Premare, Joseph-henri

Premare, Joseph-Henri a French Jesuit, was born about 1670 in Normandy. March 7, 1698, he embarked with several other Jesuits at La Rochelle to preach the Gospel in China. He arrived Oct. 6 at Suneian, and addressed, Feb. 17, 1699, a relation of his journey to pere La Chaise, with a descriptive notice of the countries he had visited. As soon as lie had mastered the Chinese language he made a careful study of the antiquities and literature of the country. Though he expressed some strange ideas, it cannot be denied that his erudition was considerable, and that he thoroughly knew the philosophical works of the Chinese. He died at Peking about 1735. He left, Recherches sur les Temps anterieurs a ceux dont parle le Chou-King et sur la Mythologie Chinoise, published by Deguignes in the translation of the Chou-King, by pere Gaubii, in the form of a preliminary discourse (Paris, 1770, 4to): — a number of other works, three of them in Chinese: — The Life of St. Joseph, the Lou-chou-chii, or true sense of the six classes of characters, and a small treatise on the attributes of God, inserted in the Notitia linguae sinicae, which is the best of all those composed hitherto by Europeans on this subject: — several other treatises in Latin and in French, preserved among the manuscripts of the National Library of Paris, where we find also the originals of several letters of pere Premare. Three letters of this missionary were published in the Lettres edifiantes, and a fourth in the Annales encyclopediques of Klaproth. He translated also a drama, Tchao chi Kou-cul (the Orphan of the House of Chao) which furnished to Voltaire some ideas for his Orphelin de la Chine. See Lettres edifiantes, vols. 16 and 21; Catalogue de Fourmont l'aine. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, s.v.

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