Sinicae historiae decas primas

A history of China in ten parts

The Jesuit Martino Martini (1614-1661) was a missionary in China who also worked an historian, an astronomer and a cartographer. He was also chosen to represent the mission in Europe as the mission’s procurator. He had the special task of defending the Society in what seemed to be a dangerous development, something that subsequently became known as the ‘Chinese Rites controversy.’

He carried a number of manuscripts back with him to Europe, including a new atlas of the Chinese kingdom, which was published in 1655 in Amsterdam by the influential printing house run by the Blaue family. He also had printed the first part of an envisaged history of China that sought to show that Chinese history was linked with European Christian history. This work was also published in Amsterdam by the Blaues in 1659. Only the first part of a projected ten part series appeared.

Martini returned to China, and worked in Hangzhou. Here he designed and oversaw the bulk of the construction of a new church, which was based on Roman style designs and elaborately decorated.