Three Eighteenth Century Portuguese Jesuits in China Revisited: André Pereira, Domingos Pinheiro and Félix da Rocha
This contribution focuses on three 18th-century Portuguese missionaries of the China mission. It gauges especially the relationship between their education in Portuguese Jesuit colleges and their activities in China, particularly with regard to the Qintianjian (Beijing Bureau of Astronomy, including the Observatory). It tries notably to ascertain whether the attempts to improve the level of mathematical instruction in the Jesuit colleges since the 1690s had indeed an effect on the Portuguese missionaries sent to the Beijing Court. These three analyses – partly hampered by our incomplete information – suggest that there was not a linear correlation between education and commitments inside China: A. Pereira never succeeded in replacing Kögler, and the best mathematical talent (D. Pinheiro) was committed only to administrative and logistical functions, not to the Observatory; Da Rocha got his engagements from the Chinese-Manchu authorities. This apparent lack of interest from the Portuguese Jesuit authorities in assigning competent Portuguese Jesuits for an efficient management of the Qintianjian explains also the disapproval of the German astronomers in the Bureau (A. von Hallerstein; Fl. Bahr) towards their Portuguese colleagues.
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