Knowledge Diffusion and Intellectual Change: When Chinese Literati Met European Jesuits
54 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2019 Last revised: 8 May 2020
Date Written: January 24, 2019
From 1580, the Jesuits introduced European sciences to China―an autarkic civilization whose intelligentsia was dominated by Confucian literati. Drawing upon prefectural distributions of the Jesuits and of Chinese scientific works between 1501 and 1780, this paper demonstrates that the Jesuits stimulated Confucian literati to study science. On average, the literati’s scientific works increased four times in prefectures with Jesuit scientists after 1580. But this effect shrank after the Jesuits were expelled by the emperor of China in 1723. These findings indicate the importance of an environment open to knowledge flow for intellectual development in pre-industrial times.
Keywords: Knowledge diffusion; Jesuit mission; Science; Intellectual; Human capital; China; Europe
JEL Classification: N35, N75, O15, O33, Z12
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