Memory of Beijing

Discover legacies of European missionaries

In 1267, Kublai Khan (r. 1260-1294) set Dadu (in modern day Beijing) as the capital of his vast empire known as the Yuan (1271-1368). One effect was that Beijing came to replace Xi'an as the central stage for cultural communication with the world. Traveling a long distance by sea or overland, missionaries, merchants, and diplomats began to arrive in this enticing oriental metropolis.

By the late 16th century missionaries sent by the Roman Catholic Church were continuously finding their way to Beijing, gaining permission from Chinese emperors for stays of varied duration. While holding religious aspirations, they brought with them knowledge of art and science, and on their return introduced their Beijing experience to their colleagues and others in Europe through diaries, letters, and memoirs. Their writings, drawings, and translations evoked Europe's imagination about the oriental empire and encouraged Europe to discover various aspects of China. These people, especially the Jesuits during the late Ming (1368-1644) to the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), contributed greatly to trans-continental cultural communication.

Follow us to trace the legacies these groups of foreigners have left in Beijing.

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