Central-European Jesuit Scientists in China, and Their Impact on Chinese Science


  • Stanislav Jože JUŽNIČ Professor




China-based Jesuits, Central European Educational Network of Jesuits, Hallerstein, Ljubljana


This article describes nine Central European Jesuits from the Austrian province who embarked for China in the 17th and 18th centuries. Their European educational networks provide useful insights into the abilities of the absburg Monarchy to meet Chinese Imperial demands. The focus is on feedback of their adopted Chinese network back to their own homes. The Europeans and Chinese-based Jesuits exchanged instruments, books, artifacts, and letters. The exception was Johannes Grueber, who personally traveled back to Europe accompanied by Diestel from Carniola, and helped Athanasius Kircher to produce the appealing legend of Jesuit astronomical heroes in Beijing.

The Jesuits acted as intermediate in the exchange of know-how between Europe and China. In modern Chinese eyes they were also somewhat viewed as spies, who helped European military and economic victories in the mid-19th century. Modern China is now as strong as it was in the times of Old Jesuit Society, therefore the Europocentric history of science must be rewritten from the standpoint of today’s winning Chinese economy. What kind of science will Western Civilization import from the future Chinese literati? The Jesuits’ transfer of European Sciences to the Far-Easterners caused the reverse impact from seemingly less developed centers of Far East that was felt in Jesuits’ times, but much more is to follow in the near future. We could expect the fundamental future Chinese achievements in cosmology, especially in Einstein’s general theory of relativity.


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How to Cite

JUŽNIČ, S. J. (2015). Central-European Jesuit Scientists in China, and Their Impact on Chinese Science. Asian Studies, 3(2), 89–118. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2015.3.2.89-118