ISBN-10:
0679725806
ISBN-13:
2900679725809
Pub. Date:
10/28/1989
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Question of Hu / Edition 1

Question of Hu / Edition 1

by Jonathan D. Spence
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Overview

This lively and elegant book by the acclaimed historian Jonathan D. Spence reconstructs an extraordinary episode in the early intercourse between Europe and China. It is the story of John Hu, a lowly but devout Chinese Catholic who in 1722 accompanied a Jesuit missionary on a journey to France -- a journey that ended with Hu's confinement in a lunatic asylum. At once a triumph of historical detective work and a gripping narrative, The Question of Hu deftly probes the collision of two cultures, with their different definitions of faith, madness, and moral obligation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900679725809
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1989
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 187
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Spence's eleven books on Chinese history include The Gate of Heavenly PeaceTreason by the Book, and The Death of Woman Wang. His awards include a Guggenheim and a MacArthur Fellowship. He teaches at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
Prefacexvii
1.The Question3
2.Departure5
3.The Ocean Voyage29
4.Landfall44
5.In the Provinces56
6.Paris70
7.Orleans88
8.The Road to Charenton95
9.Inside Charenton105
10.Release119
11.Return133
Notes135
Bibliography173
Index181

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Question of Hu 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan D. Spence takes you on a voyage from the heart of 18th century China around the world to France, and ultimately Vatican Rome. One can get a true taste of cultural clash between Europeans and the Chinese with this book.
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a short history (novella-length) of John Hu, a Chinese Christian brought to France in the early eighteenth century as assistant to a Jesuit priest returning from China. It's a classic culture-clash story - the trip doesn't go according to either man's expectations, and when Hu becomes too difficult to handle the Jesuit has him packed off to a lunatic asylum (where, of course, he can't communicate with anyone). I'm a big Jonathan Spence fan, and I also really like microhistories, but I found this disappointing. Spence tells the story very sparely, leaving us to read between the lines. That allows us to take away a story of misunderstanding and betrayal - but his decision not to give us any analysis or context makes it hard to make any sense of the story on any other level.
nobooksnolife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating scholarship based on manuscripts (letters) stored in French, British and Vatican archives, Spence assembles a lively narrative of the hapless Hu RwoWang who is hired to accompany Jesuit Father Jean-Francois Foucquet to France from China (on the premise that Hu will get to see the Pope in Rome). Against the background of battles being waged over religious interpretation (Foucquet is trying to prove through his studies of the Chinese Classics that the Chinese rites are based on Christianity) and trade/prosylitizing of the 18th century Europeans in Asia, poor Hu goes to France on an arduous voyage and is constantly misunderstood. Hu is eventually locked away in an asylum and later released to return to China. What terrible tales of the Europeans he must have told his countrymen!
drneutron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Back in 1721, a Jesuit missionary in Canton, China named Jean-Francois Foucquet was ordered to report back to Rome to see the Pope. Now, Foucquet had spent the last 25 or so years studying Chinese, and especially ancient Chinese writings like the I Ching and he had this theory that these works were really based on a knowledge - incomplete as it might be - of the one true Christian God. As one might imagine, this wasn't a generally accepted theory, and his Jesuit superiors wanted to put a lid on it. He just wanted to keep studying. The Pope wanted to hear him out. As part of deal, Foucquet was able to get permission of sorts to bring back a Chinese scholar who had converted to Christianity to help him decode these texts and make his case. But those who didn't want him to do so managed to convince those planning to go with him to back out at the last minute.Enter Hu Ruowang (AKA John Hu), a Chinese convert and gatekeeper at the residence in Canton where Foucquet was temporarily staying. Foucquet was assured that while Hu wasn't a scholar, he could read an write well enough to help with Foucquet's studies. Hu wanted to see the Europe - and especially meet the Pope - and was able to go. So they entered into a work contract where Hu would be paid a relatively small salary and Roucquet would pick up traveling expenses in exchange for translation and copyist services. And off they went.Almost from the beginning of the trip, Hu's behavior was odd. Foucquet had been in China for decades, and was familiar with Chinese custom, so was surprised by Hu's violent responses to the ship's crew and on arriving in Europe, those around them. Hu, on the other hand, had no sense of how long the trip would take, how much trouble they would run into , or just how isolated he would be without knowledge of French. On the third hand, it appears Foucquet made no attempt, at least until it was too late to try to teach Hu French so that he could communicate (although he did initially try to teach Hu European customs). As a result, Hu behaved in ways that was more and more often interpreted as bizarre - and it didn't help that Foucquet left Hu on several occasions to make side trips. Eventually, the French officials and Foucquet had Hu committed to Charendon, an asylum caring for the mentally ill, when he violently refused to go on to Rome with Foucquet. Eventually, the Jesuits were able to get Hu back to China, but not before he spent about 2 years in the asylum in pretty horrific conditions.The Question of Hu is a short book, but is packed with information about the people and places of the time. Spence's work is rather episodic in that there's not a huge amount of source material - only one letter from Hu to Foucquet exists, and the rest of the material is essentially Foucquet's letters and papers - so there's little in the way to trying to get into Hu's thinking. And since the source material is so one-sided, I get the sense that Hu is pictured as more bizarre and inscrutable than he really was. After all, Foucquet's opponents used this episode against him, and much was written in by him in his own defense. In fairness, Spense believes that Foucquet was unusually honest in his depiction of the situation.All in all, The Question of Hu is a great little book about a time and place I didn't know much about, and I enjoyed it very much. It's only about 150 pages long, so isn't a difficult read by any means. Recommended!
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