Economic History Workshop: The Jesuits And Chinese Science
In a historical context of the Jesuit mission to China between 1560 and 1820, Professor Chicheng Ma’s lecture will examine the importance of knowledge diffusion in scientific production.
To facilitate their China mission, the Jesuits introduced European sciences to Chinese cultural elites—the Confucian literati. This stimulated the literati toward scientific research. In places where the Jesuits diffused European sciences, the number of Chinese scientific works increased significantly. As a placebo, the Jesuits’ missionary work had no effect on Chinese scientific production. The findings of Ma’s study question the conventional wisdom that the Confucian literati of imperial China disparaged science and Western learning, but demonstrates the importance of the openness to the knowledge frontier in scientific production.