KANXI EMPEROR (ruled 1662–1722)


20080217-kangxi4 ch pg.jpg
relatively young Emperor Kangxi
Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722), the second Qing ruler, is sometimes referred to as the Louis XIV of China. He ascended to the throne when he was eight and ruled for 60 years. He was a patron of the arts, a scholar, a philosopher, and an accomplished mathematician. He was the chief compiler of the 100-volume “The Origins of the Calendric System, Music and Mathematic.” His greatest treasure was his library.

Kangxi liked to hunt. A record of his hunts at Chengde recorded 135 bears, 93 boars, 14 wolves and 318 deer. He was able to achieve such high numbers with the help of hundreds of soldiers that flushed out game to where he was standing.

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The first half of the Kangxi Emperor's rule was devoted to the stabilization of the empire: gaining control over the Manchu hierarchy and suppressing armed rebellions. It was only in the second half of his rule that he would begin to turn his attention to economic prosperity and the patronage of art and culture. The commission of the Southern Inspection Tours (Nanxuntu), a set of twelve mammoth scrolls depicting the emperor's tour route from Beijing to the cultural and economic centers of the South, was one of the Kangxi Emperor's first acts of artistic patronage.” [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Maxwell K. Hearn and Madeleine Zelin, Consultants, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu]

Book: “Emperor of China: Self Portrait of Kang Xi” by Jonathon Spence.

Also see Sections on China in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries

Website on the Qing Dynasty Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Qing Dynasty Explained drben.net/ChinaReport ; Recording of Grandeur of Qing learn.columbia.edu Ming and Qing Tombs UNESCO World Heritage Site: UNESCO World Heritage Site Map ; Forbidden City: FORBIDDEN CITY factsanddetails.com/china; Wikipedia; UNESCO World Heritage Site Sites World Heritage Site ; Temple of Heaven: Wikipedia Wikipedia UNESCO World Heritage Site UNESCO World Heritage Site ; Empress Dowager Cixi: Court Life During the Time of Empress Dowager Cixi etext.virginia.edu; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Books on Cixi royalty.nu; The Last Emperor Puyi Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; His Widow's Account hartford-hwp.com/archives; Puyi Biography royalty.nu/Asia Chinese History: Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization depts.washington.edu ; Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia ; Books: "Cambridge History of China" multiple volumes (Cambridge University Press); "Chronicle of the Chinese Emperor" by Ann Paludan, "The Last Emperors: A Social History of the Qing Imperial Institutions" by Evelyn S. Rawski (University of California Press, 1999). "Forbidden City" by Frances Wood, a British Sinologist,

Kanxi Wins Over the Han Chinese Population

Old Kangxi

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “For the Manchus, who were a foreign, conquering dynasty, a major task on the road to effective rule in China was that of enlisting the help of the Chinese populace -- in particular the elite scholarly class. The man most responsible for accomplishing this was the Kangxi Emperor. After achieving his independence from several powerful regents, the Kangxi Emperor immediately began to recruit scholars from the Yangzi River delta area, which is called "the South" in China and includes the city of Suzhou. The Kangxi Emperor brought these men into his court to support his cause of transforming the Manchu way of rulership into a truly Confucian establishment based very much on Ming dynasty prototypes. Through this maneuver, the Kangxi Emperor was able to win over the scholarly elite and, more importantly, the Chinese populace at large. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Maxwell K. Hearn and Madeleine Zelin, Consultants, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu]

Maxwell K. Hearn of The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “The first task of the Kangxi emperor was to consolidate control over the territories formerly governed by the vanquished Ming state and wrest power from his Manchu regents. He accomplished both objectives by shrewdly cultivating the support of the Chinese intellectual elite and by modeling his rule on that of a traditional Confucian monarch. Beginning in the 1670s, scholars from China's cultural heartland in the south were actively recruited into government service. These men brought with them a taste for the literati painting style practiced by members of the Orthodox School." [Source: Maxwell K. Hearn, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org \^/]

Expansion and Pacification of the Qing Empire Under Kangxi

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “The rise of the Qing Dynasty actually began under the Kangxi rule (1663-1722). The emperor had three tasks. The first was the removal of the last supporters of the Ming dynasty and of the generals, such as Wu Sangui, who had tried to make themselves independent. This necessitated a long series of campaigns, most of them in the south-west or south of China; these scarcely affected the population of China proper. In 1683 Formosa was occupied and the last of the insurgent army commanders was defeated. It was shown above that the situation of all these leaders became hopeless as soon as the Manchus had occupied the rich Yangtze region and the intelligentsia and the gentry of that region had gone over to them. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“A quite different type of insurgent commander was the Mongol prince Galdan. He, too, planned to make himself independent of Manchu overlordship. At first the Mongols had readily supported the Manchus, when the latter were making raids into China and there was plenty of booty. Now, however, the Manchus, under the influence of the Chinese gentry whom they brought, and could not but bring, to their court, were rapidly becoming Chinese in respect to culture. Even in the time of Kangxi the Manchus began to forget Manchurian; they brought tutors to court to teach the young Manchus Chinese. Later even the emperors did not understand Manchurian! As a result of this process, the Mongols became alienated from the Manchurians, and the situation began once more to be the same as at the time of the Ming rulers. Thus Galdan tried to found an independent Mongol realm, free from Chinese influence.

“The Manchus could not permit this, as such a realm would have threatened the flank of their homeland, Manchuria, and would have attracted those Manchus who objected to sinification. Between 1690 and 1696 there were battles, in which the emperor actually took part in person. Galdan was defeated. In 1715, however, there were new disturbances, this time in western Mongolia. Tsewang Rabdan, whom the Chinese had made khan of the Ölöt, rose against the Chinese. The wars that followed, extending far into Turkestan (Xinjiang) and also involving its Turkish population together with the Dzungars, ended with the Chinese conquest of the whole of Mongolia and of parts of eastern Turkestan. As Tsewang Rabdan had tried to extend his power as far as Tibet, a campaign was undertaken also into Tibet, Lhasa was occupied, a new Dalai Lama was installed there as supreme ruler, and Tibet was made into a protectorate. Since then Tibet has remained to this day under some form of Chinese colonial rule.

Kanxi’s Southern Tours and the Magnificent Scrolls That Recorded Them

Kangxi traveling in horse

Maxwell K. Hearn of The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: ““A symbolic turning point in the legitimation of Kangxi's rule was his triumphal 1689 inspection tour of the south. On this tour, the emperor climbed Mount Tai, Confucianism's most sacred mountain, inspected water conservation projects along the Yellow River and Grand Canal, and visited all of the major cultural and commercial centers of the Chinese heartland, including China's cultural capital: Suzhou. Shortly after Kangxi's return to Beijing, his advisors initiated plans to commemorate this momentous event through a monumental series of paintings. Wang Hui, the most celebrated artist of the day, was summoned to Beijing to oversee the project. Kangxi further extended his manipulation of Chinese cultural symbols by enlisting Wang Yuanqi to advise him on the expansion of the imperial painting collection. [Source: Maxwell K. Hearn, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org \^/]

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Politically, the Kangxi Emperor's first two southern tours were the most significant. The emperor embarked on his first tour in 1684, just one year after the suppression of the Three Feudatories rebellion. His second tour, in 1689, was longer in duration, more extensive in its itinerary, and grander in its display of imperial pomp. It was this more splendid second tour that the emperor chose to have commemorated by a set of twelve monumental scrolls, collectively titled "Picture of the Southern Tour" (Nanxuntu).

“The Kangxi Emperor chose Wang Hui (1632-1717), the foremost master of the "Orthodox School" of painting, to direct the painting of these important scrolls. [See The Grandeur of Art during the Qing for more about the Orthodox School of painting.] Each scroll measures more than 27 inches in height and up to 85 feet in length. The entire set took about 8 years to produce, and if extended end to end, would measure more than three football fields in length. Documenting the pageantry and the politics of the Kangxi Emperor's tour in rich color and vivid detail, these scrolls follow the route of the emperor's inspection tour virtually from beginning to end: from Beijing in the north, along the Grand Canal, crossing the Yellow and the Yangzi rivers, through all the great cultural centers of the South -- Yangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, and Hangzhou. Each of the twelve scrolls that were commissioned to document this tour takes one segment of the journey as its subject.

“This unit showcases two of the twelve Southern Tour scrolls -- specifically the third and the seventh in the sequence. The third scroll, which is set in the province of Shandong in the north, features tall mountain ranges and culminates with the emperor’s visit to the great sacred mountain of the east, Taishan, or Mount Tai. The seventh scroll shows the Kangxi Emperor's passage in the fertile, flat lands of the South, along the Grand Canal, from Wuxi to Suzhou.

Sacred Edicts of Kangxi

"Heresies" of the Sacred Edicts (A.D. 1670) is attributed to Emperor Kangxi. It offers some insights into what Chinese society was like in the 17th century and what was acceptable and what wasn’t in the confines of Confucianism at that time.
1) Confucianism recognizes no relation to a living god.

2) There is no distinction made between the human soul and the body, nor is there any clear definition of man, either from a physical or from a physiological point of view.
3) There is no explanation given, why it is that some men are born as saints, others as ordinary mortals.
4) All men are said to possess the disposition and strength necessary for the attainment of moral perfection, but the contrast with the actual state remains unexplained.
5) There' is wanting in Confucianism a decided and serious tone in its treatment of the doctrine of sin, for, with the exception of moral retribution in social, life, it mentions no punishment for sin.

6) Confucianism is generally devoid of a. deeper insight into sin and evil
7) Confucianism finds it therefore impossible to explain death.
8) Confucianism knows no mediator, none that could restore original nature in accordance with the ideal which, man finds in himself.
9) Prayer and its ethical power find no place in the system of Confucius.
10) Though confidence (hsin) is indeed frequently insisted, upon, its presupposition, truthfulness in speaking, is never practically urged, but rather the reverse.
11) Polygamy is presupposed and tolerated. ,
12) Polytheism is sanctioned.
13) Fortune-telling, choosing of days, omens, dreams and other illusions (phoenixes, etc.) are believed in.

14) Ethics are confounded with external ceremonies, arid a precise despotic political form. It is impossible for those who are not intimately acquainted with the Chinese to comprehend how much is connoted in the simple expression,
15) The position which Confucius assumed toward ancient institutions is a capricious one.
16) The assertion that certain musical melodies influence the morals of the people is ridiculous.
17) The influence of mere good example is exaggerated, and Confucius himself proves it most of all.
18) In Confucianism the system of social life is tyranny. Women are slaves. Children have no rights in relation to their parents; whilst subjects are placed in the position of children with regard to their superiors.
19) Filial piety is exaggerated into deification of parents.
20) The net result of Confucius' system, as. drawn by hjmself, is the worship of genius, i.e., deification of man.
21) There is with the exception of ancestral worship, which is void of any true ethical value, no clear conception of the dogma of immortality. ,,-.•.
22) All rewards, are expected, in this \yorld, so that egotism is unconsciously fostered, and if not avarice, at least ambition.
23) The whole system of Confucianism offers no comfort to ordinary mortals, either in life or in death.
24) The history of China shows that Confucianism is incapable of effecting for the people a new birth to a higher life and nobler efforts, and Confucianism is now in practical life quite alloyed with Shamanistic and Buddhistic ideas and practices.

Kangxi Emperor's Visit to Mt. Tai and Its Cosmic Significance

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The Kangxi Emperor’s southern inspection tour took him to some of the most significant cultural sites in the empire. It is important to remember that a key function of the Southern Tour paintings was to commemorate and highlight those moments when the Kangxi Emperor performed a significant ceremony or ritual activity that underscored his identity as an ideal Chinese monarch. Early on in his tour, as is documented in the third scroll of the series, the Kangxi Emperor is shown visiting the sacred mountain of the east, Taishan, or Mount Tai. Scroll Three is about 45 feet long, and it shows the Kangxi Emperor at the outset of a day's journey on the city wall of Ji'nan, the provincial capital of Shandong. The scroll then follows the course of his entourage and his outriders all the way to the sacred mountain, which is in effect the scroll's "finale." [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Maxwell K. Hearn, Consultant, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu]

Mt. Tai
“Unlike in the West, where sectarian divisions are emphasized, in China it was possible for a person to be a Confucian in his governmental life, a Daoist (Taoist) in his private life, and also a Buddhist. These three traditions often overlapped in the practice of everyday life. Mt. Tai is an excellent example of the Chinese approach to an integrated religious life. All three major Chinese religious and philosophical traditions -- Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism -- had major temples on Mt. Tai, and these temples were important pilgrimage sites. But Mt. Tai had long been a sacred mountain, even before any of these philosophies had fully evolved in China. Farmers went there to pray for rain; women went to pray for male offspring. Confucius himself had visited Mt. Tai and commented on the wonderful view from which his home province was visible. All this meant that Mt. Tai was a sacred site for the imperial polity as well. From at least the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.), Mount Tai had been appropriated by Chinese emperors as a site that was important to the legitimacy of their rulership. Throughout Chinese history, emperors made elaborate pilgrimages to Mount Tai to "worship Heaven" and to identify themselves with the power associated with this sacred place. Worshipping at Mt. Tai was a significant act that illustrated the intricate link between imperial legitimacy and the maintenance of the "cosmic order." [See The Grandeur of the Qing State for more on imperial legitimacy.].

“The Kangxi Emperor’s visit to Mount Tai was a particularly significant event because he was Manchu and not ethnic Han Chinese, for the Qing dynasty was in fact a conquest dynasty. As a non-Han ruler, the Kangxi Emperor was faced with the question of how to fit, as an outsider, into the Chinese pattern of cosmic integration -- of how to define for the conquering Manchu rulers a place in the Han Chinese cosmos. In fully acting out his role as the Son of Heaven, a Chinese emperor had a series of annual religious responsibilities, including the ceremonial worship at the Temple of Heaven (the imperial sacrificial altar in Beijing). But only emperors who were worthy of asking Heaven for its benediction dared to go to Mount Tai, ascend the mountain, and perform a sacrifice to Heaven there. The Kangxi Emperor did not actually perform a sacrifice on Mount Tai, but the very fact that a Manchu emperor would go to this sacred mountain, climb it, and record that event in a painting for all posterity was something that reverberated throughout the empire. Everyone took notice of this extraordinary event. In effect this act was a way for the Kangxi Emperor to declare openly what kind of ruler he wanted to be; to say that he wished to rule China not as a Manchu emperor opposed to the Han Chinese, but rather as a traditional Han monarch, ruling over a traditional Chinese empire.”

Kangxi’s Visit to Suzhou and the Grand Canal

at the Kherlen river

On the handscroll “The Kangxi Emperor's Visit to Suzhou in 1689", Columbia University’s Asia for Educators reports: “The seventh of the twelve scrolls recording the Kangxi Emperor's second southern inspection tour takes the viewer from the city of Wuxi to the city of Suzhou in the fertile Yangzi River delta region of China. This is the commercial heartland of the empire -- an area crisscrossed with a network of canals and prosperous cities. Fully one-third to one-half of the economic wealth of the entire empire was concentrated in this area, and it was enormously important for the emperor to ally himself politically with the gentry of this region. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Maxwell K. Hearn, Consultant, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu]

“The culmination of the seventh scroll depicts the Kangxi Emperor's residence in Suzhou. It was not at the house of the provincial governor, as might be expected, but rather at the house of the Silk Commissioner, who was technically the emperor's bond servant. The Silk Commissioner was part of the emperor's private entourage, but was stationed in Suzhou in order to supervise the manufacture of silk. Suzhou was the center of the silk manufacturing industry in China, and silk was one of the commodities that was an imperial monopoly, the revenue from which went directly to the emperor's "privy purse," which refers to those monies used exclusively to underwrite the cost of running the imperial palaces. These monies were the private purview of the emperor -- his private, discretionary funds -- and they were not part of the government taxation system, which of course collected monies for the expenses of the government itself. Being a major source of funds for the imperial privy purse, Suzhou's silk industry was of special interest to China's rulers.”

Revolts and Conflicts with Tibet During Kanxi’s Reign

The Revolt of the Three Feudatories broke out in 1673 when Wu Sangui's forces overran most of southwest China and he tried to ally himself with local generals such as Wang Fuchen. The Kangxi Emperor employed generals including Zhou Peigong and Tuhai to suppress the rebellion, and also granted clemency to common people caught up in the war. He intended to personally lead the armies to crush the rebels but his subjects advised him against it. The Kangxi Emperor used mainly Han Chinese Green Standard Army soldiers to crush the rebels while the Manchu Banners took a backseat. The revolt ended with victory for Qing forces in 1681. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Pacification of the Dzungars

In 1700, some 20,000 Qiqihar Xibe were resettled in Guisui, modern Inner Mongolia, and 36,000 Songyuan Xibe were resettled in Shenyang, Liaoning. The relocation of the Xibe from Qiqihar is believed by Liliya M. Gorelova to be linked to the Qing's annihilation of the Manchu clan Hoifan (Hoifa) in 1697 and the Manchu tribe Ula in 1703 after they rebelled against the Qing; both Hoifan and Ula were wiped out. +

In 1701, the Kangxi Emperor ordered the reconquest of Kangding and other border towns in western Sichuan that had been taken by the Tibetans. The Manchu forces stormed Dartsedo and secured the border with Tibet and the lucrative tea-horse trade. The Tibetan desi (regent) Sangye Gyatso concealed the death of the 5th Dalai Lama in 1682, and only informed the emperor in 1697. He moreover kept relations with Dzungar enemies of the Qing. All this evoked the great displeasure of the Kangxi Emperor. Eventually Sangye Gyatso was toppled and killed by the Khoshut ruler Lha-bzang Khan in 1705. As a reward for ridding him of his old enemy the Dalai Lama, the Kangxi Emperor appointed Lha-bzang Khan Regent of Tibet (?????; Yìfa gongshùn Hán; "Buddhism Respecting, Deferential Khan").[11] The Dzungar Khanate, a confederation of Oirat tribes based in parts of what is now Xinjiang, continued to threaten the Qing Empire and invaded Tibet in 1717. They took control of Lhasa with a 6,000 strong army and killed Lha-bzang Khan. The Dzungars held on to the city for three years and at the Battle of the Salween River defeated a Qing army sent to the region in 1718. The Qing did not take control of Lhasa until 1720, when the Kangxi Emperor sent a larger expedition force there to defeat the Dzungars. +

Similarities Between Kangxi and the France’s Louis XIV

On similarities between Kangxi and the France’s Louis XIV, the National Palace Museum, Taipei reported: “They both ascended the throne at a tender age. One was raised under the regency of his grandmother, the other by the empress dowager. Their royal education ensured that the two monarchs were versed in the literary and military arts, observant of the principle of universal benevolence, and fond of the fine arts. They both had a government run by powerful ministers, prior to taking charge of state affairs. Yet, once assuming government duties after coming of age, both exhibited extraordinary industry and diligence in ruling, daring not relax day and night. Further, each personally consolidated his family's rule, the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in China and the royal house of Bourbon in France. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

Kanxi in armor

“Emperor Kanxi was born in 1654 and died in late 1722. The Sun King Louis XIV was born in 1638 and died in the autumn of 1715. Thus, Louis XIV was both senior to and lived longer than Kangxi...Louis XIV reigned for 72 years and Kangxi for 62 years. The former became a paradigm for monarchs in modern Europe, while the latter ushered in the golden age which still bears his name today. The two monarchs lived at the Eastern and Western extremes of the Eurasian landmass, both with their own splendid accomplishments during approximately the same period. Although they never did meet face to face, there were nonetheless striking similarities between them. \=/

“Firstly, both came to the throne during childhood. Louis XIV was crowned King at six, while Kangxi's reign began when he was eight. As child monarchs, Louis XIV was educated in governance by his mother, Queen Anne d'Autriche, who was then regent of France; Kangxi was, on the other hand, prepared to govern by his grandmother, the Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang. Before Louis XIV was proclaimed of age to rule, Cardinal Jules Mazarin was named Chief Minister to manage affairs of state, while in the early years of Kangxi's reign the government was largely oversaw by the Manchu military commander and statesman Guwalgiya Oboi. \=/

“Louis XIV and Kangxi both received full-fledged imperial education, under the careful guidance and instruction of their mother and grandmother, respectively. They excelled in riding and archery, and were conversant in many languages. Louis XIV used highly elegant French throughout his life, and he was good at Italian, Spanish, and basic Latin. Emperor Kangxi was fluent in Manchu, Mongolian, and Mandarin, and his command of literary Chinese was solid and precise. \=/

“After taking personal control of state affairs both monarchs demonstrated extraordinary diligence and industry, and consequently their political and military achievements were resplendent. Moreover, they promoted the study of sciences, took a profound liking for the arts, and had an even greater fondness for landscape gardens. Louis XIV expanded the Château de Versailles, and constructed its remarkable Galerie des Glaces and luxurious gardens, making the palace the center of French politics and a showcase for fashion and culture. Kangxi erected the Changchunyuan (Garden of Delightful Spring), the Summer Palace, and the Mulan Hunting Ground, with the last two being particularly important as they served not only as a resort for pleasure and health, but also as a political camp for winning over the Mongolian aristocracy.”\=/

Contacts Between Kangxi and the France’s Louis XIV

Kangxi in ceremonial dress

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: ““Living at opposite ends of the world, the two monarchs were indirectly connected by an intangible bridge formed by the French Jesuits. Through the introduction of these missionaries, Louis XIV came to know about Kangxi, and there was a flourishing of interest in and emulation of Chinese culture and arts at all levels of French society. Under the guidance of the Jesuit missionaries, on the other hand, Emperor Kangxi learned of Western science, arts, and culture, and was known for their promotion. His patronage led to the emergence of many a devoted student of Western studies among the officials and subjects of the Qing. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“Through the introduction by French Jesuits and other Westerners, be it direct or indirect, the two monarchs, alone with their subjects, became interested in each other's culture and arts, which triggered mutual curiosity and in turn inspired continued study, emulation, and production....It is indeed the hard work of these French Jesuits that created an intangible yet firm bridge between Emperor Kangxi and the Sun King Louis XIV, even though the two never did meet in person. \=/

“Emperor Kangxi had a profound interest in Western learning developed through first-hand experiences. While busy with state affairs, he would somehow find spare time to study Western astronomy and calendar, geometry, physics, medicine, and anatomy. To fulfill Kangxi's study needs, the missionaries brought, on their own initiative or under instruction, all kinds of tools, instruments and monographs. They would translate Western science books into Manchu as instructional materials as well, to assist in the process of teaching and learning, or at the request of the emperor. On the other hand, Kangxi would at times command that such books be translated into Chinese and block-printed, to promote the study of Western science. In addition to the implements brought to China by missionaries or presented as gifts by Louis XIV, the craftsmen of the imperial workshops would replicate highly intricate instruments required in the study of Western learning. \=/

French Jesuits in China During Kangxi’s Reign

Kanxi in informal dress

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Many Christian missionaries came to China during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Among these the French Jesuits had a relatively prominent presence. They were large in number, self-reliant, active, and adaptable, penetrating deeply into all strata of Chinese society. They therefore had a comparatively pronounced impact on the transmission of Christianity and Sino-Franco interaction in culture and arts during this period. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“We know of as many as fifty French Jesuits who came to China during the reign of Emperor Kangxi. Most prominent among the missionaries were Jean de Fontaney, Joachim Bouvet, Louis le Comte, Jean-François Gerbillon, and Claude de Visdelou, all of whom were sent by the Sun King Louis XIV and arrived in China in 1687. In order to avoid conflict over Portugal's protectorate of missions, they came as "Mathématiciens du Roy" and were favorably received by Kangxi. Joachim Bouvet and Jean-François Gerbillon were retained at the court, and as such exerted the greatest influence upon the Emperor. \=/

“Dominique Parrenin was the most well known of the other missionaries who, in 1698, boarded the trading ship the Amphitrite alongside Bouvet on his return to China. Working on the foundation laid by Bouvet's lectures on Western medicine, Parrenin completed in Manchu a set of works on anatomy, as a single volume entitled Qinding geti quanlu (Imperially Commissioned Treatise of Human Anatomy). \=/

“An accomplished expert in astronomy, Louis le Comte spent five years in China, and was known for his study in constellations. He travelled extensively between the Yellow River basin in the north and the Yangtze River region in the south. On returning to France in 1692 he published Nouveau mémoire sur l'état présent de la Chine, which is still a precise work for contemporary understanding of China at that time.” \=/

French Jesuits That Worked with Kangxi

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Joachim Bouvet served as Kangxi's instructor in geometry, and wrote his Jihexue Gailun (Introduction to Geometry) in both Manchu and Chinese. He also co-wrote some 20 lectures on Western medicine with Jean-François Gerbillon. Bouvet later became Kangxi's envoy to France in 1697, with instructions from the emperor to obtain more well-educated missionaries. Upon returning to his home country, he presented to Louis XIV a report of 100,000 words on Kangxi, later published as Portrait historique de l'empereur de la Chine présenté au roi. Moreover, he authored a volume, with illustrations, on the upper stratum of Chinese society of the time, entitled L'Estat present de la Chine en figures dedié à Monseigneur le Duc de Bourgougne. The two books had a profound impact on French society at large. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

Buddhist scripture by Kanxi

“Apart from tutoring Kangxi on Western methods of geometry and arithmetic, Jean-François Gerbillon was appointed by the emperor in 1689 to assist in China's negotiations with Russia, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk, an achievement greatly appreciated by Emperor Kangxi. \=/

“When the eldest of the "Mathématiciens du Roy" Jean de Fontaney first settled in China he began preaching in Nanjing. In 1693 Kangxi summoned him to serve at the capital as he had been rejected by the Portuguese missionaries. At the time the emperor was suffering from malaria. Fontaney offered his personal supply of quinine powder, which completely cured Emperor Kangxi's sickness and greatly reinforced his faith in Western medicine. \=/

“The eminent sinologist Claude de Visdelou was a diligent researcher of Chinese history. At one point he was ordered by Emperor Kangxi to assist in the collation of the history of the Uighurs. The numerous documents on the histories of the Tartars and the Han Chinese that he organized and assembled eventually became source materials in French understanding of the chronicle of China.” \=/

Kangxi’s Interest in European Crafts

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Emperor Kangxi was not only enthralled by these scientific instruments and mathematical tools, but also by Western glass wares of the time.” Pieces that he possessed included translucent glass-made shuicheng (a water container for inkstone), and its base is inscribed "Kangxi yuzhi (made by imperial command of the Kangxi emperor)." The shape of the vessel suggests that it is one of the earlier glass wares produced at the Kangxi court, made in imitation of European ink bottles. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“It was at this time that the rather advanced French glass craftsmanship captured the interest of Emperor Kangxi, and he soon established an imperial glass workshop at the court, which succeeded in producing glassworks of the monochrome, flashed, cut, faux-aventurine, and enameled types. Such objects were not produced exclusively for Emperor Kangxi's personal enjoyment, but were also awarded to high officials as a way of bestowing favor. Moreover, the emperor would give glassworks with painted enamels as gifts to Westerners to illustrate the Qing court's achievements in glass craftsmanship. \=/

“Emperor Kangxi's fascination with Western art was not confined to glass making; the European craft of enamel painting greatly interested him as well. His artisans and craftsmen were able to develop the technique to produce the resplendent metal-bodied painted enamelware. They also applied enamel paints to the bodies of porcelain and Yixing pottery, creating polychrome-enameled ceramics that were to be admired by generations to come.” \=/

Artistic Exchanges Between France and China During Kangxi’s Reign

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Westerners of that period had through the Arabs encountered Chinese ceramics, and it was the blue and white porcelain in particular that they attempted hard to copy. Although potters of Louis XIV's time failed at first to grasp the formula for firing Chinese hard-paste porcelains, they still strived to apply the decorative styles of Chinese blue and white wares to majolica and soft-paste works, hoping to reproduce blue and white pieces as refined as those from China. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]

“Artists and craftsmen in China and France began to emulate one another in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as a result of the direct and indirect introduction of the artistic and cultural achievements of the two states by missionaries and other individuals on both sides. Yet, they were soon to break away from the mere act of imitating to come up with innovative ideas, each nurturing brand new artistic and cultural forms. It was indeed this continued interaction that led to the emergence of many splendors in Sino-Franco encounters. \=/

Kanxi's Last Will and Testament

“The most well-known French glassworks from the reign of Louis XIV were those produced by Bernard Perrot (1640-1709). Showcased in the exhibition are seven pieces on loan from France, of which some were done by Perrot himself while the others originate from his workshop. There are ones made using either the blowing or the modeling technique, and ones that exemplify the integration of both. \=/

“For centuries China is world famous for the firing and production of ceramics. European missionaries who had come from afar to perform evangelism would naturally recount all that they had witnessed in China to their homelands. It follows then that descriptions of how Chinese porcelains were produced and used were certainly included in their reports. \=/

“Coupling these accounts with personal examination of Chinese porcelains and technical emulation of their production, European craftsmen would progress from imitating the decorative styles of blue and white wares to creating innovation patterns of their own, a fine example being the delicate yet magnificent lambrequin décor that emerged during King Louis XIV's reign. \=/

“In painting, a review of the works by Manchu and Han Chinese artists indicates that they, clearly at the promotion and guidance of missionaries, had employed the Western approach of perspective representation. Their existing oil paintings attest to the significance of the exchange and synthesis of Chinese and Western techniques during the period.”\=/

Image Sources: China Page; Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu ; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated August 2021

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