In general, this essay is concerned with how to understand Confucius Sinarum Philosophus sive Scientia Sinensis (=Confucius). It focused on exploring the Jesuit’s latin translation of Natura (性) in Confucius, in order to answer the following question: how did European readers understand Confucius in the 18th century. According to my reading, the concept natura (性) is used to have three meanings: (1) pure reason in terms of religio naturalis, (2) primary matter in terms of physica, and (3) providence faculty in terms of Pu-Ju (補儒) doctrine which means that “it (sc. Christianity) supplements and perfects what is wanted in our master Confucius and our philosophy and literatures.” Based on this, I have made three comparisons between the natura-concept of Confucius and that of Aquinas, Lucretius and stoic philosophers to whom Cicero and Epictetus belong. The result of my comparisons comes to a new fact that the persona moderna of the Enlightenment might be based in part on Confucius’ natura-concept and in part on Cicero’s encyclopedic idea of orator perfectus. For this, I compared Cicero’s thought of orator perfectus with Confucius’ idea of vir perfectus.
As for the question of how to read Confucius, however, Zhang Si-Ping (張西平), a leading scholar in China argues in the following. First, Confucius is to be read in the perspective of Christianity. Second, Confucius is the answer to the ritual discussions in the 17thcentury. Third, Confucius is a text which takes a critical position on especially Neo-Confucianism. In brief, Zhang concludes that Confucius is a product of misreading and misunderstanding of Chinese classical texts, but a significant contribution for studying the interrelated history of China and Europe. Grosso modo, I agree with Zhang’s arguments. There are, however, three points on which I do not agree. First, Jesuit’s missionaries tried to read Chinese original texts of Confucius in the eye of Christianity. On the other hand, however, Confucius is full of termini technici of Stoic philosophy. In this regard, in my opinion, there was no need then to say about PU-JU doctrine additionally by Siu Paulus (徐光啓). Second, Zhang maintains that one has to be cautious in the interpretation of Confucius because it is a metamorphic text. I think, however, the question is how to approach this metamorphic text. For this, Zhang suggests to readers to have some basic understanding of Christianity. In my view, here should be added some profound understanding of western philosophy, particularly of Hellenistic philosophy, because the problems of metamorphosis of Confucius mostly resulted from the so-to-say abutio-problem during borrowing termini from e.g. Cicero’s terms. As for Zhang’s estimation on Confucius, finally, I am not sure whether it is a product of misreading because, according to my keen reading of the Latin original text, Confucius is actually a metamorphosis text in Ovidius’ viewpoint but a hybrid text because it allows at least three ways of interpretation. One of them is a reading with help of Chinese original text, e.g., with the Zhu Xi (朱熹) edition. The second of them is a reading through comparison with western classical texts, in order to see how they are different from each other. The last is an independent way of reading from both sides. The conclusion which results from this is that we need to regard Confucius not as a translation but as a kind of original text. Therefore, I suggest to read Confucius and to follow some free reading ways of those who did not know anyway but could not learn Chinese Characters in the 17th-18thcenturies, such as Christian Wolf.