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le Gobien, Charles


French Jesuit, founder of the Lettres édifiantes an important source of information on the history of Catholic missions; b. Saint-Malo, Dec. 20, 1653; d. Paris, March 5, 1708. He entered the Society of Jesus on Nov. 25, 1671. After teaching for a number of years in Jesuit schools in Tours and Alençon, he became procurator for the Chinese mission. To arouse interest in the work of the Jesuit missionaries, in 1697 he published a letter on the progress of religion in China. That was followed in 1698 by a history of the Chinese emperor's edict in favor of Christianity with an explanation of the chinese rites honoring Confucius and the dead, and next by an account in 1700 of the Catholic missions in the Marianas Islands. Then in 1702, Gobien began the Lettres édifiantes, an annual publication of selected letters from Jesuit missionaries in China and the East Indies. He continued as editor of the first eight volumes. The entire collection of 36 volumes was reissued about four times; and M. L. Aimé-Martin published an abridged French edition entitled Panthéon Littéraire (183843). Some of the letters were translated into English in 1714 and German in 1720.

Bibliography: c. sommervogel, Bibliotèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, 11 v. (Brussels-Paris 18901932) 3:15121515; 9:417; 12:1124. c. cary-elwes, China and the Cross: A Survey of Missionary History (New York 1957).

[j. v. mentag]

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