From the sixteenth century onwards, Catholic missionaries active throughout Asia not only played the roles of translators and mediators of information between Asia and Europe, but also constructed a pluralistic intra-Asian information network. Most previous studies have focused on the missionary histories of the different Orders individually, in which scholarship on the Jesuits have occupied mainstream views. What is more, conflicts between the Jesuit missionaries and the Mendicant priests have been largely over-emphasized, and missionary activities have been examined by region and by period. Neither of these approaches work for analyzing the intra-Asian missionary information network: Being maintained across the boundaries of different religious Orders, regions and centuries, its various actors were moreover connected to their native states, trading posts of two Iberian powers as well as the Dutch East India Company, and even Rome. Apart from these connections, existing information networks including trade and the circulation of books within the area also affected their activities.
Comprising four case studies, this panel aims to depict how this intra-Asian information network was constructed, functioned and culminated into a global point of reference. The papers will shed light on how multiple patterns of “communication” such as cooperation, conflict and interaction developed among the actors within the transregional networks from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. With regard to the Japan mission in the 1620s and early 1630s, Takayoshi Kisaki’s paper will look at Southern European archival material for the sake of exploring a series of campaigns of Dominicans and Jesuits aimed at procuring financial support from the Papacy. Scrutinizing unpublished Portuguese manuscripts on martyrs and apostates, Susumu Akune’s presentation will address the role of transnational merchants in Southeast Asian waters as a new information source on Japan for the Macao-based Jesuits around the end of the “Christian Century”. Shifting the focus to seventeenth century-China, Wenlu Wang’s presentation will examine the communication and interaction between the Mendicants and the Jesuits through the perspective of the compilation, publication and circulation of Chinese catechisms. Yoko Nii’s presentation also focuses on the genre of the catechism. It will start with a close reading of a published catechism composed by a Dominican in seventeenth century China, and then trace the circulation of the book within the nineteenth century Sinosphere including Meiji Japan. Birgit Tremml Werner will discuss the larger framework of the papers and their potential for re-visiting patterns of intercultural communication in early modern Eurasia.