Christmas 1668 and After: How Jesuit Astronomy Was Restored to Power in Beijing

Cullen, Christopher, and Catherine Jami. “Christmas 1668 and After: How Jesuit Astronomy Was Restored to Power in Beijing.” Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 51, n°1, Feb. 2020, pp. 3–50. doi:10.1177/0021828620901887 (consulté le 8 février 2020)

Abstract

This article offers new insights into a series of dramatic events that took place at the imperial Chinese court in December 1668, in which astronomy, politics, and religion all played major roles. Jesuit missionaries had served the Manchu rulers of the Qing 清dynasty as official astronomers since the dynasty seized Beijing in 1644. But in autumn 1664, the Jesuits at court were imprisoned as a result of a prosecution launched by a Chinese scholar, Yang Guangxian 楊光先. After initial sentences of death or banishment on those Jesuits principally concerned had been commuted to house arrest in May 1665, they spent the next few years confined to their residence, while their missionary colleagues elsewhere in China were removed to Canton. As a result of what took place during the months from December 1668 to summer 1669, the Jesuits were restored to imperial favour, and the responsibility for astronomy was once more placed in their hands. In this article, which arises from our research for a book-length study in preparation, we use a number of previously unexploited contemporary accounts in languages including Portuguese, French, Latin, Chinese, and Manchu to reveal a new picture of the close interplay of political and astronomical events that took place during the period of the Jesuits’ rehabilitation by the Qing court.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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