This website and database aims to introduce readers to the Jesuitica Collection at the Burns Library, Boston College, by highlighting books written about China by Jesuit missionaries. (The Jesuitica collection is broader than this, but for the purposes of this website, we have focused on east-west cultural exchange and interaction). Several years ago these books made their way to the shelves of the Burns Library, Boston College, and it is our pleasure to make them available now for readers from San Francisco to Shanghai, Chestnut Hill to Canberra.

About the Jesuitana Collection

The Jesuitana collection contains more than 5,000 volumes published by or about the Jesuits prior to the order's suppression in 1773. The complete collection (including works till the present) contains more than 13,000 volumes. It documents the significant contributions of Jesuits to a wide range of disciplines in the early modern period, including in the fields of mathematics, science, history, travel, philosophy and Biblical exegesis. This website focuses on books that deal with east-west cultural exchange, taking the life of legendary Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) as the main starting point.

Genesis of this Website and Database

The website has evolved over a number of years. It began as an accompanying site to an exhibition of a selection of the books from the Jesuitana collection. That exhibition – Binding Friendship: Ricci, China and Jesuit Cultural Learnings – took place between March and October 2011. It was sponsored by the Jesuit Institute at Boston College, and put together by Fr. Jeremy Clarke, S.J., Lake Coreth, Caitlin Cain, Grace Heisenbottle, and staff from the Burns Library Justine Sundaram, reference librarian and Barbara Adams Hebard, conservator. Students from Fr. Clarke’s history class, HS 306 Beyond Ricci, assisted and Stephanie Hu worked as Fr. Clarke’s assistant and intern during the project.

The Institute of Liberal Arts at Boston College, as well as the Office for the Vice President of University Mission and Ministry, also provided financial support for programs associated with the book exhibition. Fr. Clarke, Lake Coreth and Caitlin Cain edited the exhibition catalog.


All the text on the website has been written by Fr. Jeremy Clarke, S.J., Assistant Professor in the History Department at Boston College. He also selected all the images from various works in the Jesuitana collection (and other rare book collections) of Boston College, and Burns Library staff provided help related to this and other aspects of the project. Furthermore, the site hosts a 54-minute documentary celebrating the life of the Chinese Catholic church.

Links are also provided to two other Jesuit databases which cover a similar period of history: the Jesuitica website at the Maurits Sabbe Library, KU Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium) and the biographical database on the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History at the University of San Francisco Center for the Pacific Rim, College of Arts and Sciences.

Financial Support

The website has been made possible by an ATIG grant (Academic Technology Innovation Grant) awarded to Fr. Clarke, S.J., by the Office of the Provost and the Academic Technology Advisory Board (ATAB), Boston College. 

Project Management

Tim Lindgren, Instructional Designer at Instructional Design and eTeaching Services, Boston College. 

Web Development

This By Them


Unless otherwise stated, the photographs in the exhibition catalog and throughout the website have been taken by Kerry Burke, from Media Technology Services, Boston College.

Book Digitizing

The Boston College Burns Library and the Digital Library Group enabled the digitization of the works made available through the website. It is hoped that more works from the library collections will be made available in the future.


Louis XIV appointed as his mathematicians Guy Tachard (1648-1712) and five others and sent them to Asia. Their journey included Thailand (Siam).

We forget that even commonplace plants had to originate somewhere. Here missionaries describe the properties of a new plant - "rhubarb".

Catholic missionaries at the Chinese imperial court both annotated the music they heard there and introduced Western style music as well.

In 1557 Portugal established a settlement in Macau; it became an important gateway into China, for Jesuits and for traders.