Florence C. Hsia. Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China (2009)

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Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in
Late Imperial China

Florence C. Hsia

Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 15, 2009)

"During the seventeenth century the Jesuits-renowned for their
technical expertise and envied for their ability to gather data all
over the world-emerged as an important voice in the early modern
scientific community. In the eighteenth century they ceased to have
this sort of intellectual authority and ultimately ceased to be a
religious order. Sojourners in a Strange Land reconstructs the
fascinating story of the place of science in the French Jesuit
missions in China. Florence Hsia's book offers a thoughtful and
stimulating account of the politics of science and faith in the early
modern world. She creatively reconstructs a culture of long-distance
collaboration and conversation in the making of knowledge between
Europe and China."-Paula Findlen, Stanford University (Paula Findlen )

"In this ingenious and erudite book, Florence Hsia explores the
multiple routes along which the Jesuit missionaries took their message
to seventeenth-century China. She shows how their attempted self-
depictions as 'missionary-scientists' and 'Jesuit mandarins'
ultimately backfired amidst the harsh realities of Qing dynasty court
politics, European rivalries, and the intellectually competitive
French Academy. By artfully combining history of science with
intellectual history, religious studies, the history of publishing,
and group biography, she brings new perspectives to this absorbing
period of Sino-Western history."-Jonathan Spence, author of The Search
for Modern China (Jonathan Spence )

"Sojourners in a Strange Land is a game-changing book that gives us a
significantly refigured account of the last important phase of the
Jesuit mission to China. Beginning in the 1680s, a small group of
French Jesuits, supported by Louis XIV and the Acadamie, went east to
China as men of science as well as Christian missionaries. Instead of
merely transmitting established knowledge, their charge was to acquire
new, scientific knowledge on their voyages to and sojourns in the
strange land on the other side of the world. This book demonstrates
for the first time the particular historical circumstances in which
missionary-scientists, through their formal, 'curious' letters,
educated Europeans more than they did the learned men of the Qing
empire."-Willard J. Peterson, Princeton University (Willard J.
Peterson )

"Sojourners in a Strange Land will be an essential addition to the
literature on the encounter between China and Europe in the
seventeenth century and the role played by scientific knowledge in
that encounter. It is a subtle, erudite, and highly readable account
of this complex episode in seventeenth-century world history." -
Nicholas Dew, McGill University"

"This admirable book is more than the most comprehensive study of the
scientific contributions of the French Jesuits in Qing China; it is
also an insightful analysis into the cultural productions of the
Jesuit missionary enterprise in late imperial China."-R. Po-chia Hsia,
Pennsylvania State University (R. Po-chia Hsia )

"This fascinating book analyzes how the Jesuit scientists on the China
mission presented themselves and their labors to the world at large
and how that self-presentation was received. It at the same time
assesses with a cool eye the Jesuits' scientific accomplishments and
describes the controversies they provoked. Sojourners in a Strange
Land provides a fresh look at a subject often obscured by myth."-John
W. O'Malley, Georgetown University (John W. O'Malley )

Product Description

Though Jesuits assumed a variety of roles as missionaries in late
imperial China, their most memorable guise was that of scientific
expert, whose maps, clocks, astrolabes, and armillaries reportedly
astonished the Chinese. But the icon of the missionary-scientist is
itself a complex myth. Masterfully correcting the standard story of
China Jesuits as simple conduits for Western science, Florence C. Hsia
shows how these missionary-scientists remade themselves as they
negotiated the place of the profane sciences in a religious
Sojourners in a Strange Land develops a genealogy of Jesuit
conceptions of scientific life within the Chinese mission field from
the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Analyzing the printed
record of their endeavors in natural philosophy and mathematics, Hsia
identifies three models of the missionary man of science by their
genres of writing: mission history, travelogue, and academic
collection. Drawing on the history of early modern Europe’s
scientific, religious, and print culture, she uses the elaboration and
reception of these scientific personae to construct the first
collective biography of the Jesuit missionary-scientist’s many
incarnations in late imperial China.

About the Author
Florence C. Hsia is assistant professor of history of science at the
University of Wisconsin–Madison.




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