Here young Chinese studied Latin, theology, Greek philosophy for a period of three years, and after passing the final exam and being ordered priests, returned to China as missionaries. This means that local debates in Italy and in Europe were ignited by the fuel of the news concerning the thought and wisdom in the far China, which strengthened the interest of Italian intellectuals for Confucius and Confucianism. Moreover Confucius seemed the forerunner of rationalistic approach of the philosophers, as he recommended only moral rules, and warned his disciples to carefully keep themselves far from irrational mysteries and beliefs, or religious fanaticism and clerical influences.
The Enlightenment intellectuals were intrigued by the different attitude in China toward religions and religious organisations, and admired the lack of the religious fanaticism that they reproached to the European medieval history. They emphasized such rationalistic attitude of the ruling class and the social commitment of the Chinese Confucianism, introduced China 12 Cf.
Michele Fatica dedicates great part of his research to study the archives and the documents concerning Matteo Ripa and the early Chinese students who had been brought to Italy. Bayle for instance denied the Jesuit thesis that the Chinese venerated the true God on the basis of a natural religion; the Chinese were instead "superstitious atheists" who had realized an advanced civilization.
Therefore the Chinese constituted a living example of the new ideals, with their deist conception, the cult of the justice, the filial piety, the paternalistic organization of the state, the sense of the natural right. The Confucian order demonstrated also that the theses of the necessity of Divine Revelation for a pacific civil cohabitation of all human beings were groundless.
We can say that this period is really the golden age for the image of China and its Confucian thought and morality in Italy as well as in the whole Europe. Confucius and Confucianism remained an object of great interest in the intellectual word, but for different reasons for which Jesuits had first disclosed Confucianism to Europe.
It is not by chance that in the 18th century Italy shared with the whole Europe the chinoiserie and exoticism in many cultural domains, both in artistic and literary fields. The success was enormous: the king Ferdinand IV set up the event at the Royal Palace, in the celebrations for the arrival of his wife Maria Carolina of Austria and for the visit of his brother-in-law Joseph II.
A complicated love plot involves several characters, such as Liconatte son of Tuberone , Adolfo French nobleman , Ergilla and Kametri Tartar princesses , the sailor Pilottola and the slave Parmetella all Neapolitans. Believed the incarnation of the idol, Pilottola risks even the torture once unmasked. The happy ending involves the formation of two couples, one noble and one plebeian: all finally sail for Naples, in general cheerfulness.
However he changed the characters and the time and place of the action of the original Chinese story, from the 6th century B. On Cimarosa and Metastasio, cf. The theme is familial revenge, but in the perspective of Confucian morality and social hierarchical structure. See W. Moreover, on the 13th August , in the same theatre, L'eroe cinese, libretto by Metastasio, was performed with the music by Domenico Cimarosa. One of the famous Italian poets and dramatists, Vittorio Alfieri , shows an interesting position on Confucius.
In his essay Del Principe e delle Lettere he considers Confucius a great reformer of China, and is full of admiration and respect toward the Chinese philosopher. The Italian writer presents a more complex, almost negative and satirical image of the Chinese great thinker. I lived thousands years ago: you have never heard about me, even my name, if you have not born in China, as your long nose shows. I did not create much: I only sowed a few rays of social truths of peace among my people. His modesty was only false, as he intended to become god. Among the judges, Minos objects that he never used violence or damage people, but the other judge blames that in fact he, by his reforms, necessarily caused violence and death.
This detailed and malevolent description of Confucius by Alfieri was an allusive story for his criticism against the great French philosopher Voltaire, where Confucius is assimilated into him. This interpretation has to be framed in his severe criticism against the French philosopher in the period the Italian writer was writing his comedies. Jefferson: McFarland, I, in prosa e in versi, di Vittorio Alfieri da Asti, Tomo primo, prima edizione italiana, Siena, According to Li Zhi, the founders of schools and religions have all realized that men basically seek fame and immortality, and then, all of them have seduced their followers by pandering these needs, but in this way have facilitated self-deceit see for instance Fenshu.
With the shift of the world economic centres to France, Holland and England, the majority of publications on China, included those by the Jesuits, moved from Italy to other European countries. Still the Italian authors kept themselves informed of the new works on China published abroad,26 and a certain attention was centred on the controversies and the currents that were developed in Europe on the Chinese issue. On the opposite fronts, the "Sinophiles" exalted an ideal China and Confucian system, while the "Sinophobes" presented a negative image of the Chinese reality and thought.
Furthermore, such debates in Italy were influenced also by the powerful Counter-Reformation. Thus, beyond fashions and the diffused gusto for the chinoiserie, in the Italian ideological debate the myth of Chinese values assumed a limited but concrete function on civil reforming policy. For them, China represented a true historical exemplification and model. Gonzalez di Mendozza dell' ord. Et tradotta nell' italiana dal magn. Francesco Auanzo, cittadino originario di Venetia, pubbl. Roma, appresso G. Another work of the same author, Historia de las cosas mas notables, ritos y costumbres, del gran reyno dela China, sabidas assi por los libros delos mesmos Chinas, como por relacion de religiosos y otras personas que an estado en el dicho reyno.
Hecha y ordenada por el muy r. Again, the Polish father Michael Boym, published in Rome the first edition his Breve relazione della China et della memorabile Conversione di persone regali di quella corte alla religione christiana, in Italian, in Short report on China and on the Christian conversion of the royal relatives. III, Naples, I. Later the attitude progressively changes. Genovesi observes: [ Obviously he intended the respect of the law not in the legalist meaning, but as regulation of the various political powers in defence of the citizen. Then Pietro Secchi quotes as example an episode in the life of Confucius, when he 31 Matteo Galdi, Dei Rapporti politico-economici fra le Nazione libere on political-economic relations among free nations , Milan: Maspero, , cit.
Bartolo, , Part I, p. Everybody admired this decision and its generous intent. Confucius on the contrary decreed to abolish the effects of this will, as he considered it against the ancient rules. Instead, he assigned half of the patrimony to a new established pottery factory and half to the community finances, in order to decrease the public debt and thus taxes. The basic thesis is that emulation and the urge to overcome difficulties are good for the individuals and the state, and that the initiative spirit is discouraged by indolence and laziness: for the general benefit of the community the industry to earn and be autonomous should be encouraged, instead of passive sinking into welfarism.
Assisting those who are old or in real needs is a good action, but to offer free assistance to everybody, discouraging people to try their best to earn their life, is fomenting laziness, mendicity, and parasitism, is bad for the country and its economy. Practically the author gives a lesson on the working of the market by paraphrasing the Chinese commentary, and Confucius is presented as a liberal politician who has given a support to production and a decrease of taxes, a prophet of the free market.
On the other side, the episode is described so in detail that it would be strange that he would have fabricated it. Roberti, Del leggere libri di metafisica e di divertimento trattati due. Con Prefazione sopra un Libro intitolato: 'De la Predication' par l'auteur du Dictionnaire Philosophique aux delices Two treateses on reading metaphysical and leisure books , Milan: Stamperia Marelliana, , p. Voltaire, or someone of those gentlemen, will answer back that the Chinese have a Confucius who is worth one thousand spinning wheels, and that this Confucius has written comedies, tragedies, philosophical, historical and theological books, and so on, much better than French books.
Of course the idealistic picture of Chinese society, as well as its negative and malevolent representations, did not intend to deeply enquire on the real situation of that far country and its morality, but were rather clearly addressed to Italian intellectuals and politicians, for or against a model to stimulate the reforms of institutions and introduce a new and more open society.
XVI, Rovereto, 15 maggio , repr. II, p. Like Hume, also in Giambattista Vico the idea of God is introduced on the basis of the psychological assessment of the need for reassurance on unforeseen events. The religious symbols are a human construction, an artifice. Roma I, , pp. For instance, a reformist like Genovesi did not avoid criticism against those cruel practices, like some punishments, and in his Discorso sopra il vero fine delle lettere e delle scienze, On the true aim of literary and scientific studies, asserted that: Although the Chinese are neither a barbarian nor an ignorant nation, are not however so sage and happy like some writers wanted to present us.
When they saw our clocks and our machines, parts of our philosophy, recognised that Europeans were men with a superior nature, similar to them. The writer abbot Pietro Chiari ironically contrasted the prejudices against China and Confucianism.
According to his cosmopolitan attitude, he refused the despicable prejudice that considers the birth place as the only glorious, illustrious, wonderful place, prejudice common to the European as well as the Chinese, and common in every place is human nature: all human beings are similar in their virtues, but above all in their vices, prejudices, ignorance, imposture.
Christian faith and values; b. Its aim is to stress the variety of subjects and ideologies. It is necessarily schematic; for instance some subjects belong to others, like Jesuits to European elites and to the church; moreover some of the writers like Alfieri changed B presents the sequence of the main intercultural and hybridisation effects. On the other side, the image of Confucius has been a kind of mirror through which several ideological currents identified their ideals, or elaborated a model according to their wishes, lending to it their values and ideas.
China and Confucius became object of debate as symbols of values and disvalues elaborated in Europe.
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In any ideological debates myths and scapegoats are very important, as loci where to indirectly concentrate evil or good, values and disvalues. Italian thinkers projected their own dreams or nightmares, recognized their idols and demons in this far moral doctrine of Confucianism. Didaskalia The Journal for Ancient Performance. Dionysus ex Machina Rivista online di studi sul teatro antico. Drammaturgia Rivista multidisciplinare fondata nel Elenchos Rivista di studi sul pensiero antico.
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