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Book Presentation: Veerle de Vos

Book Presentation: Veerle de Vos

Alles onder de hemel. Ferdinand Verbiest en de ontdekking van China

In the middle of the 17th century a group of friends travel from the Netherlands (today Belgium) to the mysterious and closed Chinese empire. They set sail via Portugal, India and Macau along one of the most dangerous sea routes of the time. Once in Macau they devote themselves to the study of the Chinese language, history and culture before they travel on tot the mainland.

The Flemish jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest (南懷仁) is appointed as mandarin-astronomer in the Forbidden City in Beijing. His mission is to explain the heavens for the Kangxi-emperor and compose the yearly calendar. He becomes a trusted adviser of the young emperor who appoints him as his private mathematics and science teacher and trusts him with the designing of astronomical instruments but also canons for the war against the 3 feudatories. At the same time Verbiest gets caught up in the intrigues at the court and has to defend himself against attacks from Europe.

While Verbiest devotes himself to the emperor in Beijing, his friends work as missionaries in the East of China. They study Chinese philosophy, medicine and the Chinese fauna and flora. They will be among the first Europeans who will spread the principles of Chinese medicine and philosophy in Europe, by translating and publishing major works in Europa. The first translation of the works of Confucius is published in Paris in 1687.

Tian Xia. Nan Huairen and the journey from the West to the Middle Kingdom tells the fascinating but forgotten story of the first real meeting between China and the West, in which the Jesuits form the Netherlands played a big part. It takes the reader behind the walls of the Forbidden City but also to the women’s quarters in Shanghai and the royal courts of Paris and London.

What was the result of this meeting, for China and for the West? What lessons does it teach us? In what way is the story of Nan Huairen and his friend still relevant in a time where China is rising, again?  


Sunday 24 March


In Dutch

for the Made in China Festival Day

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