In the Eye(s) of the Storm(s): Álvaro Semedo, an Observer of Two Dynastic Transitions in the Global Crisis of the 17th Century

In: Ming Qing Yanjiu
Isabel Murta Pina Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau Lisbon Portugal

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It is certainly uncommon for a seventeenth-century observer to have borne witness to two dynastic transitions in places as far apart as the opposite corners of Eurasia – the Iberian Peninsula and China. Álvaro Semedo, a Portuguese Jesuit, is one such case. He was in Madrid, when news arrived that the Portuguese had proclaimed a national king in 1640, bringing sixty years of Iberian Union to an end. Semedo returned to China in 1645, one year after the Qing had taken Peking. In 1650, he witnessed first-hand the siege and reconquest of Canton by the Qing. This article aims to explore the political transition in China through the eyes of a European missionary who had already been caught by the breakup of the Habsburg empire. How did he position himself in both dynastic transitions? What comparisons did he make? Was he aware of the “global crisis”? These are some of the questions that will be addressed.

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