Accepted paper:

Building an image of China from Europe. The Iberian paradigm of Juan González de Mendoza, a «global agent» of Philip II


Diego Sola (University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents the formation of the first modern image of China in Europe through the work of Juan González de Mendoza, a Spanish friar that tried to go to China (1580) and wrote his "Historia". The analysis of his larger work and trajectory proves a particular vision of the «global monarchy».

Paper long abstract:

During his 73 years of life, Juan González de Mendoza (1545-1618) crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times and sailed the Mediterranean in four occasions at least. He served his king in the Court of Spain, later he became bishop in Italy and America, and wrote his "History of China", commissioned by the Pope during his stay in Rome. Mendoza's work was published in the key moment of the union of Crowns between Spain and Portugal. Even though he had never been in the realm of the Ming dynasty, his work was praised as a prestigious source in the Catholic and Protestant countries. The "History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China" (1585) is the book that culminated the first modern and realistic image of China in Europe, an image based on Castilian and Portuguese sources and was only substituted with the successful vision of the Jesuits with the advance of their mission in China. This presentation wants to explain the work of a Spanish friar that established the first solid picture of China in Europe, drawing a kind of «global agent» that served an ideal of «global monarchy». The study of his very unknown memorials addressed to the king Philip II, that explains a panoramic vision of the Empire and its dysfunctions, and the reconstruction of his participation in a Spanish failed embassy to Chinese emperor (1580-1581) allows us to understand an imperial project that ended in travel literature.

panel P13
From Mediterranean to the oceans: circulation of people and knowledge in the Early Modern Iberian era