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“Exploring Two Major savant missionaires’ Hermeneutic Engagements with Classical and Modern China: The French Jesuits Seraphin Couvreur (1835-1919) and Leon Wieger (1856-1933)”

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Prof. Lauren F. Pfister

B.A. (Denver U), M.Div. (Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary), M.A. (San Diego State U), Ph.D. (U Hawai’i at Manoa)

Professor Emeritus, Department of Religion and Philosophy

Funding:

  • General Research Fund (GRF), HKSAR Government 
    HK$138,920

Introduction

  • This project is analyzing the prolific output of two major French Jesuit scholars whose lives and works have not yet been given a thorough analysis, but only some relatively brief studies in the form of a few articles.  In order to lead to a larger book project related to their lives and works, a carefully worked out chronology of their lives was created on the basis of research done in relevant archives, libraries, and a visit to the site of the former French Jesuit compound located in the town of Xianxian獻縣.  Seraphin Couvreur’s 顧賽芬main contributions came in the form of modern French and church Latin renderings of all Ruist/Confucian canonical works except for the Yijing, and in the creation of a major Chinese-French Classical Dictionary.  Leon Wieger’s 戴遂良main contributions came in the documentation of contemporary Chinese events from the period of 1917 to 1931.  In addition, he produced in 1933 a modern Chinese-French dictionary that has been produced in a Chinese-English version and was published numerous times afterwards. Our visit to Xianxian revealed many new levels of understanding of their lifeworld and the conditions within which they lived out their lives there.

Several photos taken of the place where they lived and died (Hebei Province, Xianxian) are included below.  The first is of the new cathedral located in that place, with the name of the Roman Catholic Church placed prominently before it.  Three others are of the graveyard where a large number of foreign and indigenous Jesuits’ graves were located.  This was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and was only restored again in 2013.  Nevertheless, only the gravestone of Leon Wieger was able to be reconstructed; that of Seraphin Couvreur had been completely destroyed.  These images have almost never been seen outside of the locality there in Hebei province, and so they are of special value to those interested in the work of these two remarkable French Jesuit scholars.

Xianxian_Hejian

Xianxian_Hejian

Xianxian_Hejian

Xianxian_Hejian