China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
‘Western knowledge’ in High Qing China (1680s-1810s) comprised intellectual, artistic, scientific, diplomatic, and religious dimensions. After the end of Kangxi’s patronage for missionaries, Yongzheng forbade Christianity in 1724, and foreign knowledge became suspect. Suppression pushed Christianity underground, complicated diplomacy with Catholic powers, and further nativized European sciences and arts. However, semi-concealed networks among Chinese, Manchus, and Europeans, and the circulation of texts, notions, rituals, and objects, continued to nourish Western-inspired ‘crypto-knowledge’. This panel offers careful deciphering of Qing involvement with this undetectable West.
Rowe shows that both Confucianism and Christianity served as impetus for a secretly converted Qing imperial prince and governor in his pursuit of the Qing ‘civilizing mission’, within the context of mid-Qing “practical learning” and statecraft. Menegon reveals that Western objects and commodities became vehicles for coded messages during diplomatic missions between Chinese and European actors, furthering their state-building agendas, religious aims, and economic designs. Wu uncovers how Western learning remained present in Qing local gazetteers, often independently from courtly and missionary networks, preserving overlooked information about European secular knowledge. Roux sheds new light on the Qianlong-Jiaqing transition, when the imperial repression of religious movements led to the “rediscovery” of Christian presence and legal changes.
This panel explores aspects of Western ‘crypto-knowledge’ in philosophical texts, luxury objects and commodities, diplomatic exchanges, local gazetteers, and political-legal decisions, arguing that such ‘knowledge’ continued to contribute in unexpected ways to Qing political theory and reform, material culture, diplomacy, law, and local scientific knowledge.