L'itinéraire d'Antoine Thomas S.J. (1644-1709), scientifique et missionnaire namurois en Chine

Translated title of the contribution: The itinerary of Antoine Thomas S.J. (1644-1709), scientist and missionary from Namur in China

Michel Hermans (Editor), Isabelle Parmentier (Editor), Carole Ledent (Collaborator), Carole Payen (Collaborator)

    Research output: Book/Report/JournalBook

    Abstract

    The year 2009 was the year of the Europalia festival in Belgium, where China was honored. The University of Namur takes this opportunity to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the death of Antoine Thomas, a Jesuit scientist and missionary, of Namur origin, who distinguished himself at the court of the Emperor of China at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. The man, too little known, deserved to be taken out of the shadows: his work and his career are far from trivial. The international symposium which was organized to commemorate its passing away, gave rise to texts now collected and published in this volume. They retrace the itinerary and contributions of this priest and cosmopolitan scholar, who at a very early age felt a desire to join the Chinese mission, the opposite of his native city.

    To introduce this work, Cédric Istasse delivers a an impressive tour of horizon allowing to situate Antoine Thomas in the historiography. This useful and voluminous work highlights a first itinerary: that of the memory of this man, the celebrity of his work during his lifetime and his posterity after his death. It must be noted that this work varied according to the place and time, according to historians and biographers who have studied the history of science, Jesuit history, the history of Belgium or that of Namur in particular . In general, and especially compared with his elder, Ferdinand Verbiest, he was given little attention, wrongly.

    It must be said that the life of Antoine Thomas is little known. Michel Hermans and Carole Ledent have tried to better understand its origins: its house in Namur, where he spent his childhood and youth, and the material situation of his family. However, the gaps in the sources make the exercise difficult. In this same perspective - that of illuminating the original environment of A. Thomas - Pierre Sauvage depicts the teaching he received in the same city, at the Jesuit Fathers' College, and the teachers who trained him.

    The chronological sequence of the course of this Namurois leads to the novitiate in Tournai and philosophy studies in Douai. Michel Hermans demonstrates how important the Douais stage was in his preparation for the mission in China. But this departure did not occur at once. Antoine Thomas had to wait for many years and was finally sent to Asia in 1677. On his way to China, Antoine Thomas spent eight months in Siam (1681-1682). António Vasconcelos de Saldanha recounts this episode and the conflicts that marked the presence of the missionary in this kingdom and his active involvement in the debates of the Company.

    Once in China, Antoine Thomas produced a variety of works. Davor Antonucci was interested more precisely in a little-known manuscript written by Thomas, the De Bello Cam Hi Imperatoris Tartaro-Sinici contra Tartaros Erutanos. Feliciter confecto anno 1697. This text describes the war between Qing Kangxi and Qan Zunghar Galdan in Mongolia. Nicolas Standaert has endeavored to highlight the role of A. Thomas in the Chinese Rite dispute, while the latter was vice-provincial. He focused more specifically on the missionary's collection of materials, in which the Chinese perspective was particularly well received. For his part, Noël Golvers investigated the numerous correspondence of the Namurois and emphasized its interest in the history of science.

    As for the illness and death of Antoine Thomas, they were studied by Beatriz Puente-Ballesteros from the account of Giampaolo Gozani to the general of the Company. In doing so, she studied medical practice at the court of Emperor Kangxi. Finally, by way of conclusion, Olivier Servais casts an anthropologist's look at the figure of the Jesuit missionary and more precisely on that of Antoine Thomas, the archetypal figure of the Society, at the crossroads of three illuminating concepts: "a critical education through learning, Scientific without measure and a continuous spiritual nomadism "- to use the words of O. Servais.
    Translated title of the contributionThe itinerary of Antoine Thomas S.J. (1644-1709), scientist and missionary from Namur in China
    Original languageFrench
    Place of PublicationLeuven
    PublisherFerdinand Verbiest Institute
    Number of pages328
    ISBN (Print)978082090963
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

    Publication series

    NameLeuven Chinese Studies
    PublisherFerdinand Verbiest Institute
    No.33

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