Samantha and Angelica are the two students on an expedition in China following the travelogues of the Jesuits based on Kircher’s China Illustrata, which is part of the Maastricht University Special Collections. Exciting new developments in their expedition.
Journeying into Mongolia next, the girls had one of their most exciting days yet as they stayed in a Yurt in the grasslands and were able to interact with the locals, even being invited to a local bonfire party! As fun as it was for Samantha and Angelica, it was also their most popular post yet, with the video of them dancing with the locals at the Mongolian party reaching 5,755 people and garnering 1,200 views as of last week!
After enjoying a good time in the vast grasslands of Mongolia, the girls had a long journey to the province of Ningxia, stepping off the train at the erstwhile capital of what was once the Tangut kingdom, Yinchuan. Here, they visited the Western Xia tombs, the few remaining structures from the era of the Tangut kingdom. Exploring around Yinchuan, they also found many pagodas matching the ones described by Kircher in China Illustrata, although he referred to them as ‘towers’ in his work.
Sticking close to the route travelled by our Jesuits, Grueber and d’Orville, the girls found themselves visiting parts of the country where foreigners rarely go and so they were a surprising sight for the locals, many of whom asked to take pictures with them!
Making their way to Zhongwei next, they explored the Gao Miao temple and found the hell-house under the temple, which has graphic depictions of hell as observed in the Buddhist faith. They compared the gruesome sights to the description of hell according to the Christian faith provided by Kircher, finding the similarities and differences in both.
As they continued to study Kircher’s China Illustrata, the girls found the accounts of the Jesuits crossing the Gobi Desert to be lacking in vivid details so they felt compelled to see for themselves what the desert that Grueber and d’Orville travelled through was like, and so they made their way to the Tengger Desert which stretches out until Mongolia. It is in this part of the desert that the Yellow River, or Huang He as it is called in China, passes through, creating the Shapotou oasis, a popular spot for people to visit and fish, even centuries ago in the time of the Jesuits. Grueber and d’Orville had also feasted on the fish and then crossed the river to the barren Tengger Desert, a startling contrast to the lush and bountiful Shapotou oasis created by the Yellow River.
The Expedition in China has been gaining in popularity and did not go unnoticed by the Jesuit organisation in the UK, officially ‘Jesuits in Britain,’ who took an interest in the journey undertaken by Samantha and Angelica, inspired by Jesuit travellers of the 17th century, and have covered it on their website, facebook and twitter.
The Expedition in China was made possible with the support of the University Fund (Universiteitsfonds) and the Maastricht Academic Heritage Fund. Special thanks to the UM Language Centre.