Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bento de Góis, S.J. "Seeking Cathay He Found Heaven,"

Bento de Góis, S.J.
When the leaders of the Mission at the Court of Akbar heard from Musulman travellers of a great and rich empire called Khitai, to be reached by a long and devious course through the heart of Inner Asia, the idea seized their imaginations that here was an ample and yet untouched field awaiting the labours of the Society, if the way could but be found open; and this way they determined to explore. The person selected for this venturesome exploration was Bento de Góis. Before he started on his journey doubts had been suggested whether this Cathay were not indeed the very China in which Ricci and his companions were already labouring with some promise of success; but these doubts were overruled, or at least the leader of the Agra Mission was not convinced by them, and he prevailed on his superiors still to sanction the exploration that had been proposed. 
The gallant soldier of the Society, one not unworthy to bear the Name on which others of that Company's deeds and modes of action have brought such obloquy, carried through his arduous task; ascertained that the mysterious empire he had sought through rare hardships and perils was China indeed; and died just within its borders. "Seeking Cathay he found heaven," as one of his brethren has pronounced his epitaph. 
And thus it is that we have thought his journey a fitting close to this collection; for with its termination Cathay may be considered finally to disappear from view, leaving China only in the mouths and minds of men. Not but that Cathay will be found for some time longer to retain its place as a distinct region in some maps
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