Jean Joseph Marie Amiot

Jean Joseph Marie Amiot bigraphy, stories - french sinologist and missionary

Jean Joseph Marie Amiot : biography

February 1, 1718 – October 9, 1793

Jean Joseph Marie Amiot (Chinese: 錢德明, Pinyin: Qian Deming; February 1718 – October 9, 1793) was a French Jesuit missionary.


Joseph Marie Amiot was born at Toulon. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1737 and was sent in 1750 as a missionary to China. He soon won the confidence of the Qianlong Emperor and spent the remainder of his life at Beijing. He was a correspondent of the Académie des Sciences, official translator of Western languages for Emperor Qianlong, and the spiritual leader of the French mission in Peking.Alain Peyrefitte, "Images de l’Empire Immobile", p.113 He died in Peking in 1793, two days after the departure of the British Macartney Embassy. He could not meet Lord Macartney, but exhorted him to patience in two letters, explaining that "this world is the reverse of our own".Alain Peyrefitte, p.113 He used a Chinese name (錢德明) while he was in China.


A page from Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences et les arts des Chinois, 1780. Amiot made good use of the advantages which his situation afforded, and his works did more than any before to make known to the Western world the thought and life of the Far East. His Manchu dictionary Dictionnaire tatare-mantchou-français (Paris, 1789) was a work of great value, the language having been previously quite unknown in Europe. His other writings are to be found chiefly in the Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences et les arts des Chinois (15 volumes, Paris, 1776–1791). The Vie de Confucius, the twelfth volume of that collection, was more complete and accurate than any predecessors.

Amiot tried to impress mandarins in Beijing with Rameau’s harpsichord pieceThomas Christensen, "Rameau and Musical Thought in the Enlightenment", Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-42040-7. Page 295. Les sauvages, a suite that was later reworked as part of Rameau’s opera-ballet Les Indes galantes. website (accessed 9 March 1010).

See: Ching Wah LAM, "A Highlight of French Jesuit Scholarship in China: Jean-Joseph-Marie Amiot’s Writings on Chinese Music", CHIME, Journal of European Foundation for Chinese Music Research, Leiden, 2005, 16-17: 127-147.