Rites Controversy: An Entangled History of Normativity Between the East and the West

Chinese Voices in the Rites Controversy: The Legal Dialogue Related to the Mondialisation of a Local Problem 1701-1704

by Nicolas Standaert (University of Leuven, Belgium)





The Chinese Rites Controversy in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries is often considered a purely European affair. Yet, to what extent did Chinese scholars take part in the debates concerning the rites? An exceptional series of Chinese and European sources dating from the years 1701-1704 provide new evidence for the Chinese voices in this controversy. They include a collection of some 60 Chinese letters with the impressive number of ca. 430 different signatories that were sent to Rome to make their voice heard. These letters provide a unique insight not only in the sociological composition of the local Christian communities and the networks that existed between them at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but also in the legal procedures that were involved in the process of acquiring the testimonies. This lecture will investigate how knowledge about Chinese rites was produced, distributed, exchanged and debated at that time. 



Nicolas Standaert is Professor of Sinology at the University of Leuven (Belgium). He specializes in the cultural contacts between China and Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His recent publications include Chinese Voices in the Rites Controversy: Travelling Books, Community Networks, Intercultural Arguments, (Bibliotheca Instituti Historici S.I. 75), Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2012, 476 pp. (Chinese translation: Zhong Mingdan 钟鸣旦, Liyi zhi zheng zhong de Zhongguo shengyin 礼仪之争中的中国声音, trans. Chen Yanrong 陈妍蓉, Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 2021, 555 pp.); The Intercultural Weaving of Historical Texts: Chinese and European Stories about Emperor Ku and His Concubines, (Leiden Series in Comparative Historiography 9), Leiden: Brill, 2016. 367 pp.; The Chinese Gazette in European Sources: Joining the Global Public in the Early and Mid-Qing Dynasty (Sinica Leidensia 155), Leiden: Brill, 2022. 349 pp.



This lecture is part of the lecture series Rites Controversy: An Entangled History of Normativity Between the East and the West, co-hosted by two Max Planck Partner Groups (Beijing, Trento) and their home department Historical Regimes of Normativity at MPI.


The session is held in English and takes place online. The Organizers kindly request to register for the event here.

Organised by

Fupeng Li, Benedetta Albani, Manuela Bragagnolo