Stories: by Person: B

Joachim Bouvet

1656 ~ 1973

A native of Le Mans, France, Bouvet entered the Society of Jesus in 1673 with the express desire to go to the China mission. This was fulfilled when Louis XIV included him among the five royal mathematicians sent to Peking (Beijing) in 1685. The emperor chose Bouvet and Jean-Francois Gerbillon (1654-1707) to work at the court and allowed the other three to live and preach in China wherever they wished. Engaged in teaching mathematics and philosophy to the emperor, in 1693 Bouvet was sent as an imperial envoy to Louis XIV to thank the latter for the astronomical instruments he had presented as gifts to the Chinese court. During his sojourn in France, he corresponded with Leibniz and published two works about China, Upon his return to Peking, Bouvet deepened his study of the I-ching (Book of Changes) and the mythological and historical origins of China. His subsequent system, called figurism, sought to find figures of the Old Testament in the Chinese classics. He attracted a following among some of his confreres, especially Jean-Francois Foucquet.

This was their attempt to solve the Chinese Rites Controversy. At first the emperor was interested in Bouvet's views, but by 1716 he expressed anxiety about further Western contacts with China. A new emperor ascended the throne in 1723 and subsequently exiled the missionaries in the provinces to Canton. However, Bouvet was allowed to continue his research and apostolic work among the Christian community in Peking.

About the Author

By John W. Witek

Associate Professor of East Asian History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA

Recently Added Stories

More »

Most Viewed Stories

More »