H.E. Bruno Angelet


  Throughout history, contacts between China and Europe have been mutually enriching, including in the field of philosophy, sciences or arts. In the field of astronomy, encounters started during the Ming dynasty. Prominent European Jesuits, including Matteo Ricci, Johann Adam Schall von Bell, and the Belgian Ferdinand Verbiest, shared with their Chinese counterparts their scientific knowledge, thus contributing to the advancement of astronomy in China.

  Father Verbiest was a child of his time. He grew up in Europe, between the periods of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, when European scholars enjoyed an open, borderless intellectual space (the “republic of letters”) and communicated by letters and through their publications in a shared language, Latin. Inspired by his Christian faith, Father Verbiest was himself an eager student of mathematics and astronomy. He was thrilled by progress in Europe in the fields of science and technology. After a long journey all the way from Belgium, he embarked in China in 1659. During his years spent in China, and advising directly the Emperor, he contributed significantly to Chinese astronomy and education, opening new avenues for cooperation and mutual understanding between East and West.

  Arriving in Beijing in August 2023, as the new ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium, my mission is also to better understand China through its rich history and culture. Pursuing this, it was not long before I heard of the figure of Ferdinand Verbiest. His personal story and his influence on the Belgo-Chinese relations of that time, profoundly impressed me. So, it was a particular honor to organize an event to celebrate Verbiest’s 400th anniversary in Beijing last October. The event was made possible with the help of the Yale Center Beijing, the Macau Ricci Institute and the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies and all of the wonderful speakers, to whom we are very grateful.

  I hope this publication will also sweep you into the unique story of Ferdinand Verbiest and this fascinating chapter of Chinese history. While honoring Verbiest's achievements, this publication highlights the importance of cross-cultural exchanges in the shared pursuit of scientific progress, understanding, and friendship. As diplomacy serves the same spirit and objectives, Father Verbiest’s walk of life sets a shining example that will inspire me while serving Belgium in China.


H.E. Bruno Angelet, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to China, Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in China

Click here to view the PDF version