Mathematician and missionary; b. Le Mans, France, July 18, 1656; d. Beijing, China, June 28, 1732. At the age of 17 he entered the Society of Jesus. One of six Jesuits selected by Louis XIV to further French influence in China by the advancement of religion and science, Bouvet arrived at Beijing on Feb. 7, 1688, where he was received and retained at court as royal mathematician by the Emperor Hsüan-Yeh. He made a visit to France from 1697 to 1699 to carry presents between emperor and king and to recruit more Jesuits for the mission. From 1708 to 1715, he prepared a geographical survey of China. His services to the emperor did much to facilitate the religious ministry of the Jesuits. He cooperated with four fellow missionaries to obtain from Hsüan-Yeh an official pronouncement that certain Chinese ceremonies in honor of Confucius and the dead were without religious significance. Besides his works on mathematics, he compiled a Chinese dictionary. His unpublished letters include correspondence with Leibniz. His most well-known work, Portrait historique de l'Empereur de Chine (Paris 1697), was subsequently translated into English, Dutch, German, Italian, and Latin, the last by Leibniz in 1699.
Bibliography: c. sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus (Brussels-Paris 1890–1932) 2:54–58; 8:1896; 12:970. a. de bil, Dictionaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912–) 10:275–276. a. h. rowbotham, Missionary and Mandarin: The Jesuits at the Court of China (Berkeley 1942). c. cary-elwes, China and the Cross: A Survey of Missionary History (New York 1957). k. s. latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (New York 1929).
[j. v. mentag]
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