Art as a Pathway to God

A Historical-Theological Study of the Jesuit Mission to China, 1552–1773


This book integrates history, theology, and art and analyzes the Jesuits’ cross-cultural mission in late imperial China. Readers will find a rich collection of resources from historical sites, museums, manuscripts, and archival materials, including previous unpublished works of art. The production and circulation of art from different historical periods and categories show the artistic, theological, and missional values of Christian art. It highlights European Jesuits, Asian Christians, transnationalism, and gives voice to Chinese Christian women and their patronage of art in the seventeenth century. It offers a rare systematic study of the relation between art and mission history.

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Susangeline Yalili Patrick, Ph.D. (2020), Asbury Theological Seminary, is Associate Professor of World Christianity at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City. She is the author of Christians in the City of Shanghai: A History Resurrected above the Sea (Bloomsbury, 2023).
This book provides a well-documented and richly illustrated account of the Jesuit use of art in cross-cultural mission in late imperial China. Jesuit religious art was understood as enhancing cross-cultural evangelization across the language barrier. Jesuit artists brought with them new developments in European art which were much admired. Hybrid adaptations to Chinese artistic conventions were designed to enhance favorable responses and to avoid giving offense. Missionary artists served in the imperial court, helped broker legal access for Christianity, defended the use of icons against critiques by Chinese literati, and provided a rich visual material culture for use in churches and evangelistic settings—for all social classes, and women’s venues as well as men’s. As reported here, Christian art contributed to Chinese interest in, and conversion to, Christianity. The book features viewpoints of both Jesuit missionaries and Chinese Christians. — Robert J. Priest, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Taylor University, USA.

Professor Susangeline Patrick makes some startling finds in this book. From the expansive diversity of the Ming and Qing dynasties to the oft-neglected, yet significant role of female players in the Chinese Jesuit missions, this book breaks new ground. It sheds new light on complex interreligious issues during the periods under investigation, against a fascinating backdrop of art—and its powerful role in shaping theological understanding. — Dyron B. Daughrity, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University, USA.

"As a researcher delving into the art missions of the Jesuits in Asia, I found this book to be highly engaging. This book explores the historical, theological, and mission-related aspects of the vibrant Jesuit art missions during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Susangeline not only examines the typical top-down approach to mission through court painters of the Qing Dynasty but also analyzes how art contributed to Jesuit missions in a bottom-up manner by translating the printed illustrated Christian contents books showcasing the various ways art played a role in mission work. The book also discusses church architecture in different locations in China. She convincingly demonstrates the significance of art as a pathway to God through diverse sources." —Jean Kim, Ph.D., Academic Research Professor, National Research Foundation of Korea and Research Fellow, Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary, Korea

Susangeline Yalili Patrick masterfully intertwines the threads of history, theology, and art, presenting a captivating exploration of the Jesuits’ transcultural mission in late imperial China. This work stands out not only for its in-depth analysis but also for its use of a wide array of rich and often previously unpublished resources, ranging from historical sites and manuscripts to a treasure trove of art pieces. Patrick’s narrative beautifully illustrates how art served as a bridge between diverse cultures, carrying deep theological and missional significance. Particularly commendable is the book’s focus on the often-overlooked contributions of Asian Christians and Chinese Christian women, bringing a refreshing perspective to the study of Christian art and its role in shaping cross-cultural dialogues. A must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of art, religion, and history, this book offers a rare and systematic study that enriches our understanding of the dynamic relationship between artistic expression and mission history. — Robert Aleksander Maryks, Ph.D., Laboratorium Jesuit Studies, Director, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

List of Maps and Figures
List of Abbreviations

1 History, Theology, and Art in Cross-Cultural Mission
2 The Jesuits and Christian Art in China
3 Jesuit Mission and Art in the Late Ming Dynasty (1552–1644)
4 Asian Christians and Art in the Late Ming Dynasty (1552–1644)
5 European Jesuits and Art in the Early Qing Dynasty (1644–1773)
6 Asian Christians and Art in the Early Qing Dynasty (1644–1773)


Institutes, (academic) libraries, specialists, and (post-graduate) students in the fields of intercultural theology, Ming-Qing studies, art history, and mission history.
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