China Baroqueries, ca. 1620: Francisco de Herrera Maldonado on the Chinese Language

Dinu Luca*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the reflections on Chinese language and script included by Francisco de Herrera Maldonado (a minor figure in the Spanish Golden Age) in his little-known 1620 Historical Epitome of the Kingdom of China … By translating and commenting on the relevant contexts from both the Spanish original and its 1622 French rendition, I challenge the critical consensus that sees most of the Historical Epitome as a highly derivative text. I discuss this work’s many novel linguistic perspectives (on character composition, calligraphy, and Chinese grammar) against those in earlier European accounts on China, and emphasise the pioneering position Herrera Maldonado’s work should occupy in a history of European reflections on the Chinese language and linguistic otherness at large. I also argue that Herrera’s language chapter represents a partially failed attempt at building a Baroque spectacle of erudition and Chinese-character-based visual splendour, which anticipates Athanasius Kircher’s better-known efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-609
Number of pages31
JournalSeventeenth Century
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept 2


  • Chinese language
  • Chinese writing
  • Herrera Maldonado
  • Western perceptions of China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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