The history of the early Jesuits in China
In the history textbooks of Chinese middle school students, there appear only the names of two foreigners, Marco Polo and Matteo Ricci. Marco Polo who came so long ago and left no lasting influence on China is no more than a legendary figure. Not so Matteo Ricci: his Chinese name pops up in thousands and thousands of references where scholars and experts review and discuss the many contributions to China made by this Italian priest.
Anyone who seriously studies recent China history, its first steps toward the modern world and its place on the international stage will encounter frequent mentions of “western learning”, “western scholars” and “western missionaries”. Among these references one will often find the “Society of Jesus” and “Jesuits”. Most people can guess that these names are somehow connected to Christianity, but beyond this they have little idea.
In this website you will read about the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Catholic Church. The priests and brothers who are its members, commonly called “Jesuits”, are not monks who spend their entire lives in the confines of their monasteries. Quite the opposite, they go to wherever they are needed, use whatever method they feel they can morally use to propagate the gospel and be of service to others. In this section we focus on the Jesuits and their relation to China.