Matteo Ricci and Père du Halde provide contrasting perspectives on Chinese technology that reflect the changing historical contexts between the late 16th and late 17th centuries. In his account, Ricci expresses admiration for Chinese printing methods, describing them as more advanced and efficient than European techniques at the time (Ricci). This perspective aligns with Shaffer’s argument that China was not technologically stagnant. However, just 80 years later, Père du Halde portrays the Jesuit missionaries introducing European scientific inventions like the magic lantern to astonish the Chinese emperor and court (Père du Halde). The shift likely reflects Europe’s Scientific Revolution and onset of the Enlightenment, giving Europeans more technological confidence. While Ricci saw Chinese printing as superior, Père du Halde now emphasizes dazzling the Chinese with European optics and mechanics. This suggests European attitudes toward China became more paternalistic and Eurocentric at the late 17th century.
Will Adams’s 1611 account describes his positive reception in Japan, noting the “friendship” of the Emperor who provided him housing and an annual stipend. He even built a ship for the Emperor (Adams). However, 25 years later in 1636, the Sakoku Edict completely closed off Japan, mandating execution for any Japanese leaving or foreigners entering the country (Sakoku Edict). As Dr. Wood lectured, Tokugawa Ieyasu began consolidating power at the start of the 17th century and established the Tokugawa Shogunate (Lecture). After some initial openness, the Shogunate grew increasingly wary of threatening foreign influence, especially from Catholic missionaries. As Adams notes, the Jesuits were also lobbying for his execution. This mounting mistrust of outsiders led the Tokugawa Shogunate under Iemitsu to issue the strict Sakoku Edict closing Japan’s borders and ports (Adams). The dramatic change in just 25 years underscores the Shogunate’s mounting isolationism and fear of foreign threats.