Johann Adam Schall von Bell

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  • Born: 1592
  • Died: 1666
  • Other Names: 湯若望 (Tāng ruò wàng)

Johann Adam Schall von Bell was a prominent Jesuit missionary and scholar in the Ming and Qing Dynasty courts.

Active in China from 1616 until his death in Beijing in 1666, Schall von Bell was present in Beijing in 1644 when the city fell to the rebel forces of Li Zicheng, and subsequently to those of the Manchu Qing Dynasty. While many of his compatriots were captured, or fled along with Ming loyalists, Schall von Bell stayed put. He not only survived the sacking of the city, but was soon afterward named head of the Imperial Bureau of Astronomy by the Manchu regent Dorgon, so that he could use his knowledge of European astronomical techniques to ascertain a more precise calendar, and better predict significant astronomical events. Schall von Bell quickly came to be favored as well by the young Shunzhi Emperor, six years old in 1644, who called him "grandfather" and regularly had him join in on court discussions of religion and politics. Shunzhi also permitted Schall von Bell to establish a church in the city.

Following Shunzhi's death, however, the regents for the young Kangxi Emperor, led by the Manchu general Oboi, imprisoned Schall von Bell, as one part of a wide-ranging effort to reverse Shunzhi's policies.


  • Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, Second Edition, W.W. Norton & Co. (1999), 42-43.