Confucius and the Mandarins

Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (Paris, 1687) is widely credited as having given the Western world its first systematic and comprehensive presentation of Confucianism. It contains the first complete translations of the Ta Hsüeh, the Chung Yung, and the Lun Yü or Analects. It also includes a list of Chinese kings from BCE 2952 to 1683 C.E., compiled by Flemish Jesuit Philippe Couplet (1624-1693).

Published under the patronage of Louis XIV, the work was intended to promote the work of the Jesuits and contains a map representing the provinces of China with indications of their centres of missionary activity.

Mandarin William Alexander

This illustration of a Chinese civil-servant is from William Alexander’s Costume of China(London, 1805). In the West, the term mandarin is associated with the concept of the scholar-official, who immersed himself in poetry, literature, and Confucian learning in addition to performing civil service duties.