Posted August 2nd 2018

Exhibition: Shen Fuzong, the first Chinese visitor to Oxford

We are delighted to announce that St Hugh’s will be hosting a ground-breaking exhibition about Michael Alphonsus Shen Fuzong, the first Chinese visitor to England known by name, between 8 October and 14 December 2018 in the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building. We are deeply grateful to our sponsors, Trevor and Dominica Yang, for making this exciting project possible.

Focusing on the six weeks Shen spent in Oxford with Thomas Hyde, Bodley’s Librarian, the exhibition will feature a life-size portrait of Shen by Sir Godfrey Kneller, commissioned by James II in 1687 and today part of the Royal Collection, alongside exhibits from leading collections and archives brought together for the first time.

Michael Alphonsus Shen Fuzong was a Christian convert, brought to Europe as part of a campaign to gain support for the Jesuit missions in China, to which James II, as a Roman Catholic, was keen to show his favour. The portrait of Shen has long been recognised as one of the glories of James II’s short reign, and a key image in the growing fascination with China in the west.

Together, the exhibits give as vivid and intimate an insight into the mind of Restoration England as the Diary of Samuel Pepys.

Michael Alphonsus Shen Fuzong and Thomas Hyde

During the six weeks Shen spent in Oxford with Thomas Hyde, Bodley’s Librarian, they inspected together the Library’s collection of more than seventy Chinese books, purchased as curiosities over the previous 100 years, which were now with his help being read and understood for the first time. As Shen was brought up a Jesuit, they were able to share Latin as a common language. Hyde was an expert in Oriental languages, and an authority in Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit: now he was to become the first Englishman to receive lessons in written and spoken Chinese.

The exhibition is free and will be open to all, Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm, from the week beginning 8 October. The exhibition will close on 14 December 2018.

It will be held in the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building, St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

Michael Alphonsus Shen Fuzong by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1687. Oil on canvas, 212x147cm. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018