Research Spotlight: Jesuits in Qing China

In a special collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, this week’s Research Spotlight features a graduate student from the FSU Department of History.

I am currently working on a conference paper about Jesuits in Qing China. Jesuit missionaries began to routinely visit China since the 16th century, seeking to spread Catholicism in the Far East. They rose to prominence mainly throughout the late 17th to early19th century, after having become employees of the Qing Court (1644-1912) as painters, translators, or even advisors. Although their religious missions were successful only on a small scale, the Jesuits nevertheless broke boundaries in other ways such as introducing to Chinese society Western scientific and cultural knowledges, and vice versa transmitting Chinese knowledges to Europe.  

My research illustrates the cultural contributions of the Jesuit missionaries, arguably the most arresting ones of their respective generations: Matteo Ricci (1552-1610, advisor to Ming emperor Wanli), Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1591-1666, astronomer), Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688, mathematician and astronomer), Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766, artist), and Louis Antoine de Poirot (1735-1813, painter and translator). Having served different—or overlapping—Manchu emperors in the last imperial dynasty of China, these foreign court members transcended the roles of Jesuit missionaries. Due to the country’s overall lukewarm reception of the Catholic faith but interest in western knowledges, the missionaries also came to realize they had more to offer to the Middle Kingdom beyond just their initial objective of evangelization. Jesuit missionaries became the first cultural messenger between the West and China. 

emily lu

Emily Lu is a PhD student in the Department of History at FSU. Her research interests include Jesuit missionaries in early modern China, folk music history, and literary history. You can learn more about Emily here.

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