from French
and English publications and referring to the city map of Macau pub-
lished by Staunton, Rees’ Cyclopaedia pointed out that the position of
the Portuguese in Macau was not very desirable as the colonial admin-
istration totally depended on the good will of Chinese authorities.88
In connection with the fur trade from the Nootka Sound (in today’s
British Columbia) to China, Rees’ Cyclopaedia stated that the Chinese
totally controlled their trade relations with foreigners and thus still
had the power to set up the regulations for this trade.89 In its article on
China, the Cyclopaedia showed some understanding for the position
of the Qing Emperors concerning the question of foreign trade with
the Europeans: “These emperors have wisely prevented the European
nations, who have overthrown all the other eastern governments, from
obtaining a footing in China.”90
Although Rees’ Cyclopaedia mentioned the failure of the Macartney
embassy to the court of China, it pointed out the value of new findings

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. [4P3r] (s. v. ‘China’).
Krünitz 37 (1786) 218 (s. v. ‘Kjachta’), Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 1, s. v. ‘Amur’.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 2, s. v. ‘Amoy’.
Ibid., vol. 21, s. v. ‘Macao’.—For a discussion of seventeenth-century European
accounts of Macao see Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III.4, 1697–
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 15, fol. 3Qv (s. v. ‘Furs’).
Ibid., vol. 7, [fol. 4O4v] (s. v. ‘China’).
160 chapter four

and observations made by the members of that embassy.91 In the Edin-

burgh Encyclopaedia as well as in the Encyclopaedia Edinensis we read
of the complete failure of this embassy.92 Contrary to Rees’ Cyclopae-
dia, these presentations showed no understanding for the position
of the Chinese: After enumerating various causes the failure of the
embassy had been ascribed to, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed
out that the “true reason is unquestionably of a more general nature”
closely connected to the “proud, contemptuous, and suspicious” spirit
of the Chinese people towards foreigners. It referred to the similar fate
of the Dutch embassy of 1794/95 as a proof for the xenophobic atti-
tude of the Chinese. Despite their preparations, the Dutch were “nei-
ther treated with so much respect as the English, nor were they, in the
smallest degree, more successful in their object.”93 As we read in the
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, the Dutch “failed in like manner” as the Brit-
ish. The embassy under the direction of William Pitt Lord Amherst
(1773–1857), sent to Peking in 1815/16, “was still more unsuccessful
than that conducted by Lord Macartney.”94
In the seventh edition of Brockhaus we read that neither the Rus-
sian embassy led by Jurij Aleksandrovič Golovkin (1763–1846) nor the
second British embassy led by Lord Amherst had managed to influ-
ence the more than thousand-year-old policy of the court of Peking.95
Writing for Ersch/Gruber in 1830, Wilhelm Schott linked the future
fall of the Qing and the necessary renaissance of the Chinese to the
European advance into Asia. The ever-increasing power of the Russian
Empire and the British possessions in India made it more likely, that
the time of the Chinese Empire would soon be up.96
Europeans regarded the kowtow question (koutou 叩頭, from Song
times onwards also known as ketou 磕頭) one of the major obstacles
of regular intercourse with China. In Qing China people admitted to
imperial audiences had to perform three kneelings and nine knock-
ings of the head (sangui jiukou 三跪九叩). Beginning with the Mac-

Ibid., vol. 21, s. v. ‘Macartney, George Earl of ’.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 236; Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 429.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 236.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 429 and ibid., p. 430.
Brockhaus, 7th ed., vol. 2 (1827) 628; Neues Rheinisches Conversations-Lexicon
3 (1832) 345.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 176.
geography 161

artney embassy, European diplomats repeatedly refused to perform

the koutou.97
Heavily relying on Staunton’s account of the British embassy of
1792/93, the supplement to the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Bri-
tannica referred to the kowtow question without introducing the Chi-
nese term and placed the significance of this question in the context of
the history of Sino-European relations. This presentation clearly shows
how the contemporaries misunderstood the character of the reception
of the embassy by the Qianlong Emperor:
The Chinese court, which considers all other sovereigns as subordinate
to their own, exacts from foreign ministers, as well as from natives of the
empire, nine prostrations upon their first introduction to the emperor.
This demand was made, in the last century, of the Dutch, who instantly
complied with it in hopes of obtaining in return some lucrative advan-
tages; and the consequence was, that their ambassador was treated with
neglect, and dismissed without promise of the smallest favour. It was
likewise made of a Russian ambassador in the present century; but he
would not comply with it, until a regular agreement was made for its
return, on a like occasion, to his own sovereign. Lord Macartney, who
was repeatedly urged to go through the same object ceremony, dis-
played such firmness and address, that after much evasion it was at least
announced to him, that his imperial majesty would be satisfied with the
same form of respectful obedience that the English are in the habit of
paying to their own sovereign; and upon these terms his lordship was
introduced and graciously received.98
Several encyclopaedias explicitly mentioned the kowtow question. In
between the ‘peculiar customs’ and the ‘moral character’ of the Chi-
nese, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia presented information on this sub-
ject under the heading “ku-tou”: The description of this ceremony
has been taken from the account of the Scottish physician John Bell
(1691–1780), who went to China with the Russian embassy of 1719.
The Encyclopaedia Edinensis described the kowtow as the “acme of Chi-
nese ceremony” that is performed in “three prostrations to the ground,
three times repeated.” The British embassies led by Lord Macartney
and Lord Amherst had refused this ceremony “on the ground that, as

On the koutou (or ketou) see Wilkinson, Chinese History, 105–107. On the koutou
question in Euro-American discourse see James L. Hevia, Cherishing Men From Afar.
Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
1995), 232–237.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., Supplement 1 (1801) 425 n. (A).
162 chapter four

it is understood by the Chinese themselves, it implies an act of wor-

ship, and a mark of inferiority, and even of vassalage.”99
According to Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon, the significance of the
“Ko-teu” ceremony makes it obvious that the British refused to per-
form it. As a proof, it inserted a lengthy quotation from the writings
of Rémusat without giving any reference.100 Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon added that the failure of the embassy of Lord Amherst was
due not only to the kowtow question but also to the policy of the
provincial authorities of Guangdong.101
At the beginning of its supplementary information on China,
the Conversations-Lexikon pointed out that that country once again
attracts the attention of the world: this strange world had gained its
place in the deliberations of international politics.102
Even before the so-called ‘opening’ of China, European encyclopae-
dias presented attempts that tried to justify the European presence in
East Asia from a moral point of view. The Encyclopédie Méthodique (in
its section on political economy) pointed out that parts of the floating
population in the Zhujiang (Pearl River) delta lived on the leftovers
and leavings of European ships anchoring in this region.103
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon presented a similar attempt of moral
justification of the role of the Europeans in Asia: if the British had
stopped their opium exports to China, Dutch and American traders
immediately would have seized this trade. Moreover, opium had been
considered the backbone of the British economy in India.104 The sec-
ond edition of Pierer shows a more critical approach to the British
dominance in the China trade: the tower that had been erected on
the premises of the British factory in Guangzhou after the fire of 1822
allegedly should serve to install a clock; actually, it served to observe
the neighbouring areas.105 In the same critical manner, the Ency-
clopédie nouvelle commented on English endeavours in the field of

Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 425.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 298.—The paragraphs are chiefly a
German translation of Jean Pierre Abel Rémusat, “Sur l’ambassade du lord Amherst,
à la Chine, en 1816”, Mélanges Asiatiques, vol. 1 (Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825), 436 f.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 298.
Ibid., S2 (1853) 953.
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie politique et diplomatique 4 (1788) 561 (s. v.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 262.
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon 2nd ed., 6 (1841) 180 (s. v. ‘Canton’).
geography 163

Chinese studies. Walter Henry Medhurst (1796–1857) was referred to

as “able sinologist and intelligence agent.”106
The ‘opening’ of China in the 1840s offered new opportunities.
In his article on China written for the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième
siècle, Biot critically assessed the new situation of international poli-
tics: “China would be rich pickings for the British who dream of tak-
ing possession of it.”107 Encyclopaedias broadly discussed not only
the rise of the American trade with China but also the significance of
the admission of California (1850) to the United States. In Wigand’s
Conversations-Lexikon we read that the Americans have benefited even
from the Opium War as they provided their vessels not only for the
English but also for the Chinese.108 Krünitz’ encyclopaedia argued that
California would pave the way for new dimensions in world trade.109

Encyclopédie Nouvelle 7 (1843) 90 (s. v. ‘Orientalistes’).
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 472: “La Chine est une trop riche
proie pour que les Anglais ne songent perpétuellement à s’en emparer [. . .]”
Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon 3 (1847) 298.
Krünitz 206 (1851) 179.


5.1 Origin of the Chinese

Discussing “the Chinese”, European encyclopaedias concentrated on

five main features: the origin of the Chinese, the densely populated cit-
ies and towns of China (including data on the number of inhabitants
of the Empire), the various ethnic groups mainly living in the periph-
eral regions of the Chinese empire, the main physiognomic character-
istics of its inhabitants, and Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia.
In 1845, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon presented a thorough over-
view of the various theories concerning the origins of the Chinese
developed by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European scholars.
Athanasius Kircher had shown similarities between India and China.
Nicolas Fréret (1688–1749) and Joseph de Guignes had constructed
an Egyptian origin of the Chinese.1 Jean Sylvain Bailly (1736–1793)
and Sir William Jones had written that the Chinese originated from
The entry on China inserted in the seventh edition of the Ency-
clopaedia Britannica dealt extensively with the origin of the Chinese.
After presenting an overview relating to “erroneous opinions concern-
ing the origins of the Chinese” (dismissing all accounts of the Jesu-
its, of Fréret, de Guignes, and William Jones) the entry discusses the
“probable origin” of the Chinese referring to de Pauw’s Recherches
philosophiques (1773).3
Rees’ Cyclopaedia as well as Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon men-
tioned a theory introduced by the antiquary and classical scholar Jacob

Henri Cordier, “Origine des Chinois. Théories étrangères,” T’oung Pao 16 (1915),
575–603, Don Cameron Allen, “The Predecessors of Champollion,” Proceedings of
the American Philosophical Society 104, no. 5 (Oct. 1960), 527–547, especially ibid.,
Jean Sylvain Bailly, Lettres sur l’origine des sciences, et sur celle des peoples de l’Asie
[. . .] (Paris: De Bure, 1777). William Jones, “The Seventh Anniversary Discourse. Deliv-
ered 25 February, 1790,” Asiatick Researches, vol. 2 (London: Sewell, 1801), 365–381.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 548 f. (on ‘erroneous opinions’)
and ibid., 549 f. (“probable origin”).
166 chapter five

Bryant (1717–1804) who, in A New System, or, An Analysis of Ancient

Mythology (1775–1776), listed similarities between Chinese and Indi-
ans and presumed that the Chinese were of Egyptian, Roman, Greek
or Indian origin.4 After mentioning the equation of Noah and Fuxi
伏羲, which had been ‘invented’ by the Jesuits, Meyer also presented
the theory, that the Scythians must have been the ancestors of the
Chinese, not only due to the adoration of the dragon.5
At least since the publication of Du Halde’s Description Europeans
were well aware that there were various ethnic groups living in China.6
Concerning further details, the limits of knowledge of the ethnogra-
phy of China become rather obvious throughout all eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century European encyclopaedias examined. In some cases,
information on ethnic groups in China was widely spread throughout
an encyclopaedia, for example in the general encyclopaedia on arts and
sciences initiated by Ersch and Gruber: Wilhelm Schott gave no list of
ethnic groups in his article on ‘China’; he only mentioned the Miao
as descendants of the ‘aborigines’ of China. In his article on ‘Peking’,
Schott mentioned the ethnic diversity that may be seen when looking
into the streets of the city from the top of the Beijing observatory.7
In dealing with the various ethnic groups of China, the Encyclo-
pédie—mainly following Du Halde—introduced the geographical and
historical background of these peoples: according to Chinese historians,
the year 1227 marked the total ruin of the Xifan (l’époque de l’entière
ruine des Si-fans) after long wars against the emperors of China. The
Encyclopédie described the condition of this people as deteriorated as
they have not even a single city (ils n’ont pas une seule ville).8
The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia presented information on the Xifan,
on the Yi (Lolo), on the Miao, and on the Jews as “those distinct and

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4O2v (s. v. ‘China’); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon
I 7,2 (1845) 238.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 239.
Jean Baptiste Du Halde, Description géographique, historique, politique et physique
de l’Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise, 4 vols. (Paris: Le Mercier, 1735),
vol. 1, pp. 41–60 (information on the Xifan, on the Tartars of the Kokonor region, on
the Lolos, and on the Miao).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 168 s. v. ‘China’, ibid., III 15 (1841) 83–87 (s. v. ‘Pe-
king’, W. Schott). For similar remarks in Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 2 (1848)
1127 (s. v. ‘Peking’).—On the ethnic diversity see also Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 26,
s. v. ‘Pe-king’.
Encyclopédie 15 (1765) 181 (s. v. ‘Si-fan’).—Du Halde, Description . . . de la Chine.
vol. 1, pp. 41–53 (‘Des peuples nommez Si-Fan ou Tou Fan’).
population and society 167

almost independent tribes, who reside within the limits of the Chinese
empire”.9 Apart from Chinese, Manchu, Mongols, and Miao (‘Seng-
Miao-tsee’ [sheng Miaozi] 生苗子), the Penny Cyclopaedia mentioned
the Yi 彜 (‘Lolo’) and the Gelao 仡佬 (‘Tchang-Colas’). According to
this entry, Miao and Gelao “differ in language and manner from the
Chinese” and the “Lolos, or Lowas” were “only nominally dependent
to the Chinese.”10 In the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana we read that
the Yi “were not reduced to subjection to the Chinese till after a long
series of bloody contests, this gallant defence of their independence
secured to them, however, many privileges, which the jealousy of their
conquerors makes them very unwilling to grant. They are more like
feudal tenants than subjects of an absolute Prince, and seem superior
in strength and character to the servile Chinese.”11
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon listed ten different ethnic groups
living in China. Apart from Han Chinese, Manchu, and Mongols
there were mentioned Turks (‘Türken’), Tibetans (as ‘Fan’ or Tanguts
(‘Tanguten’)), Qiang 羌 (‘Zsian’), Miao 苗, Yao 瑤, Li 黎, and Yi 彜
(‘Lolo’). Information on the Yi (Lolo) and the Miao also was given
under separate headwords.12 Several German-language encyclopaedias
referred to the Yupi dazi 魚皮韃子 (i.e. fish skin tartars, nowadays
known as Nanaï or Hezhe 赫哲): Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon and the
Encyclopédie even under a separate headword, Krünitz in its general
article on fish, and Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon in the entry on
Manchuria.13 Information on other ethnic groups was given under
geographical headwords. Meyer referred to the Li of Hainan and to
the aboriginal people of Taiwan under respective headwords.14

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 215 f.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 80.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 555.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 237 f., ibid., I 19,2 (1851) 802 (s. v.
‘Lolo’), and ibid., I 21 (1852) 557 (s. v. ‘Miaothe’). See also ibid. I 17 (1850) 132
(s. v. ‘Juden’).—The Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 277 also listed ten different ethnic
groups for China.
Zedler 60 (1749) col. 962 f. (s. v. ‘Yupi’); Encyclopédie 17 (1765) 679 (s. v. ‘Yupi’);
Krünitz 13 (1778) 538 (s. v. ‘Fisch’); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 20 (1851) 480
(s. v. ‘Mandschurei’).—For Chinese sources on the Yupi see Wolfram Eberhard, Kul-
tur und Siedlung der Randvölker Chinas, T’oung Pao. Supplément au Vol. XXXVI
(Leiden: Brill, 1942; reprint, 1979), 27.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 10 (1847) 741 (s. v. ‘Formosa’); I 14 (1849) 741
(s. v. ‘Hainan’).
168 chapter five

Édouard Biot had presented a similar list, including Jews and Lolo
but interestingly omitting the Mongols. In the Encyclopédie du dix-
neuvième siècle, Biot also mentioned the Yao or Muyao and explained
these ‘ignominious names’ as ‘servants’ (serviteurs) and ‘bad servants’
(mauvais serviteurs).15 Brockhaus mentioned the latter, too, and
described them as “partially semi-savage” (zum Theil halb wild).16
As early as in 1743, Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon presented informa-
tion on the tusi 土司 system17 (Tonsons)—a ‘special kind of princes’
(eine gantz besondere Art von Fürsten) in the southern provinces of
China. Although these people spoke Chinese, they also had retained
their native tongue, which was not understood by the ‘other Chinese’;
moreover, they would be braver than the Chinese.18
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon linked the ethnic diversity of China
to the territorial acquisitions following the establishment of Qing
rule. While the reigning dynasty had nothing to fear from the well-
controlled Europeans, they would have to be cautious against possible
uprisings in the interior caused by unsatisfied Mongol princes. Any
uprising may result in the dissolution of the Chinese empire.19
Further information on the various ethnic groups inhabiting the
Chinese Empire was arranged under the respective headwords. In
presenting this information, encyclopaedias continued the process
of disseminating newly coined European denominations for newly
described regions and their inhabitants based on European accounts
of the Chinese Empire and of adjacent regions.
Until the early nineteenth century, the areas today known as
Mongolia and Manchuria as well as the vast regions of Central and
Inner Asia usually were referred to as ‘Tartary’. In attempts to distin-
guish portions of this vast area Europeans coined terms like ‘Eastern

Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 457 (s. v. ‘Chine’).
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 607 (‘China’), ibid., 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 385.
These Muyao (?) also are mentioned in Pierer, Universal-Lexikon 2nd ed. 6 (1841) 421
as well as in Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon 3 (1847) 295.
For recent scholarship on the tusi offices see John E. Herman, “The Cant of Con-
quest. Tusi Offices and China’s Political Incorporation of the Southwest Frontier,” in
Empire at the Margins. Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China, ed.
Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu, and Donald S. Sutton (Berkeley, Los Angeles,
London: University of California Press, 2006), 135–168; for a definition of tusi ibid.,
136 f. as well as Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 78 (Ming dynasty), ibid., 90 (Qing
dynasty) and ibid., 547 (no. 7355; s. v. t’ŭ-ssū’).
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1559.
Ibid., col. 1574.
population and society 169

Tartary’, ‘Western Tartary’, ‘Chinese Tartary’ and ‘Independent

Tartary’.20 These attempts are mirrored in the entries of eighteenth and
early nineteenth-century encyclopaedias. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon
referred to Great Tartary as well as to Eastern Tartary.21 In Krünitz, the
entry on Tartary mentioned a great number of nomadic people living
in Europe as well as in Asia.22 Under the headword ‘Tatarei’, Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon pointed out that this denomination had been
dismissed by geographers.23
In the early nineteenth-century, the term Manchuria had been
introduced into the European languages. The 1814 edition of Hübner’s
Lexikon and the article on Asia inserted in Ersch/Gruber (published in
1821) refer to “Mantschurey” and “Mantschurei” respectively.24 There-
fore, the term must have been in use well before this time and long
before the sinologist Johann Heinrich Plath (1802–1874) used it for
the title of his 1830 history of China, which Elliott has referred to as
a “very early use”.25 About the same time, the Edinburgh Encyclopae-
dia pointed out that “Mongolia and Mandschuria [sic]” are situated
in the northern parts of ‘Chinese Tartary’.26 In mid-nineteenth cen-
tury, the Penny Cyclopaedia as well as Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
used the term as headword.27 In 1845, Biot used the French rendering
(Mantchourie) in his article on China for the Encyclopédie du dix-
neuvième siecle.28
In the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, information
on the ethnocentric world-view of Chinese culture was presented in a
paragraph on the “extreme pride of the Chinese”. The achievements
of Chinese civilization

Mark C. Elliott, “The Limits of Tartary: Manchuria in Imperial and National
Geographies,” Journal of Asian Studies 59, no. 3 (2000), 625–626.—For an analysis of
eighteenth-century European discourses on Tartary see Osterhammel, Entzauberung,
Zedler 42 (1744) col. 32–48.
Krünitz 180 (1842) 238–268 (s. v. ‘Tartarey’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 11 (1851) 185–187 (s. v. ‘Tatarei’), especially,
ibid., 186.
Hübner, 1814 edition, vol. 2, p. 60; Ersch/Gruber I 6 (1821) 81 (s. v. ‘Asien’,
S. F. G. Wahl).
Elliott, “The Limits of Tartary,” 628.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 18, p. 531 (s. v. ‘Tartary’).
Penny Cyclopaedia 14 (1839) 378 f. (s. v. ‘Mandshooria’); Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon, I 20 (1851) 477–483 (s. v. ‘Mandschurei’).
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 463.
170 chapter five

appeared to them so considerable, that they looked upon themselves as

the only favourites of heaven, and the rest of mankind as barbarians,
whom they represented as monsters, dwarfs, and contemptible creatures.
As the entry further states, the Chinese thought that their country is
situated in the centre of the earth and that they are “the only people
who had a human shape or form.”29 Krünitz mentioned Chinese maps
as an example for their national pride.30
The self-image of the Chinese as superior to other people also
became clear from their pictorial representations of the world:
All the other kingdoms or nations, the number of which they imagined
might be 72, were scattered about in small islands, the biggest of which,
according to their maps, was not so large as the least of the Chinese
As all beings living in distant lands, the inhabitants of the neighbour-
ing regions of Tartary, Japan, Korea and Tongking were looked upon
by the Chinese as ‘barbarians’—“considerably improved by their vicin-
ity to China”.31
Once the Encyclopédie had stressed the ignorance of the Chinese in
geography,32 this European misconception began to prevail in works of
general reference. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia perpetuated this view
of the weak geographical knowledge of the Chinese:
Their knowledge of geography is equally defective; and they consider
the earth as a plain square surface, of which their country occupies the
central part. Even their plans and charts of their own empire were utterly
rude and incorrect sketches, without either rule or proportion, till they
were provided by the indefatigable labours of the Jesuits with their pres-
ent accurate maps and surveys.33
Early nineteenth-century scholars only rarely refuted these views of
the geographical knowledge of the Chinese. Writing for the Encyclo-
pédie Moderne, Eyriès dismissed early modern European critique of
the geographical knowledge of the Chinese. He pointed out that due
to information given by a badly instructed missionary it has long been

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917.
Krünitz 40 (1787) 473 f.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917.
Encyclopédie, Supplément 1 (1776) 344 (s. v. ‘Amérique’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 282.—For a similar assessment see Encyclo-
paedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 576.
population and society 171

repeated by Europeans that the Chinese would not even know nei-
ther the regions in the north of the Great Wall nor the deserts on the
borders of their empire. From Chinese books, Europeans could learn,
that the Chinese were well informed on the regions of Central and
Southern Asia. In the course of their conquests, the Chinese would
have attained much knowledge even on the Caspian Sea and on the
Encyclopaedias and general dictionaries eagerly perpetuated early
modern European reports on the Chinese world order. 35 Some of the
Sinocentric elements soon were replaced by the desire to present the
early modern European advent in East Asia as a major challenge for
the traditional Chinese world order:
It was therefore no small matter of wonder to them, when, upon their
becoming acquainted with the Europeans, they found them not only as
polite and rational as themselves, but far superior to them in all kinds
of learning.36
Encyclopaedias mentioned a Chinese proverb that obviously originated
as a consequence of their experiences with Europeans. This proverb
said, that the Chinese had two eyes, the Europeans one, and the rest
of the world none at all.37
In 1837, the Penny Cyclopaedia portrayed Chinese attitudes towards
foreigners by referring to a Chinese saying: “to rule barbarians like
beasts, and not like native subjects.”38
While Europeans were well aware, that the Chinese labelled all non-
Chinese ‘barbarians’,39 they themselves used the notion ‘barbarian’ in

Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 560 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 125).
For a critical assessment of recent scholarship on this subject see Chin-keong Ng,
“Information and knowledge: Qing China’s perceptions of the world in the eighteenth
century,” in The East Asian Maritime World 1400–1800. Its Fabrics of Power and
Dynamics of Exchanges, ed. Angela Schottenhammer, East Asian Maritime History 4
(Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007), 87–98; on eighteenth-century Chinese perceptions
of Europeans see ibid., 92–94. See also John King Fairbank, ed., The Chinese World
Order. Traditional China’s Foreign Relations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1968).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917.
See for example Zedler 21 (1739) col. 1512 (s. v. ‘Moral-Philosophie (Sinesi-
sche)’): “Die Sineser, welche sich ein Auge mehr als die Europäer zu haben einbilden
[. . .]“; Ludovici, Eröffnete Akademie der Kaufleute, vol. 2 (Leipzig: Breitkopf, 1753)
col. 318 (s. v. ‘China’), Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 79, Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 282.
On the notion of ‘barbarian’ and its role in early nineteenth-century Sino-
European relations see Lydia H. Liu, The Clash of Empires. The Invention of China in
172 chapter five

relation to China. For a deeper understanding of the latter practice, we

have to keep in mind the various strands of discourse on ‘barbarians’
in eighteenth-century Europe.40
In presenting the geographical and ethnic situation of the peripheral
regions of the Chinese Empire in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia, Euro-
peans highly depended on Chinese sources. In their early reports on
these regions European observers tended to adopt (partially) the views
of Chinese literati and thus they transmitted the sinocentric views on
these areas that were perpetuated at the court of Beijing.41 As they
fitted well into the ethnocentric scheme Europeans had developed for
the description of non-European people, adoptions of Chinese views
on other ethnic groups within their political influence were transmitted
to Europe mainly by Jesuit missionaries.42 This kind of adoption and
adaptation also may be seen in eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-cen-
tury encyclopaedias. For information on the Miao, Rees’ Cyclopaedia
relied on Grosier’s description of China. After mentioning the Qing
military campaigns against the Miao it pointed out that the mission-
aries had found the Miao an active, laborious and obliging people.43
Under the headword ‘Mongols’, Rees’ Cyclopaedia listed pejorative
exonyms used by Chinese to denominate these peoples, for example
‘stinking Tartars’.44
The vast number of inhabitants of China as well as the densely
populated cities and towns throughout the empire had attracted the
attention of most of the early European observers. Many different data
concerning the total number of inhabitants of China were circulat-
ing in eighteenth-century Europe. In its second edition (1778), the
Encyclopaedia Britannica presented a paragraph on ‘incredible num-
bers of population’. Due to the lack of reliable data this edition of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica referred to the density of the population in
perpetuating the presentation of early modern travelogues.

Modern World Making (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 31–69.
On eighteenth-century European discourses on ‘barbarians’ see Osterhammel,
Entzauberung, 242–246.
For pejorative terms used by the Chinese for non-Chinese ethnic groups see
Wilkinson, Chinese History, 725–727.
Examples for such adaptations are given by Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 236
and ibid., 444 n. 6.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 23, s. v. ‘Miao-tse’ mountaineers’.
Ibid., s. v. ‘Mongols, Monguls, or Moguls’.
population and society 173

In most of the provinces, the cities, towns, and villages, are so thick
crowded upon one another, that the whole seems to be almost a contin-
ued town. All of them swarm with inhabitants, every one employed in
some manufacture, traffic, or work. Their roads are crowded with pas-
sengers night and day, with coaches, carriages, wagons, and sometimes
whole caravans; [. . .].45
Recent estimates concerning the number of inhabitants of China for
the year 1800 range from 322 to 350 million.46 In his article on China
published in the section on geography of the Encyclopédie Méthod-
ique, Nicolas Masson de Morvilliers (1740–1789) pointed out that
some writers give the population of China as 200 and others as 100
million.47 Based on the accounts of the British embassy to China (that
had spoken of 333 million inhabitants) as well as on the travelogue
of de Guignes, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia tried to shed new light
on this debate.48 In the Encyclopédie Moderne, Eyriès refuted the data
given by the British embassy of 1793 as exaggerated and referred to the
researches by Klaproth who has written of 150 million inhabitants.49
Encyclopaedias usually referred to the vivid discussion among
Europeans on that subject. Rees’ Cyclopaedia mentioned this topic as
of “considerable debate” among Europeans.50 According to the Edin-
burgh Encyclopaedia, the whole subject had led to ‘much calculation’
and ‘keen dispute’. These disputes were caused by the fact, that the
statements of the French Jesuit missionaries
refer to so many different periods, are founded so much upon conjec-
tural computations, and are attended with so many irreconcileable dis-
crepancies, that it is impossible to frame a consistent view of the matter
from the varying data, which they severally furnish.51
The Penny Cyclopaedia stated that the population of China “has natu-
rally been a subject of investigation with those persons who had the

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1918 (s. v. ‘China’).
James Lee, Cameron Campbell, and Wang Feng, “Positive Check or Chinese
Checks?”, Journal of Asian Studies 61, no. 2 (May 2002), 591–607, especially ibid.,
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Géographie, vol. 1, p. 428 (s. v. ‘Chine’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, pp. 293–296.
Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 549 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 119–120).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 292 f.—For similar remarks on this subject
see Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 721.
174 chapter five

best opportunities of pushing the enquiry with success.”52 The Encyclo-

paedia Edinensis contains an overview of the discussion on the subject
by late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European travellers
and scholars. Apart from the travelogues of de Guignes, Barrow, and
Henry Ellis (1777–1855) it refers to Malthus’ “chapter of his cele-
brated work on population which treats of the checks to population in
China.”53 According to the Penny Cyclopaedia, a “number of natural,
social, and political causes no doubt combine to explain the very dense
population which the country unquestionably contains.”54

5.2 Chinese Society

We should analyze the presentation of Chinese society in eighteenth-

and early nineteenth-century European encyclopaedias in the context
of the intellectual and social history of Europe during that period.
Entries dealing with Chinese society reveal many explicit as well as
many implicit comparisons to the state of European societies. Dra-
matically changed by the ideas of enlightenment and by the early
stages of industrial revolution, European observers began to criticise
the structures of Chinese society.55 Encyclopaedias disposed informa-
tion on Chinese society usually under headings like “characters and
The philosophes of Enlightenment Europe had expressed their admi-
ration for certain aspects of Chinese society. One of these aspects con-
cerned the well-established meritocracy57 and thus the lack of any kind
of nobility in the strict sense of the word.58
The Encyclopédie mentioned that in China only the learned (gens
de lettres) were regarded as nobles and that this kind of nobility was
by no means hereditary. So, even the sons of the most eminent civil
officers would remain among the masses (reste dans la foule) without

Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 402.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77.
On eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European views on Chinese society
see Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 325–330.
See Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, pp. 307–316.
For seventeenth-century European perceptions of the lack of hereditary nobility
in China see Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe. III/4, 1704. See also
Bai, Les voyageurs français, 133–139.
Robinet 11 (1779) 639.
population and society 175

achieving any personal merit.59 The fact that a higher social position
would be attained by personal merit (une récompense personelle) and
contrary to Europe did not depend on hereditary nobility was widely
acclaimed by early modern European authors.60
Almost all eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century encyclopaedias
pointed out that only the members of the imperial family and the male
descendants of Confucius would enjoy privileges that might be com-
pared to those of European nobility.61
In their information on Chinese society encyclopaedias also pre-
sented different classes in which “the great body of subjects” has been
divided. Most encyclopaedias enumerated seven different classes of
subjects: the mandarins, the military, the literati, the bonzes, the peas-
ants, the artisans, and the merchants.62
In Ersch/Gruber, Wilhelm Schott gave a concise description of the
different ‘classes of inhabitants’ (Klassen der Bewohner). Schott men-
tioned the changing fates of Buddhist and Daoist monks and arranged
information on the different classes as follows: peasants, merchants,
tradesmen, and last but not least the nobles (as he labelled the manda-
rins). Schott omitted information on the artisans and the military. 63
On the one hand, eighteenth century European encyclopaedias held
up China as an example referring to the various precautions taken by
the authorities to prevent the well-known dangers of gambling.64 They
mentioned on the other hand, that the Chinese were fond of gambling,65
a strand of discourse that was perpetuated also in nineteenth-century
works of general knowledge.66 Europeans reported that the Chinese
either were playing cards or—especially among the lower classes—a
game of ‘guess-fingers’ known to the Chinese by the name of caimei
猜枚 (also known as caiquan 猜拳) and usually compared to the Italian

Encyclopédie 11 (1765) 174 (s. v. ‘Noblesse Littéraire’).
Robinet 11 (1779) 643 (s. v. ‘Chine’). See also Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 12: “Le
mandarinat n’est pas héréditaire, & l’on y éleve que des gens habiles.”
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 460; Encyclopédie moderne 6 (1825)
569 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 131); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 272.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 244; Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16
(1845) 560; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 272 f.; Encyclopédie Moderne 6
(1825) 569 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 131).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 165.
Jeroom Vercruysse, “Le jeu au dix-huitième siècle: l’ambivalence morale des
encyclopédies et des dictionnaires,” Lias. Sources and Documents relating to the early
modern history of ideas 24, no. 2 (1997), 271–93, especially 281 f.
Encyclopédie 8 (1765) 884.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 314.
176 chapter five

morra. According to his Travels in China, John Barrow had “particu-

larly noticed” this game “on account of the extraordinary coincidence
between it and a game in use among the Romans, to which frequent
allusion is made by Cicero.” Barrow referred to a commentary of the
German humanist Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560) on Cicero’s
Offices.67 In remaining close to Barrow’s Travels, the Encyclopaedia
Metropolitana mentioned that such a game was known to the ancient
Encyclopaedias repeatedly described the Chinese form of chess.
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon pointed out that the game of chess was
quite common throughout the Orient, among the Turks, Persians, and
Chinese. However, the Chinese version of the game might not be the
same as among other peoples of Asia.69 Decades later, the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia pointed out that “the number of pieces are the same as
what are used in Europe, but both the names and moves are consider-
ably different.”70 Krünitz’ encyclopaedia mentions that the Chinese call
it the “elephant game” (i.e. xiangqi 象棋).71
Apart from the description of the above-mentioned games, Euro-
pean accounts of China and encyclopaedias as well usually mentioned
the lack of any entertainment among the Chinese. In the seventh
edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that tea-houses and
cook-shops are occasionally resorted by inferior officers of state and
by the lower classes as well but that “there are no promiscuous assem-
blies or fixed meetings, as fairs for the lower classes, or routes, balls,
or music parties for the higher ranks.”72 The Encyclopaedia Metropoli-
tana referred to the social function of gambling: “Games of chance are
almost the only objects that bring them together.”73

Barrow, Travels in China, 157 f. For a description of this game see ibid., 157:
“Two persons, sitting directly opposite to each other, raise their hands at the same
moment, when each calls out the number he guesses to be the sum of the fingers
expanded by himself and his adversary. [. . .] The middling class of people likewise
play at this game when they give entertainments where wine is served, and the loser
is always obliged to drink off a cup of wine.”
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 575.
Zedler 34 (1742) col. 685 (s. v. ‘Schachspiel’). See also Krünitz 138 (1824) 227
(s. v. ‘Schach’). Zedler merely referred to Thomas Hyde’s history of chess, without
providing exact bibliographic data (see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 1460).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 315.
Krünitz 138 (1824) 225 (s. v. ‘Schach’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 586.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 574.
population and society 177

The role of women in society formed an integral part of early mod-

ern European travelogues and descriptions of China.74 Mainly from
these sources eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century works of gen-
eral reference took their information on the subject.
While eighteenth-century encyclopaedias placed information on
women under a variety of headwords,75 the majority of nineteenth-
century encyclopaedias tended to provide compact information under
the headword ‘China’.
In addition, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon disposed information on
women in China also under headwords like ‘costumes’ and ‘woman’.76
Krünitz’ encyclopaedia placed information on women in China under
the headword ‘slavery’.77 The Encyclopédie Catholique offered informa-
tion on women in the context of marriage and described the status of
married women as ‘very sad’.78 Like many of their sources, encyclopae-
dias provided ample information on the marriages of the Chinese.79
Encyclopaedias characterized the role of women in society either
as “forced seclusion”80 or as “careful seclusion” and spoke of “female

For information on women in China as presented in late seventeenth- and
early eighteenth century French accounts see Bai, Les voyageurs français, 274–296
and 317–320. On eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European descriptions
of Chinese women see Osterhammel, Entzauberung, 360 f. See also Folker Reichert,
“Pulchritudo mulierum est parvos habere pedes. Ein Beitrag zur Begegnung Europas
mit der chinesischen Welt,” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 71 (1989), 297–307.—For
information on women contained in leishu (Chinese ‘encyclopaedias’) see Harriet T.
Zurndorfer, “Women in the Epistemological Strategy of Chinese Encyclopaedia. Pre-
liminary Observations from some Sung, Ming and Ch’ing Works,” in Chinese Women
in the Imperial Past. New Perspectives, ed. Harriet T. Zurndorfer, Sinica Leidensia 44
(Leiden: Brill, 1999), 354–395.
Zedler is perhaps the best example for this scattered presentation of information
on women in China: see 27 (1741) col. 1632 (s. v. ‘Pflug’), ibid. 41 (1744) col. 1529 f.
(s. v. ‘Takia’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon, II 12 (1853) 53 (s. v. ‘Trachten’); ibid., II 14,1
(1852) 1212 (s. v. ‘Weib’).
Krünitz 154 (1831) 590 and ibid. 739 (s. v. ‘Sklaverey’).—See also Brockhaus, 7th
ed., vol. 2 (1827) 625.
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 409.
English encyclopaedias referred to the marriages of the Chinese in their entries
on ‘China’ under the heading ‘Characters and Manners’; see e.g. Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia, vol. 6, p. 310; various German encyclopaedias offered information on the
marriages of the Chinese under the headword ‘marriage’; see e. g. Krünitz 23 (1781)
357–363 (s. v. ‘Heurath’); Ersch/Gruber II 9 (1832) 179 (s. v. ‘Hochzeit und Hochzeits-
gebräuche’); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 15 (1850) 303 (s. v. ‘Heirath, Ehe’).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 164 (s. v. ‘China’), in the German original ‘gezwungene
178 chapter five

degradation”81 as well as of “the little value set upon females.”82 In

the Deutsche Encyclopädie, Johann Georg Purmann pointed out that
the status of Chinese women was by far worse than that of Euro-
pean women.83 Half a century later, the eighth edition of Brockhaus
informed the users, that in China the female sex was very subordinate,
but less restricted than in other parts of Asia.84
The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana linked the role of women to the
level of development of civilisation:
It has been frequently remarked that in proportion as civilisation
advances, the respect and attention paid to the weaker sex are increased;
but if the progress of this nation is measured by that standard, they [i.e.
the Chinese] will sink very low in the scale.85
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon argued in a similar way and pointed
out that by the despotic governments of China as well as of Asia in
general women are seen as a mere commodity.86 Encyclopaedias men-
tioned that prostitution was quite common in the cities of China.87
Encyclopaedias also stressed the differences between women of the
upper, middle, and lower classes. The Encyclopaedia Edinensis pointed
out that while upper-class women live in “idleness and apathy” mid-
dle- and lower-class women were exempt from these restrictions. In
the countryside, they took part “in the most laborious operations of
husbandry”, in the cities and towns they were employed in spinning,
weaving, and embroidering.88 The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana distin-
guished the state of higher- and lower-class women in a similar way:
women of the lower classes are allowed “to appear in public without
restraint” but they had to do all hard labour: “[. . .] and the wife drags
the plough, while the husband sows the seed.”89 Rees’ Cyclopaedia

Encyclopaedia Edinensis 2 (1827) 408.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 587.
Deutsche Encyclopädie 7 (1783) 937 (s. v. ‘Ehe der Morgenländer’); Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 309.
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 607.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 573.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 243. (“[. . .] wo das Weib gleichsam als
Waare betrachtet wird [. . .].”).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 14,1 (1852) 1212 (s. v. ‘Weib’), Krünitz 26
(1782) 683 (s. v. ‘Hurerey’), ibid., 235 (1856) 565 (s. v. ‘Weib’).
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 407.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 573.—In European accounts of China,
this strand of discourse appeared at least in Nieuhof’s account of the Dutch embassy
of 1655/57. See the reference in Zedler 27 (1741) col. 1632 (s. v. ‘Pflug’).
population and society 179

added remarks concerning the degree of civilisation of the Chinese in

comparative perspective: “Among savage tribes the labour and drudg-
ery fall heavier on the weaker sex. The Chinese have imposed on their
women a greater degree of humility and restraint than the Greeks of
old, or the Europeans in the dark ages.”90
Furthermore, encyclopaedias pointed out regional differences in the
situation of women in China. In Moréri we read that women in Yun-
nan province enjoyed more freedom than women in all other parts of
the empire.91 Although encyclopaedias perpetuated this observation,
they did not link these regional differences reported by European
observers to the ethnically inhomogeneous population of Yunnan.
Closely linked to descriptions of the seclusion of women, encyclo-
paedias presented information on the custom of footbinding. In her
analysis of shifting Western interpretations of footbinding, Patricia
Ebrey mentioned the “six most dominant ways of framing footbind-
ing: fashion, seclusion, perversity, deformity, child abuse, and cultural
Encyclopaedias regularly commented on the nature of the custom.
Most of them pointed out that Chinese women would not be regarded
as beauties if they did not have small feet.93 In the third edition of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica we read of an “absurd custom.”94 The Ency-
clopaedia Londinensis extensively quotes from the account of George
Leonard Staunton,95 the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia spoke of a “strange
and unnatural custom”96 and the Encyclopédie Catholique labelled it a
“quite bizarre fashion.”97 The Encyclopédie Moderne called the custom
not only barbarous but also inconvenient and dangerous.98

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’ (paragraph on ‘State of Society; Manners
and Customs’).
Moréri 1759 edition, vol. 3, p. 625. See also Zedler 37 (1743) 1561 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
For an assessment of Western descriptions of footbinding see Patricia Ebrey,
“Gender and Sinology: Shifting Western Interpretations of Footbinding, 1300–1890,”
Late Imperial China 20, no. 2 (1999), quote from ibid., p. 11.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1562 (s. v. ‘Sina’), Encyclopédie 12 (1765) 555; Krünitz 15
(1778) 496 (s. v. ‘Fuß’); Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1919.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 682.
Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 460 f.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 310.
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 411.
Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 550 (new ed. vol. 9, col. 121).
180 chapter five

As Rees’ Cyclopaedia pointed out, the small feet of Chinese women

“may challenge the whole world.” Then, further details on bound feet
are provided:
This distorted member consists of a foot that has been cramped in its
growth to the length of four or five inches, and an ancle that is gener-
ally swollen in the same proportion than the foot is diminished. The
little shoe is as fine as tinsel and tawdry can make it, and the ancle is
bandaged round with parsy-coloured cloth ornamented with fringe and
tassel. [. . .] The fashion is, however, at present so universal, that any
deviation from it is considered as disgraceful.99
Throughout the whole period under consideration, encyclopaedias
pointed out that there are no reliable data available concerning the
origins of this custom. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon discussed the origins
of footbinding under the headword ‘Takia’ referring to Da Ji 妲己
(eleventh century BC), the favourite concubine of the infamous Zhou
Xin 紂辛, the last ruler of the Shang 商 dynasty.100 Thus, encyclopae-
dias also mentioned the significance of women who assumed power
in the course of the history of China.101 In Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon
as well as in Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon we read that Liu Bang’s
Empress Lü Zhi 吕雉 (d. 180 BC), the first woman that had ruled
China, dominated politics not only during the reign of her son Han
Huidi 漢惠帝 (195–188 BC) but also ruled until her death.102 Moréri
pointed out that Lü Zhi had made herself empress “against the laws
of the country.”103 In its presentation of Tang history, the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia mentioned that Wu Chao 武綤 (624–705, also known
by her posthumous canonical title as Wu Zetian 武則天), had proved

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’.—On descriptions in German-language
encyclopaedias see Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 421; Meyer, Con-
versations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 240.
Zedler 41 (1744) col. 1529 f. (s. v. ‘Takia, Taika, Taquia’).
On women as de facto rulers in the history of China see Cohen, Introduction to
Research in Chinese Source Materials, 479.
Pierer Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 430 f.; Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 284: “[. . .] die erste Frau, welche in China die Regierung geführt
hatte.”—The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 227 only mentions Lü Zhi in the list
of rulers of the Han dynasty (“Kao-heoo, wife of Kao-tee”).
Moréri, Grand dictionnaire historique, 8th ed. (1698), vol. 2, p. 158.—See also
Du Halde, Description . . . de la Chine, vol. 1, p. 378 f. where Lü Hou is presented as a
female usurper (‘Liu Heou, usurpatrice’).
population and society 181

“a monster of ambition and cruelty.”104 Beginning with Moréri, ency-

clopaedias have pointed out that Wu Chao had usurped the throne.105
In their presentations of footbinding, encyclopaedias quoted from
European sources from Odorico da Pordenone down to various
early nineteenth-century accounts. According to the seventh edi-
tion of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “the Chinese relate twenty dif-
ferent accounts, all equally absurd” on the origins of “this unnatural
custom.”106 The Encyclopaedia Edinensis ended its presentation of the
subject with the remark that “no satisfactory account, however, has
hitherto been given, either of the time when it became current, or of
the reason of its adoption.”107 The seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia
Britannica as well as the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana pointed out that
Marco Polo did not mention this subject.108 While the Encyclopaedia
Britannica as well as other works of general reference mentioned, that
the “crippled feet” of Chinese women “were as common in his time
as they are now”, the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana suggested, that this
might be a comparatively modern “fashion”.109
Encyclopaedias also included the information that this custom was
restricted to the ethnic Chinese and that the Manchu ladies “have
never condescended to lame or imprison themselves, but wear broad
shoes, and ride out on horseback in fine weather.”110 The Encyclopédie
Moderne mentioned that in rural Jiangxi the feet of women were not
bound. The women of Jiangxi would wear sandals of straw and walk
without any difficulty.111
Occasionally, encyclopaedias provided data on the size of Chinese
women’s feet. In the Encyclopédie, we read that the feet of Chinese

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 229.
Moréri, Grand dictionnaire historique, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1698) 159.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 587.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 407.
Encyclopaedia Britannica 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 587 (“wholly silent”); Ency-
clopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (1845) 573 (“the silence of Marco Polo”); Meyer,
Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 240 (‘Marco Polo [. . .] dieser Mode mit keinem
Wort gedenkt”).—Thus, this strand of discourse has been well-established long before
Colonel Henry Yule (1820–1889) pointed it out in his 1871 translation of the account
given by the medieval traveller. See Ebrey, “Gender and Sinology,” 2: “[. . .] since Yule’s
time accounts of Marco Polo routinely mention his silence on footbinding.”
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (1845) 573.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (1845) 573; Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825)
551 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 121).
Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 551 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 121).
182 chapter five

women had to be smaller than those of a of a six-year old child.112 The

second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica states that the “foot
of a full grown woman” should not be “bigger than that of a child of
four years old”;113 according to the third edition the shoes of a “full
grown Chinese woman will frequently not exceed six inches.”114 In this
context, they also referred to the shoes of Chinese women. Some of
these shoes were on display in European museums.115 The Encyclopae-
dia Metropolitana pointed out that these little shoes “were not made
for dolls, as has been sometimes shrewdly conjectured.”116
European observers reported that many people in China had to live
“entirely in vessels on the canals, keeping hogs, poultry, dogs, and
other domestic animals, on board.”117 Remarks on this “floating popu-
lation”, commonly known as Tanka (Danjia 蛋家 in Chinese),118 that
were reported by European travellers and missionaries, were perpetu-
ated by most of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European
encyclopaedias. As the Dutch legation of 1655/57 travelled to Beijing
via the inland waterways of China, Nieuhof ’s account of this legation
first published in 1665 seems to have served as the main source on this
subject.119 Encyclopaedias presented information on ‘floating villages’

Encyclopédie 12 (1765) 555 (s. v. ‘Pié’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed. 3 (1778) 1919 (s. v. ‘China’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed. 4 (1797) 682.
Encyclopédie 12 (1765) 555 “[. . .] les curieux ont dans leurs cabinets de pan-
toufles de dames chinoises qui prouvent assez cette bisarrerie de goût [. . .].”—Krünitz
55 (1791) 414 (s. v. ‘Kunst-Kammer’) refers to the „extraordinary small shoes of Chi-
nese women“ in its information on chambers of curiosities.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (1845) 573.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1918.
On the Tanka see William T. Rowe, “Social Stability and Social Change,” in
The Cambridge History of China. Volume 9. Part One: The Ch’ing Empire to 1800, ed.
Willard J. Peterson (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 508 f.
See also Hayes, “Canton Symposium. The World of the Old China Trade. The Locales
and the People,” 35 f. who addresses them as “indigenous boat people of the Pearl
River Delta.” as well as Helen F. Siu and Zhiwei Liu, “Lineage, Market, Pirate, and Dan
Ethnicity in the Pearl River Delta of South China,” in Empire at the Margins. Culture,
Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China, ed. Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu,
and Donald S. Sutton (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press,
2006), 285–310, on the Dan see ibid., 285–299.
Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III.4, plate 328 not only have
Nieuhof’s sketch of a ‘floating village’ but also (ibid., 1696) Magalhães’ remark on the
“two Empires in China, the one upon the Water, and the other upon the Land; and
as many Venice’s as there are Cities.”—Robinet 11 (1779) 638 refers to these ‘two
empires‘ of China.
population and society 183

either in their article on China or (as may be seen from German and
French encyclopaedias) even under separate headwords.120
In its section on trade and commerce, the Encyclopédie Méthodique
pointed out, that this ‘floating population’ represents a well-organized
community.121 This remark may be seen in the context of govern-
mental measures taken against non-resident groups of population in
late-eighteenth century Europe. In its section on Economie politique et
diplomatique, it pointed out that the ‘floating population’ is also fed
by the garbage thrown overboard by European ships coming to the
Zhujiang (Pearl River) delta.122 A similar remark of Adam Smith in his
Wealth of Nations shows that this information must have been spread
throughout late eighteenth-century Europe.123
In its article on ‘China’, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia inserted simi-
lar information on this ‘floating population’ apparently based on the
travelogue of Chrétien Louis Joseph de Guignes (1759–1845) under
the heading ‘Paupers’. Under the heading ‘Mode of living’ it added:
“There is nothing so filthy, that those who ply in boats upon the river
at Canton will not use as food; and the dead hogs, which are thrown
over board, and which float when begin to putrefy, are considered by
these poor creatures as a most valuable prize, and often furnish occa-
sion for serious contests.”124
Closely connected to the state of Chinese society, encyclopaedias
presented information on infanticide and on infant abandonment. In
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon, it is pointed out that Chinese men would
have no scruples to sell or even to drown their own children.125 Quot-
ing extensively from Grosier’s “defence of the Chinese from the charge
of murdering and exposing their children”, the third edition of the

Zedler 9 (1735) col. 1361 (s. v. ‘Flügende Dörffer oder schwimmende Dörffer
in China’); Encyclopédie 6 (1756) 879b (s. v. ‘Flottes de la Chine’, Z.); Encyclopédie
d’Yverdon 19 (1773) 456 f. (s. v. ‘Flottes de la Chine’); Deutsche Encyclopädie 7 (1783)
547 (s. v. ‘Dorf (historisch)’); ibid., 10 (1785) 258 (‘Floß’) and ibid., 263 (s. v. ‘Chine-
sische Flotten’).
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Commerce 3 (1788), s. v. ‘Villes flottantes’.
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie politique et diplomatique 4 (1788) 561
(s. v. ‘Travail’).
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
(London 1791), vol. 1, p. 108. Quoted in Lottes, “China in European Political Thought,”
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 269 (China: ‘Paupers’), ibid. p. 311 (China:
‘Mode of living’).—In this context the Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 406 refers to
“garbage of all kind.”
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1561 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
184 chapter five

Encyclopaedia Britannica ascribes this practice mainly to the idolatry

prevailing among the Chinese.126 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia labelled
the practice of infanticide “as one of the deepest stigmas upon the
character of the Chinese, and as the most unequivocal proof of their
unfeeling disposition.” In its presentation, it explicitly refers only to
the travelogue of the younger de Guignes who not only had dismissed
the supposed frequency of this practice but also pointed out, that “the
Chinese tenderly love their children.”127 As late as in 1843, the ninth
edition of Brockhaus refers to the abandoning of children.128
Since the beginning of European expansion to Southeast Asia, Euro-
pean observers reported on overseas Chinese. Encyclopaedias included
information on the Chinese living in Southeast Asia under a broad
variety of headwords. In Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon, information on
overseas Chinese was disposed in articles on Batavia and on the Philip-
pine Islands.129 Almost a century later this information was presented
not only under geographical headwords130 but also under headwords
like ‘overpopulation’ (Krünitz) or ‘emigration’ (Meyer).131
It was noticed that the Chinese had no interest to found colonies.
In Borneo and Banka, Chinese emigrants successfully engaged them-
selves in mining. They had a much more robust physical constitution
than the indigenous population. Moreover, they also had the neces-
sary technical skills to succeed in mining. In its supplement, Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon described the processes of assimilation of the
Chinese to the indigenous population.132
European encyclopaedias tended to stress the importance of the
Chinese diaspora for the economic development of Southeast Asia.133
While Europeans repeatedly described the Chinese Empire as stag-
nant, they noticed the dynamic role of emigrated Chinese in the soci-
eties of Southeast Asia. In its article on ‘Jaccatra’, Rees’ Cyclopaedia
mentioned the “industry and perseverance of the Chinese, who are

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 673.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 310 f.
Brockhaus, 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 386.
Zedler 3 (1733) col. 672 (s. v. ‘Batavia’), ibid., 27 (1741) col. 1949 (s. v. ‘Philip-
pinische Inseln’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 18, s. v. ‘Jaccatra’.
Krünitz 193 (1847) 110 (s. v. ‘Übervölkerung’); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I
4,2 (1844) 920 f. (s. v. ‘Auswanderung’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon S 1 (1853) 1249.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 3, s. v. ‘Batavia’.
population and society 185

settled here.”134 While the despotic rule of the emperors presumably

had paralyzed the people throughout their realm, emigration helped
to set free unpredictable energy. The majority of Chinese emigrants
originated from Fujian province. Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon men-
tioned two reasons for this: on the one hand, Fujian very early had
taken an active part in overseas trade, on the other hand, due to its
geographical and topographical situation, this province had been pro-
tected from the polishing influence of Chinese culture.135 In its sup-
plementary information on China, the Conversations-Lexikon pointed
out that in recent times the Chinese had proved to be the ‘greatest
colonial people of Asia’ (das größte Kolonialvolk Asiens). Concerning
their activity in agriculture and horticulture, in trade and commerce as
well as their exclusive character, they might be considered next to the
‘Anglo-Saxon race’ (stehen sie der angelsächsischen Race am nächsten),
as the Chinese also tended to conquer, to subjugate and to extinguish
the indigenous population: In Mongolia they would control the fertile
land. In Bangkok there were living more than 300,000 Chinese. In the
Philippines and on Java as well European rule repeatedly had seen
uprisings of the Chinese.136
About 1850, encyclopaedias mentioned the beginning of Chinese
emigration/immigration to California. They linked it partly to the Cal-
ifornia Gold Rush and partly to the social unrest in China resulting in
the Taiping Rebellion.137

5.3 Material Culture

Concerning the material culture of the Chinese encyclopaedias focused

on Chinese clothing and on Chinese food.
In his article for the Encyclopédie Moderne, Eyriès pointed out that
he would not give a description of the dress of the Chinese, not only
because of the various illustrations on the subject given in books deal-
ing with China but also because of the great number of Chinese clothes

Ibid., vol. 18, s. v. ‘Jaccatra’; Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 11, p. 631 (s. v.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 3 (1850) 1042 f. (s. v. ‘Phukian’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon S2 (1853) 955 (s. v. ‘China’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon S1 (1853) 1242 (s. v. ‘Auswanderung’).
186 chapter five

imported to Europe.138 In fact, from the seventeenth century onwards,

European observers had described the dress of the Chinese in detail.139
Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century encyclopaedias mainly relied on
Du Halde and Grosier.140 As early as in the Encyclopédie we read that
the Chinese did not wear hats but caps of a particular shape.141 The
second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica contains a concise but
very vivid description of Chinese dress:
The men wear a cap of the shape of a bell on their heads, which does
not cover their ears; they also wear a vest and sash, and over the vest a
loose coat or gown, and a kind of silk boots quilted with cotton. In the
southern provinces the inhabitants, when at home, throw off every thing
but a pair of drawers, and appear naked; as the common people also do
on the streets. The women dress with their hair down, having nothing
on their heads, in the south. They generally wear a silk vest, red, blue,
or green; and over it a loose gown with white sleeves, and embroidered
silk shoes [. . .].142
According to Krünitz, Chinese dress was very uniform and only
slightly adapted for the different seasons. This adaptation may be seen
from different fabrics used for the clothes and from their headgears:
from spring to fall they wear straw hats, in winter they wear fur caps.143
About four decades later, the Encyclopaedia Edinensis pointed out,
that the costume “of either sex, and of all ranks of the Chinese, is
essentially the same” only mentioning regional differences the South
and the North caused by the different climates.144

Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 551 f. (new ed., vol. 9, col. 121).—On Euro-
pean perceptions of Chinese clothing from late sixteenth- to late nineteenth-century
see Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes in China. Fashion, History, Nation (London:
Hurst & Co., 2007), 19–41.
According to Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe. III/4, 1701, who
discuss late-seventeenth century European descriptions of Chinese dress, Nieuhof
and Dapper made extensive use of the descriptions given by Trigault, Semedo, and
Martini. Kircher had provided “some beautiful illustrations of Chinese dress but little
other description.” For a discussion of French descriptions of Chinese clothing see
Bai, Les voyageurs français, 307–309.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 163 n. 26 (s. v. ‘China’, W. Schott) refers to Grosier.
Encyclopédie 2 (1751) 324 (s. v. ‘Bonnet’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1919 f. For a similar presenta-
tion see English Encyclopaedia 2 (1802) 494.—in the third edition of the Encyclopae-
dia Britannica (vol. 4 (1797) 681) the presentation of this subject had been slightly
Krünitz 40 (1787) 168 (s. v. ‘Kleid’).
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 406.
population and society 187

The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana adds that the “present dress” of

the Chinese dates back only to the Manchu conquest and that the rich
“have a superfluity of robes and coverings, of which silk, the staple
production of the country, is the favourite material.”145 As late as in
the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia we read that silk forms “the principal
clothing of the greater part of its inhabitants.”146
Closely connected to Chinese clothing, encyclopaedias included
remarks on the hairstyle of the Chinese. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon
mentions that the Chinese wore plaits according to the fashion of the
Tartars.147 Referring to Le Comte’s Nouveaux memoires, encyclopae-
dias mentioned the beards of the Chinese.
The Chinese are said to affect long beards, but nature having denied
their natural growth, they are sometimes supplied to the chin artificially.
(See Nouveaux Memoires sur l’Etat de la Chine, par le R. P. le Comte,
tom i. p. 209.)148
Due to the accounts of Dutch observers149 and of Roman Catholic mis-
sionaries, Europeans had been well-informed about the massive break
that occurred at the beginning of the Qing dynasty. As early as in
the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that the
Qing had forced the Chinese “to cut of all their hair except a lock
on the crown like the Mahometans.”150 After a similar description,
the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia even mentioned the Chinese term for
this queue: “[. . .], they shave the hair from their heads, except a single
tress or tuft, which they form into a long plaited queue, called Penzé
[bianzi 辮子].”151 In its presentation of the history of China, Meyer’s

Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 574. See also Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,
vol. 6, p. 312.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 304.
Zedler 12 (1735) col. 16 (s. v. ‘Haar’).
Penny Cyclopaedia 4 (1835) 96 (s. v. ‘Beard’). See also Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 4,
s. v. ‘Beard’; Ersch/Gruber I 7 (1821) 435 and ibid note 7 (s. v. ‘Bart’). Without refer-
ring to Le Comte’s account Zedler 3 (1733) 531 (s. v. ‘Bart’) mentioned the beards of
the Chinese.
On seventeenth-century Dutch representations of this subject see Ulrichs,
Nieuhofs Blick, 77.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1919 (s. v. ‘China’); see also
ibid., 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 681 (111. Chinese obliged by the Tartars to cut off their
hair); Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 551 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 120 f.). For an assess-
ment of early European accounts on the new hairstyle since the Manchu conquest see
Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III.4, 1702.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 312.—In similar words, the bianzi is described
in Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 163 f. (s. v. ‘China’; W. Schott) and in the Encyclopaedia
188 chapter five

Conversations-Lexikon pointed out that these directives did not match

with other plans of the Manchu conquerors to win the affection of the
conquered in adopting their manners and customs.152
Concerning the outward appearance of the Chinese, encyclopae-
dias also mentioned the long finger-nails of the Chinese. In referring
to similar customs reported from the coasts of Guinea and Malabar,
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon pointed out that the length of the finger-
nails would serve for the distinction of ranks.153 The ninth edition of
Brockhaus refers to the long nail on the little finger of high-ranking
Information on Chinese food and beverages155 formed an integral
part in encyclopaedias’ presentation of Chinese material culture.
Their dishes are chiefly in the form of stews of fish, fowl, and meat,
sometimes separately, and sometimes promiscuously, mixed with vari-
ous vegetables and sauces; and their drink at table is either tea or an
ardent spirit distilled from millet or rice, which they always drink in a
hot state, and which is said to resemble hot brandy. They eat very plenti-
fully, and rather voraciously, at meals; and throughout the day they are
constantly eating pastry and fruits, sipping spirituous liquors, smoking
tobacco, or chewing betel and areca nut.156
In their presentations of Chinese food, Europeans usually distin-
guished between the meals of the wealthy and the diet of the lower
classes. Travelogues and first-hand accounts of the country and its
people formed a main source for information on Chinese food and
beverages as presented in encyclopaedias. 157 Based on these travel-
ogues (as well as on a wide range of other publications on China) the
Göttingen scholar Christoph Meiners (1747–1810) and the Swedish
historian Bengt Bergius (1723–1784) each published detailed synop-
ses. The value of these works was acknowledged by the compilers of

Metropolitana 16 (1845) 574. On the hairstyle of Chinese women see Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia, vol. 6, p. 313.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 290.
Zedler 23 (1740) col. 425 (s. v. ‘Nagel’). See also Krünitz 100 (1805) 593 (s. v.
Brockhaus 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 386.
On the variety and changes in the history of Chinese cuisine see Wilkinson,
Chinese History, 635–645. On late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century
accounts of Chinese cuisine see Bai, Les voyageurs français, 302–307.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 312.
See e.g. the remarks in Zedler 43 (1745) col. 535 (s. v. ‘Thee’) on early European
accounts of tea drinking in China and Japan.
population and society 189

encyclopaedias. Krünitz frequently referred to the German translation

of Bergius’ work that had been prepared and published by Johann
Reinhold Forster (1729–1798) and Kurt Sprengel (1766–1833).158 In
Rees’ Cyclopaedia we read:
The researches of Meiners respecting food seem to have exhausted every
accessible authority on the subject: his deductions exhibit so complete
a view of the matter, that we present them to the reader in his own
According to the Encyclopaedia Edinensis, the “ordinary bill of fare of
the common people of China, is neither abundant nor various.”160 In
describing the meals of the lower classes, encyclopaedias stressed the
importance of boiled rice, millet and other grains. As the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia put it, the Chinese “have little milk, no butter, cheese,
or bread.” The poor only could afford “a morsel of pork”. Encyclopae-
dias perpetuated early modern European reports that the lower classes
eat “rats, mice and other vermin”, which according to the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia, “are all excellent food to a Chinese.”161 In referring to
animals which the Chinese allegedly would “devour most greedily”,
the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana added, that the Chinese thus could
not be accused of “squeamishness”.162
The seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica points out that
only when “animal food fails them, the Chinese make no scruple in
eating lizards, toads, grubs, cats, rats, mice, and many other nauseous
creatures.”163 Apart from pork and donkey meat, Meyer’s Conversa-
tions-Lexikon mentioned that the Chinese were also fond of dog meat

Bengt Bergius, Über die Leckereyen. Aus dem Schwedischen mit Anmerkungen
von D. Joh. Reinh. Forster und D. Kurt Sprengel, 2 parts (Halle: Buchhandlung des
Waisenhauses, 1792).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 22, fol. Ss3v (s. v. ‘Man’).
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 406.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 311. Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon. 2nd ed.,
vol. 6 (1841) 421 also mentioned the consumption of dogs, cats, and rats without
distinguishing between the food of the rich and the poor.—Referring to Navarrete’s
seventeenth-century account of China, Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of
Europe III.4, 1691 wrote: “He [i.e. Navarrete], like everyone else, reports that the Chi-
nese eat dogs, horses, buffaloes, cats and mice.”
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 574.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 580.—See also Encyclopédie
moderne 6 (1825) 553 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 122), where it is pointed out that the
lower classes would eat these things without the slightest scruple (sans scrupule). The
Deutsche Encyclopädie 19 (1796) 371 (s. v. ‘Katze’) mentioned that the Chinese con-
sider cats to be a delicacy.
190 chapter five

which they regard as even more tasty, and therefore they would take
great care of their dogs. It added that the Chinese also would be very
fond of eating the cooked and dried chrysalis of silkworm.164 In Krünitz’
encyclopaedia we read that the Chinese esteem locusts and bats as
delicious.165 The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana noted that the Manchus
would consider horsemeat and asses as “a favourite dish” and that the
stag’s tail “is a luxury too exquisite for any but the Emperor’s table.”166
The most exotic meals on the tables of the wealthy were mentioned by
almost all European encyclopaedias as the most delicious ones.167
The wealthy Chinese seek after the most nourishing and invigorating
diet with great avidity, and at whatever price. The greatest delicacies
are the most gelatinous substances, the paws of the bear, the fins of the
shark, the sinewy parts of the stag and other animals, the nests of a par-
ticular species of swallows brought chiefly from Cambodia, and a kind
of fucus or sea-plant.168
While any further explanations on the paws of the bear, the sinewy
parts of the stag and the fins of the shark did not seem to be necessary,169
Europeans had been eager to learn more about the nature of bird’s
nests.170 Early eighteenth-century encyclopaedias took their informa-
tion not only from travel accounts but also from compilations relating
to natural history. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon referred to the Museum
Wormianum (a description of the collection of Olaus (Ole) Worm
(1588–1654), published in 1655) and to a German edition of Pierre
Pomet’s (1658–1699) Histoire générale des drogues (the French original

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 259: “Noch schmackhafter findet der
Chinese das Fleisch der H u n de , denen deshalb eine besondere Sorgfalt gewidmet
wird.“—As early as in Krünitz 26 (1782) 683 (s. v. ‘Hund’) it is pointed out that in
China the meat of dogs is more expensive than beef or mutton.
Krünitz 23 (1781) 493; ibid. 220 (1854) 29.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, vol. 16 (1845) 574.—Information on the Chinese
fondness of horsemeat had already been reported by Nieuhof. See the respective refer-
ence in Krünitz 110 (1808) 325 (‘Pferd’).
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 412.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 312. For similar enumerations see Encyclo-
paedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 406.
The Deutsche Encyclopädie 9 (1784) 25 also contains information on the prepa-
ration of the sinewy parts of the stag and of bear’s paws.
Leonard Blussé, “In praise of commodities. An essay on the cross-cultural trade
in edible bird’s nests.” Emporia, commodities and entrepreneurs in Asian maritime
trade, c. 1400 to 1750; ed, Roderich Ptak and Dietmar Rothermund. Contributions to
South Asian Studies 141, (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1991), 317–335.
population and society 191

published in 1694)—together with the travelogue of Jean Baptiste

Tavernier (1605–1689). The article mentions that the Chinese were
extremely fond of these nests and that incredible quantities of them
were brought to the court of Peking.171 These bird’s nests were subject
to an extensive trade and thus information on them also had been
included in Savary’s Dictionnaire du commerce, which was the only
source explicitly referred to by Jaucourt in his article on bird’s nests
for the Encyclopédie.172
The Deutsche Encyclopädie already referred to the Linnaean system
and refuted earlier theories on the nature of these nests, that still had
been perpetuated in its information on Chinese food.173 Rees’ Cyclo-
paedia mentioned the description of these edible nests given by Wil-
liam Marsden (1754–1836) in The History of Sumatra (1783) and by
Sir George Staunton in his account on the British embassy to China
(1797) but prefers to rely on “a more minute and ample description
of them” published in the third volume of the transactions of the
Batavian society for promoting the arts and sciences (Verhandelingen
van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen).174
Krünitz’ encyclopaedia repeatedly mentioned these bird’s nests. In
1829 as well as in 1855, it referred neither to the eighteenth- and early
nineteenth-century English nor to the above-mentioned eighteenth-
century Dutch reports but quoted from descriptions by Germans in
the service of the Dutch East India Company dating from the end of
the seventeenth century (Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716) and Georg
Eberhard Rumpf (1627–1702)) as well as from the works of Buffon
and to the account of Pierre Poivre.175

Zedler 50 (1746) 225 f. (s. v. ‘Vogelnester, (Ostindische)’).
Encyclopédie 11 (1765) 138 (s. v. ‘Nids d’oiseaux’).
Deutsche Encyclopädie 17 (1792) 306 (s. v. ‘Indianische Vogelnester, Tunkins-
nester’), see also ibid., 9 (1784) 25 (s. v. ‘Essen der morgenländischen und andrer
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 4, s. v. ‘Bird’s nests’. See William Marsden, The History of
Sumatra, Containing an Account of the Government, Laws, Customs, and Manners of
the Native Inhabitants, With a Description of the Natural Productions, and a Relation
of the Ancient Political Status of that Island (London: Printed for the Author, 3rd ed.
1811), 174 f.
Krünitz 150 (1829) 42–46 (s. v. ‘Schwalbe’); ibid., 226 (1855) 306–312 (s. v.
‘Vogel’). See Georges Louis Leclerc comte de Buffon, Histoire naturelle des oiseaux.
Vol. 6: Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi.
Vol. 21. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1779), 682–694 (X. La Salangane).
192 chapter five

From the sixteenth century onwards, European observers mentioned

the importance of tea as a popular and widely consumed beverage in
East Asia. Encyclopaedias repeatedly referred to the Dutch role in the
tea trade, and to early descriptions of the tea plant.176
In eighteenth-century general dictionaries we read that the Chinese
make no wine regardless of excellent grapes that grow in the country.177
According to the Deutsche Encyclopädie the Chinese had abstained
from drinking wine in earlier times.178 In its article on beverages, the
Deutsche Encyclopädie pointed out, that the Chinese also produced
other alcoholic drinks in using rice, wheat, or fruits. The quantity
used for the production of these wide-spread alcoholic drinks had
been that high that it even had caused famines,179 although in case of
bad harvests the authorities could prohibit the use of crops for distil-
lation.180 Under the headword ‘Tarasun’, the Encyclopédie presented
ample information on “a kind of beer or fermented liquor made by the
Chinese” relying on the account published by Johann Georg Gmelin
(1709–1755) on his travels in Siberia.181
Under the headword ‘Hokchus’ Krünitz’ encyclopaedia as well as the
Deutsche Encyclopädie compared this beverage to brown ale.182 Accord-
ing to the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia the Chinese were “well-versed” in

See e.g. Penny Cyclopaedia 24 (1842) 284–291, esp. 284 f. (s. v. ‘Thea’). Without
giving any references Krünitz 182 (1844) 732 f. (s. v. ‘Thee’) mentioned the accounts
of Kaempfer, ten Rhyne, and Bontekoe as well as the descriptions given by Osbeck,
Linné, and Lettsom. For a bibliographic overview on early European descriptions (up
to 1770) of the tea plant see John Coakley Lettsom, The Natural History of the Tea-
Tree, With Observations on the Medical Qualities of Tea, and Effects of Tea-Drinking
(London: Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, 1772), 8–12.
An Universal, Historical, Geographical, Chronological and Poetical Dictionary 1
(1703) s. v. ‘China’ (“The Chinese make no wine, tho’ they have excellent grapes.”);
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1566 (s. v. ‘Sina’).—As late as Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I
7,2 (1845) 259 pointed out that the Chinese only use their grapes to make a kind of
fruit-wine (eine Art Most) and that they make no wine.
Deutsche Encyclopädie 9 (1784) 25 (s. v. ‘Essen der morgenländischen und
andrer Völker’, Purmann).
Deutsche Encyclopädie 12 (1787) 242 (s. v. ‘Getränke (antiq. orient.)’, Purmann);
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 663; Krünitz 186 (1845) 672 (s. v.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 673.
Encyclopédie 15 (1765) 903 (s. v. ‘Tarasun’).—Other references to this term
include Zedler 41 (1744) col. 1809 (s. v. ‘Tarasun’), Ersch/Gruber I 10 (1823) 131 (s. v.
‘Bier’), Krünitz 160 (1842) 204 (s. v. ‘Tarasum’).
Krünitz 24 (1781) 336 (s. v. ‘Hokchus’), Deutsche Encyclopädie 15 (1790) 881
(s. v. ‘Hokchus’).
population and society 193

the “practice of distillation”. One of their spirits, called “San-tchoo”

was said “to have some resemblance to the whisky of Scotland.”183
In the Deutsche Encyclopädie, Johann Georg Purmann wrote not
only on the various meals and beverages of the Chinese but also of
their table manners: Without naming his sources, he noticed the
absence of tablecloths, knives and forks. Each person has a pair of
chopsticks made of wood or ivory. They use these chopsticks to handle
their food. In this regard, the Chinese show an admirable cleanliness.
Contrary to the practice of other Oriental people, the Chinese would
sit on high chairs. At banquets, each guest has his own table.184 In its
account on the history of China, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed
out that Zhou Xin, the last ruler of the Shang dynasty “is considered as
the inventor of the little ivory sticks which the Chinese employ in eat-
ing their food.”185 Under its headword ‘Fork’, the Penny Cyclopaedia
linked information on the use of forks in seventeenth-century Britain
to accounts referring to the practice of the Chinese:
Even when Heylin published his ‘Cosmography,’ in 1652, forks for the
table were still a novelty (see his third book); where, having spoken of
the ivory sticks used by the Chinese, he adds, ‘the use of silver forks with
us by some of our spruce gallants taken up of late, came from hence into
Italy, and from thence into England.’186

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 283.
Deutsche Encyclopädie 9 (1784) 25 (s. v. ‘Essen der morgenländischen und
andrer Völker’, Purmann).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 224. According to Lach and Van Kley, Asia
in the Making of Europe. III/4, 1706, who refer to Navarrete’s account, any early mod-
ern European “description of Chinese food and banquets includes a description of
chopsticks.” Moréri 1759 ed., vol. 3, p. 625 also mentioned the chopsticks (“avec de
petits batons qui leur servent de fourchettes”).—See Joseph Needham, Science and
Civilisation in China. Volume 6: Biology and Biological Technology. Part 5: Fermen-
tation and Food Science. By H. T. Huang (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2000), 104: “Chopsticks are, of course, the best-known and most characteristically
Chinese eating implement. According to the Shih Chi (Records of the Historian), –90,
by Szuma Chhien, King Chou, the last ruler of the Shang dynasty, was the first person
to have made a pair of chopsticks out of ivory, which implies that chopsticks must
have been known before King Chou’s time, that is, before –1100.”
Penny Cyclopaedia 10 (1838) 371 (s. v. ‘Fork’).


6.1 The Administration of China

In presenting the government of China, encyclopaedias either gave

ideologically coloured analyses or they provided descriptive accounts
of the most important governmental authorities and agencies.1 Accord-
ing to the opening paragraph in the entry on ‘China’ in the section
on political economy of the Encyclopédie Méthodique, no government
deserves to be studied more by philosophers and political leaders than
that of China.2 This statement clearly refers to early modern European
accounts of East Asia that depicted Chinese government and adminis-
tration as a model for the modernization of European bureaucracy. The
section on law of the Encyclopédie Méthodique warmly recommended
to read the works of Montesquieu (De l’esprit des loix, 1748), Raynal
(Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce
des Européens dans les deux Indes, 1770), and Mably (Doutes proposés
aux philosophes économistes, sur l’ordre naturel et essentiel des sociétés
politiques, 1768).3
This interest was boosted not only by the idealistic presentation of
the government of China in the reports of the Jesuits, but also by the
European discourse on Oriental despotism.4 The second edition of
the Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that the government of China “is
monarchical, and in the highest degree despotic”. The Chinese were
“inured to this kind of government” and that they have “little notion”
of any alternative. This was illustrated by referring to the difficulties
the Dutch legation of 1655/57 encountered in applying for an audience

For a discussion of the accounts of the Chinese government given by French
Jesuit missionaries see Bai, Les voyageurs français, 99–148.
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Economie Politique et Diplomatique 1 (1784) 543.
Encyclopédie Méthodique, Jurisprudence 2 (1783), s. v. ‘Chine’.
See Rubiés, “Oriental Despotism and European Orientalism: Botero to Montes-
196 chapter six

at the Qing court.5 The supplement to the third edition of the Encyclo-
paedia Britannica notes that the “government of China is despotic.”6
According to the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the
Emperor of China as a “self-created universal autocrat is not only the
fountain of all honour in his wide dominions, but of all mercy.”7
In the Penny Cyclopaedia, we read that the government of China “is
in principle an absolute despotism” and that the “authority of a father
over his family is well known to be the exemplar or type of political
rule in the country.”8 In characterising the government of China, ency-
clopaedias usually referred to its ‘patriarchal’ principles.9 According
to Rees’ Cyclopaedia “examples of tyranny are rare” as the emperor is
taught “to regard the people as his children, and not as his slaves.”10
The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana pointed out, that from this ‘strictly’
patriarchal form of government “it might be inferred that they existed
as a separate community in the earliest ages.”11 According to Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon, the pattern of this patriarchal system may be
traced back to the origins of Chinese civilisation.
After the emergence of a differentiated government, the patriarchal
system had been maintained as an instrument of suppression.12 As
Rees’ Cyclopaedia put it, this system had been established on all levels
of administrative organization throughout the empire.13 Closely linked
to descriptions of the patriarchal form of government were remarks on
the filial piety prevailing among the Chinese:
The ancient and established maxims of filial piety, form, however, the
grand basis of the Chinese government. Every son is supposed to hold
the same relation to his father that the people do to the sovereign; and
the same unnatural and unwarrantable power which is given to the father
over his children could not consistently be withheld from the emperor.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1918.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., Supplement 1 (1801) 423 (s. v. ‘China’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 553.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 76.
Krünitz 227 (1855) 432 (s. v. ‘Völkerkunde’).—The term ‘family’ also denotes a
metaphor used “for the paternalistic and authoritarian nature of the imperial govern-
ment [. . .] This metaphor of family was the basis for rationalizing a highly centralized
government [. . .]” (Cohen, Introduction to Research in Chinese Source Materials, 461 f.).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4P2v (s. v. ‘China’).
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 557.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 270 and 272.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’.
government, politics and economy 197

No wickedness or unnatural treatment can, on the part of the parent,

relieve a son from his duties.14
Ever since the earliest contacts between Europe and China, European
observers were attracted by the fullness of power of the supreme rul-
ers of China. Rather soon, Europeans labelled the sovereign of China
as emperor.
The eighth edition of Moréri derived its information on the emperor,
the empresses, and the court of China from the report of Johann Grue-
ber SJ (1623–1680).15 While Moréri still quoted the French transla-
tions for the various Chinese titles given in Thévenot, any translation
of these titles later was omitted in the article on China published in
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon—the user of the dictionary is provided only
with the transcriptions of the respective Chinese renderings.16
Speaking of the emperor of China, European encyclopaedias
informed their users of the wide range of titles in use for this ruler.
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon introduced the terms huangdi 皇帝 and
tianzi 天子.17 About a century later, Schott translated the first of these
terms as ‘the sublime’ (der Hocherhabene) and ‘Son of Heaven’ (Sohn
des Himmels).18 In 1845, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon mentioned the
title huangdi and the Mongolian rendering (Bogdo-Khan) as well as
German renderings of further denominations for the emperor: ‘father
of the nation’, ‘sole ruler of the world’, ‘venerable lord of the golden
throne of the hall of heaven’—without presenting transcriptions of the
respective Chinese terms.19
In describing the imperial attributes, encyclopaedias usually stressed
the great importance of the yellow colour. Even a yellow-coloured
folding screen was regarded as venerable as the emperor in person
by the Chinese. This unlimited veneration was also shown to imperial

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 554.
Moréri, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1698) 153–161.—See “Viaggio del P. Giovanni Grueber,
tornando per terra da China in Europa”, in: Relations de divers voyages curieux, qui
n’ont point esté publiées, et qu’on a traduit ou tiré des Originaux des Voyageurs Fran-
çois, Espagnols, Allemands, Portugais, Anglois, Hollandois, Persans, Arabes & Autres
Orientaux, published by the late Melchisédech Thévenot. Second, enlarged edition
(Paris: Moette, 1696), vol. II, part IV, p. 4 (all accounts are paginated separately).
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1565 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
Zedler 43 (1745) col. 1332 f. (s. v. ‘Thiensu’).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 271 and 273.
198 chapter six

decrees and visual representations of the emperor.20 Encyclopaedias

mentioned two mythical creatures and their significance for the rep-
resentation of imperial power: the dragon and the phoenix. The sig-
nificance of the five-clawed dragon as the most important figure to
be found on various imperial insignia was disseminated by almost all
works of general knowledge.21 In Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon we read
that the Chinese would regard the phoenix as a symbol of great vir-
tue.22 Ersch/Gruber pointed out that the symbolic use of the dragon is
intended to describe something excellent.23
Rees’ Cyclopaedia mentioned “two councils” that had to “assist the
emperor in the weighty affairs of the state”, only referring to them as
the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary” council.24 As the highest execu-
tive and advisory board of the central government of China, Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon presented the neige 内閣 or ‘inner cabinet’,
consisting of four ordinary members and two assessors. These men
had acquired an in-depth knowledge of the affairs of state, govern-
ment and administration. One of their tasks had been the drafting
of imperial edicts and decrees. They also were assisting the emperor
in performing religious ceremonies.25 After presenting information on
the neige, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon discussed the privy council
commonly known as junjichu 軍機處 (Kiung-ki-tschu) that had been
established later than the neige. The members of this most powerful
governmental body in China met every day and they usually accompa-
nied the emperor on his travels.26 In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième
siècle, Édouard Biot pointed out the difference between the neige and
the junchichu: while the former is charged with the preparation of

Brockhaus 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 210; ibid., 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 387; Meyer,
Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 271.
Zedler 7 (1734) col. 1374 (s. v. ‘Drache’) and ibid., 37 (1743) 1572 (s. v. ‘Sina’);
Meyer I 7,2 (1845) 272 f. (s. v. ‘China’) and ibid., I 7,4 (1846) 1100–1101 (s. v. ‘Drache’);
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 252.—Krünitz 9 (1776) 455–457 (s. v. ‘Drache’) did
not refer to China.
Zedler 27 (1741) col. 2184 (s. v. ‘Phönix, Sonnenvogel’).
Ersch/Gruber I 27 (1836) 286 (s. v. ‘Drache (Mythologie)’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. [4P3r].
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 274. On the neige (Grand Secretariat),
“from the 1420s to 1730, the most distinguished and influential body in the central
government”, see Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 346 f. (no. 4193, s. v. ‘nèi-kó’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 274. Established in 1730, the junjichu
(Council of State) “deliberated with the Emperor on all policy matters, civil as well
as military, and promulgated the Emperor’s decisions.” Hucker, Dictionary of Official
Titles, 200 (no. 1735, s. v. ‘chün-chī ch’ù’).
government, politics and economy 199

imperial decrees relating to celebrations and current affairs, the latter

assists the emperor in his political decisions.27
Of the various denominations in use for high-ranking Chinese
officials the Encyclopédie also introduces the term gelao 閣老, which
had been an unofficial reference to the Grand Secretaries (da xueshi
大學士)28 during the Ming and the Qing dynasties. Under a separate
headword (‘Ko-laos’) the Encyclopédie pointed out, that these gelao are
the most influential advisers of the emperor mostly presiding over the
six boards (les tribunaux supérieurs).29 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia
also mentions some appellations in use for the high-ranking officials:
“Lao-ye [laoye 老爺], or lord; Ta-lao-ye [da laoye 大老爺], or great
lord; Ta-gin [da ren 大人], or great man.”30
In presenting the six boards or ministries as the major govern-
mental agencies of China, encyclopaedias presented a host of differ-
ent spellings and translations31 and introduced various renderings in
European languages to explain the duties of each of the six boards
or ministries.32 Some encyclopaedias dealt with these ministries under
respective headwords, some of them in their sections on govern-
ment and administration of China. In the Encyclopédie four of the

Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461.
On the term gelao see Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 278 f. (no. 3174, s. v.
‘kó-lăo’), on da xueshi see ibid., 466 (no. 5962, s. v. ‘tà hsüéh-shìh’).
Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 134 (s. v. ‘Ko-laos’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 245.
On the liubu see Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 318 f. (no. 3805). Ency-
clopaedias gave several different renderings of the term liu bu (six boards): In the
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 725 we read of “six départemens” (with
a slight orthographical alteration the Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 404 has “six
départments”), in the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461 of “six cours
souveraines” and in the Encyclopédie Nouvelle, vol. 3, p. 533 of “six tribunaux ou con-
seils supérieurs”—The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 665 referred to
them as “six sovereign courts”; in the Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 448 there
are mentioned six “superior courts [. . .] under the general denomination of leou-pou
[. . .].” (italics as in the original ); Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’ as well as the
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 413 have “six boards or departments”; the Penny
Cyclopaedia, vol. 7 (1837) 77 had “six boards or tribunals”, the Encyclopaedia Bri-
tannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 554 spoke of “six departments”; in the Encyclopaedia
Metropolitana 16 (1845) 557 we read of “supreme tribunals” and in the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 240 of “six superior tribunals”. Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1565
spoke of nine judicial courts (“9 Gerichte”); In Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166 Schott
spoke of “6 Hauptcollegien” and Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 275 had
“6 oberste Tribunale” (six supreme tribunals).
For the presentation of the Six Ministries in early seventeenth-century European
accounts see Lach and van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III/4, 1582 f., for Le
Comte’s presentation in his Nouveau Mémoires in 1696 see Bai, Les voyageurs français,
200 chapter six

six ministries (the Ministry of Rites is referred to in French trans-

lation) are referred to by their Chinese denominations (see above
p. 115 n. 36): libu 吏部 (Ministry of Personnel );33 hubu 戶部 (Ministry
of Revenue);34 libu 禮部 (Ministry of Rites);35 bingbu 兵部 (Ministry of
War);36 xingbu 刑部 (Ministry of Justice);37 gongbu 工部 (Ministry of

Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 306 (no. 3630, s. v. ‘lì-pù’); Encyclopédie 9
(1765) 561 (s. v. ‘Lipou’): “ [. . .] est l’un des grands tribunaux souverains de l’empire de
la Chine. Il a inspection sur tous les mandarins, & peut leur donner ou leur ôter leurs
emplois”; Edinburgh Encyclopaedia vol. 6, p. 240 and Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v.
‘China’: “tribunals of appointments to office”; Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77: “board
of civil appointment”; Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166: “[Hauptcollegium] der höhern
Beamten (li-pu)”; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 274: “Civilgerichtshof ”;
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461: “cour des emplois civiles”; Encyclo-
pédie Nouvelle, vol. 3, p. 533: “Tribunal civil”.
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 258 (no. 2789, s. v. ‘hù-pù’); Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia vol. 6, p. 240 and Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’. “court of finance”,
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77: “board of revenues”; Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166:
“Hauptcollegium der Finanzen (hu-pu)”; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845)
275: “Finanzkollegium”; Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461: “seconde
cour souveraine, dite de la population ou du revenu public”; Encyclopédie Nouvelle
vol. 3, p. 533: “Tribunal des finances” .
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 306 f. (no. 3631, s. v. ‘lĭ-pù’).—Encyclopédie
14 (1765) 302 (s. v. ‘Rites, tribunal des’): “[. . .] c’est un tribunal composé de mandarins
& des lettrés chinois, dont la destination est de veiller sur les affaires qui regardent
la religion”; Edinburgh Encyclopaedia vol. 6, p. 240 and Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s.
v. ‘China’: “court of ceremonies”; Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77: “board of rites and
ceremonies”; Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166: “Hauptcollegium der Gebräuche (ly-pu)”;
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 275: “Kultkollegium”; Encyclopédie du dix-
neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461: “cour souverain des rites”; Encyclopédie Nouvelle vol. 3,
p. 533: “Tribunal des rites”.
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 384 (no. 4691, s. v. ‘pīng-pù’).—Encyclopédie
12 (1765) 628 (s. v. ‘Pimpou’): “tribunal de la Chine où les affaires qui concernent
les troupes sont portées”; Edinburgh Encyclopaedia vol. 6, p. 240: “tribunal of arms”,
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77: “military board”, Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’:
“court for regulating military affairs”; Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166: “Hauptcollegium
des Kriegswesens (ping-pu)”; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 275 “Kriegs-
kollegium”; Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461: “cour souveraine de la
guerre”; Encyclopédie Nouvelle vol. 3, p. 533: “Tribunal de la guerre”.
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 244 (no. 2590, s. v. ‘hsíng-pù’).—Encyclo-
pédie 8 (1765) 210 (s. v. ‘Hing-pu’): “[. . .] c’est le nom qu’on donne à la Chine à un
tribunal supérieur qui reside auprès de l’empereur. Il est chargé de la revision de tous
les procès criminels de l’empire”; Edinburgh Encyclopaedia vol. 6, p. 240 and Rees,
Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’: “tribunal of justice”; Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77
“supreme tribunal of criminal jurisdiction”; Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166: “Hauptcol-
legium der Strafen für gesetzwidrige Handlungen”); Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I
7,2 (1845) 275: “Justizkollegium”; Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461:
“cour des châtiments”; Encyclopédie Nouvelle vol. 3, p. 533: “Tribunal des peines”.
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 294 (no. 3462, s. v. ‘kūng-pù’).—Encyclopédie
9 (1765) 134 (s. v. ‘Kong-pu’): “c’est chez les Chinois le nom qu’on donne à un tri-
government, politics and economy 201

Regardless of their increasing antipathy towards things Chinese,

European observers were fascinated by the well-developed administra-
tive system of China throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries. Not only the emperor and the imperial court, but also the
high-ranking officials attracted the attention of European observ-
ers. From the sixteenth century onwards, all European accounts of
China followed the Portuguese in naming these high-ranking officials
Under the headword ‘Mandarin’, Zedler’s Universal-Lexikon
referred to the Nouvelle relation de la Chine by Gabriel de Magalhães
SJ (1610–1677). Not mentioning the Chinese rendering (guan 官),
Zedler presented the following details. The term ‘Mandarin’ usually
refers to noblemen and high-ranking officials of the Chinese Empire,
most of them governors of the provinces or privy councillors to the
emperor. These men were selected from the most learned members of
the ‘sect of Confucius’ (i.e. rujiao 儒教). They served far away from
their native town or district. Their office usually was located in a mag-
nificent palace. In the most distinguished room of this palace, a statue
of the emperor had been erected in front of which the mandarin knelt
down before starting his daily work. The article distinguished between
military and civil mandarins, the former commanding troops, the lat-
ter serving as judges. Their rank could be seen from the kind of jewels
they wore on their hats and girdles.39
Most European encyclopaedias published up to 1850 provided this
basic information. The Encyclopédie informs us that the Portuguese
had applied this term to the nobility and to the magistrates, especially
to those of China.40
Until the early nineteenth-century, encyclopaedias perpetuated
the wrong etymology of this term. Early sinologists also contributed
to this perpetuation: In Ersch/Gruber, Schott wrote of nobles ( guanfu
官府 or dafu 大府, named mandarins by the Portuguese) and of

bunal ou conseil, qui est chargé des travaux publics de l’empire.”; Edinburgh Encyclo-
paedia, vol. 6, p. 240: “the tribunal of public works”, Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v.
‘China’: “board of works”; Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 77: “board of public works”,
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166: “Hauptcollegium des ganzen Bauwesens (kung-pu);
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 275: “Baukollegium”, Encyclopédie du
dix-neuvième siècle, vol. 7, p. 461: “cour des travaux publics”, Encyclopédie Nouvelle
vol. 3, p. 533.
Zedler 19 (1739) col. 886 (s. v. ‘Mandarin’).
Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 11 (s. v. ‘Mandarin’).
202 chapter six

‘Kuanfu or higher officials’.41 In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième

siècle, Biot mentioned that the term mandarin is unknown to the Chi-
nese and had been coined by the Europeans who derived it from the
Portuguese word mandar, to order.42
A more detailed discussion of this subject may be found in the Ency-
clopaedia Londinensis quoting from the German-language account on
the Macartney embassy given by Johann Christian Hüttner (1766–
1847). Hüttner had been the preceptor to George Thomas Staunton
(1781–1859), the son of Sir George Leonard Staunton, who had served
as Secretary to this embassy. Hüttner pointed out that ‘mandarin’ is
derived from the Portuguese word mandar and denotes “every public
officer in the Chinese empire, whether his dignity be great or small,
military or civil.” Hüttner also had tried to explain the Chinese term
for ‘mandarin’: “This term, however, is never used by the people of
China; their word for it is quang [guan 官], or quangfu [guanfu].”43
In nineteenth-century encyclopaedias, the information on mandarins
usually is presented under the headword “China”. In the respective
sections we are provided with a quite thorough overview over the civil
and military administration of the Chinese Empire (including detailed
descriptions of the insignia of the nine ranks).44
In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle Biot pointed out that the
whole administration of the Chinese Empire had been composed of
three parts: of the central administration of the empire, of the admin-
istration of the provinces and colonies, and of the metropolitan admin-
istration of the capital.45
Most encyclopaedias freely made use of the detailed descriptions of
the administrative system of China presented in quasi-encyclopaedic

Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 165 and 166. See also Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd
ed., vol. 6 (1841) 424. For an explanation of the term guanfu see Hucker, Dictionary
of Official Titles, 285 (no. 3294, s. v. ‘kuān-fŭ’).
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 461. According to Yule and Burnell,
Hobson-Jobson, 550 (s. v. ‘Mandarin’) it “is an old and persistent mistake” that the
term Mandarin had been derived from the Portuguese mandar. The term had been
derived from Sanscrit/Hindi “mantri, a counsellor, a Minister of State,’ for which it
was indeed the proper old pre-Mahommedan term in India.”
Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 446.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, pp. 244–246; Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 22, s. v.
‘Mandarin’; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 273.—On the insignia of offi-
cial status ( jiu pin 九品) see Cohen, Introduction to Research in Chinese Source Mate-
rials, 610 f.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siécle 7 (1845) 461.
government, politics and economy 203

works like Du Halde and Grosier. Based on these sources, the general
overview on the subject got more and more detailed during our period
of consideration.
The Encyclopédie mentioned the fact that the mandarins had to take
office far away from their native place in order to avoid any injustice
caused by friendship or personal relationship.46
After introducing the seven classes of subjects (mandarins, mili-
tary, literati, bonzes, peasants, artisans and merchants), the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia pointed out that the mandarins were the most respected
of these classes: “All the Chinese aspire to this rank, both as investing
them with a portion of authority, and also as increasing their power
of acquiring wealth.” After becoming rich by trade, a Chinese would
procure “the office of an inferior mandarin, that he may enjoy his pos-
sessions with greater security.”47
This assessment of the social mobility of some groups of Chinese
fits into the picture the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia presented of the cor-
ruption prevailing throughout China. The Confucian vision to govern
the whole nation as a family would be “more beautiful in theory, than
practicable in reality.” To show the lack of effective supervision within
Chinese administration as portrayed in the accounts of de Guignes and
in those of the British embassy to the Qing court, the Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia points out that the emperor’s “superintendence and vigilance
are rendered unavailing, by the want of integrity in his deputies.”48
In some cases, encyclopaedias linked the phenomenon of corrup-
tion to the deteriorating state of administrative authority in early
nineteenth-century China. Biot mentioned that literary degrees could
be obtained by purchase. In his efforts to give a concluding analysis
of the efficiency of the Chinese government, he wrote that the forms
of corruption occurring in China had been particularly stressed in the
accounts of the British in their effort to exaggerate the imperfections
of Chinese government. According to Biot, China had the best of all
Asiatic governments. The study of its institutions might be useful even
for Europeans.49

Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 12 (s. v. ‘Mandarin’). On this point see also Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 554.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 244.
Ibid., p. 241.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 464.
204 chapter six

In their presentations of the Chinese court, encyclopaedias also

mentioned the Peking Gazette, a newspaper issued under imperial
The public voice is never heard, but the public opinion is sedulously
courted by the sovereign, and conveyed to every part of the empire
through the medium of the Pekin [sic] Gazette.50
Information on the existence of an official newspaper at the court of
Peking had been disseminated throughout Europe by the reports of
the French Jesuits.51 For information on newspapers in China, the
Encyclopédie d’Yverdon referred to the remarks of Joseph de Guignes
given in his preface to the translation of the Shujing.52 In the third
edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that this gazette “is
even considered by administration as an essential part of the political
constitution.”53 The seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
labelled this publication “a vehicle of imperial panegyric” and “one of
the most powerful engines of state.”54 Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
not only mentioned the Chinese rendering for the gazette (King-pao
[ Jingbao 京報], d. i. Residenz-Neuigkeiten [i.e. news of the capital]),
but also referred to it as the “Moniteur of the Middle Kingdom”.55 This
equation of the Jingbao to the Moniteur Universel, the official newspa-
per of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century France, had ear-
lier been used by the Encyclopédie Nouvelle.56 Contrary to the French
Moniteur Universel the Chinese one only would contain official news.
Apart from the Jingbao (labelled as the ‘most ancient newspaper of the
world’) there were also mentioned the Yamen bao 衙門報, newspapers
issued in the major cities of the provinces.57
Concerning the communication between the different administrative
levels, encyclopaedias usually mentioned the postal system of China.
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon contained information on Chinese couri-
ers. Based on the account of Marco Polo and on the preface of Martini

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 552.
See Landry-Deron, La preuve par la Chine, 129–131.
Encyclopédie d’Yverdon 19 (1773) 250 f. (s. v. ‘Gazette’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 674.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 552.—For a similar assessment
see Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 272.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 279.
Encyclopédie Nouvelle, vol. 3, p. 536 (‘[. . .] Moniteur impérial [. . .]’).
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 462.
government, politics and economy 205

to his Novus Atlas Sinensis, Zedler pointed out that these couriers were
a kind of people in China used to dispatch letters and other things in
a very special and quick manner. Throughout the empire there existed
about ten thousand of these inns or postal stations.58
The third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica pointed out that
there “is no public post-office in China, though several private ones
have been established.”59 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia portrayed this
postal system as quite degenerated: these posts or relays established
for changing the horses were “by no means very numerous.” Although
the horses used in this service were described as “small, ill-fed, and
carelessly treated”, it was added that “these couriers travel at a con-
siderable rate, generally 100, and sometimes even 150, miles in the 24
hours; and they have been known to pass between Canton and Pekin
in the space of 11 days.”60
For a long time, Europeans took general information on the admin-
istration on China from the writings of the Jesuit missionaries (six-
teenth to eighteenth centuries) as well as from travelogues.
Due to growing British commercial interests in East Asia, compil-
ers of encyclopaedias could make use of new sources of information.
Among these new sources were periodicals like the Asiatic Researches
(founded in 1784)61 or the Asiatic Journal (founded in 1816). The entry
on China inserted in the Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture
even presented a list of the presidents of the Six Ministries (liubu)
and of the members of the neige (originally published in the Asiatic
Journal).62 In mid-nineteenth-century, Europeans were well aware of
the imperial almanac published at Peking four times a year containing
lists of all the ‘mandarins’ of the Chinese Empire.63 Mid-nineteenth-
century encyclopaedias provided a thorough overview on the adminis-
trative organization of China including information on governmental
Publications resulting from the activities of the Russian Ecclesias-
tical Mission at Peking (and mainly Alexei Leont’ev’s (1716–1786)

Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1613 (s. v. ‘Sinesische Läuffer’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 670.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 268; Krünitz 116 (1810) 161 (s. v. ‘Post’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Supplement to the Third edition, vol. 1 (1801) 419
(s. v. ‘China’).
Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture, vol. 14 (1834) 126–128 (s. v.
‘Chine’: ‘Gouvernement et Administration actuelle de la Chine’).
Meyer I 7,2 (1845) 272.
206 chapter six

translations from the Manchu) also served as a source for encyclopae-

dias’ information on the Chinese government. This may be seen from
an extensive entry on the central administration of China inserted in
Krünitz’ encyclopaedia.64
In their presentation (and explanation) of the various administra-
tive levels of imperial China, European observers on the spot as well
as compilers and editors of encyclopaedias frequently borrowed ter-
minology in use throughout the monarchies of eighteenth- and early
nineteenth-century Europe. This fact has been widely neglected by
nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholars when they coined such
renderings for official titles in their respective languages.
Closely linked to the presentation of the various levels of the admin-
istration of China were bits of information on the recruitment of offi-
cers. The examination system of late imperial China had been much
admired and described in detail by early modern European observ-
ers.65 In its article on schools, Zedler’s Universal-Lexikon paraphrased
Nieuhof who had presumed that no other country would have such
well-organized schools as China (implicitly referring to the examina-
tion system).66 According to the Encyclopédie it would be impossible to
hold even the lowest office in China without being educated. Regard-
ing the different degrees bestowed upon the successful candidates, the
Encyclopédie pointed out that every candidate has to pass three very
severe exams, which correspond to the European degrees of bache-
lor, licentiate and doctor.67 While eighteenth-century encyclopaedias
sometimes also tended to split up this information under headwords
referring to the various degrees, nineteenth-century encyclopaedias
offered a very comprehensive treatment of the subject. Meyer’s Con-
versations-Lexikon pointed out, that the literary degrees were of the
highest importance as all administrative offices were held by scholars.68
In his article on China for the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle,
Biot expressed a more biased attitude in assessing the examination

Krünitz 162 (1835) 656–685 (s. v. ‘Staat’); Leont’ev’s translations from the Man-
chu were explicitly mentioned in ibid., 693. On Leont’ev’s translation, published at
St. Petersburg in 1781–83, see Lust, Western Books on China, 166 (no. 711).
On the detailed accounts given by Trigault und Semedo see Lach and Van Kley,
Asia in the Making of Europe III/4, 1638–1641.
Zedler 35 (1743) col. 1488 (s. v. ‘Schule’).
Encyclopédie 2 (1752) 232 (s. v. ‘Bibliothèque’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 279. See also above p. 115.
government, politics and economy 207

system than other nineteenth-century contributors to encyclopaedias.

Success in the civil examinations almost exclusively would depend on
the memory and on the hand of each candidate rather than on his
wit or his intelligence. Knowledge of the obscure texts of the Sacred
Books of China (des livres sacrés de la Chine) seemed to be a quite
uncertain pledge for the talent of future civil servants. The military
examinations would mainly require the proper handling of premod-
ern arms. Although Biot enumerated these obvious shortcomings of
the Chinese examination system, he pointed out that there has been
established a regular mode of admission to an administrative career
in China. Biot added that no European country ever had possessed a
similar system.69
A similar assessment was given by the unknown author of the entry
on the Chinese government in Krünitz’ encyclopaedia. The adminis-
tration of China was portrayed as one of the best organized of Asia.
In connection with the administration of China, the author further
dismissed European attempts to place China in the middle between
the civilised nations of Europe and other nations of Asia. He pointed
out that this might be true for their slow progress in arts and sciences
but not for their government.70
Encyclopaedias referred not only to the central administrative orga-
nization of the Chinese Empire but also to the structure of provincial
The Encyclopédie had introduced the term zongdu 總督 (gov-
ernor general) used by the Chinese to refer to the “viceroys of the
provinces.”71 Early nineteenth-century encyclopaedias referred to the
provincial administration of China: According to the Encyclopédie
Nouvelle, each of the provinces is governed by a governor-general or
a ‘lieutenant-governor’.72

Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 457 f.—On possible Chinese influ-
ence on civil servant examinations in Europe see Ssu-yü Têng, “Chinese Influence on
the Western Examination System,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7, no. 4 (Sep.
1943), 267–312, especially 292–301 (III. Development of the civil service examination
in India and England and the weight of evidence against Chinese influence).
Krünitz 162 (1835) 690 f. (s. v. ‘Staat’).
Encyclopédie 15 (1765) 343 (s. v. ‘Somtou, ou Somtoc’). For the term zongdu
(governor general ) see Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 534 (no. 7158; s. v.
Encyclopédie Nouvelle 3 (1841) 528: “un gouverneur-général ou un lieutenant
208 chapter six

Referring to the European renderings of Chinese administrative

terms, Schott pointed out that Europeans would render the term rep-
resenting the highest officer of a province “usually but misleadingly”
as ‘Viceroy’ (Unterkönig). He neither mentioned the term zongdu nor
offered any alternative rendering.73
In discussing the civil administration of China, the Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia listed twenty-six different offices (including the provincial
level).74 Of the chief administrative officers in the provinces, most
encyclopaedias usually mentioned the governor general (zongdu), who
presides over the governor (xunfu 巡撫 or fuyuan 撫院), as well as
the provincial administration commissioner (buzhengshi 部政使), a
provincial military commander (tidu 提督) and a surveillance com-
missioner (ancha shi 按察使).75
Mentioning these officials (including the romanized version of the
respective Chinese terms), Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon added, that there
were also supervisors of the learned and in some of the provinces there
were inspectors for salt and grain.76 In 1845, Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon added that there had been established a customs officer
(haiguan 海關) in the newly opened ports.77 The Encyclopaedia Metro-
politana mentioned these haiguan or commissioners of the customs
for the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian.78

Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 166.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 245 f.
The renderings of the various terms and their translations given by encyclopae-
dias are: Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 245 f.: “1. Ttsong-too, whose jurisdiction
extends over one or two provinces; and of whom there are reckoned only eleven in
the empire, 2. Foo-yuen, or governor of a province. 3. Poo-tching-sse, or chief trea-
surer, and civil judge [. . .] 6. Ngan-sha-sse, chief criminal judge.”—In: German: Pierer,
Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 424: “Vicekönig (Tsung-tu) [. . .] ‘Unterstatt-
halter (Siün-fu, Fu-yuan) [. . .], Finanzverwalter (Pu-tsching-ßü), [. . .] Befehlshaber
der Truppen (Thi-tu), der Criminalrichter (Ngan-tscha-juan) [. . .]“; Meyer, Conver-
sations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 277 f.: “Tsong-to, oder General-Gouverneur“; “Fu-yuan
od. Gouverneur“; “Pu-tsching-ße, oder Finanzverwalter, der Thi-tu, Befehlshaber der
Truppen, der Ngan-tscha-yuen oder Kriminalrichter [. . .] ein Tschen-tschun-sse oder
Salzaufseher.“—On the offices mentioned in this paragraph see Hucker, Dictionary
of Official Titles, 255 (no. 2731, s. v. ‘hsün-fŭ’), ibid., 221 (no. 2121, s. v. ‘fŭ-yüán’);
ibid., 127 (no. 487, s. v. ‘ch’éng-hsüān pù-chèng shĭh ssū’); ibid., p. 498 (no. 6482, s. v.
‘t’í-tū’) and ibid., 103 (no. 12, s. v. ‘àn-ch’á shĭh’).
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 424.—This information presum-
ably refers to the Grain Tax Circuits and the Salt Control Circuits of Qing China. See
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 89.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 278 (“[. . .] Hai-kuan oder Zollaufseher
[. . .]”).
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 561.
government, politics and economy 209

6.2 The Laws of China

The translation of the Da Qing lüli by George Thomas Staunton (pub-

lished in 1810) provided Europeans with “a more thorough knowledge
of the legislation of China than of any other subject respecting that
country, to which our inquiry may be directed.”79 This general assess-
ment of the importance of Staunton’s work given by the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia is mirrored by most entries on China in general ency-
clopaedias published after 1810. The Penny Cyclopaedia even men-
tioned the review of Staunton’s translation published in the Edinburgh
Review that included “a very advantageous comparison with other
Asiatic systems.” It also quoted later remarks on Chinese law given
by Henry Ellis and John Francis Davis.80 In Ersch/Gruber, Staunton’s
translation was used as the only source for information on theft in
China.81 According to the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britan-
nica, Staunton’s translation of the Da Qing lüli, together with Pierre
Martial Cibot’s (1727–1780) abstract of the Da Qing huidian would
enable Europeans
to form a tolerably correct notion of the machinery by which the mul-
titudinous population of the largest empire on the face of the world has
been uniformely kept in motion, and performed its several functions, for
the last four thousand years.82
Although European observers had reported repeatedly on “details of
Chinese judicial practice”,83 eighteenth-century encyclopaedias con-
tained little information on the judicial system of China. The second
edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica contained information on var-
ious punishments as well as on “two kinds of torture used in China.”84

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 256.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 78.
Ersch/Gruber I 25 (1834) 27 (s. v. ‘Diebstahl’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 568. See Pierre Martial Cibot,
“Notice de ce qui rapporte à la Piété Filiale, dans le Code des Loix de la dynastie règ-
nante,” Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les moeurs, les usages & c.
des Chinois 4 (1779), 127–167.
Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III/4, 1589.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1919. See also ibid., 3rd ed., vol. 4
(1797) 669. On the forms of torture in Qing China see Nancy Park, “Imperial Chinese
Justice and the Law of Torture,” Late Imperial China 29, no. 2 (Dec. 2008), 37–67.
On Western perceptions of torture in China see Timothy Brook, Jérôme Bourgon and
Gregory Blue, Death by a Thousand Cuts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
2008), 152–202 (chap. 6: “Chinese Torture in the Western Mind”).
210 chapter six

The section Jurisprudence of the Encyclopédie Méthodique presents five

points: the authority of the Emperor of China, the distribution and
the power of the magistrates, police and criminal laws, different civil
and religious institutions, and the political relations of China with her
neighbours.85 Of the sources used for its presentation of the police and
the criminal laws of the Chinese, the article only mentions the account
of Le Comte and the Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les
arts, les mœurs, les usages & c. des Chinois. The presentation of the
administration of justice refers to the bastinado (stick-beating) and to
the police at the city gates. Moreover, we read that each death sentence
has to be confirmed by the Emperor.86 As early as in the Encyclopédie
edited by Diderot we find an entry on ‘Pan-tsée’ (banzi 板子)—a flat
bamboo for beating criminals: In this entry Jaucourt describes not only
the shape of this device, he also gives details on its use.87 Mainly based
on Grosier’s description of China, the third edition of the Encyclopae-
dia Britannica refers to the ‘pan-tsee’ as the ‘instrument of correction’
used for the ‘slightest punishment in China’, and gives details on the
respective procedure.88
Early nineteenth-century encyclopaedias usually based their infor-
mation on Chinese laws and jurisdiction on Staunton’s translation of
the Da Qing lüli. In the second edition of Pierer, it is pointed out
that jurisdiction in China is made easy due to the existence of very
minute codes which prescribe all punishments in detail. Infanticide
is described as the most common of all crimes, followed by family
quarrels, disobedience, and impious conduct. The various forms of
punishments include the bastinado (with the bamboo), imprison-
ment, deportment, strangulation, decapitation, and the opening of the
belly of the criminal. Pierer’s presentation of Chinese jurisdiction also
contained information that torture was commonly used to get confes-
sions, that verdicts had to be approved by the emperor and that some
high-ranking persons including imperial princes and the nobility are
exempt from general jurisdiction.89

Encyclopédie Méthodique, Jurisprudence 2 (1783) 603–617 (s. v. ‘Chine’).
Ibid., p. 609–611.
Encyclopédie 11 (1765) 830 (s. v. ‘Pan-tsée’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 668. On seventeenth-century
European descriptions of “the ubiquitous beating with bamboo canes as the most
common punishment in China” see Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe
III/4, 1715 f. (quote on p. 1715).
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 425 (s. v. ‘China’).
government, politics and economy 211

The third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica presented

the ‘cangue’ (jia 枷) as the instrument used for “faults of a higher
nature.”90 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia described the ‘cangue’ as a
kind of “moveable pillory, [. . .] a wooden collar, composed of two flat
pieces of timber, hollowed out in such a manner, that, when united
together, there is room for a man’s neck to be inclosed between them.”
The ordinary weight of this ‘instrument’ was given as 60 to 70 pounds:
“When this machine is placed round the neck, and resting on the
shoulders, the criminal is unable to see his feet, or put his hands to
his mouth, and would die of hunger if he had no person to administer
his food.”91 In Krünitz’ encyclopaedia, we read that many of those who
are condemned to the cangue die because of considerable pain, hun-
ger and lack of sleep.92 In its article on China, Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon also mentioned the ‘cangue’ in the rendering ‘Kia-Kangu’—a
term which connects both the Chinese and the European designation
for this device.93
Moreover, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon presented information
on lingchi 淩遲, a method which is used in cases of treason, parricide,
sacrilege, and incest. The offender is put to death by the slow process
of slicing the limbs before beheading.94 Without mentioning the term
lingchi the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica as well as the
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia also provided information on this form of
The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed out that there has occurred
quite a change in the various ways of punishments. In the times of
Confucius the Chinese had used five sorts of punishment: “a black
mark upon the forehead [mo 墨, branding], amputation of the tip of

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 668.—On the cangue see Park,
“Imperial Chinese Justice,” 40. For seventeenth-century European descriptions of the
cangue see Lach and Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe III/4, 1589 f.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 257.—In the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd
ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1919 we read of the “kan-ghe, or wooden ruff. [. . .] a kind of por-
table pillory.” In ibid., 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 668 any comparison to a pillory had been
omitted. The Penny Cyclopaedia 6 (1836) 238 (s. v. ‘Cang, or Kea’) refers to it as “a
species of walking pillory”. In the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 562 we read
of a “portable pillory”, Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4Sr described the ‘Cangue’ as
“ambulatory pillory”.
Krünitz 159 (1833) 399 (s. v. ‘Spitzbube’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 277.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 668 (based on Grosier); Edin-
burgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 257.
212 chapter six

the nose [yi 劓], or cutting off the feet [yue 刖], castration [gong 宮],
and death [dapi 大辟].” It mentioned that none of these punishments
is included in the Da Qing lüli.96

6.3 The Armed Forces of the Qing Empire

Early modern European observers portrayed China as a peaceful

empire. These assessments evidently ignored the fact of eighteenth-
century China’s westward expansion which culminated in the exter-
mination of the Zunghars. Hans van de Ven pointed out why Chinese
culture repeatedly was regarded as a peaceful one. For eighteenth- and
early nineteenth-century Europe this image can be ascribed to Euro-
pean conceptions of Confucian aspirations and as “an Enlightenment
image produced when dynastic wars ravaged Europe.”97 In his Histoire
philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Euro-
péens dans les deux Indes (1770), Raynal perpetuated earlier European
conceptions of China as a peaceful empire. The influence of Raynal
on his contemporaries may be seen best from the article on China
inserted in the Dictionnaire universel edited by Jean-Baptiste Robinet
(1735–1820). Paraphrasing Raynal, Robinet pointed out that life in
China is supple (souple), moderate (moderée), peaceful (paisible), und
peace-loving (pacifique).98 In Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon we read
that, due to the prevailing doctrines of Confucius the Chinese never
were a conquering people and that the main task of the Chinese army
had always been to maintain peace and security on the overland routes
throughout China.99
Despite this general assessment, European encyclopaedias some-
times included an extensive presentation of Chinese military affairs.
Up to the late eighteenth century, they took the information mainly
from travelogues. With the publication of L’Art militaire des Chinois
by Joseph Amiot, new information on Chinese military affairs became
available. For the first time, Europeans could learn about the classi-
cal military writings of the Chinese. The section on the art of warfare

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 256.
Hans J. Van de Ven, “War in the Making of Modern China,” Modern Asian Stud-
ies 30, no. 4 (Oct. 1996), 737–756, here 737.
Robinet 11 (1779) 648.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 4,1 (1843) 215 (s. v. ‘Armee’).
government, politics and economy 213

of the Encyclopédie Méthodique (published in 1784) quoted at length

from Amiot’s treatise.100 This treatise shows, according to the English
Encyclopaedia, “that the Chinese are well versed in the theory of the
art of war.” Caution, care, and circumspection ever had been recom-
mended to their generals. One of the maxims they closely observe
would be “never to fight with enemies either more numerous or better
armed than themselves.”101 In Ersch/Gruber, Schott recommended the
seventh volume of the Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les
arts, les mœurs, les usages &c. des Chinois to all those who would like
to study Chinese warfare in its entirety.102 In his article for the Ency-
clopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Biot relied not only on the accounts
given by the younger de Guignes and by the Russian Jegor Fedorovič
Timkovskij (1790–1875)103 but also on the ‘imperial almanac.’104
Even before the late eighteenth century, information on rather cruel
details of Chinese warfare were disseminated throughout Europe. The
most outstanding example for this refers to the consequences of one
of the strategic operations during the siege of Kaifeng 開封 (Henan
Province) in October 1642: after the Imperial forces had cut the
dykes of Kaifeng in order to expel Li Zicheng and his rebels from
the city, the severe flooding of the area caused the death of 300,000.
Encyclopaedias mentioned this incident either in presenting informa-
tion on the city of Kaifeng105 or in their presentation of the fall of
the Ming.106
The English Encyclopaedia pointed out that since the Manchu
takeover China had been “a far more powerful empire than it was
before its conquest by the eastern Tartars in 1644.”107 Mid eighteenth-
century encyclopaedias presented details on changes in the military

Encyclopédie Méthodique, Art militaire 1 (1784) 158–161 (s. v. ‘Armes’).
English Encyclopaedia 2 (1802) 498.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 168.—The seventh volume of the Mémoires concernant
l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les mœurs, les usages &c. des Chinois, published in 1782,
included a reprint of Joseph Amiot, Art militaire des Chinois (Paris 1772) and several
other treatises on the art of warfare (also translated by Amiot). For details see Cordier,
Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 1555 f.
Biot may have used the French translation of Timkovskij’s account (Voyage à
Péking, à travers la Mongolie), published in Paris in 1827. For the various translations
of the account see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 2473 f.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 470 (s. v. ‘Chine’, E. Biot).
Zedler 5 (1733) col. 134 (s. v. ‘Caifung’) referred to the report on the Dutch lega-
tion of 1655/57 by Johan Nieuhof; see also Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 19, s. v. ‘Kai-fong’.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 290.
English Encyclopaedia 2 (1802) 498.
214 chapter six

organization of China that had taken place as a result of the Manchu

conquest. As early as in the Encyclopédie we find the headword ‘Ki’
(qi 旗, i.e. banner) containing the information that these banners serve
the “Mongol Tartars” (Tartares Mongules) to distinguish the hordes
or families their nation consists of. At the end of this entry we find a
cross-reference to military insignia (‘Enseignes militaires’).108
Up to its seventh edition, the Encyclopaedia Britannica contained
no details on the eight banners at all.109 the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia
presented further information regarding the style and form of the eight
banners. Also mentioning the Green Standard (luying 綠營) troops110
the section has the following on the eight banners: “a triangular stan-
dard about six feet in height; [. . .] those of the Tartars are of various
colours, white, yellow, red, and blue, or yellow with red fringes, white
with red fringes, red with white fringes, and blue with red fringes.”111
In the Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Édouard Biot stated that
the organization of the armed forces of the Chinese may be compared
to that of European armies.112

6.4 Revenue and Money

Since the very first contacts in early modern times, the incredible riches
of China had attracted European curiosity. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon
based its information on the revenue of China mainly on the accounts
of Trigault, Linschoten, and Nieuhof.113 For information on the rev-
enues of the Chinese Empire, Robinet’s Dictionnaire universel mainly
relied on Jesuit accounts. According to Amiot, the Chinese would have
established their customs following a European model.114

Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 126 (s. v. ‘Kim-te-tchim’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 575: “They are arranged in eight
banners, distinguished by different colours.”
Hucker, Dictionary of Official Titles, 92 and ibid., 324 (no. 3862, s. v. ‘lù-yīng’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 265.—Similar descriptions of the eight ban-
ners are given in Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon, I 4,1 (1843) 215 and Pierer, Universal-
Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 425, the latter also enumerating the eight banners in
distinguishing plain (not specified in the German original) and bordered (xiang 鑲;
‘eingefaßt’ in the German original ) banners. On the terminology see Hucker, Dic-
tionary of Official Titles, 134 f. (no. 611, s. v. ‘ch’í’) and ibid., 358 (no. 4538, s. v.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 470.
Zedler 63 (1750) col. 177–179 (s. v. ‘Zoll’).
Robinet 11 (1779) 640.
government, politics and economy 215

In the early nineteenth century, a change of sources of information

on the revenue of China took place. Most encyclopaedias referred to
the accounts of the Macartney embassy. Only scarcely the contribu-
tors and compilers still referred to the treatise on this subject given by
Amiot in the Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les
mœurs, les usages &c. des Chinois—one of the latest may have been
Wilhelm Schott in his article on China for Ersch/Gruber.115 In the
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle, Édouard Biot wrote that widely
differing data concerning the revenue of China were a result of dif-
ferent approaches by Jesuit missionaries on the one hand and some
members of the British embassy of 1792/93 on the other.116
Regarding the revenues of the Chinese Empire, encyclopaedias
usually mentioned that data given by European observers differ con-
siderably.117 The early nineteenth century offered a variety of “new”
information on the subject. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, which
relied on material collected in the course of the Macartney embassy in
1792/93, compared it to data provided by the younger de Guignes. It
stated that an inquirer
generally receives as many different statements, as he consults differ-
ent persons. [. . .] it was clearly the great object of the Chinese rulers to
impress the British embassy with the most exalted notion of the strength
and resources of their empire.118
In dealing with the revenues of all (major) countries in the world,
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon stressed the insurmountable difficul-
ties to get exact data on the national budget of China and Japan.119 In
a quite similar way, the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britan-
nica introduced its information on the subject: “It is utterly impos-
sible, from any document that has appeared of an authentic nature, to
form any estimation of the amount and value of the revenue.” As the
available data on the subject were very unsatisfying the article con-
cluded that the “immense treasures supposed to have been amassed

Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 162 f.
Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 469.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 262; Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle 7
(1845) 469 (s. v. ‘Chine’, É. Biot).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 262.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 6 (1843) 688 (s. v. ‘Budget’).
216 chapter six

in Tartary by the reigning dynasty exist only in the imagination of the

The importance of trade relations with East Asia is reflected in
detailed information on the currency of the Chinese Empire121 and of
various other places on the route to the East. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon
placed information on Chinese currency in the entries on money and
on Chinese coins.122 Under its headword ‘money’, the Encyclopédie
presented a short paragraph on Chinese coins.123
Zedler took the information on Chinese coins from the accounts
of the two seventeenth-century Dutch legations published by Nieuhof
and Dapper.124 Moreover, the entry referred to an octagonal Chinese
coin owned by the Duke of Gotha and on display in his coin collec-
tion. Explanations on a figure showing the eight trigrams were taken
from the works of Couplet and Leibniz respectively. While the sources
used for information on Chinese coins changed in the course of time,
basic information on Chinese coins itself did not change very much.
Encyclopaedias referred to the round shape of Chinese coins with rect-
angular holes in the middle.125 For payment the Chinese used ingots
of gold or silver (in their form resembling little ships).126 The Chinese
would always carry along with them a pair of scissors, a pair of scales,

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 559.
Richard Von Glahn, Fountain of Fortune. Money and Monetary Policy in China,
1000–1700 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1996). For
a general overview on the history of money in China see Wilkinson, Chinese History,
247–252. For seventeenth- and eighteenth century French accounts on this subject see
Bai, Les voyageurs français, 254–259.
Zedler 10 (1735) col. 712 (‘Geld’); ibid. 22 (1739) col. 475 f. (s. v. ‘Müntze (Chine-
sische)’). Much more detailed information on Chinese coins than inserted in Zedler
had been presented in Ludovici, Eröffnete Akademie der Kaufleute, vol. 2 (1753) col.
335–342 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Münzen’).
Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 655 (s. v. ‘Monnoies de compte des modernes’).
Johan Nieuhof, L’Ambassade de la Compagnie Orientale des Provinces Unies vers
l’Empereur de la Chine, ou Grand Cam de la Tartarie (Leiden: Meurs, 1665). For
the various editions and translations of Neuhof’s account see Cordier, Bibliotheca
Sinica, col. 2344–2348.—Olfert Dapper, Gedenkwaerdig Bedryf der Nederlandsche
Oost-Indische Maatschappye, op de Kuste en in het Keizerrijk van Taising of Sina [. . .]
(Amsterdam: Meurs, 1670).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 670 f.; Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 269; Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed. 6 (1841) 422 f.
On the shape of these ingots see also the information in Krünitz 19 (1780)
584 (s. v. ‘Goltschut’). In the Deutsche Encyclopädie 12 (1787) 849 (s. v. ‘Goltschuit,
Goltschut’) we read that the silver ingots are called Taels.—On these ingots see Von
Glahn, Fountain of Fortune, 55.
government, politics and economy 217

and a set of weights to prepare on the spot the necessary value in

Under its headword ‘Money’, the Penny Cyclopaedia provided an
alphabetically arranged list of different coins and currencies. This list
contained concise information on Chinese money: ‘Cash’, ‘Sennis, or
Cashes’, ‘Shoe of gold’, and ‘Tale’ (the latter only a cross-reference to
Early-nineteenth encyclopaedias repeatedly referred to the paper
money of the Chinese. The main sources for this information were
a treatise by Louis-Mathieu Langlès published in the Décade philos-
ophique, littéraire et politique (1795) and an article by Klaproth
published in the first volume of Journal Asiatique (1822). Krünitz’
encyclopaedia quoted extensively from the German translation of Lan-
glès’ treatise (published in 1798) including Langlès’ notes referring to
Marco Polo, Magalhães, and Gaubil.129 The Penny Cyclopaedia pointed
out that there “is a present no paper currency in China, although it
was adopted by the Mongol conquerors of the empire.” It had been
abandoned as a consequence “of the depreciation and discredit which
ensued from over issues and the bad faith of the government.”130

6.5 Sino-Western Trade Relations

Economic interests had played a key role in the European advance into
Asia ever since the early sixteenth century. In examining general refer-
ence works up to 1850 there emerge three major European attitudes
towards the economy of Asia: European trade relations with Asia (i.e.
importation of ‘exotic’ and luxury products), ‘invention’ of European
substitutes for Asian products, and China as a market for European

Zedler 22 (1739) col. 475; Moréri 1759 ed., vol. 3, p. 625. See also Deutsche
Encyclopädie 11 (1786) 564 (s. v. ‘Geld der Morgenländer’); Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,
vol. 6, p. 297; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 670 f.; Encyclopédie du
dix-neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 466 f.
Penny Cyclopaedia 15 (1839) 322–326 (s. v. ‘Money’).
Krünitz 107 (1807) 88–94 (s. v. ‘Ueber das Papiergeld der asiatischen Völker’).—
On late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century French accounts see Bai, Les voya-
geurs français, 257–259. For the history of paper money in China see Von Glahn,
Fountain of Fortune, 56–82.
Penny Cyclopaedia 6 (1836) 253 (s. v. ‘Canton’).
218 chapter six

Encyclopaedias usually presented information on European trade

relations with Asia (as well as their historical backgrounds) in the
context of information on the various East India companies founded
in several European countries during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. This pattern continued even in late eighteenth century when
the power and significance of most of these companies had ended.
In its section on commerce, the Encyclopédie Méthodique presented
details on statistics for the Asian trade of the various East India com-
panies.131 In 1840, Ersch/Gruber presented a long entry on the history
and significance of these companies.132
Krünitz followed a three-fold model in presenting information on
the China trade. Apart from ample information on the foreign trade
of European and other nations trading to China, it also considered the
activities of the East India companies as well as the significance of East
Asia for global shipping routes.133
In assessing Sino-European trade relations, Krünitz’ encyclopaedia
followed a model widely used by late-eighteenth and early nineteenth-

Encyclopédie Méthodique, Commerce 1 (1783) 55 (s. v. ‘Allemagne’, on the Asi-
atic company founded at Emden); ibid., p. 74 f. (s. v. ‘Angleterre’, on the East India
Company).—Under the headword ‘Compagnie’ (ibid., vol. 1 (1783) 551–701 several
paragraphs refer to the China trade (s. v. ‘Commerce de la Chine’), ibid., pp. 617–619;
ibid., vol. 2 (1783) 535–656 (s. v. ‘Hollande’), on the China trade see ibid., 538; ibid.,
vol. 3 (1784) 282–311 (s. v. ‘Moscovie’), especially 282–284 (‘Commerce de la Sibé-
rie avec la Chine’). Ibid., 431–436 (s. v. ‘Portugal’), on Macau see ibid., 432 f.—The
Deutsche Encyclopädie 14 (1789) 254–268 provides information on the East Indian
companies established and privileged by European governments in its entry ‘Hand-
lungs- oder Handelsgesellschaft’: Denmark (255 f.), England (258 f.), France (260 and
262 f.), Holland (263 f.), Prussia (265 f.), Spain (267), Sweden (267 f.), as well as on the
attempts made by the Habsburg Empire in the 1720s and 1770s (ibid., 264 f.).
Ersch/Gruber II 17 (1840) 427–453 (s. v. ‘Indische Handelsgesellschaften’).
Krünitz on the foreign trade of China: 163 (1835) 648–653 (s. v. ‘Staat’), on the
shipping of China (mostly containing information on the European trade) see ibid.
144 (1826) 139–147. On Portuguese trade relations with China see ibid., 143 (1826)
732–734 (s. v.’Schifffahrt’). On the English East India Company see ibid., 105 (1807)
574–598 (s. v. ‘Ostindische Compagnie in England’), on the China trade also ibid.,
143 (1826) 768 f. (s. v. ‘Schifffahrt’). On the Dutch East India Company’s activities in
China see ibid., 105 (1807) 609 (s. v. ‘Ostindische Compagnie in Holland’). On French
trade relations with China ibid., 105 (1807) 573 f. (s. v. ‘Ostindische Compagnie’) and
ibid., 598–609 (s. v. ‘Ostindische Compagnie in Frankreich’; i.e. French East India
Company). On the China trade of Russia see ibid. 129 (1821) 23; for Denmark’s Asian
trade see ibid., 43 (1788) 784–793 (s. v. ‘Kopenhagen’, i.e. Copenhagen), for Sweden
ibid., 144 (1826) 15 f. (s. v. ‘Schifffahrt’). For remarks on the rising American trade
with China see ibid., 144 (1826) 118 (s. v. ‘Schifffahrt’) and ibid., 163 (1835) 667 (s. v.
‘Staat’). On the China trade of Hawaii see 163 (1836) 767 f. (s. v. ‘Staat’) and ibid., 144
(1826) 179 (s. v. ‘Schifffahrt’).
government, politics and economy 219

century European writers: while China had been potrayed as stagnant,

changes only had been caused by developments in European trade
relations with East Asia.134
Encyclopaedias mentioned that the system of the Hong merchants
originated in the eighteenth century. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia
presented ample information on the company of the so-called Hong
merchants, also known as Co-Hong (gonghang 公行). Following a
remark on the establishment of exclusive companies for the Asian
trade by several European countries we read that the Chinese “them-
selves have found it requisite to form something like an exclusive com-
pany on their part, in trading with the foreign merchants who visit
their ports.”135 In 1826, Krünitz’ encyclopaedia referred to the Hong
merchants as trade guild.136 The seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia
Britannica points out that the system of the foreign trade of China “is
a monopoly confided to a certain number of persons, known by the
name of Hong merchants, hong being the name of the large factories
or masses of buildings surrounding square courts similar to our old
inns, or the caravanserais of the East.”137
Encyclopaedias also provided information on the establishment of
the gonghang. In the aftermath of the First Anglo-Chinese war, Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon pointed out that the syndicate of Hong mer-
chants had been set up in 1720 and lasted until its abolition by the
Treaty of Nanjing (August 1842).138 In the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia
we read that the “Cong-hang” had been “first instituted in 1759, by a
Tsong-too [zongdu], named Lee [i.e. Li Shiyao 李侍堯, d. 1788]”. For
its description of the “factories or lodgings of the foreign traders” the
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia quotes at length from Osbeck’s A Voyage to
China and the East Indies (an English translation had been published
in 1771).139 The seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica illus-
trated the restrictions imposed by the Chinese on Europeans by the

Krünitz 163 (1835) 648 (s. v. ‘Staat’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 329. On the early history of the Hong mer-
chants see Weng Eang Cheong, The Hong Merchants of Canton. Chinese Merchants in
Sino-Western Trade, 1684–1798 (Richmond: Curzon, 1997).
Krünitz 144 (1826) 147.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 582.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 263 and 297.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 329 f.—The Swedish original of Osbeck’s
account had been published in 1757, a German translation in 1765. See Cordier, Bib-
liotheca Sinica, col. 2097 f.
220 chapter six

various (unsuccessful) attempts of Thomas Manning (1772–1840) to

gain access to China Proper.140
Up to 1850, encyclopaedias usually gave a more or less detailed pre-
sentation of the so-called ‘Canton Trade’141 and of (pre)conditions for
European traders at Guangzhou. Describing the situation of the early
1830s, the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica pointed out
that “for the last twenty years the foreign commerce of this port [i.e.
Canton/Guangzhou] was almost exclusively in the hands of the Eng-
lish and the Americans.”142 German and French encyclopaedias also
pointed out that this trade was mainly maintained by the British. They
added that the China trade of all other Europeans (only naming the
Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Danes, and the Swedes) had
been rather insignificant.143 Eager to give a presentation of the latest
developments in China, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon provided not
only a detailed overview over the regulations for the British trade in
the five ports opened by the Chinese as a consequence of the First
Anglo-Chinese War, but also ample information on Hong Kong and
on some of the newly opened treaty ports.144
In its article on China, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia inserted com-
prehensive information on the history of Sino-Western relations under
the heading ‘View of the progressive intercourse of other nations with
China’.145 In a similar way, most encyclopaedias combined their pre-
sentation of the historical evolution of Sino-European relations with
information on the history of the European trade with East Asia.
Under the headword “China” Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon as
well as the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia dealt with the historical evolution
of the China trade of the various European nations. The Portuguese,
who had played a pioneering role in the ‘rediscovery’ of China by early

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 548.—On Manning’s travels see
Osterhammel, Entzauberung. 126–128.
On the Canton trade see Paul A. Van Dyke, The Canton Trade. Life and Enterprise
on the China Coast, 1700–1845. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 582.
Krünitz 143 (1826) 758, ibid., 163 (1835) 648 (s. v. ‘Staat’); Meyer, Conversa-
tions-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 263.
For a presentation of these regulations and of the customs tariff see Meyer, Con-
versations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 263–268. For information on Guangzhou see ibid.,
I 17 (1850) 515–517 (s. v. ‘Kanton’), on Hong Kong ibid., I 15 (1850) 1187 f. (s. v.
‘Hongkong’), on Ningbo ibid., I 23 (1853) 889–891 (s. v. ‘Ning-po’), on Shanghai ibid.,
II 8 (1851) 1207–1210 (s. v. ‘Shanghai’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 325.
government, politics and economy 221

modern Europe, were described by Meyer as brutal and unrestrained,

the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia spoke of “insolent excesses” committed
by the Portuguese.146 Concerning the Dutch, encyclopaedias mentioned
their unsuccessful attack upon Macau in 1622 and their temporary
presence at Taiwan. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed out that the
last Dutch embassy of 1794/95 “was productive of so little commercial
benefit, while it was attended with so many circumstances degrading
to their national character.”147
Concerning the early days of British trade with Asia, the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia pointed out, that they experienced “numberless obstacles
in the progress of their India commerce, from the intrigues of the Dutch
and Portuguese, in these countries: but finally succeded in extending
their trade to China”—the main article of export from China had
been tea, “besides raw silk, silk stuffs, sugarcandy, porcelain, camphor,
nankeens, & c.” while the English brought “money, lead, tin, woolen
and cotton cloths, pepper, and other articles of merchandize.”148 Despite
its failure, the British embassy of 1792/93 had contributed to an unin-
terrupted progress of trade in Canton.149
Presentations of Sino-European trade often started with remarks on
the restrictions and detailed regulations set up by the Chinese. The
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana pointed out that foreign trade received
no encouragement and was “barely tolerated” because of “that jealous
policy which draws a line of perpetual demarcation between China
and the rest of the world.”150 In the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia we read
that the merchant who engages in foreign trade “is accounted very
little better than a vagabond.”151 In its article on China (written well
before the days of the First Anglo-Chinese War) the seventh edition of
the Encyclopaedia Britannica pointed out that “[a]ll foreign commerce
is systematically discouraged.”152
In concluding its general remarks on the “progressive intercourse
of other nations with China”, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia even pre-
sented this subject in the context of presumed European superiority:

Ibid., see also Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 294.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 327; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2
(1845) 295.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 327.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 297.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 589.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 298.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 581.
222 chapter six

All these nations are upon an equally precarious footing and exposed
to an equally degrading treatment, in their commercial visits to Can-
ton; and the extent of the mercantile transactions, which have been
accomplished, in such inauspicious circumstances, may be regarded as a
particularly striking specimen of the persevering ingenuity and accom-
modating spirit of European traders.153
In commenting on the state and extent of China’s foreign trade,
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon presented a rather harsh assessment:
Would the Europeans not drink tea, and would the Chinese not eat
and smoke opium, even trade and commerce would have no interest,
whether China was on the world map or not. Despite of more than
360 million people, China only would be a light weight on the scales
of global trade. As for two thousand years the Chinese themselves pro-
duced all commodities they needed, they generally look with contempt
on all foreign products.154
Under the head ‘Maritime intercourse’ we read in the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia that the maritime knowledge of the Chinese “was more
extensive in ancient than it is in modern times”. After presenting the
main destinations of Chinese navigation and trade (reaching from
Persia, South and Southeast Asia to the Kamchatka Peninsula in the
northeast), it pointed out “that, in the seventh century, they carried
on a trade with the western coast of North America.”155 The French
scholar Joseph de Guignes had published this theory in 1761.156 Mey-
er’s Conversations-Lexikon also referred to it and added that according
to Spanish accounts of travels on the Western coast of America, there
had been found the wreckage of Chinese ships.157
Other theories in connection with early forms of Chinese presence
in parts of Asia and Africa were mentioned by early nineteenth-century
encyclopaedias: the Chinese were supposed to have colonized Sumatra
(“as there is a striking resemblance, in person and manners, between
the inhabitants of that island and the natives of China”) and Ceylon
(“the Cingalese are considered as still more decidedly descended from

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 326.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 14 (1849) 994 (s. v. ‘Handel’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 295.
Joseph de Guignes, “Recherches sur les Navigations des Chinois du côté de
l’Amérique, et sur quelques Peuples situés à l’extrêmité orientale de l’Asie”, Mémoires
de l’Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 28 (1761), 503–525.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 261 (s. v. ‘China’).
government, politics and economy 223

a Chinese stock”).158 For its information on early Chinese contacts

with Madagascar, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia referred to the travels
of Marco Polo. From the account of John Barrow, it derived another
connection between China and Africa:
[. . .] as an obvious matter of fact, that many of the Hottentots [Khoi-
khoi] strikingly resemble the Chinese in the form of their persons, in
the features of their countenance, and in their manner of speaking, so
as to render it highly possible, that those tribes on the narrow extrem-
ity of Africa, who differ so remarkably from all their neighbours, have
derived their origin from a colony of Chinese, to whom they have so
close a resemblance.159
Concerning China’s foreign trade by land, Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon pointed out that the trade relations of China’s Inner Asian
neighbours are due to similar restrictions as the trade relations of the
Europeans and would represent nothing more than ‘temporary privi-
leges’ (temporäre Vergünstigungen) granted by Chinese authorities
who had set up detailed regulations for performing this trade.160
In discussing the foreign trade by land, most other encyclopae-
dias only gave an outline of the history of Sino-Russian relations.161
According to the treaty concluded with China in 1727, the Russians
were entitled to send a caravan to Peking every three years. Krünitz
pointed out that the Russians never had claimed this right in such
regular intervals. From 1728 to 1756, only six caravans had been sent
from Russia to China. As Krünitz pointed out, due to a “very wise
order” of Catherine II (r. 1762–1796) the crown refrained from fur-
ther sending caravans to China.162 Only as late as about 1830, Russo-
Chinese trade again increased considerably.163

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 295 f.—See also Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 261.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 296.—See also Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon
I 7,2 (1845) 261. For the context of these comparisons see Steinmetz, “Devil’s Hand-
writing,” 75.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 261.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 671 f. (88. History of the Trade
with Russia); Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 299.
Krünitz 34 (1785) 649 f. (s. v. ‘Karavane’). See also Encyclopédie Méthodique,
Economie politique et diplomatique 1 (1784) 569 f.; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed.,
vol. 4 (1797) 672.
On this increase see Joseph Fletcher, “Sino-Russian relations, 1800–1862”,
in: John King Fairbank, ed., The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 10: Late Ch’ing,
1800–1911, Part 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 327–329. Mid-
nineteenth-century encyclopaedias usually presented statistical data on this increase:
See e.g. Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 262 f.
224 chapter six

Since 1727/28, Russo-Chinese trade had been confined to a place

on the river Kiakhta. Encyclopaedias usually informed on the so
called Kiakhta trade.164 Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon gave a detailed
description not only of the architecture but also of the social life of
the two boroughs (Kiakhta and Maimaicheng 買賣城) that had been
erected on the Russian and on the Chinese side of the border. The Rus-
sians would refer to the latter only as the “Chinese city.”165
The second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica presented the
main commodities of Sino-European trade:
Their chief commodities are, [!] silk, cotton, tea, china-ware, and cabinets
or lacquered-ware. Their silks are exceedingly fine; their atlas’s, gold, and
silver stuffs, are not to be paralleled; but their porcelain is thought to be
equalled or even excelled by that of Dresden, and their lacquered-ware
is greatly excelled by that of Japan.166
In the latter half of the eighteenth century, Europeans were well aware
of the superiority of all kind of Chinese fabrics. At that time, they
began to doubt the quality of Chinese porcelain and lacquerware. As
we may see from the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
eighteenth-century Europeans had been sure to excel the Chinese in
making clocks, watches, door- and gun-locks.167
Encyclopaedias usually presented the above-mentioned commodi-
ties of China in rather comprehensive articles. Of these, especially
luxury goods were dealt with in detail. Due to its focus on economy,
Krünitz’ encyclopaedia devoted twenty-nine pages to lacquer-ware,
fifty-one on porcelain and only three pages to sericulture in China.
For a description of the first two products, it heavily relied on the
reports of Pierre Nicolas le Chéron d’Incarville SJ (1706–1757) and
François-Xavier d’Entrecolles SJ (1662/63–1741).168 Before information

Krünitz 37 (1786) 218 (s. v. ‘Kjächta’); ibid., 129 (1821) 23 (s. v. ‘Rußland’).—
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 19, fol. 5B2v (s. v. ‘Kiakta’); ibid., vol. 22, fol. U2v (s. v. ‘Mai-
matschin’); Penny Cyclopaedia 13 (1839) 209 (s. v. ‘Kiachta’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 17 (1850) 1078 (s. v. ‘Kiachta’); ibid., I 20 (1851)
270 f. (s, v. ‘Maimatschin’), for a general assessment of Russian trade relations with
China see ibid., I 7,2 (1845) 295 f. (s. v. ‘China’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1920 (s. v. ‘China’).
On lacquer-ware see Krünitz 58 (1792) 522–551 (s. v. ‘Lackieren’), on the art of
making porcelain in China ibid., 115 (1810) 264–315 (s. v. ‘Porzellan’); on sericulture
in China ibid., 152 (1830) 27–30 and a short remark in ibid., 70 (s. v. ‘Seide’). For
bibliographic references to d’Entrecolles report on porcelain production see Pfister,
government, politics and economy 225

on Chinese lacquer-ware became available to Europeans by the reports

of d’Incarville, encyclopaedias only referred to lacquer-ware from
Japan and Tongking.169
As Europeans successfully produced first substitutes for china-ware
or porcelain at the beginning of the eighteenth century, eighteenth-
and early nineteenth-century European encyclopaedias focused on
the techniques used for the production of these substitutes. The first
edition of the Dictionarium polygraphicum, had presented informa-
tion on the earliest successful European attempts to produce a kind
of porcelain under the headword ‘China-ware.’ The second edition of
this work put the focus on the Jesuit reports on the porcelain manu-
factures of Jingdezhen 景德鎮 (in Jiangxi Province) and presented this
information under the headword ‘porcelain’.170
After 1730, all major articles on porcelain and on related subjects
inserted in French, German and English encyclopaedias relied on
the report of d’Entrecolles on the porcelain manufactures at Jingde-
zhen published in the collection of the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses.171
Encyclopaedias also referred to the memoirs by the eminent French
scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683–1757) on the dif-
ferent materials used for the production of porcelain published at Paris
in the Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences.172 This may be seen from
the articles on porcelain included in Zedler, in the Encyclopédie, in
the various editions of the Dictionnaire de Trévoux, and in the section
‘Commerce’ of the Encyclopédie Méthodique, in Rees’ Cyclopaedia,
and in Krünitz’ encyclopaedia.173 The text of the article on porcelain
inserted in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert had previously
been published in the Lettres edifiantes et curieuses and in Du Halde’s
Description . . . de la Chine. Rees’ Cyclopaedia and the general ency-
clopaedia of arts and sciences initiated by Ersch and Gruber added

Notices biographiques et bibliographiques, 540 and 547 f., for references to d’Incarville’s
treatise on Chinese varnish and its application see ibid., 797.
See Zedler 16 (1737) col. 40 f. (s. v. ‘Laccirte Arbeit’).
Barrow, Dictionarium polygraphicum, 1st ed. (1735), 2nd ed. (1758).
See e.g. Encyclopédie 9 (1765) 129 (s. v. ‘Kim-Te-Tchim’).
On these memoirs of Réaumur see Landry-Deron, La preuve par la Chine, 164 f.
Zedler 28 (1741) cols. 1680–1690 (s. v. ‘Porzellan’); Encyclopédie 13 (1765) 106–
123 (s. v. ‘Porcelaine de la Chine’), Dictionnaire de Trévoux, 1771 ed., vol. 6, p. 898
(s. v. ‘Porcelaine’); Encyclopédie Méthodique, Arts & Metiers Mechaniques 6 (1789)
557–596 (s. v. ‘Porcelaine’); Rees, vol. 28, s. v. ‘Porcelain’; Krünitz 115 (1810) 264–315
(s. v. ‘Porzellan’, section on the production of porcelain in China).
226 chapter six

to these sources a memoir published by the Swedish chemist Henrik

Theophil Scheffer (1710–1759).174
Although the unknown author of the article on porcelain in Zedler
also relied on the report of d’Entrecolles and the memoir of Réaumur,
he added some information that allows glimpses into the early modern
European perception of Chinese porcelain. One of the early modern
European theories on the material used for making porcelain that had
been disseminated by the writings of Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484–1558)
said that porcelain was made of eggshells. The user is provided with a
list of writings published from late sixteenth-century onwards includ-
ing Juan González de Mendoza, Athanasius Kircher, Jan Huyghen van
Linschoten, Johan Nieuhof, Erasmus Francisci (1627–1694), Arnoldus
Montanus (ca. 1625–1683) and a treatise published in the Philosophi-
cal Transactions of 1666 and Amboinische Raritäten-Kammer by Georg
Eberhard Rumpf, a German physician on service with the Dutch East
India company. Zedler also provided a bibliographical overview on the
dissemination of d’Entrecolles’ report. 175
For early eighteenth-century Europeans, the abundance of silk in
China was a matter of common knowledge. Most eighteenth-century
general encyclopaedias took their information on silk from an article
in Savary’s Dictionnaire universel de commerce. In doing so, Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon as well as the Encyclopédie pointed out that the cli-
mate of the majority of provinces of China favours the culture of mul-
berry trees and sericulture in general. No one might imagine the vast
amount of silk produced by the Chinese.
Encyclopaedias perpetuated the assumption that only the silk pro-
duction of Zhejiang province might be sufficient not only for the
whole Chinese empire but also for the whole of Europe. They also
pointed out that the silk trade would be the most important branch of
commerce in China. The main elements of these presentations were
dominant in works of general knowledge until the early nineteenth
century—they still may be found as late as in Rees’ Cyclopaedia.176

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 28, s. v. ‘Porcelain’; Ersch/Gruber III 19 (1844) 430
(s. v. ‘Pe-tun-tse’). For bibliographic references to the works of Réaumur and Scheffer
see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 1549 f.
Zedler 28 (1741) 1681 f. (s. v. ‘Porzellan’).
Zedler 36 (1743) col. 1341 (s. v. ‘Seide (Chinesische)’); Encyclopédie 15 (1765)
270 (s. v. ‘Soie’). Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 32, fol. 4Yr (s. v. ‘Silk’).
government, politics and economy 227

Encyclopaedias also provided information on the origins of sericul-

ture in China: Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon referred twice to Chinese
accounts. After pointing out that sericulture first had been practised by
one of the wives of the Yellow Emperor about 3000 BC, it referred to
accounts pretending this invention for the year 2602 BC.177 In Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon as well as in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia we
read that “mention is made of a kind of brocade in the annals of Tch-
eoo, about 780 years before Christ.”178

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 259.
Ibid., Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 304.


7.1 Classifying the Chinese Past

In their attempt to structure the history of China, early modern

European authors very soon adopted the scheme of the dynasties as
first transmitted to Europe by Philippe Couplet in the Tabula chrono-
logica Monarchiae Sinicae (published in 1686 and one year later as
an appendix to Confucius Sinarum Philosophus).1 From the 1690s
onwards, the editors of the subsequent editions of Moréri’s Grand
Dictionnaire historique presented a French translation of these tables
preceded by a list giving the successive dynasties together with
their number of emperors and the duration of each dynasty (Suite
Chronologique des Familles Impériales de la Chine). The table present-
ing the emperors included data on the beginning and on the duration
of each reign together with a short note that characterized each of the
emperors (Suite Chronologique et Historique des Rois ou Empereurs de
la Chine).2
The editors of Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon also adopted the scheme
originally presented by Couplet. While the subsequent editions of
Moréri had given a concise presentation of the rulers of China indi-
cating the duration of each reign (occasionally including remarkable

Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, sive Scientia Sinensis latine exposita (Paris:
Horthemels 1687) contained a Latin translation of three of the Confucian sishu 四書
(Four Books): Daxue 大學 (Great Learning), Zhongyong 中庸 (Doctrine of the Mean),
and Lunyu 論語 (Analects). These translations had been prepared by the Jesuits Pros-
pero Intorcetta (1625–1696), Christian Herdtrich (1625–1684), François Rougemont
(1624–1676), and Philippe Couplet. See Iso Kern, “Die Vermittlung chinesischer
Philosophie in Europa,” in Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Begründet von
Friedrich Ueberweg. Völlig neubearbeitete Ausgabe. Vol. 1: Die Philosophie des 17. Jah-
rhunderts. Part I: Allgemeine Themen—Iberische Halbinsel—Italien, ed. Jean-Pierre
Schobinger (Basel: Schwabe, 1998), 227 (bibliographic description) and ibid., 262–267
(contents).—On Couplet’s Tabula chronologica monarchiae Sinicae, published in 1686
and as an appendix to Confucius Sinarum Philosophus see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica,
col. 559.
See e.g. Moréri, Grand Dictionnaire historique, 8th ed. (Amsterdam 1698), vol. 2,
pp. 156–160.
230 chapter seven

occurrences), the article on China in Zedler’s Universal-Lexikon

provided a list of the subsequent dynasties and rulers of China—a
unique feature in all eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German-
language encyclopaedias.3 Information on individual rulers was dis-
posed under separate headwords and thus dispersed throughout the
sixty-eight volumes of the whole work. As spelling of Chinese names
is not consistent at all and thus differs from entry to entry, the retrieval
of this information is quite difficult. There are entries on the most
important rulers of Chinese history, e.g. on Qin Shihuangdi 秦始
皇帝 (r. 221–210 BC), Han Guangwudi 漢光武帝 (r. AD 25–57),
Song Taizong 宋太宗 (r. 976–997), and on Ming Shenzong 明神宗
(r. 1573–1620, the Wanli 萬曆 Emperor).4 Entries on single dynasties
provide further access to information on Chinese history.5
Late eighteenth-century encyclopaedias mostly referred to Couplet’s
presentation of the chronological order of the emperors that had been
perpetuated by Étienne Fourmont’s Réflexions critiques sur les histories
des anciens peoples, Chaldéens, Hébreux, Phéniciens, Egyptiens, Grecs
etc. (Paris 1735; second edition 1747) and Du Halde’s description of
China. In the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, informa-
tion on the history of China had been limited to the mythological
origins of Chinese civilisation.6 Starting with the second edition, the
presentation of the history of China was largely extended.7 The second
edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica mentioned that Du Halde’s
presentation on this subject “is commonly reckoned to be the most
authentic.”8 This presentation in the Encyclopaedia Britannica served
as a model for most English encyclopaedias published up to 1850. In
the Encyclopaedia Londinensis we read that the “whole of the Chinese

See Zedler 37 (1743) cols. 1567–1572 (s. v. ‘Sina’).
On Qin Shihuangdi see Zedler 60 (1749) 739–744 (s. v. ‘Xi-Hoam-Ti’); on Han
Guangwudi ibid., 30 (1741) col. 59 (s. v. ‘Quamvuti’), on the Wanli Emperor ibid., 60
(1749) 776–778 (s. v. ‘Xin-Cum’) and ibid., 46 (1745) col. 526 (s. v. ‘Van-Lie’).
Examples for this practice may be found starting from letter ‘S’: Zedler 41 (1744)
241–245 (s. v. ‘Sum’) on the Song dynasty (AD 960–1279) and ibid., col. 1614–1616
(s. v. ‘Tam’) on the Tang dynasty (AD 618–906).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st ed., vol. 2 (1771), s. v. ‘Chinese’.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1907–1920 (s. v. ‘China’). Ten out
of thirteen pages deal with Chinese history.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1909. See similar presentations of
the dynasties in Deutsche Encyclopädie 7 (1783) 777 (s. v. ‘Dynastie’).
history 231

emperors abstracting from those who are said to have reigned in the
fabulous times, are comprehended in twenty-two dynasties.”9
French encyclopaedias like the Encyclopédie Catholique10 placed
comprehensive accounts of the history of China within the same
scheme. German encyclopaedias perpetuated this scheme until the
first decades of the nineteenth century. This may be seen best from
Schott’s entry on ‘China’ in Ersch/Gruber. In his presentation of the
history of China, Schott still referred to the works of Kircher and Du
Halde, but also mentioned that de Mailla’s Histoire générale de la
Chine has been the most extensive work on the subject available in a
European language.11 Krünitz’ encyclopaedia followed the same pat-
tern. Under the headword “political slavery”, it mentioned twenty-two
main revolutions (zwei und zwanzig Hauptrevolutionen) for China.12
Up to 1832, Krünitz counts 233 rulers of China.13 The Penny Cyclo-
paedia presented no list of the successive dynasties of China. It gave
a “brief summary of the principal revolutions in the history of this
antient [sic] empire”.14
The following table (based on the list given in the second edition of
the Encyclopaedia Britannica) is intended to introduce the presentation
perpetuated by encyclopaedias from the late-seventeenth century up
to the 1830s. Chinese characters, pinyin transcription and correct(ed)
dates are added not only to show which dynasties were considered or
omitted in these presentations but also to provide a grid for the events
in the history of China mentioned in this chapter:15

Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 438.
Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 287–396 (s. v. ‘Chine’).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 169–176 (s. v. ‘China’).—For Schott’s remark on de
Mailla’s Histoire see ibid., 176 n. 61.
Krünitz 155 (1832) 5 (s. v. ‘Sklaverey, politische’).
Krünitz 162 (1835) 453 f. (s. v. ‘Staat’).
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 81.
Numbers 14 to 18 in this list only refer to the wudai (five dynasties). The shiguo
(ten states) were omitted.—In perpetuating this presentation, Schott (Ersch/Gruber I
21 (1830) 173 n. 55 pointed out that these five dynasties are also known by the name
of hou wudai 後五代 as they had chosen the same names as earlier dynasties.
232 chapter seven

Dynasty Emperors Dynasty/Period Subdivision

Before Christ BC
1. Hya, containing 17 2207 Xia 夏 ca. 21st–16th c.
2. Shang, or Ing 28 1766 Shang 商 / ca. 1600–1045
Yin 殷
3. Chew 35 1122 Zhou 周 1045–256
4. Tsin 4 248 Qin 秦 221–206
5. Han 25 206 Han 漢 202 BC–AD 220
After Christ AD
Sanguo 三國 220–280
6. Hew-han 2 220 (Shu) Han 蜀漢 221–265
(Cao) Wei 曹魏 220–265
(Sun) Wu 孫吳 222–280
7. Tsin 15 265 Jin 晉 265–420
8. Sung 8 420 Liu Song 劉宋 420–479
9. Tsi 5 479 Qi 齊 479–502
10. Lyang 4 502 Liang 梁 502–557
11. Chin 4 557 Chen 陳 557–589
12. Swi 3 Sui 隨 581–618
13. Twang 20 618 Tang 唐 618–907
Wudai Shiguo15 907–960
14. Hew-lyang 2 907 Hou Liang 後梁 907–923
15. Hew-tang 4 923 Hou Tang 後唐 923–936
16. Hew-tsin 2 936 Hou Jin 後晉 936–946
17. Hew-han 2 947 Hou Han 後漢 947–950
18. Hew-chew 3 951 Hou Zhou 後周 951–960
19. Song 18 960 Song 宋 960–1279
Liao 遼 916–1125
Jin 金 1115–1234
20. Iwen 9 1280 Yuan 元 1279–1368
21. Ming 16 1368 Ming 明 1368–1644
22. Tsing 1645 Qing 清 1644–1912

Although the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia perpetuated this scheme

of twenty-two dynasties, it slightly altered the presentation for the
various periods of division: Under the heading “The Southern Empire . . .
and . . . the Northern Empire. Eighth Imperial Dynasty” it provided
information on the Yuan Wei 元魏 or Bei Wei 北魏 dynasty (AD
386–534)—for a long time more commonly addressed to by Europeans
as the “Tartars of Topa” (reflecting the Chinese denomination Tuoba
Wei 拓拔魏) continuing the list of the Bei Wei rulers parallel to those
of the “ninth imperial dynasty”, the Qi dynasty (AD 479–502). Simi-
larly, parallel to the rulers of the Liang dynasty it presented information
on the rulers of the Eastern (AD 534–550) and the Western Wei 魏
history 233

(AD 535–556) dynasties and parallel to the rulers of the Chen 陳

dynasty (AD 557–589) it gave the list of rulers of the Northern Zhou
北周 (AD 557–581) and Northern Qi 北齊 dynasties (AD 550–577).16
The same practice was observed for the time between the end of the
Tang (AD 907) and the beginning of the Yuan dynasty. Parallel to
those of the fourteenth (Later Liang, AD 907–923) to the nineteenth
dynasty (Song) it listed the Qidan 契丹 rulers of the Liao dynasty and
parallel to the nineteenth dynasty it inserted the list of the last Liao
rulers, of the Jin and of the early rulers of the Mongol Empire (from
Genghis Khan (r. 1206–1227) to Möngke (r. 1251–1259).17
During the first decades of the nineteenth century, a gradual change
in the presentation of Chinese history began to take place. Due to the
growing demand for quick reference and as a result of the growing
Eurocentrism of world history, the history of China more and more had
to fit into the European scheme of ‘antiquity—middle ages—modern
times’. In early modern European works of the history of Ancient
Rome, this scheme had been well established before the historian
Christoph Cellarius (1638–1707) adopted it for didactic reasons.18
While the subsequent editions of Brockhaus presented a quite
unstructured narrative of the history of China, Pierer’s Universal-
Lexikon tried to apply a conventional pattern for the periodization
of (ancient, medieval, and modern) history. Starting with the mythi-
cal times of the Three Emperors (sanhuang 三皇) and the Five Rul-
ers (wudi 五帝), it adopted the terms Ancient History and Medieval
History. Instead of introducing the term Modern History, Pierer’s
Universal-Lexikon perpetuated the dynastic pattern for the time
after 1368.19

I. Mythical times
A. Three Emperors
B. Five Rulers

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, pp. 228–230.
Ibid., p. 230.
Christoph Cellarius, Historia nova, hoc est XVI et XVII saeculorum, qua ejusdem
auctoris historiae, antique et medii aevi, ad nostra tempora continenti ordine profer-
untur (Halle: Bielkius, 1696); id., Historia universalis breviter ac perspicue exposita, in
antiquam et medii aevi ac novam divisa, cum notis perpetuis (Jena: Bielkius, 1704–
The following table is based on Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841)
428–442 (s. v. ‘China (Gesch.)’).
234 chapter seven

II. Ancient History

A. Xia
B. Shang/Yin
C. Zhou
D. Qin
a. Qin
b. Hou Qin
E. Han
a. Xi Han (Western Han)
b. Tai Han (Eastern Han)
III. Medieval History
A. Jin
a. Xi Jin (Western Jin)
b. Tai Jin
B. Division of the Empire (Nan-Bei chao)
a. Song
b. Qi
c. Liang
d. Chen
C. After the reunification of the Empire
D. Tang
E. Hou wudai
a. Hou Liang
b. Hou Tang
c. Hou Jin
d. Hou Han
e. Hou Zhou
F. Song
IV. China under Mongol rule (Yuan dynasty), 1279–1368
V. Ming China
VI. China under Manchu rule (Qing dynasty)

This pattern served as a model for the presentation of Chinese history

in Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon.20
Much earlier than for the presentation of the history of China
this pattern (ancient—medieval—modern) had been adopted for the
presentation of Chinese philosophy. As early as in Croker’s Complete

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 281–312.
history 235

Dictionary of Arts and Sciences we read that the “middle age of Chi-
nese philosophy commences about the tenth or eleventh century” and
that the coming of the Europeans would mark the beginning of “mod-
ern philosophy” in China.21
Although Europeans soon had adopted the scheme of the dynas-
ties, they tended to Europeanize the order of subsequent emperors.
Contrary to the practice of Chinese historiography, European works
on universal geography and universal history introduced a subse-
quent numbering of the temple names (miaohao 廟號) of emperors
of different dynasties.22 Encyclopaedias adopted this practice until the
nineteenth century: For example, the Encyclopédie des gens du monde
referred to Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋 (1328–1398), the Hongwu 洪武
Emperor (Ming Taizu 明太祖, r. 1368–1398), as “Chou, who had
become emperor under the name of ‘Tai-Tsong IV’ (Chou, devenu
empereur sous le nom de Tai-Tsong IV)—evidently mingling the syl-
lables zu and zong.23 The eighth and ninth edition of Brockhaus both
referred to Tang Taizong as ‘Tai-tsung I.’: in the eighth edition we
read that China gained power under his reign. In the ninth edition it
is mentioned that in the times of this learned ruler Nestorians were
permitted entrance into China.24 Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon also
followed this scheme. Apart from ‘Tai-tsung I.’ it referred to the Wanli
Emperor (Ming Shenzong 明神宗) as “Schin-tsung II.”25
The extent of information on the history of China provided by
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century encyclopaedias differed consider-
ably. Contrary to the above-mentioned presentations of the subject
in the various editions of Moréri as well as in Zedler’s Universal-
Lexicon, the Encyclopédie edited by Diderot (as well as the Deutsche
Encyclopädie) contained neither a table showing the successive dynas-
ties of China nor a longer text summarizing the principal events of
Chinese history.

Temple Henry Croker, The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, vol. 1
(London 1764), s. v. ‘Chinese Philosophy’.
This early modern European practice had been mentioned by Landry-Deron, La
preuve par la Chine, 44.
Encyclopédie des gens du monde 5 (1835) 731.
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 614; ibid., 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 389.
Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon 3 (1847) 300 mentioned the coming of Nesto-
rians under the reign of the learned “Tai-tsung I.” On the Wanli Emperor see ibid.,
301. According to this practice Emperor Shenzong of the Song dynasty (r. 1068–1085)
would have been “Schin-tsung I.”
236 chapter seven

In their articles on China most early nineteenth-century encyclopae-

dias contained extensive presentations of Chinese history that formed
major parts of these articles: in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia 23 out
of 125 pages or about 18.4 %, the Encyclopédie Catholique 109 out of
169 pages or about 64.5 %, and Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon 41 out
of 83 pages or about 49.4 %.26 In Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon informa-
tion on the history of China is presented under a separate headword
(‘China (Geschichte)’, i.e. ‘China, history of ’).27 In these presentations,
the history of Sino-Western relations since early modern times formed
an important part. Sometimes, the history of these relations was over-
emphasized in the context of Chinese history. In Meyer’s Conversa-
tions-Lexikon, the section on the history of Sino-European relations
comprised approximately 62,5 % of the presentation of Chinese his-
tory. In its presentation of this history, it mainly dealt with the events
leading to the Opium War.28

7.2 Chinese Chronology as a Challenge to European Scholarship

In inspecting Chinese sources, the Jesuits soon faced the problem, that
some (mythical) events recorded by Chinese historiography took place
even before the universal flood.29 The European ‘republic of letters’
broadly discussed questions relating to universal chronology. From
the very beginning of presenting Chinese history to their European
contemporaries, the Jesuits saw the necessity to synchronize Chinese
and biblical chronology. Based on the works of Martino Martini and
Philippe Couplet, vivid discussions among late seventeenth- and early
eighteenth-century European scholars emerged. The main strands
of discourse also found their way into encyclopaedic dictionaries.

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, pp. 216–239; Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844)
287–396, Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 281–312.
See Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 428–442 (s. v. ‘China
Meyer I 7,2 (1845) 281–312.
Martino Martini SJ played a crucial role in the transmission of information on
Chinese flood myths. See Mungello, Curious Land, 124–133 (Martini and the early
history of China); Anthony Grafton, “The Chronology of the Flood,” in Sintflut und
Gedächtnis. Erinnern und Vergessen des Ursprungs, ed. Martin Mulsow and Jan Ass-
mann (Munich: Fink, 2006), especially ibid., 75–77. On Chinese flood myths see Mark
Edward Lewis, The Flood Myths of Early China (Albany NY: State University of New
York Press, 2006).
history 237

Bibliographical data listed in the respective entries indicate the most

influential publications in this field. These entries repeatedly quoted
from the works of the two Protestant Dutch scholars Georg Horn and
Isaac Vossius. Another important publication regularly referred to
by encyclopaedic dictionaries was L’Antiquité des Tems, published in
1687 by the French scholar Paul Pezron (1639–1706). A late reference
to early modern European scholarship on this particular subject can
be found under the headword ‘Deluge’ (i.e. universal flood) in Rees’
In their attempts to synchronize Chinese and biblical chronology,
European scholars were attracted by supposed similarities of founda-
tion myths and soon they tried to equate figures known from the Bible
to Chinese historical personage. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon referred
to this strand of discourse not only under the headword ‘Sündfluth’
(i.e. universal flood) but also in section 13 of the headword ‘Welt’ (i.e.
world), dealing with the age of the world (‘Alter der Welt’).31
In its article on chronology, the Encyclopédie pointed out that even
the Jesuits doubted the indigenous sources on Chinese chronology. It
referred to a remark by Niccolò Longobardo SJ (1565–1655) that the
chronology of the Chinese is very uncertain and to the works of Jean-
François Foucquet SJ (1663–1741), who had argued that the histori-
cal records of the Chinese only would be reliable beginning with the
fourth century BC. The article further mentions the works of Leibniz
as edited by Christian Kortholt (1709–1751) as well as those of Nicolas
Fréret (1688–1749).32 The fact of a coincidence of the earliest astro-
nomical observations done by Chinese and Chaldeans had seemed to
prove the theory that the Chinese originated from the Ancient Near
In late eighteenth-century Europe, scholars doubted Jesuit pre-
sentations of the antiquity of Chinese tradition. The Deutsche Ency-
clopädie perpetuated this strand of discourse and labelled ancient

Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 11, fol. 3Dv (s. v. ‘Deluge’).
Zedler 41 (1744) 113–129 (s. v. ‘Sündfluth’), especially col. 115; ibid. 54 (1747)
col. 1674–1678 (s. v. ‘Welt’), especially cols. 1674 and 1676.
For bibliographic details of these works see Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 561
f. (on Fréret), ibid., col. 899 (on Longobardo’s Traité sur quelques points de la religion
des Chinois (Paris 1701)), and ibid., col. 920 (on Kortholt’s edition of Leibniz’ Epis-
tolae ad diversos 4 vols. (Leipzig: Breitkopf, 1734–1742)). On the various editions of
Longobardo’s Traité see Kern, “Vermittlung chinesischer Philosophie,” 227 (no. 12).
Encyclopédie 3 (1753) 393 (s. v. ‘Chronologie’).
238 chapter seven

history of China a ‘hodgepodge of fabrications’ (ein Mischmasch von

Erdichtungen)—due to the lack of notes on China in ancient Greece and
Persia. It further pointed out that China might not have been inhab-
ited about the year 1300 BC. The ‘defenders of the Chinese’ (Verthei-
diger der Chinesen) would speak of a prosperous empire for that early
period.34 Decades after this assessment by the Deutsche Encyclopädie
and far from ‘defending’ the Chinese, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
noted, that China had been powerful at the time of the foundation of
Carthage (ninth/eighth century BC) and at the time Lycurgus acted as
legislator of Sparta (eighth century BC).35
Seventeenth-century Jesuits had introduced the sexagenary cycle of
Chinese chronology, which recently has been labelled “the most salient
characteristic of Chinese chronologies and calendrical notations.”36
Eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century encyclopaedias provided
detailed information on this so-called “Chinese cycle”. As early as in
the eighth edition of Moréri information on the Chinese cycle had
been included.37
In Rees’ Cyclopaedia, information on the Chinese cycle is still based
on the works of Du Halde and Gaubil, but also on the account of
George Leonard Staunton. The Chinese cycle is defined as “[. . .] a
period of 60 years, or of 720 revolutions of the moon [. . .]. Each year
of the cycle is distinguished by the union of two characters, taken from
such an arrangement of an unequal number of words placed in oppo-
site, that the same two characters cannot be found again together for
60 years.”38
While the Encyclopédie Catholique presented a table synchronizing
Chinese and European chronology,39 other encyclopaedias restricted
comparative information to certain years. In the Deutsche Encyclopädie
we read that the year 1789 corresponds to the 46th year of the 75th

Deutsche Encyclopädie 10 (1785) 314 (s. v. ‘Fo’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 281.
Marc Kalinowski, “Time, Space and Orientation: Figurative Representations of
the Sexagenary Cycle in Ancient and Medieval China,” in Graphics and Text in the
Production of Technical Knowledge in China. The Warp and the Weft, ed. Francesca
Bray, Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann, and Georges Métailié, Sinica Leidensia 79 (Leiden:
Brill, 2007), 137.
Moréri, 8th ed. (Amsterdam: Gallet, 1698), vol. 2, pp. 312–314 (s. v. ‘Cycle chi-
nois’); Moréri, 1725 ed., vol. 3, pp. 535–537 (‘Cycle chinois’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 10, s. v. ‘Cycle, Chinese’.
Encyclopédie Catholique, vol. 7 (1844) 282 f. and 285 f. (s. v. ‘Chine’).
history 239

cycle and in the fourth edition of Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon that the

year 1858 corresponds to the 55th year of the 76th cycle.40
In his entry on ‘chronology’ for Ersch/Gruber (1818),41 the philolo-
gist and orientalist Georg Friedrich Grotefend (1775–1853) gave no
information on the Chinese system. In the entry on ‘China’ (1830),
Schott mentioned that the Chinese cycle comprises 60 years, each
of them expressed by two characters—combinations of 10 so-called
stems and 12 branches. For more details, Schott referred to the twelfth
volume of de Mailla’s Histoire générale de la Chine.42 A more detailed
account of Chinese chronology—still based on early-eighteenth cen-
tury Jesuit works—had been inserted in Ersch/Gruber’s article ‘Jahr’
(i.e. year). Quoting from Gaubil’s Traité sur la chronologie chinoise,
the author mentioned the 10 stems and the 12 branches followed
by a list of the 60 terms composed by the combination of stems and
branches—none of the articles introduced the terms ‘heavenly stems’
(tiangan 天干) and ‘earthly branches’ (dizhi 地支).43 Encyclopaedias
usually added that the animals of the Chinese zodiac (rat, ox, tiger,
hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog, pig) correspond
to the 12 branches.44

7.3 Encyclopaedic Visions of the Chinese Past

In their presentation of Chinese history, encyclopaedias perpetuated

ideas on the subject as expressed in early modern European accounts
on China. A diachronic analysis of information given by encyclopae-
dias shows that these presentations mainly focused on the following
points: (a) gaining and losing the Mandate of Heaven, (b) the rulers
of China: brutal tyrants or wise and enlightened princes, and (c) the
role of eunuchs.
Encyclopaedias commented on the rise and fall of successive dynas-
ties. In general, they gave a rather positive assessment of the founders

Deutsche Encyclopädie 16 (1790) 672 (s. v. ‘Jahr’); Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 4th
ed., vol. 4 (1858) 7. These data are obviously an extrapolation of the tables given in
the various editions of Moréri.
Ersch/Gruber I 2 (1818) 71 (s. v. ‘Ära’).
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 168 n. 47.
Ersch/Gruber II 14 (1837) 210 (s. v. ‘Jahr’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 282; Ersch/Gruber II 14 (1837) 211 n. 31
(s. v. ‘Jahr’).
240 chapter seven

of most of the dynasties. In their presentation of these rulers, ency-

clopaedias mentioned the personal background of the founders of
In introducing Liu Bang 劉邦 (256/247–195 BC), the founder of the
Han dynasty (Han Gaodi 漢高帝 or Gaozu 高祖, r. 202–195 BC), the
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed out that he “was successively a pri-
vate soldier, a captain of a troop of robbers, a general, a petty prince,
and, at length, usurper of the throne.”45 In Meyer’s Conversations-
Lexikon we read, that Liu Bang had been the leader of those rebels
who had caused the preceding emperor to commit suicide.46
According to the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, the Hongwu Emperor,
the founder of the Ming dynasty, “ascended the throne with universal
applause.” The Shunzhi 順治 Emperor (r. 1644–1661), the first ruler
of the Qing, was portrayed as an “amiable prince”.47
In their presentation of the fall of dynasties, encyclopaedias referred
to several topoi. In using metaphors from nature, Meyer’s Conversa-
tions-Lexikon explained the fall of the Song and the establishment of
the Yuan dynasty.48 As regards the fall of the Yuan, encyclopaedias
perpetuated the topos of Oriental despotism in pointing out that the
Mongols had been weakened both by the climate and by the vices of
the Orient and gave themselves up to luxury and inertia.49 In the third
edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that during the reign
of Shundi 順帝 (r. 1333–1368), the last ruler of the Yuan, the Mongols
“had become enervated by long prosperity.”50 The eighth edition of
Brockhaus presented Shundi is a ‘voluptuous prince’ (einen wollüsti-
gen Fürsten).51
In its presentation of the fall of the Ming, the second edition of
the Encyclopaedia Britannica pointed out that Ming Huaizong 明懷宗
(the Chongzhen 崇禎 Emperor, r. 1628–1644) had been “a great lover
of the sciences, and a favourer of the Christians; though much addicted

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 227.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 284.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 231 (on the Hongwu Emperor), ibid., p. 232
(on the Shunzhi Emperor).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 288: “[. . .] und ein neuer Herrscher-
stamm beschattete den Drachensitz, nachdem der alte entmarkt und kraftlos dem
Sturm erlegen war.”
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 289.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 659.
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 614.
history 241

to the superstitions of the Bonzes”. Although the Chongzhen reign had

been marked by the rise of the Manchu and by rebellions in the inte-
rior, the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica linked the final
fate of the Chongzhen Emperor also to betrayal by his entourage.52
The authors of entries on the history of China sometimes com-
plained about the uniformity of Chinese history. According to the
Damen-Conversations-Lexikon there were no “celebrated heros—no
Hercules, no Rustan, no Cid.”53 Contrary to this and in introducing
Qin Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of China, the eighth edition of
Brockhaus pointed out that in 256 BC a “Chinese hero” stood up, who
unified all the small principalities.54 Encyclopaedias portrayed Qin Shi-
huangdi as a very conflicting personality. According to the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia he was the “most celebrated prince of his dynasty”, who
“greatly extended the boundaries by new conquests” and “completed
at length the great wall.”55 Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon pointed out,
that Qin Shihuangdi had been “a vigorous, but also despotic and cruel
ruler.”56 In the second edition of Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon we read,
that, due to the cruelties he committed, he lost the affection of the
people.57 Encyclopaedias commented very critically on his burning of
the books: in the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we
read that the burning of the books was the result of Qin Shihuangdi’s
efforts “of making posterity known that he himself had been the first
Chinese emperor that ever sat on the throne.” In implicitly referring
to the Chinese term fenshu kengru 焚書坑儒 (i.e. burn the books and
bury the scholars alive), it added that for this purpose “he ordered all
the historical writings to be burnt, and caused many of the learned to
be put to death.”58 Writing for Ersch/Gruber, Wilhelm Schott pointed
out that this burning of the books can be seen as a remarkable docu-
ment for Qin Shihuangdi’s horror of the dismemberment of the empire
in the times of the Zhou.59

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1916; ibid., 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797)
Damen-Conversations-Lexikon, 1st ed., vol. 2 (1834) 369.
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 613.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 227.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 284.
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 430.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1909.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 170: “[. . .] dieser merkwürdigen Urkunde seines
Abscheues vor dem Zerstückelungssysteme der Dscheu.”—Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2
(1833) 613 referred to the burning of the books in a similar way.
242 chapter seven

Nevertheless, encyclopaedias presented not only information on

outstanding, celebrated and ‘enlightened’ monarchs, but also on
extremely cruel, despotic, or brutal rulers. In Ersch/Gruber, Wilhelm
Schott showed that each of the dynasties had its wise and able emper-
ors as well as its cruel, unable, and weak rulers.60
Among the rulers of ancient China portrayed as most cruel by Euro-
peans may be mentioned Zhou Xin, the last ruler of the Shang dynasty.
The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia characterised Zhou Xin as a “worthless
prince, crafty, vain, profuse, and much addicted to wine and women”.61
Schott pointed out, that Zhou Xin has been as disgraceful (unwürdig)
as his predecessors.62 In a similar way, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
linked the fall of the Shang not only to Zhou Xin but also to his pre-
decessors whom it labelled ‘a lot of idiots.’63
In presenting information on the history of China, encyclopae-
dias usually referred to the pivotal role of Genghis Khan for the
history of thirteenth-century Eurasia. The Edinburgh Encyclopae-
dia spoke of the “infamed Genghis-Khan”.64 In its article on China,
Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon mentioned this “famous” and “great”
conqueror only in passing but provided ample information on the
founder of the Mongol Empire: In its biographical information (s. v.
‘Dschengis-Khan’) it spoke of the ‘infamous Mongol conqueror’, who
may be regarded as a ‘second Attila’.65 The seventh edition of the Ency-
clopaedia Britannica described him as “famous barbarian” and men-
tioned that “the name of this marauder does not appear in the list of
Chinese emperors, nor those of the two next in succession, Ogdai-
khan and Menko-khan [Möngke], though their exploits are amply
detailed in Chinese history. The Mongoo dynasty only commences
with Kublai-khan [. . .].”66 Looking up encyclopaedias for information

Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 169–176.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 224.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 170.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 283: “[. . .] eine Reihe von Schwach-
köpfen [. . .].”
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 231.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 288 (s. v. ‘China’); ibid., I 7,4 (1846)
1255 (s. v. ‘Dschengis-Khan’).—Brockhaus, 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 389 also spoke of
Genghis Khan as a ‘great conqueror’ (‘[. . .] diesem großen Eroberer’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 550 (“famous barbarian”) and
ibid., 552.
history 243

on Genghis Khan, users had to search either for a respective biograph-

ical entry or for articles relating to ‘Tartary’.67
Dealing with the Ming-Qing transition of seventeenth-century
China, encyclopaedias usually mentioned another cruel ruler: Zhang
Xianzhong 張獻忠 (1605–47) had established a terrorist regime in
Sichuan province at the time of the Ming-Qing transition. Jesuit mis-
sionaries gave an account of his atrocities. Based on these reports,
encyclopaedias portrayed Zhang in the most unfavourable manner.
According to the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, Zhang was “rather a gen-
eral murderer and robber, than a competitor for the crown, or a com-
mander in any interest” and was said “to have committed barbarities
altogether incredible; and governed everywhere in the most tyrannical
and ferocious manner”.68
Encyclopaedias tended to give a very critical assessment of the role
of eunuchs in the history of China. As we read in Pierer and Meyer,
during the major part of the ninth century the eunuchs dominated
the Tang court. After Tang Xuanzong 唐宣宗 (r. 847–859) vainly
had tried to get rid of them (and later was poisoned), Tang Zhaozong
唐昭宗 (r. 888–904), who had been imprisoned by the eunuchs at the
beginning of his reign, not only managed to escape but also to hire
some robbers who nearly extinguished the eunuchs. Thus, Tang Zhao-
zong had liberated China from a ‘lasting pain’.69 During the following
dynasties, eunuchs again played an important role at court. Encyclo-
paedias also referred to the regulations aiming to limit the influence
of eunuchs: The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia mentioned a “useful regula-
tion” issued by the Emperor Mingzong 明宗 (r. 926–934) of the Hou
Tang dynasty, which “excluded all eunuchs from public employment.”70
Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon mentioned that due to the fact that Emperor
Shundi (r. 1333–1368) had his empire governed by two eunuchs, the
fall of the Yuan only had been a matter of time.71 Warned by the fall

Brockhaus, 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 389 gave a cross-reference to the entry on
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 233.—In Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 175 Schott
too wrote of the “incredible atrocities” (unerhörte Grausamkeiten) ordered by Zhang
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 433; Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 287.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 230.
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 435.
244 chapter seven

of the Yuan, the first Ming Emperor had tried to exclude eunuchs
from governmental posts, but they regained their influence during the
Yingzong 英宗 reign (1436–50 and 1457–1464).72
Eighteenth-century encyclopaedias contained only little informa-
tion on the eunuchs at the court of China. Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon
mentioned that eunuchs still may be found at Oriental courts.73 In
the Deutsche Encyclopädie, this subject was presented in connection
with surgery: as the practice of castration has been in use among the
Chinese and other Asian people since remote times, this may serve as
a proof for the knowledge of surgery among these people.74 Under the
head “Eunuchs of the palace”, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia pointed
out that after the Ming-Qing transition “all the eunuchs, to the num-
ber of 6,000, were deprived of all offices of trust and importance.”
In the light of the mainly eighteenth-century sources used by James
Brewster, the eunuchs seemed still to be “extremely numerous about
the court”, their duties included the keeping of the women and the
superintendency of gardens, buildings, and “other works connected
with the palaces”. Europeans usually described eunuchs in the most
unfavourable manner:
These creatures, in general, are described as addicted to all the vices
which distinguish the tribe in other places; as particularly insolent, rapa-
cious, and spiteful in the extreme; as detested and dreaded by all the
court officers, and even by the princes of the blood; and as requiring to
have their good will secured by frequent and costly presents.75
In the eighth edition of Brockhaus, we read that Chinese parents
would not restrain either to have their sons castrated or to sell their
daughters as prostitutes.76 Krünitz’ encyclopaedia referred to the
eunuchs in the contexts of government and mutilation. Contrary to

Ibid., 433; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 289.—On this attempt to
forbid the participation of the eunuchs in political affairs see John D. Langlois, “The
Hung-wu reign, 1368-1398,” in The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 7: The Ming
Dynasty. Part 1. Frederick W. Mote and Denis Twitchett eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988), p. 150.
Zedler 47 (1746) col. 1719–1722 (s. v. ‘Verschnittener, oder Cappaun, Lat. Eunu-
chus, Castratus, Spado, Frantz. Eunuque’).
Deutsche Encyclopädie 5 (1781) 528 (s. v. ‘Chirurgie’).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 243 (based on the account given by Bar-
row, Travels in China, 230–234. For a similar presentation see Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 249.
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 608.—For encyclopaedias’ presentation of infor-
mation on prostitution in China see Krünitz 26 (1782) 683 (s. v. ‘Hure’) and Meyer,
history 245

the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia it spoke of 10,000 to 12,000 eunuchs at

the time of the Manchu takeover.77 Encyclopaedias also mentioned
eighteenth-century philosophers’ assessments of the repeated attempts
to ban the eunuchs from power. Krünitz’ encyclopaedia pointed out
that according to Montesquieu, these eunuchs may have been a neces-
sary evil. Wise men would prophesy, that the eunuchs once again will
assume power as soon as the Manchu dynasty would be in a deterio-
rating state.78

7.4 Ever-changing Contemporaries of China: Two Centuries of

Latest Events

From the early seventeenth-century onwards, European observers reg-

ularly reported on contemporary developments in China. Based on
these accounts, encyclopaedic dictionaries included information on
some of the most recent events in China. On the one hand, eighteenth-
century European works extensively discussed the fall of the Ming and
the rise of the Qing, on the other hand information on the dramatis
personae of eighteenth century China remained rather poor.
This may be seen from the fact that the editors of Zedler’s Universal-
Lexicon not only provided ample information on the last emperor of
the Ming and the first emperor of the Qing but also presented entries
on the famous but notorious eunuch Wei Zhongxian 魏忠賢 (1568–
1627), on the rebel leader Li Zicheng 李自成 (c. 1605–1645), on
Candida Xu 許甘第大 (1607–1680), on the Zheng family (on Zheng
Zhilong 鄭芝龍 (1604–1661) and Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功 (1624–
1662; known to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europeans as
Coxinga)), and on the Revolt of the Three Feudatories (sanfan zhi luan
三藩之亂), especially on the role of Wu Sangui 吳三桂 (1612–1678).79

Conversations-Lexikon II 9 (1852) 309 (s. v. ‘Sittenpolizei’). Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830)

164 mentioned Suzhou 蘇州 as one of the centres of white slave traffic.
Krünitz 162 (1835) 494 (s. v. ‘Staat’; 10,000); ibid. 217 (1854) 476 f. (s. v. ‘Ver-
stümmeln’, 12,000).
Krünitz 217 (1854) 477 (s. v. ‘Verstümmeln’).
Chongzhen Emperor: Zedler 64 (1750) col. 44–45 (s. v. ‘Zunchin’); Shunzhi
Emperor: ibid., 60 (1749) col. 789 Wei Zhongxian: Zedler 11 (1735) col. 1219 (s. v.
‘Guei’); Li Zicheng: ibid., 17 (1738) col. 940 (s. v. ‘Licungz’); Candida Xu: ibid., 5
(1733) col. 524 (s. v. ‘Candida, aus China gebürtig’); Zheng Zhilong: ibid., 5 (1733)
col. 2141 (s. v. ‘Chinchilung’); Zheng Chenggong: ibid., 15 (1737) col. 1609 (s. v.
‘Koxenga’); ibid., 51 (1747) col. 840–842 (s. v. ‘Usan-Quei’).
246 chapter seven

The article on Candida Xu is an example for inner-encyclopaedic

migrations of information. The editors of Zedler took it from Ama-
ranthes’ Frauenzimmer-Lexicon (published in 1715).80
In presenting the development of Qing rule over China, European
encyclopaedias generally tended to connect the history of China to
respective contemporary developments concerning the court and the
foreign relations of the Empire. Remarks on deaths and successions of
emperors show the time lag between the events and the transmission
of this information to Europe.
In the 1725 edition, Moréri refers to the death of the Kangxi emperor
(1722) but does not give any date.81 In the list of emperors included
in its article on China, (published in 1743), Zedler still presented the
Yongzheng Emperor (d. 1735) as the reigning sovereign of China and
added additional information under a separate headword.82 While
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon did not mention the Qianlong Emperor at
all, it presented information on the Kangxi Emperor only in the article
on China and not under a separate headword—an entry “Cham-Hi”
(obviously planned to be included in further supplementary volumes)
was never published due to the cease of publication at ‘Caq’.83 This
time lag became obvious in English-language encyclopaedias, too.
Both, the second (1777–1784) and third (1788–1797) editions of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica concluded their presentation of Chinese
history with the death of the Yongzheng Emperor (1735).84 The last
edition of Moréri (1759) mentioned that the Qianlong Emperor had
ascended the throne in 1735.85
Apart from considerable time lags in the transmission of informa-
tion, the compilers of encyclopaedias also had to face erroneous infor-
mation on the emperors of China. Such erroneous information on the

Amaranthes (i. e. Gottlieb Siegmund Corvinus), Nutzbares, galantes und curiöses
Frauenzimmer-Lexicon [. . .] (Leipzig: Gleditsch 1715), col. 293 f. (s. v. ‘Candida’).
Moréri 1725 edition, vol. 3, p. 151.
Zedler 37 (1743) col. 1572 (s. v. ‘Sina’) and ibid., 60 (1749) col. 866 f. (s. v.
‘Yong-Tching’).—This may be a proof for the use of information on the then reigning
Yongzheng Emperor contained in Du Halde, Description . . . de la Chine, vol. 1, pp.
550–556 (s. v. ‘Yong Tching’).
Zedler S4 (1754) col. 1448. This volume only contains a cross-reference to a
planned article on ‘Cham-Hi’ (ibid., col. 1320 (s. v. ‘Camhi’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1917 (s. v. ‘China’) erroneously
gives the year 1736.—This error had been perpetuated at least in ibid., 3rd ed., vol. 4
(1797) 661 (s. v. ‘China’).
Moréri, 1759 edition, vol. 3, p. 636.
history 247

death of the Qianlong Emperor (d. 1799) had been published by the
German writer Georg August von Breitenbauch (1731–1817) in 1788
and evidently had been perpetuated in the 1804 edition of the Reales
Staats- und Zeitungs-Lexicon—combined with the likewise erroneous
information that the Jiaqing Emperor would not be the son but the
grandson of the Qianlong Emperor.86
Due to the shifting focus of the genre as a whole, early nineteenth-
century encyclopaedias focused on the modern history of China and
on the various stages of contacts between China and the outside world.
As early as in 1703, the Universal, Historical, Geographical, Chrono-
logical and Poetical Dictionary had mentioned these incursions.87 In
the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that “the
most interesting particulars of the Chinese history relate only to the
incursions of the Tartars, who at least conquered the whole empire.”88
The Encyclopaedia Edinensis mentions that after the end of the Qian-
long era there had occurred “several insurrections” in the western and
the southern provinces of the empire, “which had hopes of overturning
the Tartar dynasty.”89 In his remarks on the contemporary history of
China written for Ersch/Gruber, Wilhelm Schott pointed out that the
enemies of the Qing had gained ground during the reign of the Jiaqing
Emperor: Rebellions had broken out in some of the provinces of
central and southern China. Tongking and Cochinchina (two former
tributaries of the Qing) had been unified and thus the independent
empire of ‘Anam’ (i.e. Annam) had been established. Schott referred
to all these events as a proof that the power of the Qing had weakened
considerably and that the Manchu rulers would share the same fate as
the Yuan. All this will happen again and again until a ‘moral renais-
sance’ of the Chinese will take place.90 According to Meyer’s Conver-
sations-Lexikon, the Jiaqing Emperor had been a cruel and brutal ruler
who excelled all vices of his father but possessed none of the virtues
of the Qianlong Emperor. As regards the reign of the Daoguang 道光
Emperor (r. 1821–1850), Meyer mentioned repeated persecutions of

Hübner, 1804 edition, vol. 1, col. 476.
An Universal, Historical, Geographical, Chronological and Poetical Dictionary,
vol. 1 (London: Hartley 1703), s. v. ‘China’.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1909 (s. v. ‘China’).—See also
Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 438.
Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 430.
Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 176.
248 chapter seven

Christians and pointed out that the Chinese would see the reign as
unlucky because of several earthquakes and inundations.91
Encyclopaedias not only mentioned early nineteenth-century raids
of the pirates on the South China coast,92 but also referred to the
activities of secret societies. Under the heading ‘Seditious societies’
the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia referred to the uprisings initiated by
members of the Tiandihui 天地會 (romanized as ‘Thian-thee-ohe’ and
translated as ‘heaven and earth united’) and of the Bailianjiao 白蓮教
(romanized as ‘Pelinkias’ and rendered as ‘enemies of foreign reli-
gion’). The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia mentioned that in 1804 no less
than nine provinces of China “were disturbed by the machinations of
these levellers [i.e. the Tiandihui].”93 Krünitz’ encyclopaedia mentioned
that “turmoil and disputes” were nothing new to China, and that the
members of these societies would have the aim to set up a republic.94
According to German-language encyclopaedias, the main aim of the
Tiandihui would be the extermination of the Manchu dynasty.95
Information on the then contemporary history of China given in
the subsequent editions of Brockhaus shows how quick early nine-
teenth-century Europeans noticed events in China: in the seventh
edition, published in 1827, the presentation of Chinese history ends
with the death of the Jiaqing Emperor (1820) and the accession of
the Daoguang Emperor. The eighth edition, published in 1833, already
contained information on the Qing campaigns against the Muslim
uprising in Xinjiang and mentioned a campaign against ‘a rebel in
the western mountains of the empire’, led in late 1831. The ninth edi-
tion, published in 1843, continued this presentation up to the treaty
of Nanjing concluded in August 1842. In the tenth edition (pub-
lished in 1852), events in China were presented up to the death of the

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 292 f.—A similar presentation of the
personality of the Jiaqing Emperor had been given some years earlier in Pierer, Uni-
versal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 439.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 238; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2
(1845) 292.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 238.—Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2
(1845) 291 mentions the Bailianjiao (i.e. “Sect of the White Lotus”) uprising among
the events of the Qianlong reign.
Krünitz 162 (1835) 695 f. (s. v. ‘Staat’) also refers to the Tiandihui as ‘Thian-
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 425; Meyer, Conversations-
Lexikon II 11 (1851) 990 (s. v. ‘Tian-ti-hui’).
history 249

Daoguang Emperor (February 1850) and the accession of the Xianfeng

咸豐 Emperor (r. 1850–1861).96
The practice of overemphasizing the significance of contemporary
events in the context of the long history of China prevailed at least
until the middle of the nineteenth century. In the ninth edition of
Brockhaus we read that the Opium War of 1839–1842 is to be regarded
not only as the most important event of the Daoguang reign but per-
haps of the whole history of China.97 Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
even compared the ‘opening’ of China and its significance for mankind
to the discovery of America.98 In its supplementary volumes, Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon provided ample information on the develop-
ments in China up to 1850, including the death of the Daoguang
emperor.99 Ersch/Gruber presented the events in China during the
age of the Opium Wars (1839–1860) under information on Great
Krünitz’ encyclopaedia dealt with the opium trade to China under
its information on poppy. As early as in 1803, it pointed out that the
Chinese have been very delighted of smoking tobacco mixed with
opium and that they have used it to cheer up. It added that the Jiaqing
Emperor had prohibited all imports of opium because of its severe
consequences for the health of the people. The imperial edict may not
only serve as an example for Chinese bureaucracy but also to illus-
trate the dramatic consequences of the frequent abuse of opium.101 As

Brockhaus, 7th ed., vol. 2 (1827) 628; ibid., 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 615; ibid., 9th
ed., vol. 3 (1843) 394 f.; ibid., 10th ed., vol. 4 (1852) 117.
Brockhaus, 9th ed., vol. 3 (1843) 391.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 230.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon S2 (1853) 958–971 (s. v. ‘China’, referring to the
events from 1842 to March 1853); ibid., S5 (1854) 1199–1204 (s. v. ‘Tao-Kuang’). The
death of the Daoguang Emperor had already been mentioned in the main section of
the work (ibid., II 11 (1851) 124 (s. v. ‘Tao-kuang’).
Ersch/Gruber I 92 (1872) 345 f. and ibid., 354 f. (s. v. ‚Grossbritannien’, infor-
mation on the events from 1839–42 and on the Treaty of Nanjing), ibid., 452–454 and
471–473 (on the second Opium War).
Krünitz 92 (1803) 640 (s. v. ‘Mohn’).—This edict has been communicated to the
Chinese and foreign merchants at Guangzhou. While it was pointed out (ibid., 640)
that the Jiaqing emperor prohibited all opium imports to China in 1801, the date given
ibid., 642 at the close of this paragraph (sixteenth day of the eleventh month in the
four year of the Jiaqing era) corresponds to 12 December 1799. The year 1799 is also
mentioned in Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 1 (1848) 545 (s. v. ‘Opium’). On the
various attempts of the Chinese authorities to prohibit the opium trade see also the
presentation in Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 440 which also refers
to the disastrous consequences of opium abuse.
250 chapter seven

Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon pointed out, the prohibition of trade

led to the rise of smuggling.102

7.5 Chinese Personal Names

Only in referring to historical and contemporary events in China,

European encyclopaedias had to deal extensively with Chinese per-
sonal names.103 Nevertheless, they presented general remarks on the
variety of personal names in use among the Chinese. As early as in
Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon five kinds of names were mentioned. The
Chinese would get their first or personal name from their parents, their
school-name from their schoolmaster, another name at the time of
their marriage, a ‘great name’ as they assume an office, and if they con-
fess to a particular sect, they also would get another name—implicitly
referring to the Buddhist fahao 法號 (or jieming 戒名) and the Daoist
daohao 道號 respectively.104 About a century later, Eyriès also enumer-
ates five kinds of personal names in use among the Chinese.105 The
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana as well as Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
devoted a whole paragraph to this subject.106
In connection with the surnames (xing 姓) we read in the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia that a surname “is never changed”.107 The Encyclopédie
Moderne as well as Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon pointed out that
they are little in number and that this number is fixed.108 As we read
in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana the “common surname” is “borne
by every individual in the family.” In Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon
we read that there existed no fixed set of given names in China.109
Concerning the names of males, encyclopaedias provided detailed
overviews: Not distinguishing between xiaoming 小名 and ming 名

Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon II 1 (1848) 545 (s. v. ‘Opium’).
For recent overviews on this subject see Cohen, Introduction to Research in Chi-
nese Source Materials, 468–478; Wilkinson, Chinese History, 96–105.
Zedler 23 (1740) 480 (s. v. ‘Nahme’). Krünitz 100 (1805) 747 (s. v. ‘Name’) took
its information on the subject from Zedler without any reference.
Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 585 f. (new. ed., vol. 9, col. 142).
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 573 f.; Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I
7,2 (1845) 247 f.—The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 310 also did not provide
the Chinese terms for the different names.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 310.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 247; Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825)
586 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 142).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 247.
history 251

(personal name), the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana pointed out that

boys “as soon as born” receive their ming “i.e. little or infantine name”,
while the Encyclopédie moderne explained it as the proper name, given
just after birth.110 In presenting the zi 字 (public name), the second
edition of the Encyclopédie Moderne as well as the Encyclopaedia
Metropolitana pointed out, that this “manly name” is given “at the age
of twenty.”111 According to the latter, girls did not “enjoy such honour,
being called simply first, second, third, & c. according to seniority.”112
Referring to posthumous names, both encyclopaedias introduced
hui 諱 (taboo names), which, according to the Encyclopédie Moderne,
referred to the qualities or to a remarkable event in the life of the
deceased. What the hui would have been for common people, the miao
廟 or miaohao 廟號 (temple name; temple title) would have been for
emperors. As we read in the Encyclopédie Moderne only these titles
were used when referring previous emperors of China. The Encyclo-
paedia Metropolitana even distinguishes between “two sorts of post-
humous names” for the emperors: apart from the miaohao or temple
name, “which is inscribed on the monumental tablet” it also men-
tioned the shi 諡 (royal canonical epithet or title) as “an assemblage
of encomiastic epithets.”113
In Zedler’s Universal-Lexicon it was mentioned that, according to
all historians, the emperors of China as well as the rulers of Abessinia
would change their name at the time of their accession.114 In point-
ing out that only the “Kwi-hao [guohao 國號],115 ‘the Imperial name,’
or Nyen-hao [nianhao 年號 (era name, reign title], ‘the Year-name,’ ”
would be used in historical accounts, the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana
added that these “year-names” are formed “by a brace of laudatory
epithets”, Qianlong would mean “the firm and exalted” and Daoguang
“the light of reason.”116

Encyclopédie Moderne 6 (1825) 586 (new ed., vol. 9, col. 142).
Ibid.; Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 573.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 573.
Zedler 23 (1740) col. 527.
Evidently, the term guohao (dynastic name; see Wilkinson, Chinese History, 13 f.)
was equated with the term nianhao. For another (late nineteenth-century) example see
Balfour, Cyclopaedia of India, vol. 1, p. 683, where the various nianhao of the Ming
and Qing emperors were listed under the head ‘Kwo-Hiau, or reigning title’.
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana 16 (1845) 573 f. For a similar translation of the
term Daoguang as “Reason’s luster or light” see Charles Gutzlaff, The Life of Taou-
Kwang, Late Emperor of China: With Memoirs of the Court of Peking; including a
252 chapter seven

7.6 Historiography in China

Despite an ever-growing critical attitude towards things Chinese in the

first half of the nineteenth-century, encyclopaedias usually acknowl-
edged the continuity of the Chinese annals. With regard to the sources
of European antiquity, Rees’ Cyclopaedia pointed out:
At worst, the Chinese annals stand on as good a footing as either these
of Greece and Rome. Their annalists, both for order and chronology, are
not inferior to any of these ancients so much admired among us: but far
surpass them in point of antiquity, and have a better title to be credited,
as having written by public authority, which can be said of few Greek
and Roman pieces, except perhaps the Capitoline Marbles, which are not
properly a history.117
Contrary to Rees’ Cyclopaedia, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia men-
tioned the “uncertainty and deficiency of early annals”. As a proof for
this assessment it was pointed out that the “surviving chapters” of the
Shujing “are meagre and imperfect.”118
In Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon we read that the Chinese had
their annals even earlier than the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and
Persians.119 Nevertheless, in its article on the Middle Ages, it pointed
out that most of the annals of the Chinese were still inaccessible for
Europeans. Due to the isolated state of the Chinese, they only would
be of minor value for medieval history.120 In his presentation of Chi-
nese literature given in the 1860s edition of the Encyclopédie Moderne,
Léon Vaïsse pointed out that the Chinese possess the most complete
and most continuous set of annals existing in any language.121
Ersch/Gruber contained information on Chinese historiography not
only under the headword ‘China’, but also in the entry on historiog-
raphy. Wilhelm Schott pointed out, that the Hanlin Academy would
deserve special attention. Consisting of the most excellent scholars of
China, its duties also would comprise the writing of an unbiased his-

sketch of the principal events in the history of the Chinese Empire during the last fifty
years (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1852), 45.
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 2, s. v. ‘Antiquity’.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 218. This attitude was perpetuated at least
until the middle of the nineteenth century. See e.g. Ersch/Gruber I 62 (1856) 355
(s. v. ‘Geschichte’, G. Hertzberg).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 3 (1842) 73 (s. v. ‘Annalen’).
Ibid., I 21 (1852) 975 (s. v. ‘Mittelalter’).
Encyclopédie Moderne, new ed., vol. 9, col. 178.
history 253

tory of the Empire. Schott mentioned that each dynasty would com-
mission the writing of the history of the preceding dynasty.122 In his
presentation of the history of historiography, Gustav Hertzberg (1826–
1907) also included information on China. In referring to the Stan-
dard Histories (zhengshi), Hertzberg pointed out that these contained
not only information on the political history of the empire but also
on trade and commerce, on inventions, literature, biography, statis-
tics, and geography. The annals themselves only would treat rebellions,
dethronements, and the succession of dynasties. Hertzberg added, that
these annals would be as monotonous as the Chinese language and
that they could not show even the slightest development due to the
stationary character of the Chinese people.123

7.7 Assessing the History of China

For a long time, Europeans regarded China as an empire without his-

tory or at least with a history of minor interest. The reason for this
minor interest was explained by the lack of any closer historical rela-
tionship between Europe and Asia.124 The Encyclopaedia Edinensis
pointed out that “nothing important or interesting is recorded” from
the sixth to the thirteenth dynasties. This ignorance towards the his-
tory of China coincides not only with the omission of large periods
of Chinese history, but also with some errors in data referring to the
end of dynasties. After mentioning the building of the Great Wall,
the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica immediately pres-
ents information on the beginning of the Liao dynasty in AD 907.125
The Encyclopaedia Londinensis even starts its presentation of historical
events with the advent of the Liao dynasty.126 In assessing the period
from the establishment of the Liao to the end of the Yuan, the Ency-
clopaedia Edinensis erroneously dated the fall of the Yuan, in pointing
out that the seven dynasties

Ersch/Gruber I 21 (1830) 167.—On the Hanlin yuan 翰林院 see Hucker, Dic-
tionary of Official Titles, 223 (no. 2154; s. v. ‘hàn-lín yüàn’).
Ersch/Gruber I 62 (1856) 355 (‘Geschichte’, G. Hertzberg).
Krünitz 230 (1855) 286 (s. v. ‘Volksschule’).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (1797) 653.
Encyclopaedia Londinensis 4 (1810) 438.
254 chapter seven

which comprehend the space between the 907 and the 1333 [sic; recte
1368] of the Christian era are equally barren of incident with the seven
which precede them.127
Although encyclopaedias often transmitted this point of view, they
dealt extensively with the history of China. Until the early nineteenth
century, encyclopaedias relied almost exclusively on the works of the
Jesuit missionaries. Due to antiquarian interest, the ancient history of
China received broad interest among eighteenth-century European
scholars. The above-mentioned overviews over the various dynasties
as well as those over the history of China in general usually were pre-
ceded by remarks on the mythical rulers of China.
Encyclopaedias also had to find a way to explain the ‘extravagant
numbers’ occurring in Chinese calculations on the origin of the world
and of “that prodigious number of reigns before Fou-hi”. In perpetuat-
ing information from Jesuit and French publications, the first edition
of the Encyclopaedia Britannica linked these calculations with Daoist
conceptions of the origin of the world. The presentation of the early
history of China strictly was limited to the period up to the three
emperors (sanhuang 三皇) of Chinese antiquity.128 The seventh edi-
tion of the Encyclopaedia Britannica compared the fabulous history of
the Chinese to that of other ancient people:
As the early history of every ancient people is more or less vitiated by
fable, we ought not to be more fastidious or less indulgent towards the
marvellous in that of China, than we are towards Egyptian, Greek or
Roman history.129
In an attempt to assess the early annals of the Chinese, the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia pointed out that the “early history of China [. . .] is so
extremely limited, as scarcely to deserve the name.” This assessment
was based on the scope of Chinese records of antiquity and relied
on data given by de Guignes (Idée de la Littérature chinoise, 1774):
only 14 out of the 500 volumes known “by the name of the twenty
one historians” comprehend the period from Yao 堯 to the year
200 BC—“and seven of these 14 contain only genealogical tables.”130

Encyclopaedia Edinensis, vol. 2, p. 428.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st ed., vol. 2 (1771) 191 f.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 550.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 218.—The notion “by the name of the twenty
one historians” refers to the Standard Histories (zhengshi 正史) for each successive
dynasty. From the end of the fourteenth century up to the eighteeth century their
history 255

The Penny Cyclopaedia provides a more general assessment: While the

historical records of the Chinese Empire should not be rejected, it had
become “pretty generally admitted” that the high degree of antiquity
has been “considerably exaggerated.” Fuxi and Shennong 神農 as well
as their “immediate successors” should be placed “rather under the head
of mythology than of history; resembling those demi-gods and heroes
of Grecian fable who rescued mankind from primeval barbarism.”131
As early as in the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
the presentation of the main events of Chinese history stressed the
importance of the repeated conquests of China by nomadic people of
Inner and North East Asia. These “incursions of the Tartars” which
would be the “most interesting particulars of the Chinese history” had
“begun very early.”132 In its presentation of these ‘incursions’, the sec-
ond edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica focused on the rise and
fall of the Liao, Jin and Yuan dynasties (tenth to fourteenth centu-
ries). Mainly English language encyclopaedias explicitly perpetuated
this strand of discourse until mid-nineteenth century. Apart from
the subsequent editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, this may be
seen best from the presentation of the history of China given in Rees’
Cyclopaedia133 as well as in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia. After a pre-
sentation of the principal events in the history of China, the Edin-
burgh Encyclopaedia tried to give a general assessment of this history.
In its introductory remark it pointed out that “the boasted antiquity,
extent, civilization, and tranquillity of China have been too easily
been admitted by Europeans”. This assessment clearly opposed the
prevailing idea of an unchanging China (at least concerning historical
events and developments). It further pointed out that about 800 BC
the empire only comprised the regions later known as the provinces of
Zhili, Shandong, Henan and Shanxi as well as (minor parts of ) Shaanxi
while the rest of the country still was “in the possession of barbar-
ians.” Thus, early nineteenth-century Europeans were well aware of

number was twenty one. With the completion of the Standard History of the Ming
Dynasty (Mingshi 明史) in 1735 the number raised to twenty-two. In 1775, during the
compilation of the Siku quanshu (Complete Library of the Four Treasuries) collection
two recovered editions of earlier dynasties were added. This brought the number to
twenty four. For an overview and detailed bibliographic references see Wilkinson,
Chinese History, 501–515, especially 505 f.
Penny Cyclopaedia 7 (1837) 80.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (1778) 1909.
See e.g. Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’.
256 chapter seven

the different phases of a gradual expansion of the so-called ‘Chinese’

The empire of China, in the earlier ages of its existence, if indeed it
existed so early, must have been composed only of a few civilized clans,
who lived in the midst of barbarians, and who changed their place of
residence as circumstances required. 134
Only as late as in the third century BC Qin Shihuangdi became “sole
master of the empire [. . .] now united for the first time.” In its further
assessment of Chinese history, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia stressed
the repeated divisions that marked the history of the empire in the
era now commonly known as Wei, Jin, Nanbei chao 魏晉南北朝 (AD
220–589)135 as well as from the tenth to the thirteenth century. Due
to the presence of the “two Tartar nations of Kee-tan [Qidan, i. e.
the Liao 遼 dynasty] and Kin [i.e. the Jin 金 dynasty], or Niu-tche
[Nüzhen 女真], and the prince of Hia [i.e. Xia 夏]” in the northern
and western parts of their dominion, the Song “were obliged to to
remove their seat of their empire to a greater distance from these for-
midable neighbours.” While the Song had to move to the region which
later became known as Zhejiang, they tried to get rid of the Liao and
the Jin. To achieve this, they sought the assistance of the Mongols, but
a few decades later they themselves were overthrown by these invaders
led by Khubilai Khan who established the Yuan dynasty and “became
absolute sovereign of all China”. Although China had not been divided
again since the days of the Yuan it witnessed “two great revolutions”—
from Yuan to Ming (1368) and from Ming to Qing (1644) “and has
scarcely, in any reign, been entirely free from revolts, wars and domes-
tic seditions.”136
In the final paragraph of this general assessment, the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia pointed out that only its isolated geographical situation
had saved China from even more severe consequences. These remarks
also reveal that early nineteenth-century Europeans clearly had dis-
missed the Chinese concept of China as the ‘Middle Kingdom’:

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 238.
Contrary to the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 228 which only speaks of
“The Southern Empire, . . . and . . . The Northern Empire”, Pierer, Universal-Lexikon,
2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 432 and Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 228 men-
tioned the Chinese term “Nan-pe-tschao” (Nanbei chao).
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 239.
history 257

Instead, therefore, of being regarded as a privileged country governed

from time immemorial by the same constitution, except from foreign
conquest and intestine commotions; the only peculiarity which it pos-
sesses, in comparison with all other empires which have disappeared
from the earth, is this, that, owing perhaps to its peninsular situation, at
the extremity of the habitable world, and its consequent exemption from
the sweep of those conquering nations, who changed the people whom
they overthrew, it has preserved its manners and usages in a great man-
ner unaltered, amidst the various revolutions and subjugations, which it
has experienced.137



8.1 Language and Writing

In analyzing encyclopaedias’ information on Chinese language and lit-

erature, we need to keep in mind, that European knowledge on these
matters had been rather limited until the advent of sinology as an
academic discipline in the early nineteenth century. Despite this fact,
Chinese language and writing had a prominent place in early mod-
ern European discourses on the origin of languages and in the search
for a universal language.1 Moreover, early modern Europeans closely
linked information on Chinese language and literature to discourses
on Chinese philosophy.
In late seventeenth-century encyclopaedic reference works, infor-
mation on the Chinese language in general had been derived from
the presentation of the subject by the Austrian Jesuit Johann Grue-
ber (1623–1680). Grueber’s text originally had been used by Atha-
nasius Kircher. Shortly thereafter a French edition of the text had
been published together with a reedition of Intorcetta’s translation of
the Zhongyong (Doctrine of the Mean), one of the Confucian clas-
sics.2 The examples used for the description of the Chinese language
prevailed in some eighteenth-century European encyclopaedias. This
may be seen from the later editions of Moréri3 and from the Deutsche
Encyclopädie.4 In his Nouveaux Mémoires sur l’état present de la Chine
(1696), Le Comte provided another presentation of the Chinese lan-
guage, that was referred to by European encyclopaedias up to the late

See Mungello, Curious Land, 174–207 (Chapter VI: Proto-Sinology and the Sev-
enteenth-Century European Search for a Universal Language).
“Voyage à la Chine des PP. I. Grueber et d’Orville”, 8. Published together with:
La Science des Chinois, ou le livre de Cum-Fu-çu. Traduit mot pour mot de la langue
Chinoise par le R. P. Intorcetta Iesuite (Paris: Cramoisy, 1673).
Moréri, Grand Dictionnaire historique, 8th ed. (1698), vol. 2, p. 155.
Deutsche Encyclopädie 5 (1781) 522.
For early European reports on the Chinese language (including the account of Le
Comte) see Bai, Les voyageurs français, 322–331.
260 chapter eight

Only in mid-eighteenth century, encyclopaedias started to distin-

guish between the various Chinese dialects and between oral and writ-
ten language. In the Encyclopédie we read that the Chinese would apply
the term ‘Mandarin’ also to the learned language (langue savante) of
their country: Apart from the proper and particular language of each
nation and each province ‘Mandarin’ would be used as a mean of com-
munication not only at court but also on all levels of administration.6
In most encyclopaedias, presentations of Chinese language and
writing were crucial for the perpetuation of the widespread idea of the
‘otherness’ of China. Examples for this perpetuation include the first
edition of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia as well as the introductory
remarks to the section on Chinese language and literature inserted in
Rees’ Cyclopaedia.
In the first edition of Chambers’ Cyclopaedia we find a condensa-
tion of Louis Le Comte’s description of the Chinese language.
F. le Comte observes, that the Chinese has no analogy with any other
Language in the World: It only contains 330 Words, which are all Mono-
syllables; at least, they are pronounc’d so close, that there is no distin-
guishing above one Syllabic, or Sound in them. But the same Word,
as pronounc’d with a stronger or weaker Tone, has different Significa-
tions: Accordingly, when ‘tis accurately spoke, it makes a sort of Musick,
which has a real Melody, that constitutes the Essence and distinguishing
Character of that Language.7
The first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica relied on this entry
of Chambers with slight changes in orthography and punctuation—
omitting only the reference to the account of Louis Le Comte.8
These general remarks referred to the antiquity and singularity of
the Chinese language and perpetuated the perception of Chinese as
a difficult language.9 The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia linked this infor-
mation on the antiquity of the language to the European discourse
on the stability or even immobility of China: “[. . .] the language has

Encyclopédie 10 (1765) 12 (s. v. ‘Mandarin, (Littérat.)’).
Ephraim Chambers, Cyclopaedia: or An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sci-
ences, vol. 1 (London: Printed for James and John Knapton [. . .], 1728) vol. 1, s. v.
‘Chinese’.—On the passages in Le Comte’s Nouveaux mémoires (1696) referred to by
the Cyclopaedia see Mungello, Curious Land, 340–342 and Bai, Les voyageurs français,
322 and 325.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st ed., vol. 2 (1771) 184 (s. v. ‘Chinese’).
For examples of perpetuating late seventeenth-century presentations of the Chi-
nese language see Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4Q2r (s. v. ‘China’).
language and literature 261

undergone no radical change, since the days of Confucius, whose style

and manner differ very little from those of the best modern Chinese
productions, except that these latter are seldom so concise; and there
is still extant a dictionary, entitled See-ooen [i.e. Shuowen jiezi 說文
解字], compiled under the dynasty of Han, about 2000 years old.”10
Even before encyclopaedic dictionaries could rely on Le Comte’s
presentation of the Chinese language, they labelled it as difficult: As
early as in the first edition of Pierre Bayle’s Dictionaire historique, the
Chinese language was said to be very difficult to learn.11 Prejudices
of this kind were perpetuated in eighteenth-century Europe and thus
retarded the spread of genuine philological interest in this language
among European scholars for a long time. In 1827, the seventh edition
of Brockhaus stated that the modifications of the various tones were
unattainable for the ears and the tongues of Europeans.12
Early nineteenth-century English language encyclopaedias ques-
tioned the myth of the difficulty of the Chinese language by a com-
parison of the number of entries contained in the Kangxi zidian on
the one hand and in Latin and English dictionaries on the other hand.
They pointed out that the Kangxi zidian contains about 45,000 char-
acters of which only 36,000 are still in use.13 Regarding the number of
entries in European dictionaries, the seventh edition of the Encyclo-
paedia Britannica referred to “about 44,000 words” in the Greek-Latin
dictionary compiled by Johannes Scapula (c. 1540–1600) and to the
45,000 headwords in the dictionaries of Robert Ainsworth (1660–1743;
Thesaurus Linguae latinae compendiarius, 1736) and Samuel Johnson
(1709–1784; A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755). The Encyclo-
paedia Britannica supplied also data on the number and use of distinct
characters and pointed out that there might not be any difficulty: while
“the whole works of Confucius contain only about 3,000 different

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 276 (s. v. ‘China’). In a similar way this was
pointed out in Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, s. v. ‘China’ (“The Chinese language is not
only one of the most ancient in the universe, but is, perhaps, the only language of the
early ages, which is still spoken and living”) and by Édouard Biot (Encyclopédie du dix-
neuvième siècle 7 (1845) 458: “La forme de la langue offre l’exemple le plus surprenant
de l’immutabilité des anciens usages en Chine.”).
Pierre Bayle, Dictionaire historique (Rotterdam: Leers, 1697), vol. 1, 2nd part
(C–G), p. 1248 note F (s. v. ‘Golius’).
Brockhaus 7th ed., vol. 2 (1827) 629 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache, Schrift und
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 270; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6
(1842) 569.
262 chapter eight

characters”, the Da Qing lüli might have about 100,000 characters, “but
not more than 1860 different ones throughout the whole work.”14
Encyclopaedias also referred to the supposed inability of the Chinese
to pronounce the letter “R”: Zedler in connection with the Chinese
name for the Tartars, the Deutsche Encyclopädie not only in its infor-
mation on the Chinese language, but also on the Japanese language,
and Krünitz’ encyclopaedia in its entry on the Chinese language.15
Although criticizing the prevailing variety of European conjectures
referring to the Chinese language, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia
repeated that in the Chinese spoken language “there is no b, d, r, x,
or z; no word begins with a or e; and all of them terminate with the
vowels, a, e, i, o, u, ou, or the consonants n, ng, and l.”16
Searching for the original language of mankind, seventeenth- and
eighteenth century scholars soon included not only Phoenician,
Hebrew, Abessinian, Scythian, Cimbri (‘Cymbrisch’ in the German
original), Latin, and Swedish, but also the Chinese language in their
speculations.17 In its article on the confounding of languages, Zedler’s
Universal-Lexicon pointed out that the languages of different areas may
change somewhat in the course of time but one language never would
change into another: even if the Chinese language may change over
several thousand years, it never will become German.18 In the opening
paragraph on Chinese language and literature in Rees’ Cyclopaedia we
read that the Chinese language “is not only one of the most ancient of
the universe, but is, perhaps, the only language of the early ages, which
is still spoken and living.”19 Apart from a separate headword on Chi-
nese language and literature, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon presented
information on the subject under its information on antiquity.20
The introductory remarks to articles on Chinese language referred
not only to the possible origins of the Chinese language, but also to the
state of Chinese studies in Europe. In the supplement to the third edi-
tion of the Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that the Chinese language

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 7th ed., vol. 6 (1842) 569.—The Penny Cyclopaedia 7
(1837) 82 also referred to the number of characters in the Kangxi zidian as well as to
the number of words in Johnson’s dictionary.
Zedler 42 (1744) col. 30 (s. v. ‘Tartar, Tatar, oder Tatter’); Deutsche Encyclopädie
5 (1781) 522, ibid. 20 (1799) 197; Krünitz 160 (1834) 413 (s. v. ‘Sprache (Chinesische)’.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 274.—See also Deutsche Encyclopädie 5 (1781)
522 f. (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache’).
Krünitz 202 (1850) 363 (s. v. ‘Ursprache’).
Zedler 39 (1744) col. 467 (s. v. ‘Sprach-Verwirrung’).
Rees, Cyclopaedia, vol. 7, fol. 4Q2r.
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 2 (1841) 319 and 324 (s. v. ‘Alterthum’).
language and literature 263

“is very little understood in Europe.”21 Information on the subject

mainly was derived from Staunton’s account of the British Embassy
to China, which “will undoubtedly place him high among the most
eminent philologists of the 18th century.”22 The Edinburgh Encyclopae-
dia added that “a variety of opinions, or rather conjectures, prevailed
among the learned, respecting the origin, progress, and structure of
this extraordinary language.”23
In Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon, Ellissen stressed the impor-
tance of language for the development of Chinese civilisation. Due to
the differences between the Chinese language and all other languages
it would be impossible to derive all the various nations from the same
primitive tribe of early mankind—a subject eagerly discussed by eigh-
teenth- and early nineteenth-century European scholars.24 The Ency-
clopaedia Edinensis argued that the “peculiar character both of their
oral and their written language” would distinguish the Chinese “from
the rest of mankind” more than any of “their other singularities.”
Thus, “the antiquity of their origin is incontestably proved.” Meyer’s
Conversations-Lexikon provides a similar presentation of this point.25
From the early nineteenth-century onwards, information on Chi-
nese language and writing presented in encyclopaedias became more
and more structured and organized. The main points covered by
almost all of these presentations were the origins of Chinese writing,
the different modes of writing, the classifiers (bushou 部首, also called
zimu 字母), the six principles theory (liushu 六書) and sound and
pronunciation of the characters.
In the presentation of the Chinese language, the Edinburgh Ency-
clopaedia referred to grammar, syntax, punctuation, and to the styles
of composition as well as to vernacular Chinese. The introductory
remarks in the section on Chinese language and literature represent
a first attempt for a critical assessment of earlier European works on

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., Supplement 1 (1801) 419.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 269 f.
Wigand’s Conversations-Lexikon 3 (1847) 306 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache und Lit-
eratur’, Ellissen).—On eighteenth-century hypotheses concerning the common origin
of all men see Manfred Petri, Die Urvolkhypothese. Ein Beitrag zum Geschichtsdenken
der Spätaufklärung und des deutschen Idealismus, Historische Forschungen 41 (Berlin:
Duncker & Humblot, 1990); Helmut Zedelmaier, Der Anfang der Geschichte. Studien
zur Ursprungsdebatte im 18. Jahrhundert, Studien zum achtzehnten Jahrhundert 27
(Hamburg: Meiner, 2003).
Encyclopaedia Edinensis 2 (1827) 417. For a similar presentation see Meyer, Con-
versations-Lexikon I 7,2 (1845) 335 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache, Schrift und Literatur’).
264 chapter eight

the Chinese language. They show an improved consideration of Eng-

lish language publications on this subject “and a variety of opinions,
or rather conjectures, prevailed among the learned, respecting the
origins, progress, and structure of this extraordinary language.”26 In
1843, Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon pointed out that the Chinese lan-
guage for a long time had been said to be the most difficult language.27
For Ersch/Gruber, Schott had written one of the first comprehensive
entries on Chinese language. This article, published in 1827, marks a
turning point in the presentation of the subject (at least in German-
language encyclopaedias). As various other works of general reference
mentioned this article (the Encyclopédie Catholique even inserted a
French translation of it),28 Schott’s presentation deserves a closer
look. In his opening remarks, Schott pointed out, that the Chinese
language is one of the most original and most remarkable languages in
the world. In perpetuating the erroneous view of Chinese as a mono-
syllabic language, he referred to the comparative tables published by
Klaproth in his Asia polyglotta (Paris 1823).
In the eighth edition of Brockhaus, published in 1833, we find an
implicit correction to this point of Schott’s presentation: the works
of Rémusat and Davis had shown that the supposed monosyllabic
character of the Chinese language had been nothing more than a
mere illusion.29 Nevertheless, encyclopaedias perpetuated this strand
of discourse. Writing for Pierer’s Universal-Lexikon (and some years
after the above mentioned eighth edition of Brockhaus had been pub-
lished), von der Gabelentz opened his article on Chinese language and
writing with the remark that the language is monosyllabic and without
any inflections.30
After remarks on the various dialects of the Chinese language (includ-
ing information on Cantonese), Schott discussed the pronunciation of
the very limited number of the different syllables and presented an
overview on the tonal system of the Chinese language.31 According

Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. 6, p. 269 f. (s. v. ‘China’).
Meyer, Conversations-Lexikon I 4,1 (1843) 786 (s. v. ‘Asiatische Sprachen’): “[. . .]
jetzt aber näher bekannt und vielfach erforscht.”
Ersch/Gruber I 16 (1827) 359–364 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache’). French transla-
tion in Encyclopédie Catholique 7 (1844) 413–417.
Brockhaus, 8th ed., vol. 2 (1833) 610.
Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (1841) 455 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache
u. Schrift’).
Ersch/Gruber I 16 (1827) 360–362 (s. v. ‘Chinesische Sprache’).
language and literature 265

to Schott, Europeans hardly could bear in mind the correct pronun-

ciation of the first three tones. As the Chinese were an “ingenious
nation”, they managed the “scarcity” of distinct syllables by combining
two words that may convey similar meanings to compose new words.
Schott used the word daolu 道路 as example. This word combines the
words dao (‘way, road’) and lu (‘street’) to a word meaning ‘highway’.
By combining two synonymous words, the Chinese would avoid mis-
understandings and ambiguities in the spoken language.32
To illustrate the (alleged) scarcity of distinct syllables, Schott added
a list of nine different words that are pronounced dao and seven differ-
ent words that are pronounced lu.33 The following table adds the Chi-
nese characters and the English meaning to each of the words selected
by Schott (diacritics according to the original).

Schott Chinese character— Schott Chinese character—

(transcription English translatio