- Isaac Titsingh
Isaac Titsingh (
10 January 1745in Amsterdam– 2 February 1812in Paris) was a Dutch surgeon, scholar, merchant-trader and ambassador. During a long career in East Asia, Titsingh was a senior official of the Dutch East India Company(the " Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie" or "VOC," literally "United East India Company"). He represented the European Asia-wide trading company in exclusive official contact with Tokugawa Japan. He traveled to Edotwice for audiences with the Shogunand other high " bakufu" officials. Later, he was the Dutch and "VOC" Governor General in Chinsura, Bengal. Titsingh worked with his counterpart, Charles Cornwallis, who was Governor-General of the English East India Company. In 1795, Titsingh represented Dutch and VOC interests in China, where his reception at the court of the Emperor Qianlongstood in stark contrast with rebuffs to England's ambassador George Macartney just prior to celebrations of Qianlong’s sixty year reign. In China, Titsingh effectively functioned as ambassador for his country at the same time as he represented the "VOC" as a trade representative.
Titsingh was the commercial "
Opperhoofd" or Chief factorin Japan in 1779-1780, 1781-1783, and 1784. The singular importance of the head of the "VOC" in Japan during this period was enhanced by the Japanese policy of " bakufu"-imposed isolation. [Edo-Tokyo Museum exhibition catalog. (2000). "A Very Unique Collection of Historical Significance: The Kapitan (the Dutch Chief) Collection from the Edo Period -- The Dutch Fascination with Japan," p. 207.] Because of earlier religious proselytizing during this period, no European or Japanese could enter or leave the Japanese archipelago on penalty of death. The sole exception to this "closed door," was the "VOC" "factory" or trading post on the island of Dejimain Nagasaki bay on the southern Japanese island of Kyūshū. In this highly-controlled context, the "VOC" traders became the sole official conduit for trade and for scientific-cultural exchanges. The "VOC" " Opperhoofd" was nominally accorded standing similar to that of a Japanese " daimyo" during the obligatory once-a-year visits of homage to the Shogun in Edo. In such rare opportunities, Titsingh's informal contacts with " bakufu" officials and " Rangaku" scholars in Edo may have been as important as his formal audiences with the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieharu. [Edo-Tokyo Museum exhibition catalog, p. 210.]
In 1785, Titsingh was appointed Director of the "VOC" trading post at
Chinsurain Bengal. Chinsura is up-river from Calcuttaon the Hooghly River, an arm of the Ganges. He seems to have savored the intellectual life of the European community. Titsingh was described as “the Mandarin of Chinsura” (see Mandarin (bureaucrat)and scholar-bureaucrat) by William Jones, the philologist and Bengal jurist. [Jones, W. (1835). "Memoirs of the life, writings and correspondence of Sir William Jones, by Lord Teignmouth." London.]
Titsingh’s return to Batavia (now
Jakarta, Indonesia) led to new positions as "Ontvanger-Generaal" (Treasurer) and later as "Commissaris ter Zee" (Maritime Commissioner).
Titsingh was appointed Dutch Ambassador to the court of the Emperor of China for the celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the reign of the
Emperor Qianlong. In Peking, the Titsingh delegation included Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest[van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus. (1797). "Voyage de l'ambassade de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales hollandaises vers l'empereur de la Chine, dans les années 1794 et 1795;" see also 1798 English translation: [http://ebook.lib.hku.hk/CTWE/B2962471X/ "An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India company, to the court of the emperor of China, in the years 1974 and 1795," Vol. I.] ] and Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes, [de Guignes, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph (1808). "Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l'Ile de France."] whose complementary accounts of this embassy to the Chinese court were published in the U.S. and Europe.
Titsingh's gruelling, mid-winter trek from Canton to
Pekingallowed him to see parts of inland China which had never before been accessible to Europeans. His party arrived in Peking in time for New Year's celebrations. By Chinese standards, Titsingh and his delegation were received with uncommon respect and honors in the Forbidden City, and later in the "Yuang ming yuan" (the Old Summer Palace). [van Braam, "An authentic account...," Vol. I (1798 English edition) pp. 283-284.] Unlike the unsuccessful British embassy of the previous year under Lord George Macartney, Titsingh made every effort to conform with the demands of the complex Imperial court etiquette -- including kowtowing to the Emperor. Neither the Chinese nor the Europeans could have known that this would be the last appearance by any European ambassador at the Imperial court until after the Opium Warsof the next century.
Return to Europe, 1796-1812
Titsingh returned to Europe where, among several other "firsts", he became the first to introduce the unique
Wasan/Euclidean mathematics of " sangaku" to the West. [Association of American Geographers. (1911). " Annals of the Association of American Geographers," (Vol. I) p. 35.] [http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S15/04/04O77/index.xml ...link to "sangaku" overview, Princeton University] [http://www.arsetmathesis.nl/sangatekst.htm ...link to "sangaku" explanation -- digitized photos and geometry graphics (text in Dutch)]
He died in Paris (February 2, 1812), and he is buried in
Père-Lachaisecemetery. His gravestone reads: "Ici repose Isaac Titsingh. Ancien conseiller des Indes hollandaises. Ambassadeur à la Chine et au Japon. Mort à Paris le 2 Février 1812, agé de 68 ans." [Here lies Isaac Titsingh, formerly a councillor of the Dutch East India Company, Ambassador to China and to Japan. Died at Paris the 2nd of February 1812, aged 68 years.]
Titsingh’s experiences and scholarly research in Japan were the genesis for posthumously published books, most notably:
*• Titsingh, Isaac. (1820). "Mémoires et Anecdotes sur la Dynastie régnante des Djogouns, Souverains du Japon, avec la description des fêtes et cérémonies observées aux différentes époques de l'année à la Cour de ces Princes, et un appendice contenant des détails sur la poésie des Japonais, leur manière de diviser l'année, etc.;" Ouvrage orné de Planches gravées et coloriées, tiré des Originaux Japonais par M. Titsingh; publié avec des Notes et Eclaircissemens Par M.
Abel Rémusat. Paris: Nepveu.
*• __________. (1822). "Illustrations of Japan; consisting of Private Memoirs and Anecdotes of the reigning dynasty of The Djogouns, or Sovereigns of Japan; a description of the Feasts and Ceremonies observed throughout the year at their Court; and of the Ceremonies customary at Marriages and Funerals: to which are subjoined, observations on the legal suicide of the Japanese, remarks on their their poetry, an explanation of their mode of reckoning time, particulars respecting the Dosia powder, the preface of a work by Confoutzee on filial piety, &c. &c." by M. Titsingh formerly Chief Agent to the Dutch East India Company at Nangasaki. Translated from the French, by Frederic Shoberl with coloured plates, faithfully copied from Japanese original designs. London: Ackermann.
*• __________. (1834). [Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/
Hayashi Gahō, (1652)] " Nipon o daï itsi ran" [also known as " Nihon Ōdai Ichiran"] ; "ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon, tr. par M. Isaac Titsingh avec l'aide de plusieurs interprètes attachés au comptoir hollandais de Nangasaki; ouvrage re., complété et cor. sur l'original japonais-chinois, accompagné de notes et précédé d'un Aperçu d'histoire mythologique du Japon, par M. J." Klaproth. Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. [http://books.google.com/books?id=18oNAAAAIAAJ&dq=nipon+o+dai+itsi+ran --"Two examples of this rare book have now been made available online: (1) from the library of the University of Michigan, digitized January 30, 2007; and (2) from the library of Stanford University, digitized June 23, 2006." Click here to read the original text in French.]
* Association of American Geographers. (1911). "Annals of the Association of American Geographers," Vol. I. [http://books.google.com/books?id=GR4aAAAAMAAJ&q=isaac+titsingh&dq=isaac+titsingh&ie=ISO-8859-1&pgis=1 ...click here for digitized citation snippet]
* van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus. (1797). "Voyage de l'ambassade de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales hollandaises vers l'empereur de la Chine, dans les années 1794 et 1795." Philadelphia: M.L.E. Moreau de Saint-Méry.
* _______________. (1798). [http://ebook.lib.hku.hk/CTWE/B2962471X/ "An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India company, to the court of the emperor of China, in the years 1974 and 1795," Vol. I.] London : R. Phillips. [digitized by
University of Hong KongLibraries, [http://lib.hku.hk/database/ Digital Initiatives,] [http://xml.lib.hku.hk/gsdl/db/ctwe/search.shtml "China Through Western Eyes."] ]
* Duyvendak, J.J.L. (1937). "The Last Dutch Embassy to the Chinese Court (1794-1795)." "T'oung Pao" 33:1-137.
Edo-Tokyo Museumexhibition catalog. (2000). "A Very Unique Collection of Historical Significance: The Kapitan (the Dutch Chief) Collection from the Edo Period -- The Dutch Fascination with Japan." Catalog of "400th Anniversary Exhibition Regarding Relations between Japan and the Netherlands," a joint-project of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the City of Nagasaki, the National Museum of Ethnology, the National Natuurhistorisch Museum and the National Herbarium of the Netherlandsin Leiden, the Netherlands. Tokyo.
* de Guignes, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph. (1808). "Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l'Ile de France." Paris.
* Jones, William. (1835). "Memoirs of the life, writings and correspondence of Sir William Jones, by Lord Teignmouth." London.
* Lequin, Frank. (2005). "Isaac Titsingh in China (1794-1796)." Alphen aan den Rijn.
* _____. (2002). "Isaac Titsingh (1745-1812): een passie voor Japan, leven en werk van de grondlegger van de Europese Japanologie" Leiden.
* _____. (1990-92). "The Private Correspondence of Isaac Titsingh, 1779-1812." Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben. 10-ISBN 9-050-63057-X; 13-ISBN 978-9-050-63057-3 (cloth)
* "Nederland's Patriciaat," Vol. 13 (1923). Den Haag.
* O'Neil, Patricia O. (1995). "Missed Opportunities: Late 18th Century Chinese Relations with England and the Netherlands." (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington).
* Rockhill, William Woodville. [http://www.jstor.org/pss/1833980 "Diplomatic Missions to the Court of China: The Kotow Question I,"] "The American Historical Review," Vol. 2, No. 3 (Apr., 1897), pp. 427-442.
* Rockhill, William Woodville. [http://www.jstor.org/pss/1833980 "Diplomatic Missions to the Court of China: The Kotow Question II,"] "The American Historical Review," Vol. 2, No. 4 (Jul., 1897), pp. 627-643.
* Screech, Timon. (2006). "Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822." London:
RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-700-71720-X
An'ei-- Japanese era names
Foreign relations of imperial China
Royal Society-- Titsingh was elected to membership in the Society in 1797; and his nomination letter has been posted with other membership records at the Royal Society web site. [http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqCmd=Browse2.tcl&dsqItem=EC/1797/12&dsqKey=RefNo] Those signing that nomination letter were: William Marsden, Henry Cavendish, John Dalrymple, Joseph Correa de Serra, Maxwell Garthshore, William Larkins, John Lloyd, Henry Crathorne, Charles Wilkins.
Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest-- map of overland journey from Canton to Pekin
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