Men on a mission

By Zhao Xu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-11-25 10:24:40

Men on a mission

Jesuit missionaries to China Schall von Bell (Germany). [Photo provided to China Daily]

Jesuits who arrived in China to preach the gospel between the 16th and 19th centuries left an indelible mark on the country, and it was there that they spent the rest of their natural lives.

Li Xiumei loves snow. "It purifies and silences everything, especially in this part of the campus," says the associate law professor at the Beijing Administration Institute.

"After one snowy night I came here early in the morning to sink my footsteps into the spotless white sponge cake, footsteps that took me to a group of men that has occupied my imagination and much of my time for the past decade."

To be precise it is repeat visits to the tombstones of these men that have kept Li in their thrall. These tombstones, standing quietly on a patch of land measuring about 200 sq meters, are in tight formation. The intimacy is evocative, because centuries ago, when those to whom these monuments are dedicated arrived in China after months, or even years, at sea, they were essentially alone, with almost no one to turn to but themselves and their God.

They were Jesuit missionaries who journeyed to China from countries including Portugal, Spain, Italy and France between the 16th and 19th centuries, and they had at least two things in common: undoubted talent, including personal and diplomatic skills, and unwavering dedication to spreading the gospel message.

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