The Jesuit China Missions

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Jesuits, Missionaries, China, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Matteo Ricci, Johann Adam Schall


The Society of Jesus (Jesuits), founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III in 1540, was a religious order that aimed to spread education and the Catholic faith around the world. Ignatius spent his early life in Spain as a page in the Velazquez household and later became a soldier. These career choices eventually led him down the road of a more educational and saintly life. During his time in university, he met six of his soon to be Jesuit companions; one of which being Francis Xavier, a key player in the China missions. Xavier traveled to multiple places in Asia, including India, Malacca and Japan. He was very successful with his missionary goals in India and Malacca but could not make his original methods work in Japan. It was then that he realized the key to success in Japan was through China since Japan looked to China for insight. One of the founding figures in the China Jesuit missions is Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. He paved the way by immersing himself in the culture and language of the Chinese people and translating European scholarly books into Mandarin. Ricci’s vast knowledge on a variety of disciplines from his years at a Jesuit college, along with the gifts of European inventions he would bring, allowed him to integrate into a country previously unwelcome to foreigners. The foundation Ricci lay aided future Jesuit missionaries such as Johann Adam Schall von Bell by providing connections to Chinese scholars and powerful individuals within the imperial palace. Schall was then able to establish himself within the dynasty and eventually was granted permission by the emperor to preach Christianity freely in China.


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (FHASS)

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