People Narrative

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Matteo Ricci and Paul Xu Guangqi (from Athanasius Kircher’s China Illustrata, Amsterdam, 1667).
This site describes cross-cultural exchange. Such exchange occurred because of the connections and friendships that were forged between people.
Tombstones of Jesuit missionaries in Beijing, now located at the Stone Carving Museum.
It can seem as though these connections are things of the past, the stuff of history, found now only in tombstones and fond memory.
Jesuit missionary and scientist Johann Adam Schall von Bell, S.J. (from Athanisius Kircher’s China Illustrata, Amsterdam, 1667).
This site, however, shows that these people and the connections they made live on, not least in the work of cross-cultural exchange that they accomplished.
The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, imagined here in his academic hall (from Prospero Intorcetta et al., Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, Paris, 1687).
Some of the work accomplished during this exchange consisted of informing Europe about legendary Chinese scholars and about ancient Chinese teachings.
The Ancient Observatory in Beijing, also known as the Old Jesuit Observatory where Jesuits like Adam Schall, Liu Yunde and Ferdinand Verbiest worked as astronomers. (Photograph taken by Ian Fairhurst, used with permission).
Some of the work of exchange consisted of taking European knowledge to China, and the physical reminders of this exchange can still be seen throughout cities like Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, for instance.
The Jesuit polymath, scientist and orientalist Athanasius Kircher (China Illustrata, Amsterdam, 1667).
We know now of such exchange because of the fact that letters and reports written by the Jesuit missionaries overseas were collected into books and journals back in Europe, including the famous China Illustrata. The letters back and forth brought together academics from other sides of the globe.
Stamps produced by the Macau postal service to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of Alessandro Valignano’s death in Macau in 1606.
For too long, scholars have focused more on the European side of the ledger, forgetting the help of the Chinese companions and interlocutors. Hopefully this conversation now moves us all beyond Ricci.
Four of the key people deeply involved in exchanges of friendship and culture (from an English translation of Jean-Baptiste Du Halde’s Encyclopaedia, commonly referred to as A description of the empire of China and Chinese-Tartary, London, 1738).
One aim of this site is to show that the cross-cultural exchange was truly a conversation between cultures; it was not an ever-repeating monologue. Friendship between both Chinese scholars and European sojourners was essential.
A waiting woman of the Chinese imperial court (from Athanasius Kircher’s China Illustrata, Amsterdam, 1667).
People in Europe now learnt about daily life in China, as a result of the books produced through the cross-cultural exchange.
A visual representation of a Chinese wedding (from the English translation of Jean-Baptiste Du Halde’s Encyclopaedia, A description of the empire of China and Chinese-Tartary, London, 1738).
Now that the gaze moves beyond Ricci, it is possible to notice the other people described and remembered in the rich cross-cultural exchange: emperors and kings, fisherfolk and farmers, brides and scholars.
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