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Confucius in 18th Century Europe


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From a tourist brochure I'm proof-reading

In the 18th century, Confucian thought spread to Europe, exerting substantial impact on the enlightenment movement.

Is this true? What kind of impact? Did Confucius change European history thousands of years after his death?


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Very interesting...

The idea of a mandate of heaven expiring under bad governence fits very well with the enlightenment. Rousseau's idea of a social contract - also fits comfortably - Confucianism is all about social contract. Egalitarian principles are not really a feature of Confucianism but in the Enlightenment some were more equal than others too.

To hold Confucianism responsible for the englightenment would be a very big call.

Here are a couple of quite interesting articles.



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there's a person called 黄嘉略 or Arcade Hoangh/Arcadio Hoamg/Arcadius Hoange been proven as the first chinese been in france(1706), later he became a friend of Montesquieu, but seems there are lack of data online about him.

but i dont think Confucianism had affected europe.

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See the links here :


Voltaire was the pen name of François–Marie Arouet (1694–1778), an Enlightenment writer known for his plays and histories and his acerbic criticism of the French Catholic Church. This set of selections is from his Philosophical Dictionary of 1764. They demonstrate his range of reading, including travel literature about China, but the main target remains religious bigotry and fanaticism, Voltaire’s chief targets throughout his life

and here:


Even the anticlerical philosopher Voltaire was intrigued by what he read about the Chinese. Since Voltaire was intent on attacking the power of the Catholic church in eighteenth-century France, he cleverly used the information about China provided by the Catholics to disprove their more extreme claims. If, argued Voltaire, the Chinese really were so moral, intelligent, ethical, and well governed and if this was largely attributable to the influence of Confucius, it followed that since Confucius had not been a Christian it was obviously possible for a country to get along admirably without the presence of Catholic clerical power.

China and Confucius were mostly used as examples by Voltaire in his criticism against Christian religious intolerance. The enlightenment philosophers' struggle for "equality before the law" and against feudalism was more like legalism than confucianism.

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