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Visdelou, Claude de


Sinologist and opponent of the chinese rites; b. Château de Bienassis, Pléneuf, France, Aug. 22, 1656; d. Pondicherry, French India, Nov. 11, 1737. He entered the Society of Jesus on Sept. 5, 1673, and was sent to China in 1685. Although he laid the foundations for the celebrated French Beijing mission, he is more renowned as a Sinologist than as an active missionary. When Charles de tournon, papal legate for Clement XI, arrived in Canton, April 8, 1705, Visdelou was the sole Jesuit adverse to the adoption of the Chinese rites. Tournon, who had banned the Malabar rites in India on June 23, 1704, was banished from Beijing by Emperor K'ang-hi for attempting a similar prohibition in China. The legate traveled to Nanjing and there issued a decree on Jan. 25, 1707, obliging all missionaries under pain of excommunication to abolish the rites. He also made Visdelou vicar apostolic of Guiyang with the title of bishop of Claudiopolis. Against the opposition of his Jesuit superiors, Visdelou was consecrated at Macao on Feb. 12, 1708, and in June of that year moved to Pondicherry. There he lived in retirement with the Capuchins until his death. During these 28 years he wrote on the rites, and composed a chronology of Chinese history, a life of Confucius, and the valuable Histoire de Tartarie.

Bibliography: c. sommervogel, Bibliotèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, 11 v. (Brussels-Paris 18901932) 8:838843.

[e. d. mcshane]

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