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An insight into Jesuits in China

Sinologists have paid a lot of attention to the documents and writings of missionaries to understand more about this huge country and its historical development. A new contribution in this direction is offered by Wu Yinlan in a book about a Baroque writer and an official historian for the Jesuits in the 17th century, Daniello Bartoli.

La Cina of Daniello Bartoli (The China of Daniello Bartoli) is important reading for all those that wish to make sense of the crucial relationship between the Middle Kingdom and the Jesuits.

Bartoli (1608 to 1685) was the author of On the History of the Society of Jesus, which tells the story of the Jesuits from the death of St. Francis Xavier (1552) to the centennial anniversary of the foundation of the society (1640). There is little doubt about the role of the Jesuits in the evangelisation of China and also the special role that some Italians had in this process: Matteo Ricci, Alessandro Valignano, Michele Ruggieri, among others.

After the first wave of Franciscans, Jesuits were a new force in 16th and following centuries.

The book is a valid introduction to Bartoli himself, an extraordinary character admired by great Italian writers like Giosuè Carducci, Vincenzo Monti and Giacomo Leopardi.

His historical profile is outlined in chapter one. In the second chapter, Wu introduces the work of Bartoli in the historical context of his time.

The third chapter gives a closer look at his historical method, remembering that he never visited China or many of the other countries he was describing. This is followed by a comparative analysis and a final evaluation of the whole work.

I think that Wu’s book is certainly an important introduction to Bartoli, Ricci and to the work of the Jesuits in China. It should be in the library of all sinologists and lovers of Catholic and Chinese history (Urbaniana University Press in Italian).



 • Aurelio Porfiri