Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology

By D. E. Mungello | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE PROTO-SINOLOGICAL ASSIMILATION OF CHINA'S HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY IN THE WORKS OF MARTINI

1. THE BACKGROUND TO FR. MARTINI'S WORKS

Martino Martini ( 1614-1661) was a Jesuit whose chief contribution to the accommodation effort in China was in the areas of geography and history. Sometimes claimed as both German and Italian, Martini was born in Trento, the major city of the Tyrol. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1632 and studied at the Collegium Romanum where he was tutored in mathematics by the eminent polymath, Fr. Athanasius Kircher1. Fr. Martini arrived at Hangchow in 1643 at a time when China was wracked with the Manchu conquest and civil disorder. This disorder had the effect of easing the usual restrictions on travel in China and furthermore made mobility a prudent safety precaution. Martini claimed to have visited seven of fifteen Chinese provinces and though the exact extent of his travels are subject to debate, his personal observations were important to the composition of his famous atlas2.

There is a story that Martini told about his first encounter with the Manchu invaders of Ming China which echoes other stories of Jesuit audacity and facility in dealing with shifting circumstances3. According to Martini's account, this encounter took place while he was in the city of Wenchou in Chekiang province

____________________
1
Athanasius Kircher, China illustrata ( Amsterdam, 1667) preface, p. 1.
2
Martini made his claim of visiting seven Chinese provinces at the conclusion of the preface to his Novus atlas Sinensis ( Amsterdam, 1655) p. 26. However, he did not identify these seven provinces by name. The Chinese scholar Ma Yong disputes the claim of Hsü Tsung-tse that during the years 1644-1645, Martini traveled widely in the northern provinces, visited Peking and the Great Wall. Mr. Ma claims that at this time, military conditions in north China would have been too chaotic for such an extensive itinerary. Though Fr. Hsü does not note this, the ultimate source of his information concerning Martini's travels was probably Martini's own words in his dedication to Novus atlas Sinensis. See Hsü Tsung-tse, Ming-Ch'ing chien Yeh-su-hui shih-i ch'ü t'i-yao ( Taipei, 1958) p. 384 & Ma Yong, "Chin-tai Ou-chou Han-hsüeh- chia te hsien-ch'ü Ma-erh-ti-ni," Lishi yanjiu 6 ( 1980): 157.
3
This story appeared in some later editions of Martini De bello tartarico, including the Latin edition published at Amsterdam by Johannes Janssonius in 1665, pp. 126- 128, and in the version of De bello tartarico appended to No vus atlas Sinensis ( Amsterdam, 1655) pp. 18-19. The story is not found in the first edition of De bello tartarico published at Antwerp in 1654 nor in the French translation of that edition made in Paris by Jean Henault in 1654. The account also appeared in Pfister, p. 257, and in an abbreviated version in Abbé Hue's Le Christianisme en Chine ( 1957) 11, 381.

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