1 Introduction

Travel reports play an instrumental role in the generation of knowledge of other parts of the world. A traveller is someone who has crossed both the geographical and, sometimes, the cultural border between his own world and something foreign. During this crossing, he becomes curious about the foreign, attempting to fit the newly encountered into his own perception of reality. In writing a report he then attempts to describe the foreign for people who have never encountered it, using vocabulary and concepts his audience would be familiar with. This leads to travel reports often using concepts or language far more closely tied to the land of origin of the traveller than the land or people he is describing. It is therefore not surprising that travel reports are seen as more informative about the author than about the land or people they are written about.Footnote 1 The curiosity about the foreign is derived from his own experiences as well as his background. Mostly, those are things the traveller thinks of as important due to their otherness, significance or their connection to his personal interests. While the initial curiosity defines the areas a traveller is willing to explore, one should also acknowledge the impact of intention. Travel reports were often written with the intent to publish them, sometimes for the individual fame of the author, or, as it is the case in the sources examined in this article, also to further a certain agenda. In order to reach a wide European audience, the traveller aims to answer not only his own, but also the curiosity of the audience. Therefore, travel reportsFootnote 2 are always a reflection of the curiosity and interests of the audience. While the curiosity of the audience generally informs the main trajectory or contents of the book, the curiosity of the traveller becomes visible in the details and the amount of space allocated to the various topics. In this way, the curiosity of both the author and the audience also influences the type of knowledge that is created. This knowledge can be encyclopaedic, covering many aspects of the foreign, attempting to establish general knowledge about it. Alternatively, it can be specialized, with the writer focusing on a certain event or his own travels, supplementing them with wider information as he sees fit. Political agenda is reflected in how the traveller chooses to interpret certain events or how he described certain people. Here, one must be careful to keep in mind that the information available to the author during his travels could also have reinforced certain interpretations and narratives. A definitive judgement can therefore only be made if it can be ascertained that the author had had access to multiple narratives and deliberately chose to follow one or establish a new one. In this way, the twofold curiosity of the traveller himself and the audience he was writing for determines the general structure and focus of the report, whereas intention plays a large role in how the observed facts are interpreted.Footnote 3

This article seeks to examine a highly transformative period for China—the dynastical transition between the Ming and the Qing dynasties and its description in European travel reports. By examining the depictions of the new dynasty in three widely read accounts of missionaries in China, it aims to show how the Chinese Rites controversy, the general success of the Christian mission in China and the individual experiences of the travellers up to and after the year 1644 shaped the missionaries’ curiosity towards the emerging dynasty and their expectations of it. The three sources to be discussed are Martino Martini’s De Bello Tartarico, Adam Schall’s Historica Narratio and Domingo Navarrete’s Tratados historicos.Footnote 4 De Bello Tartarico and the Tratados historicos provide encyclopedic knowledge. In contrast to them, the Historica Narratio provides localized specialized knowledge, concentrated on Beijing and the figure of Adam Schall. All three sources, though to varying degrees, exhibit a curiosity in the dynastic transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. One of the main questions to be answered in this regard was whether this transition was legitimate and whether the new dynasty was a “good” dynasty. Based on their identities as either Jesuit or Dominican missionaries, their experiences of the dynastic transition, their location and the time when they arrived in China, the three sources provide three different answers to this question, thus creating very different knowledge of China under the Qing dynasty.

2 Writing on Religious Travel Writers

At first glance, this collection of sources might be a bit puzzling. Why would one compare writings from two Jesuits and a Dominican? They could not be any more different from one another. Martini writes his account himself, while he is travelling from China to Europe between 1650 and 1654.Footnote 5 Being the first detailed account of the Manchu conquest of China, De Bello Tartarico became widely popular and shaped the European perception of the conquest. Before the end of the century, it had gone through at least twenty-five editions and translations.Footnote 6 The Historica Narratio was created in an entirely different manner. Even though Adam Schall is generally named as the author, this is not entirely accurate. As can be seen in the Admonatio, the book was compiled in Vienna from the letters of Adam Schall by Michael Sicuten, a member of the Society of Jesus.Footnote 7 While there have been speculations that Schall might have been in Vienna at that time, these are unfounded, as Schall was standing trial in Beijing in the Calendar case in early 1665 and was under house arrest in Beijing afterwards.Footnote 8 Schall and Martini were both eyewitnesses to the dynastic transition. Even though they both witnessed the initial stages of the conquest of China and decided to side with the newly emerging dynasty, their depictions of this change are different from one another.Footnote 9 This begs the question where those differences originated. The Tratados historicos provides another perspective. Rather than supporting the Qing dynasty, Navarrete was highly critical of the foreign rulership, invoking the figure of the tyrant of European antiquity to argue for the liberation of the Chinese. There are several reasons for this very different interpretation. Navarrete was Dominican rather than a Jesuit. Furthermore, the European image of the new dynasty had suffered due to a lack of success on the missionary front in the years preceding the publication. Just like the De bello Tartarico, Navarrete’s writings became widely popular and were translated into the major languages in Europe.Footnote 10 Despite being very different, Navarrete’s Tratados historicos is closely linked to Martini’s De Bello Tartarico and to a lesser degree to the Historica Narratio. All aim to defend and cement a particular position in the Chinese Rites Controversy.

In the widest terms, the Chinese Rites Controversy describes the theological debate on questions regarding the methods used by the Jesuits in their Chinese mission. The debate began around the end of the sixteenth century and spans into the eighteenth century.Footnote 11 The methods of acculturation, also referred to as “accommodation”, were initially developed by Allessandro Valignano, Matteo Ricci and Roberto de Nobili.Footnote 12 Their successors and followers were challenged by members of their own order as well as parts of the orders of the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, secular priests and the missions étrangeres in Paris.Footnote 13 While the heart of the conflict (at least officially) was always a theological issue, other sentiments further fuelled the competition between the Jesuits and their opposition. Long-standing disputes between Jesuits and Dominicans as well as envy of the Jesuit monopoly over the mission in China certainly also played their part.Footnote 14 The first escalation of this Controversy took place in 1648, when a group of Dominicans, among them Domingo Navarrete, published a decree of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide condemning the Riccian accommodation methods. In response, Martino Martini was sent to Europe to defend the Jesuit mission from the accusations and look for additional recruits during a time of crisis. He had a vested interest in presenting both the Manchu conquest as well as the Qing dynasty in a positive light. Further doubts on the viability or credibility of the Jesuit mission in China would mean the end of the Riccian accommodation. Twenty-two years later, Navarrete, a member of the Dominican order who had since long ago been at odds with the Jesuits, published his account of the current state of affairs in China, which also contained the history of the Tartar conquest and descriptions of the now ruling Qing dynasty.Footnote 15 Like Martini, Navarrete utilized the dynastic transition to further his agenda. However, instead of supporting the Jesuit mission in China, he meant to denounce it and utilized their support of the Qing dynasty as one avenue of attack. Therefore, I propose to read Navarrete’s work as a somewhat late, but very extensive answer to the arguments brought forth by Martini and Schall in favour of the Qing dynasty from the other side of the Chinese Rites Controversy.

3 Martino Martini and De Bello Tartarico

Martino Martini was born in September 1614 in Trento, the modern-day Italy, which at that point in time belonged to the domain of the Habsburg family. He studied at the Collegium Romanum where he was taught by Athanasius Kircher.Footnote 16 He arrived in Hangzhou in 1643. After the conquest of Beijing by the Manchus, Martini continued to work for the Ming-pretender Longwu in Zhejiang in 1645 and 1646.Footnote 17 When the Manchus captured the province, he was invited by their commander to join their side.Footnote 18 Thus, Martini worked for both the Southern Ming as well as the newly emerging Qing dynasty. This was reflected in his attitudes towards both sides. While he was not antagonistic towards the Ming emperors, he thought of the Qing as a favourable replacement.Footnote 19 Furthermore, he was able to provide detailed, though not always accurate, information on the history of the Manchus prior to 1644 and vivid descriptions of the war between the Qing and the Southern Ming. Martini was declared Procurator of the Vice-Province of China in 1650. He was sent to Europe in 1651 to refute the accusations that led to the decree of 1645 condemning the Riccian accommodation.Footnote 20 Upon arriving in Europe Martini began to publish several books concerned with China, in order to recruit new Jesuit missionaries and “correct earlier impressions of China as infertile soil for the gospel”.Footnote 21 Martini himself wrote that one of the main concerns of the European audience, and one of the reasons for this book was the recurring question of what the “present state of the kingdom of China is”.Footnote 22 Since his other writings were still in need of revision, he published De Bello Tartarico in order to satisfy the curiosity of the European audience.Footnote 23 His account was based on what he had read in Chinese chronicles, eyewitness accounts of other people and what he himself had experienced in the years he has lived there.Footnote 24 As has been mentioned above, asserting the legitimacy of the Riccian accommodation was another, if not the most important, task of his journey. In order to achieve these goals, Martini focused on providing a very positive picture of Qing China and the possibility of converting the empire to the East to Christianity under the new dynasty. Thus, De Bello Tartarico should be seen as part of a propaganda effort of the Jesuits to strengthen their position at a time when their continued success was not entirely certain and their methods publicly in question. While Europe was not completely unaware of the Manchu conquest of China, De Bello Tartarico was the first detailed account of the new conquerors. An earlier account of the circumstances in China was published by Michael Boym in 1653. However, it was focused mostly on the Ming court in the South.Footnote 25 This allowed Martini to shape the European perception of the new conquerors and convince Europe of the benefits of this conquest.

The first advocation in favour of the new ruling dynasty can be found in the dedication. De Bello Tartarico was dedicated to Jan Casimir, king of Sweden and Poland, who had been victorious in the war over the Tartars adjacent to Europe. Martini was quick to point out that while they might be similar, the Tartars he wrote of were more cultured in morals and regiment and “less barbaric”.Footnote 26 Martini continues the comparison to the western Tartars “While those [the western Tartars] have been defeated by your majesty [Jan Casimir], these have been victors in China”.Footnote 27 While he does not explicitly link their victory to their better morals and more civilized behaviour, he advocates to not conquer them with the sword, “but with boons and bestowment so that once they are bound to them, their spirit would soon be conquered as well, and they would recognize and accept the sweet yoke of Christianity”.Footnote 28 He established that they were milder and more cultured than the Tartars Europe had fought, which opened this alternative avenue on how to “defeat” them. Furthermore, the fact that they conquered China was seen as an opportunity for the Christian mission, rather than a threat.

In the salutation to the reader, he used the metaphor of a flame to further illustrate his point of view concerning the war. Just as the flame was fanned by the wind, the Christian faith would be fanned by the war and shine even brighter and enlighten not just the Chinese, but also the Tartars.Footnote 29 Martini reinforced this argument by relating that shortly before he left China, he received knowledge that “not few and among others a prince of the royal family, had broken through the darkness of idolatry and stepped out of the shadows of the underworld”.Footnote 30 It is interesting to note here that the Latin phrase “tenebris vere Tartareis”, meaning “the shadows of the true underworld”, was translated into German as the phrase “from Tartar, or rather hellish darkness”.Footnote 31 This clarification showed that the translator himself was not quite sure whether “Tartareis” was linked to the “Tartars”, or the Latin adjective “Tartareus”, but decided to add this qualifier to ensure that the Tartars would not be seen as the main culprit.

The first two segments of the book presented the foundations of Martini’s argument. The new dynasty was legitimate since their rise was ordained by God and they were not to be seen as a threat to, but rather as an opportunity for the Christian mission. While linked to the barbaric Tartars, they themselves were not barbarians. In order to utilize this opportunity, it was necessary for the missionaries to provide the Tartars with the aforementioned “boons and bestowments” to bind them to Christianity.Footnote 32

The main corpus of the book followed these ideas. Martini recounted the foundation of the Ming dynasty, whose founder he described as a “most worthless man”, who, prior to becoming an emperor, had been a robber.Footnote 33 He discussed the reign of the Wanli-emperor, whose persecution of Christians he identified as one reason for the downfall of the Ming.Footnote 34 While the persecution led to military failures, the cause of the first Tartar invasions was the treachery of the Chinese bureaucrats, who feared the growing number of the Manchus.Footnote 35 Because of these fears, the officials committed crimes against the Jurchen, which leads to the first invasion in 1616.Footnote 36 Thus, the initial military actions taken by the Manchu were legitimized as a reaction to their mistreatment. Martini further reinforced this idea by recounting the sending of what amounts to a letter of complaint, which was “written in the Tartar script, but containing nothing unjustified and no barbarities”.Footnote 37 As Corradini points out, Martini’s description of these events is by no means entirely accurate, and the letter sent to the Chinese court was certainly not “full of quite humble and submissive words”. Following Corradini, this could be explained by the sources Martini had access to. The Chinese court could “not admit […] that a small, and at that time barbaric, king had addressed the emperor in a peremptory discourteous manner”.Footnote 38 Nevertheless, it reinforced Martini’s depiction of the Manchus as a civilized people who were trying to right the wrongs done onto them. This letter, however, was not answered by the Wanli-emperor, who was characterized as a “very prudent” and “experienced” ruler, but instead handed down to the officials, who in their “usual pride” deigned the Tartar king unworthy of an answer, since he was a barbarian.Footnote 39 It was only after this affront that the “barbaric” nature of the Manchu ruler became visible and he vowed to sacrifice two hundred thousand Chinese to serve his murdered father in the afterlife. Martini added that this “barbarian custom” was abandoned and corrected “by itself” after they had conquered China.Footnote 40 The war and invasion deep into the Chinese heartland were seen as divine punishment for this persecution.Footnote 41 Martini’s reasoning for the failure of the Ming dynasty was twofold: their refusal of Christianity and the failures of the officials and the bureaucracy in managing internal and external affairs.Footnote 42 Martini also took note of some of the negative attributes of the Tartars. On one occasion, the Tartars attacked traders outside the city of Liaoyang. While the German translation of 1654 used the adjective “barbaric”, the Latin version contained the phrase “the treacherousness of the Tartars” without directly associating them with barbarians.Footnote 43 The Manchu treatment of the Chinese improved under Huang Taiji, who decided to treat the Chinese better and to receive them kindlier.Footnote 44 Martini lauded this change in the Tartar governmental style writing that he left an example for his successors to overpower China by “friendliness rather than arms”.Footnote 45 Years later, the Manchu ruler gained further prestige by showing “greater prudence, friendliness and other regal virtues” than his predecessors.Footnote 46 This was a case of mistaken identity, as the “new emperor” “zungteus” [Chongde] was not a different person, but rather a new era under the rulership of Huang Taiji.Footnote 47 Martini believed that this “new” ruler had entered China as a child and learned their “morals, letters, teachings and language” and used this knowledge to further improve his predecessors’ model of rulership.Footnote 48 Chongde also realized the negative impact of the cruelty of his predecessors and improved the treatment of the Chinese and even his Chinese prisoners. Thus, he earned the “love and benevolence” of the Chinese and many dukes and governors joined him. It was in this manner that he conquered “a large part of the empire”.Footnote 49 In contrast to this approach, Martini related the strictness of the Chinese, in where a duke or governor had to fear for his life, if something bad had happened under their administration.Footnote 50 This is an interesting contrast, as the allegedly “barbaric” Tartars were presented as ruling gentler and more justly than the strict and oppressive Chinese court. It is, however, important to note that, according to Martini, the impetus for the establishment of this form of government originated from the intense study of China that changed the Tartars.

However, it was not the Manchus, but unrest within the empire that eventually led to its downfall.Footnote 51 Martini recounted the rise of several leaders of such rebels, among others Li Zicheng. Li Zicheng, although denominated as “Leader of the robbers”, was not portrayed in an entirely bad light, as he treated people well and was overall a good ruler.Footnote 52 Martini wrote that he looked after his subjects, lowered the tribute, ordered his new governors to look after the subjects in a friendly manner and treat them as equals. In doing so, he easily retained the conquered regions and was lauded and loved by his subjects.Footnote 53 This was contrasted with the concept of “tyrannical rule”, characterized by extortion that leads to a lack of fidelity in the subjects.Footnote 54 Most of the aspects of a good ruler attributed to Li Zicheng were also present in the description of the Manchu government in Liaodong. According to the categories established by Martini, the late Ming rule can be described as a tyranny. The populace was extorted by greedy officials and many defected to join the Manchus. For Martini, the late Ming dynasty showed elements of a tyranny and the Qing kingdom in Liaodong did not. When Li Zicheng entered Beijing, Chongzhen, who Martini referred to as the “unfortune last emperor of the Ming” committed suicide by hanging himself.Footnote 55 Thus, “the dynasty that had been established by a robber was extinguished by a robber”.Footnote 56 While Martini acknowledged that there were further elected rulers of the Ming, they did not count as emperors, since they only ruled part of the empire.Footnote 57

However, after conquering Beijing with subterfuge and achieving his goal of becoming emperor, Li Zicheng revealed his cruelty and greed and is referred to as “tyrant”.Footnote 58 He was eventually defeated with the aid of the Manchus. Once Li Zicheng was ousted, the Manchus remained in China and eventually claimed the throne without the use of force.Footnote 59 The first emperor to be enthroned in China, Shunzi was described as a six-year-old boy of “great gravitas and majesty” possessing “great counsel and prudence, fortitude and fidelity, which caught the admiration of the Chinese”.Footnote 60 Once again, Martini depicted the Qing ruler as an admirable person who inspired the Chinese to follow him rather than subjecting them by force.

All of this was written from secondary sources as Martini himself resided in Nanjing at that time of the conquest of Beijing. He described the dismay of the Chinese in the South once they received the news that Beijing had been conquered first by Li Zicheng and then the Manchus.Footnote 61 An envoy sent by the newly elected Ming emperor in the South was sent back bearing message that the Tartars were unwilling to enter peace and keep the northern provinces. They would either “possess the entire empire or nothing at all”.Footnote 62 One might have assumed that the election of a new Ming emperor would turn the Qing into usurpers, since they were now in possession of an empire that had an emperor. However, no such sentiments can be found in De Bello Tartarico. Instead, the newly elected Ming emperor caused further internal disputes that allowed the Manchu to conquer Nanjing.Footnote 63 Martini did not shy away from also describing the cruelties committed by the Manchus against those who resisted the conquest. However, he also pointed out that those who did not resist were generally met with friendliness and that the Manchu changed little in how the provinces were governed once they had been conquered.Footnote 64

Clemency towards those who surrendered is a constant in the remaining chapters of De Bello Tartarico, which described the fate of individual cities and provinces. Due to his station in Nanjing during the fall of Beijing in 1644 and his presence in Hangzhou in1645, Martini was able to provide very detailed descriptions of the events in Southern China. It is assumed that he stayed mainly Zhejiang and Fujian province until 1649, when he travelled north to Beijing to be interrogated by the Board of Rites.Footnote 65 Since De Bello Tartarico was meant to describe the Tartar wars in general, Martini hardly ever referred to himself in the book. However, his location still influenced his focus. He was able to provide a very detailed and accurate description of the various conquests and uprisings against the Tartar conquests in Southern China.Footnote 66 Compared to Adam Schall, Martini’s account was far more concerned with the events outside Beijing than with the developments within the capital itself.

Martini created a narrative of the fall of a once-great dynasty, who had failed to admit the Christian religion and suffered the consequences. The new dynasty, while different in origin, was by no means a disadvantage for the Christian mission. Furthermore, the Manchus had abandoned their barbaric rituals and moved towards a just and “good” government, based on Chinese principles and good treatment of their subjects years before they conquered Beijing. Their government was legitimized by their adherence to these principles as well as the delegitimization of the Ming dynasty, who had fallen prey to greed. This was exemplified in Martini’s assertion that those who surrendered received “equal, if not better care under the Tartars than they had had under the Chinese emperor”.Footnote 67 Cruelty, although present, was reserved for those who refused to submit, which was why many of the cities and provinces surrendered willingly to the Tartars. Apart from the cruelty of the military conquest, De Bello Tartarico did not ascribe any “barbaric” properties to the Qing dynasty and took great care to differentiate the Manchus from the more “barbaric” Tartars further in the West. Due to its novelty, the De Bello Tartarico quickly became “the most authoritative and best-known description” of the rise of the Qing dynasty in Europe. However, Martini’s initial depiction of the Qing dynasty as an improvement of the Ming dynasty proved to be rather short lived. New editions of De Bello Tartarico printed in 1660 in Dutch and 1661 in Latin were published under the titles China devastated by the barbarous Tartar: Including the dreadful ruinous war begun by the Tartars in the empire of China and An elegant exposition of the empire of China tyrannically devastated and Ravaged by the Tartars.Footnote 68 These new titles, published even before the indictment of Adam Schall in China in 1664 reflect a change in the perception of the Qing government in China.

4 Johann Adam Schall Von Bell and the Historica Narratio

Just like Martino Martini, Adam Schall was an eyewitness to the Manchu conquest of China. Born in 1592, the German Jesuit had come to Beijing as one of three Jesuits summoned by the Chongzhen emperor in 1629 to work at the newly created Calendar office and had remained there since. During the period of turmoil preceding 1644, Schall was ordered by the emperor to cast cannons for the empire.Footnote 69 When Beijing fell in 1644, Schall was present at the palace and witnessed the sack of the city. Once Li Zicheng, whom Schall also served at his court, had been routed, he offered his services to the new Manchu dynasty and was given a position at the new Directorate of Astronomy and a decree protecting his church from any attacks.Footnote 70 It was Schall’s success in the service of the Qing and the prestige he accumulated there that founded Martini’s optimism regarding the future of the Jesuit mission in China and allowed him to predict a bright future of the Chinese mission in De Bello Tartarico.Footnote 71 However, Schall was not beyond criticism from other Europeans. In 1650, the Jesuits Lodovico Buglio and Gabriel de Magalhães started what Erik Zürcher called an “incredible mudslinging campaign”, accusing him of participating in divinations and moral degradation.Footnote 72 Despite accusations, Schall continued to gain favour with the Qing dynasty, serving as the Director of the Bureau of Imperial Astronomy.Footnote 73 With the death of the Shunzi emperor, Schall lost his close personal connection to the emperor. With this loss of influence came accusatory attacks from other members of the Bureau fuelled by xenophobia or personal jealousy.Footnote 74 These accusations reached their peak in 1664 and 1665 when the Kangxi emperor ordered the arrest and exile of all European missionaries, which constituted a new crisis for the Christian mission in China. The Historica Narratio was published in 1665 by the Jesuits and should be understood as part of their campaign to provide a positive image of the Jesuit mission in China and the dynasty under which the mission operated in a time of crisis.

When examining the Historica Narratio, there are several things to keep in mind. The Historica Narratio was not written by Schall himself, but rather compiled from his letters by Michael Sicuten and revised by members of the Jesuit order.Footnote 75 Therefore, the contents are not necessarily coherent. Martini wrote his De Bello Tartarico as a coherent narrative in 1654, years after he had witnessed the dynastic transition. He emphasized the faults of the Ming dynasty because he already knew that they were going to fall. This is not the case for Schall. When he wrote of the tragedy of the suicide of the last Ming emperor in Beijing, he did not know whether the new kings would prove to be “good” or “bad”. This explains how Schall could both genuinely mourn for the last Ming emperor and provide a very positive image of the Qing. Furthermore, despite being published in 1665, it only covered the time until the death of the Shunzi emperor in 1661. Therefore, the indictment and trial of Adam Schall as well as the Canton exile of the missionaries could not have influenced what Schall wrote in his letters. They could, of course, have influenced Michael Sicuten and the Society of Jesus who commissioned this book. Assessments that Schall’s “interpretation of events, however, does not differ significantly from Martini’s”, are only true in the widest terms. Both writers looked favourable on the Qing and were hopeful regarding the future of the Jesuit mission. Additionally, due to being Jesuits, both had a vested interest in providing good news to strengthen their position in the Chinese Rites Controversy.Footnote 76

While Martini dedicated most of his work to the Manchu conquest, only four of the twenty-five chapters in the Historica Narratio were concerned with the dynastic transition. Most of the book described life and intrigues at the court as well as Schall’s achievements at the Burau of Imperial Astronomy.Footnote 77 The explanation for this discrepancy is twofold: Schall’s location, and the fact that the Historica Narratio was compiled from letters.

Martini was active in the South and is known to have travelled in China; Schall remained in Beijing over the transitional period. Therefore, Martino Martini took much more notice of the progress of the conquest in the South, which had greatly disrupted his work. Schall’s experience of the dynastic transition, apart from the events in Beijing, which make up for three of the four chapters dedicated to the Manchu conquest, must have been comparatively uneventful. Once the Manchus had taken control of the city, Schall’s world returned to normal. This is reflected in the title of the chapter “the renewal of the empire by the Tartars and the careful restitution of the astronomy”. Furthermore, the war against the Southern Ming did not feature at all in the Historica Narratio.Footnote 78 The description of Li Zicheng in Adam Schall was a lot less favourable than the one found in De Bello Tartarico. He expressed outright surprise to be treated well and referred to him as a tyrant, without mentioning his life prior to the conquest of Beijing.Footnote 79

Similar to the depiction in De Bello Tartarico, the last Ming emperor was described as a just ruler who was conspired against by his courtiers and was not informed of the threat until the rebels were at the gates of the city.Footnote 80 Schall characterized the Chongzhen emperor as “the greatest, wisest, most capable and in excellence second to no one in the world”.Footnote 81 The emperor had supported the Christian mission, even if he himself had never abandoned his faith.Footnote 82 Like Martini, Schall referred to Chongzhen as the last emperor of the Ming.Footnote 83 However, in contrast to Martini the elected Ming emperors in the South were not mentioned. Most likely because Schall had little knowledge of their existence and little curiosity in them, since they did not influence the events in Beijing. For him, the suicide of the Chongzhen emperor constituted the end of the dynasty. Another interesting difference is that the Historica Narratio contained more information on Chinese superstition and prophecies concerning the dynastic change than De Bello Tartarico.Footnote 84 This curiosity in Chinese superstition became one of the indictments brought forwards against Schall by Buglio and Magalhães.Footnote 85 The presence of these mentions can be explained by Schall’s position in the board of Astronomy, an institution that was deeply involved in observing and interpreting various phenomena that were seen as an omen and often associated with divination of fortunate or unfortunate dates.

Similar to their depiction in De Bello Tartarico, the Tartars were described in a very positive light. After they ousted Li Zicheng from Beijing, they ordered the body of the last Ming emperor to be buried in all honours and that all magistrates were to mourn him, whether they wanted to or not.Footnote 86 In this affair, “the Tartars showed more sense of duty, human emotion and respect for the name of the emperor than the Chinese, despite the latter regarding them as brutes and dogs in their innate pride”.Footnote 87 Like Martini, Schall ascribed “superbia”, one of the cardinal sins to the Chinese, whereas the Tartars were portrayed as the morally superior people.

Despite the city being subjected to murder and plunder, the church and its inhabitants were spared. The Historica Narratio then followed the further fates of several members of the royal family, noting the tyranny when a younger sibling who managed to flee to Nanjing is beheaded by a relative who had usurped power there. It is noted that the “Barbarians would have spared even the other brother [who was killed by other Chinese because he had attempted to incite a rebellion against the Tartars]”.Footnote 88 As in Martini, it was not the Tartars, but rather the Ming who exhibited traits that were seen as tyrannical. Li Zicheng and his followers were addressed as “barbarians”, due to the nature of the conquest of the city of Beijing and their behaviour once they had taken over.Footnote 89 As in De Bello Tartarico, Li Zicheng is characterized as a “tyrant”.Footnote 90 He exhibited some of the character traits that were also visible in De Bello Tartarico. He tried to defeat his opposition by force rather than attempting to win them over to his side. This became visible in his pre-emptive attack on the generals defending the Eastern borders against the Tartars. Since they posed a threat to his continued regency, he decided to dispose of them and only after that he would accept the regalia.Footnote 91

This was followed by a meticulous report of what happened to Adam Schall and his church in the days between the flight of Li Zicheng and the arrival of the Manchus in Beijing. This was undoubtedly Schall relating his personal experiences, as the report was focused exclusively on Schall and his immediate surroundings. While both Schall and Martini included the divine in their descriptions of the dynastic transition, its role is vastly different. Martini declared that the whole war was part of God’s plan of spreading the faith among the Chinese and Tartars. Schall, on the other hand, did not think of the dynastic transition as ordained by God. Instead, in his perception, the divine mostly interfered in order to save the missionaries, their buildings and their converts.Footnote 92 Arguably, this also reflected the location of the respective authors. While Martini was close to the city of Hangzhou when it was conquered, it is by no means certain that he ever experienced any prolonged period of personal danger.Footnote 93 Schall, however, was present in Beijing for the entirety of the first conquest of Beijing by Li Zicheng, his interregnum, and the tumultuous days after he fled the city prior to the arrival of the Manchus. He experienced a lot more personal danger than Martini, which in turn is reflected in the very detailed accounts of the various dangerous situations he found himself in. Schall viewed the Tartars as saviours and provided an even more positive description of them than Martini did. Rather than entering the city, the Tartars camped in front of the gates, to find out what they could do to help. They remained outside the city gates for four days, during which many came to congratulate them and to invite them into the palace. Only after the uncle of the king of the Tartars, who was leading the army in his stead, asked them whether they wished and welcomed to be ruled by the Tartars henceforth, did they enter the city as the new dynasty.Footnote 94 The legitimization for the Qing dynasty as it was presented in the Historica Narratio was comparable to the depiction in De Bello Tartarico. While considerably less time was spent on the Tartars, their history and their general characteristics, they were also depicted as “good” rulers. In contrast to Li Zicheng they showed moderation and did not strive to secure their rule by force. Instead, they relied on public opinion as their legitimization. The notion of Tartar treachery or long-term plans to claim the Throne, as it is mentioned in Martini, was entirely absent in the Historica Narratio.Footnote 95

The overarching narrative of the dynastic change is very different from the one found in De Bello Tartarico. Instead of an “event of world-historical significance”, Schall’s description invoked the image of a short period of turmoil followed by a return to the status quo under a new maybe even more favourable imperial family.Footnote 96 Contrary to Martini, Schall did not evoke the idea of divine intervention as a facilitator of the dynastic change. Instead, he argued that the decline of the late Ming which had been concealed from the emperor had opened the door for Li Zicheng, who in turn was ousted by the Tartars.Footnote 97

The history of the Tartars, which Martini dedicated almost a third of De Bello Tartarico to, is addressed in chapter twelve. While far less extensive than Martini’s account, Schall followed his argumentation. Huang Taiji is identified as the ruler who accustomed his people to “humanity, loyalty and justice”.Footnote 98 Schall marvelled at how these people, who had just recently been “agrarian and rustic”, managed to “immediately preside over decisions with such gravitas and prudence”.Footnote 99 The “alleged Barbarians exhibited civil virtues beyond expectation”.Footnote 100 As in Martini, the Tartars were portrayed as good rulers, who followed the virtues and attempted to rule by example, rather than by force. Due to his location in Beijing, Schall apparently had little interest in the continued conquest and the resistance of the Southern Ming. Instead, the focus is placed on depicting the progress of the mission in Beijing and the high honours that Adam Schall enjoyed there.

When the Historica Narratio was published in 1665, the initial optimism concerning the new dynasty in China had already died down. It should therefore also be understood as part of the Jesuit attempts to keep the image of the state of the mission in China positive. However, these attempts to shape the perception and opinion of the wider European public were no longer as uncontested as they had been when Martini published De Bello Tartarico. In the same year as the Historica Narratio Johann Nieuhof’s account of the 1655–1657 Dutch embassy to the court in Beijing was published. Nieuhof presents an entirely different picture of China. He repeatedly reports of the former grandeur of town and cities, reduced to rubble by the Manchu conquest and of Chinese labouring like slaves under their new masters.Footnote 101 These sentiments will also feature in Navarrete’s Tratados historicos.

5 Domingo Fernández Navarrete and the Tratados Historicos

Domingo Navarrete was born in 1610, professed as a Dominican friar in 1635 and was ordained in Valladolid in 1639. As was already mentioned, he joined the commission that was to bring the 1645 decree of the Propaganda Fide to Asia. After their arrival in Manila in 1648, he remained there for nine years, and, after an attempted trip back to Europe between 1657 and 1658, enters China in 1659.Footnote 102 He remained in China until 1664 when he was arrested along with the other European missionaries and sent to Canton. There he was part of the theological discussions and one of the signees of the Praxes. In 1699, he left for Europe that he reached in 1972. After his arrival, he spent the time between 1674 and 1676 writing two massive volumes containing his views of China and of the Riccian accommodation.Footnote 103 Despite them being part of different orders, standing on different sides of the Chinese Rites Controversy and twenty years of time, there are some similarities between the circumstances in which De Bello Tartarico and the Tratados historicos were created. Both writers had spent a considerable amount of time in China prior to returning to Europe. Both works were created in a context of a perceived threat to the mission. In Martini’s case, it was the decree of 1645 condemning the Riccian accommodation and in Navarrete’s case the exile in Canton as well as the continuation of the Riccian accommodation. Both books were intended to reach and did reach a wide European audience.Footnote 104

Navarrete’s depiction of the Tartars is very different from the ones presented in De Bello Tartarico and the Historica Narratio. Rather than a new legitimate dynasty, Navarrete compared them to “a Tiger” used to “be reveng’d of a wolf [Li Zicheng]”. Here, the implication was clearly that the Manchus were to be seen as worse than Li Zicheng, who was only characterized as a “robber” but not as a “tyrant”. Rather than relieving China of Li Zicheng, the Tartars “trampled down all China, which he already look’d down upon as a Prey exposed to his Barbarous fury”. Having successfully ousted Li Zicheng, the Tartars became “more proud and arrogant than before”. Returning to Beijing, “he [the Tartar] possessed himself of all, without any better title than mere Tyranny and Usurpation”. This is followed by a brutal conquest of the whole Empire, unparalleled in “the Slaughters, the Blood that run about the Fields, the Robberies, the outrages, the miserable Cries and Complaints which pierced the Clouds”. According to Navarrete “Millions of Chinese” were killed, and many others committed suicide “to avoid falling into the hands of the savage Tartars. Many Cities and towns were left desolate” and the modest Chinese women “ran about the fields weeping and tearing their Hair, flying from the Scourge that pursued them”.Footnote 105 These descriptions of the cruelty of the initial Mongol conquest of China were based on hearsay and the study of secondary sources, since Navarrete did not enter China until 1659 and could therefore not have been an eyewitness to these events. It is interesting to note that while Li Zicheng was called a “robber”, the rule of the Manchus was characterized as “tyranny”. Both had brought destruction to China, with the only difference being that the Qing had done so for a considerably longer time and a larger area than Li Zicheng. However, there was one important difference: the Manchus were not Chinese. This would imply that Navarrete considered foreign rulership as something inherently negative and that he was familiar with the concept of self-determination. This is not unthinkable since this idea had been formulated by the time the Tratados was published.

Navarrete also mentioned several cities that had been destroyed by the Tartars in his description of his travels in China between 1659 and 1664.Footnote 106 While he had not been present for the initial ingression, Navarrete instead experienced the aftermath of several years of war with the Southern Ming. This was something that Schall did not write about, most likely due to a lack of interest and that Martini could not have experienced to the same extent, since he left China in 1651.

In the Tratados historicos, the Tartars were not seen as “good” rulers. Instead, they represented the archetype of the Tyrant. They took the empire with the sword, killing indiscriminately and usurping the throne. While Navarrete roughly recounted the information found in the Historica Narratio and the De Bello Tartarico when describing the initial Mongol conquest, he changed it slightly to provide a more negative image of the Tartars. Instead of being welcomed as the new ruling house, the arriving Shunzi emperor was announced emperor out of “fear and dread”.Footnote 107 Like in De Bello Tartarico, it is relayed that those who submitted willingly were treated “most courteously […], but all that held out were inevitably devour’d by Fire and sword”. Instead of focusing on the clemency of such behaviour as Martini did, Navarrete instead focused on the “terror” that this struck into the Chinese and that it was this fear, which led to many cities surrendering.Footnote 108 China had become a “slave” under her new rulers.Footnote 109 The image of the Qing emperor as a “tyrant” was further reinforced by relating that the courtiers feared the new emperor.Footnote 110 While Navarrete characterized them as “tyrants”, he did not think of them as “Barbarians”, since they “live politickly and orderly, and are govern’d by Laws agreeable to Reason”.Footnote 111 Further, there is an interesting discrepancy in his descriptions of the initial conquest, which have been cited extensively above, and his own experiences with the Tartar rulers, which were considerably more positive.Footnote 112

This begs the question when, why and how this alternative understanding of the Manchu conquest came into existence. One of the reasons could feasibly be the later time period. Martini stayed in China in the late 1640s when the dynastic change had just begun. Navarrete arrived in China in 1659. He experienced the disillusion of the hopes of fast conversion. While he himself had been an eyewitness to the Manchu’s “kindness to the Missioners” and them “giving liberty to preach the Gospel and […] the erecting of new Churches”, he denied that they ever contributed to such projects and asserted that the many converts that Martini saw in the near future had failed to materialize in his personal experience.Footnote 113 Furthermore, the additional years of war had certainly had an impact on the state of the countryside.Footnote 114 Furthermore, we know from the change of titles in the new editions of the De Bello Tartarico that the general perception of the conquest had changed.

Lach noted the discrepancy of Navarrete’s depiction of the Tartars between his depiction of the conquest and elsewhere in the Tratados, where he puts them at the same level as sophistication as the Chinese and Japanese and writes that they should not be called barbarians.Footnote 115 I would argue that this discrepancy existed because Lach did not differentiate between the two different concepts of “barbarian” and “tyrant”. Navarrete did. While he did not think of the Manchus as “barbarians”, he certainly depicted them as “tyrants”. Rather than disliking them based on their lack of civilization, Navarrete’s negative depiction of the Manchu was based on their tyrannical rule over the Chinese. Navarrete’s fascination with the Chinese has already been noted by scholarship, and it would be safe to assume that contributed to his negative image of the Qing.Footnote 116 However, relying solely on this explanation for explaining his distaste of the Manchu rulership over China would be an oversimplification. The seventh book in the Tratados historicos was dedicated exclusively to the Chinese Rites Controversy. Here, Navarrete published the various decrees associated with the Chinese Rites Controversy. He also presented a lengthy list of “reflections”Footnote 117 and a long series of “doubts”. These “doubts” are concerns and questions regarding the correct behaviour of missionaries and their converts. In these “doubts”, Navarrete utilized the characterization of the Qing as “tyrants” to discredit Jesuit missionaries and the Riccian accommodation.

In the very first set of “doubts” Navarrete expressively established that “the Tartar reigning now is a tyrant” and in his commentary that “Christians are never to take part with Tyrants”.Footnote 118 Furthermore, he asked whether it would even be allowed to baptize these tyrants while they were in possession of the kingdom that was not rightfully theirs. Unsurprisingly, the answer to this question is no.Footnote 119 By negating that possibility Navarrete created an argument that the Jesuit efforts to endear themselves to the Qing dynasty were not in accordance with Christian doctrine. He also clearly outlined his perception of the Qing dynasty. They were tyrants and usurpers and should only be allowed to enter Christianity if they returned China to its rightful owners. It is interesting to note that Navarrete did not specify who that rightful owner might be. However, since they had usurped it from the Chinese, they are most likely considered the rightful owners. This notion is completely absent from both De Bello Tartarico and the Historica Narratio and adds the concept of “self-determination” to the aspects that constitute a “good” rule. This interpretation is not unreasonable, since this idea of self-determination had already been formulated by Johann Amos Comenius in the Gentis Felicitas in 1659, seventeen years before the Tratados Historicos was published.

6 Conclusion

All three texts examined are concerned to some degree with the dynastic transition between the Ming and the Qing dynasties. The two recurring concepts in their discussion of the Manchu invasion and claim to the Chinese throne are the concept of the “tyrant” and the concept of the “barbarian”. Both Martini and Schall relate that the Chinese thought of the Manchus as barbarians. The same, however, does not hold true for the European missionaries. Martini and Schall refer to the Manchu’s moral virtues and their benevolent rule to negate this assertion. Navarrete, who in contrast to Martini and Schall did not think of the Qing as a legitimate dynasty, nevertheless did not describe them as “barbarians”, since they lived orderly and were in possession of reasonable laws. Having examined the depictions of what constitutes a barbarian or differentiates someone from being barbarian, it is safe to assert, that the three missionaries shared a general idea of what a “barbarian” was. While connotations of violent behaviour are not entirely absent, this idea corresponds roughly with what Osterhammel refers to as the “third type” of barbarism that refers to a community whose lifestyle lacks “civilization”. However, there is a connection between the Manchus and “barbarians”. In their depiction in De Bello Tartarico, they exhibit barbaric traits, which only subside once they had entered China and assumed the throne. Their relatives, the “western Tartars” are described as less civilized and more barbaric in nature.Footnote 120

All three sources discussed therefore presented Europe with knowledge on a “civilized” people, whose claim to the Chinese empire, however, was detached from their level of “civilization”.

The other concept of rulership that is repeatedly employed by all three writers is that of the “tyrant”, who is seen as the epitome of a bad ruler. While none of them volunteered a definition, one can derive general characteristics of what constituted a “tyranny” from their accounts. The main shared characteristic of the “tyrant” is his willingness to use force to ensure the continuation of his rule, neglecting a more “soft-power” approach as it is described in De Bello Tartarico when Martini writes of the Tartars winning over the Chinese by benevolence and good treatment. Additionally, the concept seems to be tied to the notion that the tyrant is not a rightful ruler. This is best exemplified in Navarrete’s “doubts”, where the issue is explicitly discussed. Inferences can be made in De Bello Tartarico and the Historica Narratio who mostly reserve the term “tyrant” for Li Zicheng, who unrightfully conquered Beijing and claimed the throne. Martini’s descriptions of the late Ming government also bore some resemblances of a tyranny, as he repeatedly highlighted the strictness of the court and its suppression of the officials and governors. However, he never explicitly referred to it as a “tyranny”.

While all three authors agree that the Manchu’s are not “barbarians”, they do not agree on the legitimacy of the Qing dynasty. Both Martini and Schall, asserted the legitimacy of the Qing by relating their “good” rulership and how they managed to win the support of the Chinese governors through their virtues. There is, however, a slight difference in their descriptions of the initial conquest. Martini mentioned that the Tartars had long since planned to take over the kingdom of China and simply refused to leave after ousting Li Zicheng from Beijing. In the Historica Narratio, this episode, which could be interpreted as damaging the legitimacy of the new dynasty, is not mentioned. Instead, the Qing are invited into the city and only claim the throne after they had assured themselves that they were only following the wishes of the populace. This difference in perception can be explained by Schall’s personal experience. He was present in Beijing in 1644 and experienced the interregnum of Li Zicheng. In comparison to the latter, the Qing must have appeared as saviours and that is reflected in his description of their arrival. One must also take into account that Schall was almost immediately immersed in the Qing court, where he would have heard the official Qing narratives of their claim to the throne. Martini, in comparison, had to rely on secondhand accounts for this episode in the dynastic transition, since he was in southern China when Beijing was captured. That might have led to him having access to a slightly different narrative of events, in which the Manchus were depicted in a less favourable light.

In contrast to the aforementioned accounts, Navarrete’s description of the new dynasty is vastly different. Instead of depicting the Qing as a new, legitimate dynasty of “good” rulers, he decidedly characterized them as “tyrants”. Surprisingly, he does not use this term for Li Zicheng, who is only referred to as a “robber” despite the atrocities he committed.Footnote 121 There are multiple explanations for this change. Firstly, Navarrete had no desire to defend the Jesuit mission and therefore no reason to support the new dynasty. Secondly, as was already discussed in the chapter concerned with the Tratados historicos, denouncing the Qing dynasty allowed Navarrete to attack and criticize the Jesuit mission, which had supported them. The difference between Navarrete’s depiction of Li Zicheng and the Qing allows for another interpretation. The Qing are seen as worse and as “tyrants” because they are foreign.

Besides those larger narratives, the individual curiosities of the authors also created different interpretations of the conquest. Martini saw the dynastic transition as divine providence in God’s plan for the conversion of China. This notion is unique to De Bello Tartarico. Navarrete interpreted the dynastic change as devastating, subjecting the highly esteemed Chinese to the rule of a “tyrant”. He is far less curious about the history of the new dynasty since he considered them illegitimate. Instead, his attention is directed towards the cruelty of the conquest and the impact the war had on the cities in China. For Schall, the dynastic transition seemed to be of much less importance. He did not attach any greater narratives to it, except noting that the Tartars might be more suited to conversion. Instead, it is portrayed as nothing more than a period of unrest, which, although very dangerous and terrifying, gave way to life as usual once the new dynasty had established itself.