This monograph provides an analysis and contextualization of an extraordinarily successful book, the History of the Great Kingdom of China (Rome 1585), by the Spanish Augustinian friar Juan González de Mendoza (1545–1618). Within a few years, this book had reached 30 editions and had been translated into several languages, including English. Mendoza’s chronicle shaped the late Renaissance interpretation of China across Europe. It had its origin in an embassy to emperor Wanli of China sent by Philip II, ruler of the Spanish and Portuguese overseas empires in America and Asia. Reconstructing the biography of González de Mendoza with new sources, this volume offers a systematic study of his account of late Ming China, analyzing its reception and influence both in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

The Chronicler of China is divided into five chapters, covering the Portuguese and Castilian sources that recorded the earliest contacts with China in the sixteenth century, the figure of Mendoza as an ethnographical and political writer, the building of his chronicle on China, the dialogue with his sources and, finally, the footprint of Mendoza’s book in the European Republic of Letters.

This book, the most complete study on the Augustinian Mendoza and his historical and ethnographical work to date, contributes to a wider understanding of the Iberian contribution to sixteenth-century travel writing and the Western knowledge of China. It will appeal to scholars and students alike interested in the early modern interpretation of China in Europe.

chapter |17 pages


Juan González de Mendoza and the European discovery of China

chapter 1|55 pages

Between Iberia and Cathay

chapter 2|70 pages

Agent of God and empire

chapter 3|43 pages

The “Chronicle of China”

chapter 4|34 pages

Visions of the Great Kingdom

chapter 5|30 pages

The chronicler's footprint