Bringing Together China and the West: A Symposium to Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Abstracts and Speakers information

For the programme of the Symposium, please click here.


Panel 1: Art and Culture Between China and the West

1. The Return of the Elephant: Court Imaginations in Early Modern Sino-European Encounters

In the early modern histories, the transterritorial and indeed global movements of the South Asian elephants shaped imperial projections, ways of practicing power, and their significance even paralleled the history of the state. In Qing China, they were engaged in state-led local festivals and performances and thus established urban spectacles that shaped the public perceptions of imperial spaces and conveyed political messages. This paper explores the various ways in which South Asian elephants were deployed to conceptualize China’s imperial spaces. Further, it discusses how these visual representations are imagined as sites for elite and sovereign self-identification with cross-cultural gifts and objects.

Speaker: Prof.  Lianming Wang(Associate Professor, Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong)

Lianming Wang holds a Ph.D. in East Asian Art History and is an Associate Professor at the Department of Chinese and History of the City University of Hong Kong. His primary areas include the global encounters of art and architecture in early modernity, animal trade, the exchange of objects and diplomatic gifts, export art, Ming-Qing gardens, and Qing imperial workshops.


2. Overlapping of the Western and Chinese Bodies: Accommodation in Boyms Latin Translation

One of the earliest translators of Chinese medicine was the Jesuit Michał Boym (1612–1959), a son of the Polish king’s physician. He was also the first person to translate and introduce to the West the Huangdi neijing and Mo jing 脈經, two works of Chinese medicine which he translated into Latin and collected in the Specimen Medicinae Sinicae (A look at the medicine of China) and Clavis Medica ad Chinarum Doctrinam de Pulsibus (Key to the medical doctrine of the Chinese on the pulse). The Specimen Medicinae Sinicae was the first and best known of two Latin works on Chinese medicine published in the seventeenth century. The other, Clavis Medica ad Chinarum Doctrinam de Pulsibus, was printed in 1686 in the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (later the “Leopoldina”) (Cook 2013, 229). Boym collected a great deal of information about plants, the pulse, and diagnosis from Chinese medicine starting in at least 1643 and planned to send the manuscripts back to Europe for publication. In this work, Boym added his own praise to the high achievement of Chinese medicine and pulse-taking as well as its clinical effects. Apparently without a preference for Western medicine and anatomy, Boym clearly explained the difference between the Galenic theory and Chinese way of taking the pulse (2013, 484). Boym chose texts from the Huangdi neijing and Mo jing and clarified that diagnosis by taking the pulse was not invented by Galen.

The imaginative geography of the Chinese body and the Western body in the Jesuits’ translations illuminates scientific exchanges between early modern Europe and China. Michał Boym’s Latin translation introduced Chinese medicine, the body, and pulse to Western readers, but it was belittled and disdained. However, after being circulated in Europe, Boym’s translation of the ancient art of interpreting pulse became the basis of John Floyer’s future research upon the beating of the pulse and his invention of the pulse watch.

Speaker: Prof. Ling-chiaWei  Sophie (Associate Professor, Department of Translation, CUHK)

Sophie Ling-chia Wei is Associate Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. She received her PhD from Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania in 2015. Her research interests include Jesuits’ and Protestant missionaries’ translations of Chinese classics. She recently authored Chinese Theology and Translation: The Christianity of the Jesuit Figurists and their Christianized Yijing published by Routledge in 2020. She also co-edited The Newly Edited Song Long Yuan’s Commentaries on Daodejing 《道德經舊注精編》published by Shanghai Joint Publishing in 2020. Her article, “In the Light and Shadow of the Dao–Two Figurists, Two Intellectual Webs” in Journal of Translation Studies was awarded Joint Runner-up of the Martha Cheung Award for Best English Article in Translation Studies by an Early Career Scholar in March 2020. She was recently awarded the Young Researcher Award 2021 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


3. Jesuits, Books, and ‘Cultures of Text’ in Early Modern China

This presentation aims to offer a contribution to the dialogue between book historians of Europe and book historians of China by looking at the production of written texts by the China Jesuits. Through their books, the missionaries were able to interact fruitfully with Chinese literati, even at the cost of generating misunderstandings with respect to their initial intentions. Nontheless, a less self-referential way of looking at cross-cultural contacts allows to examine these misunderstandings not as failures but as creative appropriations generating new knowledge.

Speaker: Prof. Elisabetta Corsi (Chair of Sinology, Department of History, Cultures, Religious Studies, Visual and Performing Arts, Sapienza University of Rome)

Elisabetta Corsi is Professor and Chair of Sinology and a trainer at the faculty development programme in Sapienza University of Rome. From February 2015 through February 2021 she served as Deputy Chairman of the Humanities and Social Sciences Panel of the RGC of Hong Kong. Her new book project is Giovanni Gherardini (1655-1729), a Global Painter of the quadratura.


4. Johann Adam Schall von Bell and His Historica Relatio de ortu et progressu fidei orthodoxae in Regno Chinensi… (1669)

The Jesuit Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1592–1666) belongs to the so-called “giants” of the China mission. After his education at the Collegio Romano Schall was permitted to go as a missionary to China because of his special studies in science. His work in China was manyfold, but his main task was the reformation of the Chinese calendar which was performed with a team of Chinese and European scholars. Besides, his life as a missionary was full of adventures in the service of three emperors, as described in the Historica Relatio. 

Speaker: Prof. Claudia von Collani (Adjunct Professor of Missiology and Dialogue of Religions, University of Wuerzburg)

apl. Prof. Dr. Claudia von Collani, a Catholic Missiologist, special field East Asian mission history of early modern times including the Chinese Rites Controversy, inculturation, mission theology of early modern times, cultural and scientific exchange between Europe and East Asia, history of science and medicine, and especially Chinese Figurism.


Panel 2: Translating Between China and the West

1. Overthrowing the Tartar ‘Tyranny’: British Understandings of Manchu-Chinese Relations and Sino-British Diplomacy from the Macartney Embassy to the First Opium War

This paper examines the accounts of late-eighteenth- to mid-nineteenth-century British diplomats, statesmen and soldiers to China, arguing that they consistently paid attention to ethnic differences between the Chinese and Manchus. Instead of growing hostility towards a uniform “China”, British understandings of Qing ethnic differences led some Britons to view the Chinese as a civilized people who were sympathetic to British commercial interests. In contrast, the Manchus were dismissed as barbarian ‘Tartars’ who tyrannically oppressed the Chinese, limiting commerce and “progress”. This understanding of the Qing was simultaneously enabled by and contributed to cross-cultural diplomacy, ultimately being used to justify war.

Speaker: Mr. Ross Moncrieff (Examination Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford)

Ross Moncrieff is an Examination Fellow and DPhil student in history at All Souls College, Oxford. His research focuses on early modern British understandings of China. He holds master’s degrees from Fudan University and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and has published articles in Journal of Early Modern History, Renaissance Studies, and Cahiers Élisabéthains.


2. Priorities and Problems in Early English Sinology

The earliest English students of Chinese matters—seventeenth-century Protestant readers of, for instance, the works of the Jesuit authors Martini and Kircher—were not practising ‘Sinology’ or ‘Chinese Studies’ in our modern senses of these disciplines. My paper will survey what was at stake for various early English students of China, especially Thomas Hyde, perhaps the best informed of such English observers. On the one hand, confessional issues loomed large for such scholars—Chinese philosophy and historiography in particular posed difficulties for Christian academics. But not everything was controlled by preconception, and the role of curiosity should not be underestimated.

Speaker: Dr. William Poole (Fellow in English and Senior Tutor, New College, University of Oxford)

William Poole is Fellow in English, Senior Tutor, and Fellow Librarian of New College, Oxford. He has researched many topics in literary and intellectual history in the early modern period, with a current focus on English scholarly encounters with various Eastern traditions and texts. 


3. ‘Canons and Artillerie’: The Ming-Qing War seen through Schall’s Essentials of Gunnery (火攻挈要 Huogong qieyao, 1643/1847) and Martini’s Tartar War (Bellum Tartaricum, London 1654)

Jesuit missionaries were witnesses and protagonists of the Ming-Qing War. Before surrendering to the Manchus in 1644, Adam Schall von Bell (1591-1666) worked on behalf of the Ming dynasty, assisting with the casting of cannons and the compilation of a technical treatise on cannon-making in Chinese, Essentials of Gunnery (火攻挈要 Huogong qieyao, 1643), which was reprinted soon after the Opium War (1847), in the wake of the Qing military defeat at the hands of the British. Martino Martini (1614-1661) witnessed the fighting of the Ming-Qing War in northern and southern China, was named an official of the Southern Ming regime of the Longwu Emperor, and then promptly surrendered to the Manchus in Zhejiang, soon becoming their main propagandist in Europe. He published an account of the war in Latin, De bello Tartarico historia (Antwerp, 1654), that became an instant bestseller in Europe, and was quickly translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English. In this presentation I briefly discuss the significance of Western-style artillery in the Ming-Qing War as seen through Essentials of Gunnery (1643/1847) and the English version of the Tartar War (Bellum Tartaricum, London 1654), volumes included in the CUHK Library catalogue we are celebrating with this mini-symposium.

Speaker: Prof. Eugenio Menegon (Associate Professor of History, Department of History, Boston University)

Eugenio Menegon teaches Chinese and World History at Boston University. His interests include Chinese-Western relations in late imperial times, Chinese religions and Christianity in China, Chinese science, the intellectual history of Republican China, the history of maritime Asia, and Chinese food history. His current book project is an examination of the daily life and political networking of European residents at the Qing court in Beijing during the 17th-18th centuries. He is also co-investigator for the digital humanities project The China Historical Christian Database (