Chinese-Jesuit collaborations before 1755
The collaboration of the Chinese and the Jesuits can be found in art since the Kangxi period (康熙帝, r.1654-1722) in Qing China, and continued throughout the Yongzheng period (雍正帝, r.1722 - 1735) as well. Although the purpose of the missionaries was the spread their religion in China, the Kangxi emperor was quick to realise that some of them were good artists. He being a progressive thinker, thought it would be a good way to introduce his court artists, the Han Chinese court painters (artisans), to new styles and techniques of painting from the west. This might have been his way of glorifying his rule, and at the same time, embellish the palace with new forms of art. The Jesuits had perfect knowledge of various techniques previously unknown to the Chinese artists; the depiction of light and shade to suggest volume, theories of colour, the anatomy of the human body, and a scientific perspective of the art of drawing and painting.
However, this interaction was not a one-way street, the Jesuits learnt as much as they taught, from the Chinese artists. The Chinese were not very forthcoming while adopting various techniques from the foreigners, like that of ‘chiaroscuro’. The Chinese artist aimed at depicting the natural colour of the object in ordinary daylight; on the other hand, the European artists depicted the colour of an object according to the amount of light shining on different parts of it. To overcome this, the Jesuits devised