Chapter

Who Was That Masked Man?

in Sojourners in a Strange Land

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226355597
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226355610 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226355610.003.0001
Who Was That Masked Man?

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The Jesuits who first made the arduous journey to the mission fields of late imperial China lived a wide variety of lives within the mission. But the most enduring guise they assumed in the Middle Kingdom is arguably the most peculiar: that of the missionary as a man of scientific expertise, whose maps, clocks, astrolabes, and armillaries apparently astonished the Chinese. Jesuit willingness to “become all things to all” tells us something about the preconditions for the various masks that early modern members of the Society of Jesus wore in the course of their journeys through so many mission fields and worlds of profane learning. It tells us little, however, about how and why certain “personations” became part of the Society of Jesus's repertoire. This book investigates the various scientific lives of the China Jesuits from a different perspective: their own. It examines how Jesuits in the overseas missions went about telling their stories by providing a genealogy of the early modern “missionary-scientist” that maps the family of personae structuring Jesuit scientific lives in the Chinese mission field.

Keywords: Jesuits; China; missionary-scientist; Society of Jesus; personations; overseas missions; scientific expertise; China Jesuits

Chapter.  5335 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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