Article ID: CBB120398438

A Forgotten Friendship: How a French Missionary and a Manchu Prince Studied Electricity and Ballooning in Late Eighteenth Century Beijing (2018)


After the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, the French missionary Joseph-Marie Amiot, last of the great Jesuit scholars of China, befriended the Manchu prince Hongwu 弘旿, court artist and cousin of the Qianlong emperor. Hongwu became the most enthusiastic local patron of the ex-Jesuits still living in Beijing, helping them with research and providing them with information. Together, Amiot and Hongwu discussed new developments in natural philosophy, from electrical medicine to gas balloons. They conducted experiments in the Jesuit’s quarters at the North Church and in the prince’s nearby mansion, drawing on European and Chinese traditions alike to explain them. In the end, they concluded that their investigations were socially and politically dangerous, so they decided to keep them secret. It has generally seemed that the missionaries who remained in Beijing toward the end of the eighteenth century had few local encounters and failed to communicate contemporary natural philosophy; the story of the friendship between Hongwu and Amiot is a notable exception, revealing that cross-cultural exchange remained possible.

Included in

Article Huiyi Wu; Alexander Statman; Mario Cams (2018) Focus Introduction: Displacing Jesuit Science in Qing China. East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine (pp. 15-23). unapi

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Christopher Cullen; Catherine Jami; (2020)
Christmas 1668 and After: How Jesuit Astronomy Was Restored to Power in Beijing (/isis/citation/CBB017218563/) unapi

Book Hsia, Florence C.; (2009)
Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China (/isis/citation/CBB001020040/) unapi

Article Giuliano Mori; (2020)
Natural Theology and Ancient Theology in the Jesuit China Mission (/isis/citation/CBB795207474/) unapi

Book Južnič, Stanislav; Zhou, Pingping; (2014)
Liu Songling: jiu Yesu hui zai Jing zui hou yi wei wei da de tian wen xue jia (/isis/citation/CBB001551222/) unapi

Article Anagnostou, Sabine; (2002)
Jesuit Missionaries in Spanish America and the Transfer of Medical-Pharmaceutical Knowledge (/isis/citation/CBB000740636/) unapi

Article Puente-Ballesteros, Beatriz; (2011)
Jesuit Medicine in the Kangxi Court (1662--1722): Imperial Networks and Patronage (/isis/citation/CBB001221357/) unapi

Article Sun, Chengsheng; (2011)
The Transmission of Crystalline Spheres Theory to Late Ming China and Its Influence (/isis/citation/CBB001210026/) unapi

Thesis Tian, Xiaoli; (2011)
Relocating Science: Medical Missions and Western Medicine in Nineteenth-Century China (/isis/citation/CBB001567287/) unapi

Article Yao, Chuansen; (2004)
Astronomy Activities of the Qintianjian during the Qing Dynasty (/isis/citation/CBB000411111/) unapi

Book Hsia, R. Po-chia; (2010)
A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci 1552--1610 (/isis/citation/CBB001202147/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Jami, Catherine
Burns, Susan
Zhao, Dingxin
Glaeser, Andreas
Wu, Huiyi
Yao, Chuansen
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Guangxi Minzu Xueyuan Xuebao
Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences
Social History of Medicine
Korean Journal of Medical History
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago Press
Shanghai san lian shu dian
University of Chicago
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Missionaries and missions
East Asia, civilization and culture
Science and religion
Transmission of ideas
Kangxi, Emperor of China
Ricci, Matteo
Clavius, Christopher
Hallerstein, Augustin von
Yang, Guangxian
Schall von Bell, Johann Adam
Beijing (China)
East Asia
17th century
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
18th century
16th century
19th century
Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644)
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Académie Royale des Sciences (France)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment