Friday, December 18, 2009

Other texts by Manuel Dias

Today I had a look at the last seven volumes of the recently published collection Chinese Christian Texts from the Library of France (Taipei: Ricci Institute, 2009), edited by Nicolas Standaert, Ad Dudink and Nathalie Monnet, and included in volume 23 there are two texts by Manuel Dias.

The first text, entitled Tang jingjiao beisong zhengquan, is an annotated presentation of the Nestorian monument found near Xian - this is an interesting (yet fragmentary) text because it has some information about the publishing procedure of Jesuit Chinese writings.

The second text carries the title Tianxue juyao (Crucial summary of Heavenly Studies) and is extremely interesting because it is a manuscript rather than a printed text. In fact, the manuscript looks like a preparatory version for a printed edition of the text. I also wonder to what extent this religious text contains references to astrononomy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More on the original copy II

Talked with Zhang Baichun from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. He has been commissioned (together with a host of other scholars) to inventorize, organize and eventually publish a huge collection of original writings from the China mission Jesuits that are stored at the Vatican. During this editorial work, he has been on the lookout for something that might look like an original copy of the Tianwenlüe - also because he believes that there must be such an original text. Let's hope he is right.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More on the original copy

There was certainly an original copy due to the simple reason that I don't think it possible that Dias wrote directly in Chinese. Not only because of linguistic considerations. It is deeper than that. Scientific modes of expression are very codified and in a trained person they become a "second skin". When thinking about science the mind tends to work with words, expressions and linguistic patterns of the language one learned that science.
So I think it is safe to say this: Dias first wrote a text, most likely in Latin (Portuguese is also a possibility, but less probable in my opinion). I think the question about the original text is more about what happened to it and how it was actually used. These are two very interesting questions....

The dialogue form

The backbone of the TWL is an explanation of the "Sphere" -- that is the basic notions of cosmography and astronomy along (more or less) the sequence defined by Sacrobosco's Tractatus de sphaera . Imposed on this structure there are many deviations, additions, changes of emphasis, of order, etc., that make the TWL an original composition. But the most interesting aspect is that it is written in a dialogue form, or, to be more precise, as a series of questions and answers. Dialogue was used in Europe to explain the Sphere, but not frequently. There is in Portugal a well known sixteenth century manuscript, «Tratado da esfera em perguntas e respostas», with such a dialogue, but it is an exception. Printed editions of the Sphere in dialogue form are very rare (one or two in Italy and one in Poland, I think -- in a universe of more than 250 editions of Sacobosco's Sphere that have already been traced). Also, as far as I can see, dialogue form was not very common in Jesuit texts or Jesuit pedagogy. So, I am inclined to suggest that the dialogue format is more a trace of the "chinese" content of the text (i.e. influence of and adaptation to Chinese intellectual background) than of its European heritage.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The original copy

Still doing the glossary, i.e., being excessively attentive to each and every word of TWL, I sense somehow the presence of a Latin text behind the Chinese version - what the Chinese like to call the 'original copy' (diben 底本). If (a) there was one, and (b) we could find it, this would, of course, be a little sensation. Both Zhang Baichun and Tian Miao, who have been working with Jesuit texts for a whole while, believe that there must be a Latin original that served as working and guiding text for Dias' translation project.

In order to establish if there was one in the first place, we should read the paratexts carefully, since they may contain some hints about the composition process. I have been reluctant about this task because these texts are hard to read and also extremely hard to decipher since they are written in a beautiful yet extremely cursive calligraphy (see picture!)

A sine qua non clue for finding the 'original copy' would also be to retrieve the original first edition of the Vatican Library. As mentioned in a previous post, the TWL has been digitized at USF, but the text they are using is not the text of the first edition, but rather a reprint that was published many decades later. This is philologically not quite kosher.:-)

If there was an 'original copy' and if this original copy is still extant, where would it be?

These are important questions for our introduction.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Henderson on Ch'ing scholars

I don't know what more competent sinologists think about it, but I still find John B. Henderson's paper, «Ch'ing Scholars views of Western Astronomy», Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 46 (1986) 121-148, quite good and most of all, quite useful. I read it recently while preparing some notes for the TWL and it was a very rewarding read. OK, here and there it needs updating, but it seems to me a very good summary. Am I missing something ? (very brief mention of TWL on p. 126. )

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glossary & Enlightenment

The translation has come to a hold for the moment because of the glossary of terms that is being compiled for those parts of the text we have already translated.

Compiling the glossary is kind of a drag for impatient people because one moves on very slowly. Each page contains important terms - which include not only nouns, but also verbs, which obviously were used in a fairly precise and consistent manner.

Besides providing linguistic consistency, the most important thing about the process of highlighting specific terms is that mistakes become visible. I have already found two rather heavy ones in the first pages of our translation.

This glossary will be a very important tool for approaching Ricci's Qiankun tiyi as well as the Chinese astronomical tradition before the publication of Tianwenlüe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Technical appendix

It would be nice to have a brief appendix on the basic astronomy needed to understand the tianwenlüe. Something clear, short and self-contained. I thought I would easily find a good text in the literature but to my surprise I didn't. We should write one ourselves, I think. Besides, it will have to explain both Western and Chinese topics... maybe not a trivial text after all...

The mistery of Dias (I)

Besides all the textual problems there is also a different set of questions I think we need to clarify along the way: why did Manuel Dias write this text? where did he learn (Western) astronomy and cosmology? what was his knowledge of Chinese astronomy? We already discussed these issues a bit but I am expecting (hoping, actually) that new documents from B. Ajuda or ARSI will shed new light on this.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Uranographie Chinoise

Gustaaf Schlegel's Uranographie Chinoise (1875) is an excellent book for understanding the nomenclatura of traditional Chinese astronomy. Despite some polemical tendencies (don't forget that he was out to prove that "l'astronomie primitive est originaire de la Chine"), it serves as a very solid introduction into the system of traditional Chinese astronomy. We should read it carefully after the first draft is done.

D'Elia is a must!

I have been reading D'Elia's Galileo in China during the translation work, and I think this book needs to be read cover to cover after we finish the first draft of our translation. It is an excellent introduction to traditional Chinese astronomy and provides good translation of some terms.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TWL online!

The full text of the TWL in its First Collectanea of Heavenly Studies-version is available online through the Ricci Institute at University of San Francisco. We should keep this in mind if we want to digitize our translation. The actual web address is kind of long and complex, the simplest way to retrieve this ressource is by google for images of 天问略 (the Chinese title of TWL).

Images of TWL - Wooden Block vs. Movable Type

The Images of the TWL version included in the Imperial Encyclopaedia are definitely different from the ones in other editions, especially the First Collectanea of Heavenly Studies. They also carry legends! I think this is related to the fact that the Imperial Encyclopaedia was printed with movable type (one of the very few works in traditional China to use that technology).

Does the Qiankun tiyi have any images at all? We should check that.

Qiankun tiyi and its relation with TWL

The Qiankun tiyi was the first work introducing Western astronomy to China. It was compiled by Ricci and Li Zhizao and much more ambitious in scope than the TWL. Its main model seems to have been Sacrobosco's Sphaera. How did this work fail? And is its failure related to the composition of the TWL?

In the introduction we have to provide one extensive section on this book.

Disposition of Space in Scientific Texts China vs. Europe

Compared to traditional Chinese texts, the TWL has a lot of headers (some of which are not questions per se). This could be influenced by the European tradition. In order to establish that, we need to look carefully at both traditions and go from there.

Related to that is also the question of interpunctuation - some editions are, some editions are not interpunctuated. Why? Who did the interpunctuation? Marie-Theres discovered btw already one interpunctuation mistake.