Ming Envoy

Beginning November 1650

Michał Boym, in the company of Joseph K`o and Andrew Zheng sets off as a special envoy on a mission to the Vatican and European royal courts. 

He describes the official preparative in his work "Brevis Sinarum Imperii Descriptio". He brings letters written by the already baptized Empress Helena and Chancellor Pang Achilles, and their Latin translations. They are addressed to Pope Innocent X, and General of the Society of Jesus, Francisco Piccolomini, and Cardinal John de Lugo, Doge of Venice, Francesco da Molin, and King John IV of Portugal. Helena`s letters are written with a brush on yellow silk, while those of the Chancellor, on red silk. In addition, he is bringing a report on the successful conversions in the imperial court.

November 23, 1650

The legation arrives in Macau, where it receives the official confirmation of its authenticity from a church notary. Provincial of China and Japan, Sebastiao de Maya (1599–1664) entrusts Boym with letters confirming Byom`s identity and his status as an envoy to the General of the Society of Jesus in matters of the Chinese Province.

November - December 1650

Boym`s legation encounters problems in obtaining the agreement of the Macau layman administration for his leaving Macau. This is the first sign of the political and commercial competition regarding the Manchurian question that puts Portugal and the Netherlands at odds with each other in the Far East. It is also a manifestation of hidden obstruction of his mission by the fraction in the Portuguese church and laymen powers which favors abandoning the Ming and cooperating with the Manchus. Interestingly, just about the same time, another competitive legation leaves Beijing, led by another Jesuit, Martino Martini. Its goal is to convince the European powers that the only option to choose is to agree with the Manchurian Qing dynasty.

January 1, 1651

The ship that carries Michał Boym and Andrew Zheng onboard sails out of the port in Macau. Joseph K`o remains in China.

May 1651

Boym and Zheng land in Goa. Here they are met with extreme interference in their mission from the local Jesuit authorities who belong to "the pro-Manchu" fraction. They get de facto an interdiction to leave Goa on a ship and remain trapped in the colony.

December 8, 1651

Michał Boym and Andrew Zheng, under the tacit agreement of the Goa Jesuit Provincial, leave and take a land route through India, Persia, Armenia. On the way, they pass through Hyderabad, Surat, Bandar Abbas, Shiraz, Isfahan in Persia, from where they press on through Erzerum and Trabzon to Smyrna (today İzmir) on the west coast of Turkey.

End of August 1652

They reach Smyrna (Izmir), an important Mediterranean port.

September 29, 1652

Michał Boym wearing a Chinese Mandarin attire appears on Saint Michael`s Day in a Smyrna church. To the gathered audience, he presents his report on the state of the Chinese mission and describes the reasons for his travel to Rome. His speech given on this occasion forms the basis for his work "Brevis Relatio." This work, translated and published in several languages, constitutes a counterargument to "De Bello Tartarico Historia," the text written by Martino Martini. Martini is a Jesuit from the "pro-Manchu" faction who reaches Europe half a year after Boym`s arrival.

Beginning December 1652

Michał Boym and Andrewj Zheng arrive from Smyrna to the Republic of Venice. Due to the conflict between the Papacy and the Republic, Jesuit presence in Venice is forbidden. Faced with this difficulty, to complete the mission and present the Chinese matter to the Doge of Venice, Boym turns for help to the French ambassador, René de Voyer de Paulmy d`Argenson. The ambassador takes an interest in his mission, and finally, his intercession meets with a success.

December 16, 1652

Michał Boym, dressed as a mandarin, explains his mission before the Doge of Venice, Francesco da Molin, and the Senate of the Republic and makes a great impression. However, the French intercession post-factum proves to be a curse as it puts him at odds with the Habsburgs, who are close to Pope Innocent X. In addition, his sending books for publication without obtaining permission from his superiors furthermore adds to their displeasure.

Boym is accused of publishing his essay "Ratio eorum…" on China without the Jesuit General`s approval and sending it to European universities` rectors. In this work, he defends Confucius and the missionary methods, the so-called "Chinese Rites", adopted in missionary work by Father Matteo Ricci and considered "heretic" by Rome. 

December 21 and 28, 1652

The newly elected Jesuit General, Goswin Nickel, reprimands Boym for representing the Ming dynasty in Venice. Michał Boym is placed in seclusion in Loreto. The Papal Seat of Pope Innocent X is opposed to his legation. An anonymous letter questions the authenticity of the letters brought by him and puts in doubt the Polish Jesuit`s credentials as the Ming envoy.

April 1, 1653

The first of four hearings of the Sacred Congregation for Propagation of the Faith is held to discuss the case of Michał Boym and his legation.


The French version of Boym`s "Brevis Relatio, Referitur iter R. P. Michaelis Boym ex Sinis in Europam" (Report from the voyage of Father Michał Boym from China to Europe)

January 7, 1655

Dies Pope Innocent X, hostile to Boym and Jesuit practices of the "Chinese Rites," uses mandarin clothing and rituals in the Catholic liturgy.

April 7, 1655

The Conclave chooses Cardinal Fabio Chigi as Pope Alexander VII.

The second half of 1655

Confirmation of Michał Boym identity and his envoy mandate arrives in the Vatican from Macau and Goa. It is accompanied by news that about one-third of the Chinese territory is still in the hands of the Ming dynasty while anti-Manchu uprisings are multiplying on the remaining land.

December 7, 1655

After three years of waiting, Michał Boym and Andreas Zheng are finally received by Pope Alexander VII. Sadly, the Pope, other than an expression of support, doesn`t propose any concrete assistance to the Emperor. He requests that Boym returns to China with his letters containing no more than the words of prayer and gold medallions with the Pope`s likeness made at the beginning of his pontificate.

Michał Boym, together with Andrew Zheng, who meanwhile became a Jesuit himself, travel to Lisbon to seek the support of the Portuguese king, John IV the Restorer. The king decides to support the Ming side and promises to provide military assistance.