Famous Parallel Figures 1/10: Kangxi and Louis XIV
In this series we look at historical figures from China’s past who have unmistakable Western “equivalents.”
We kick off this short series with Emperor Kangxi and King Louis XIV, who concurrently ruled East and West.
His French counterpart, King Louis XIV (1638-1715) reigned for a whopping 72 years—the longest ruling monarch in European history.
Both began their rule as children. Louis XIV ascended the throne at 4, and Kangxi at 7. Later on in life they would each take the helm of the world’s greatest powers.
The seventeenth century saw much engagement between China and France. Louis XIV developed a keen interest in Chinese culture, in particular fine Chinese pottery. Kangxi, an enthusiastic learner, was eager to study Western medicine, astronomy, and many other subjects, and adored French glass.
Today, if you visit the Palace of Versailles, you will find Louis XIV’s collection of Chinese silks, lacquers, and vases gifted to him by Kangxi.
Simultaneously, some 50 French Jesuits were sent to China during Kangxi’s reign, and they noted striking similarities between Kangxi and Louis XIV. This is where we start seeing the saying that Emperor Kangxi and King Louis were protected by the same angel.
Both monarchs were multilingual. Louis spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin; Kangxi spoke Manchu, Mandarin, and Mongolian. Both led many successful military campaigns, both had a love for learning, and promoted the arts and sciences.
Despite the numerous similarities, we must note that while the humble Kangxi led a most modest life, eating healthy but not to excess, deriving satisfaction from some nuts as a late night snack, Louis was a fan of lavish banquets and of showing off his stocking-clad legs in heels.
And while King Louis XIV had 17 children, Kangxi outdid him with 56!Stay tuned next week for our next installment in the series.