Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Misrepresentation, Manipulation, and Misunderstandings: The Early Jesuit Mission to China 1580-1610

Frost, Duncan (2017) Misrepresentation, Manipulation, and Misunderstandings: The Early Jesuit Mission to China 1580-1610. Master of Arts by Research (MARes) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:64372)

Language: English
Download this file
[thumbnail of 58MA Dissertation Duncan Frost.pdf]


The early Jesuit mission to China is widely acknowledged as a fusion of two fundamentally different cultures interacting on an equal basis and sharing knowledge about science, religion and the world. The historiography around the mission has already widely examined the misunderstandings that occurred between the cultures. However, a re-examination of the frequently applied label, a 'policy of accommodation', highlights other interpretations. By applying theories on early modern dissimulation, as well as close analysis of Matteo Ricci's The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven and his map of the world, this dissertation concludes that the mission was founded on the rigid control of information and careful selection of which aspects of Western knowledge, geography and religion were to be presented. Evidence presented suggests that the Jesuits, using elements of the practice of dissimulation, concealed certain aspects of themselves and their true aims from the Chinese. Furthermore, they exploited material exchange to ingratiate themselves with the upper echelons of Chinese society. This dissertation argues that Matteo Ricci, whilst demonstrating European cartography and mathematics in his map, distorted certain areas of the map to increase the perceived distance between Europe and China, and also misrepresented the political reality of Europe. The Jesuits' teaching style and method of recruitment of converts was one of esoteric teachings. They withheld information about Christianity, which they knew would not be well received, and only passed knowledge of the mysteries of the Christian faith to those Chinese who had already converted. It can be concluded that the Jesuits operating in China were highly perceptive as to the image of Christianity and Europe they were presenting, and it was with propaganda and the control of information that they sought to cement their position in Chinese society.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Arts by Research (MARes))
Thesis advisor: Loop, Jan
Thesis advisor: Slavin, Phil
Uncontrolled keywords: Jesuit Missions. China. Matteo Ricci. Cartography. Dissimulation. Policy of Accommodation. Missionaries. Early Modern. Esoteric Teachings.
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2017 17:10 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 04:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Frost, Duncan.

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.