The history of the seventeenth-century Jesuit mission in China is very much like a plant which developed from a common stem of aims into various branches. In this work I trace the development of one branch of that organic growth and its relationship to the early European study of China which I call "proto-sinology". I focus on the branch of the Jesuit mission which built on the foundations laid by Fr. Matteo Ricci and which developed and evolved in the works of Frs. Semedo, Magalhaes, Martini, Couplet and Bouvet. Because of the flexibility and empathy manifested toward China in this line of Jesuit missionary development, I refer to it as "accommodative" or as "Jesuit accommodation".
Although the fundamental aim of the Jesuit mission was directed at proselytizing and converting the Chinese to Christianity, the Jesuits" intellectual inclinations led them to work for this aim through the European dissemination of information about China in order to secure broad-based support for their missionary effort among European savants and princes. This dissemination combined with a high degree of interest among European savants in this "curious land" called China.
The blending of a vast range of interests with amateur boldness of investigation was so characteristic of seventeenth-century Europe that we find these attitudes reflected in a word which appeared throughout the literature of this time -- "curious"1. For Europeans of that age, the word "curious" had little of____________________