In the Service of the Emperor: Félix da Rocha S.J. (1731-1781) and Qianlong's "Ten Great Campaigns"
In the mid-late 18th century the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799) launched a number of great military campaigns in order to expand the Qing control over new territories on the north and south western part of his empire, as well as over the Tibet-Himalayan region: they have been recorded as the “Ten Great Campaigns” (Shi quan wugong 十全武功). The results of these winning campaigns were the acquisition of new territories and the submission of people, primarily the Zunghar tribes and the Khambas of Sichuan, to the Qing empire. Such an endeavor had its cost in number of lives and military expenditure. During this time some Jesuit missionaries living at court in Peking were involved on a few occasions in the emperor’s agenda. In particular, the Portuguese fathers Félix da Rocha and José de Espinha, following in the footsteps of their fellow brethren almost a century earlier, at the request of the emperor not only drew maps of his new domains, but also cast cannons for one of his campaigns. In doing so, Qianlong followed the example of his predecessor Kangxi in using the scientific and technical skills of the court Jesuits in order to secure his victory and control over new conquered territories. This paper focuses mainly on Félix da Rocha’s undertakings in the service of Qianlong, both as a map-maker and as an expert in ballistics and cannon casting. At the same time, it aims to show how in the 18th century the Qianlong emperor followed the example of his grandfather in his relationship with the Jesuit missionaries at court and their scientific knowledge.
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