The Western Missionary


The Western Missionary'The Foreigner'



"Since my residence in China, my eyes and taste are grown a little Chinese."



About the Western Missionary

Jesuits arrived from Europe in the Ming dynasty, on a mission to convert the Chinese, beginning with the emperor himself, to Christianity. However, entering the Forbidden City was unheard of for a foreigner. Gifts of European sophistication were the keys to wooing the emperor, and clocks, glass mirrors, brocade in floral designs and images of Christ and the Madonna were regularly bestowed to gain access. So impressed were the emperors, that they invited the foreigners inside, where some became court artists and educators, instructing the Chinese on European techniques.  

Clocks were all the rage, and a particularly popular gift for Emperors Yongzheng, Qianlong and Empress Dowager Cixi. The young Emperor Guangxu would pass the time by rebuilding the inner workings of many of the Empress Dowager's clocks. The Palace Museum now houses more than 1,000 timekeeping masterpieces, one of the best collections in the world..

Within the Forbidden City

While some Jesuits were permitted to enter the Forbidden City, not all were allowed to live inside. Puyi's tutor, Reginald Flemming Johnston, had a residence in the Imperial Garden in the Inner Court.

The western missionary location map

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Related Objects

Boxed Set of Oculist's Operating InstrumentsBoxed Set of Oculist's Operating Instruments
Western science and technology was welcomed by the Emperors, and they were fascinated by both everyday items and tools of trades alike.




Portrait of Emperor Yongzheng Portrait of Empress Xiaoxian
Emperor Qianlong was fascinated by Western oil paintings. In this portrait of Empress Xiaoxian, the artist's techniques and materials were of Western origin; however the composition reflects traditional formal Chinese portraiture.







Musical clockMusical clock
In the 15th century, Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci brought a mechanical clock – the first one seen inside the Forbidden City – as a gift to Emperor Wanli. The emperor was so impressed that he invited Ricci inside the palace to tune and maintain it. This marked the first time a Westerner had been allowed to enter the Forbidden City.